For Christmas, the Food Girl (I decided my wife needed a more appropriate food-related nickname…thoughts?) and I had agreed to spend the holiday with the Deck on Food parents in Wyoming. In order to get this agreement, I went to San Diego for Thanksgiving (great food there!), and agreed to take her skiing at one of the fine Colorado ski resorts, Breckenridge. The plan was to fly into Denver, grab dinner, head toward the mountain, and then spend the whole next day skiing. This of course meant I got to pick the restaurant.
I was excited because even though I had grown up close to Denver, I had never really gone out in Denver (it was all pre-foodie), and I had heard great things about the burgeoning food scene. So, while we were waiting for our luggage, I began flipping through Urbanspoon, trying to find a place that was both highly rated and not to far out of our way. I came up with a little place called Tables in the Park Hill neighborhood. We drove there, admiring the small brick houses and older (but not rundown) neighborhood until we got to Tables and found it closed. So, we tried to find another place nearby, but were unsuccessful. Finally we decided we would check out Duo. It had made the “Talk of the Town” list, and wasn’t too far out of the way.
Interestingly enough, when we walked into Duo, we found it packed, but I knew instantly that it was exactly my kind of place. It was at the base of some newer condos in an area that was obviously up and coming. It was one of those places that was nice, but not overly fancy. The tables did not have the white tablecloths, the brick was exposed, and the kitchen was one of those exposed where you could watch the staff at work. The problem was there wasn’t even bar seating, and the wait was about 30-45 minutes. Normally, this wouldn’t be a huge deal, but the Food Girl was starving. Time for another compromise! I agreed we could go to the place across the street for appetizers, as long as we could eat dinner at Duo. We put our names on the list, left our phone number, and walked over to Pasquini’s Pizzeria and Bar.
At Pasquini’s the goal was simple…satiate, but don’t ruin the appetite. So we took a seat in the bar, grabbed the server as quickly as possible, and ordered a round of drinks and stuffed mushrooms. We were going to order one more thing until we were told that we got free breadsticks (Perfect!!). Even though the wait was all of 5 minutes, it might as well have been half and hour as we were both pretty hungry. But when the breadsticks hit the table, we dove in. They weren’t anything special, but they weren’t anything terrible. They were just what we needed. And the mushrooms were ok as well, stuffed with proscuitto and mozzarella. Finally, as we were finishing the last of our drinks and appetizers, my phone rang and our table was ready. We paid the bill, less than $20 after tip (I miss going out in Wyoming/Colorado…so cheap!), and made our way to Duo.
It was definitely quite a bit of a build up to get to Duo, so if you’ve stuck with me, thank you, and if you just skimmed to get down here, I don’t blame you. But this is where it starts to get delicious. When we got back to Duo, we were seated right away (interestingly at a table that was vacant when we had first stopped in…) Given that we had time to look at the menu while grabbing our appetizers, we ordered drinks and our entrees right away. I decided to go with the venison.
Venison is one of those things that definitely reminds me of home. Every year, around the first week of October my dad would go hunting and bring home a deer. When I was old enough I would go with him. But venison is one of those things that is hard to come by in Seattle (unless the Food Girl’s dad brings some with him when he visits from Alaska), so I had to order it when I saw it.
The venison was definitely prepared and served much differently than I had ever had it before. Usually I had it in burger or roast or steak format, served very simply and rustically. This was in medallions served over a squash puree and topped with a simple salad and reduction. But as nice as the presentation was, the taste was even better. Venison can be tricky to cook because it is so lean that it can dry out easily and quickly. This venison was incredibly moist, and perfectly cooked to medium rare. But it wasn’t just the well cooked venison, it was that everything worked together as such a perfect bite. There was sweetness from the fruit reduction, acidity from the onion, starchiness and a hint more sweet from the squash puree.
I finished my first medallion before I even thought to offer a little bit to my wife, knowing how much she enjoys venison as well. I only gave her one bite, and then finished the rest myself. The meal was excellent! Duo offered the perfect ambiance and contemporary American cuisine that I enjoy. In fact, when I went back to get the exact description of the dish, the menu had already changed to the latest in seasonal cuisine. And while I try to go to a different place every time I find myself in a city, Duo and its ever-changing, fresh and seasonal menu is definitely worth a second visit.