When you go to Denver, Colo., and plan your eating outings, chances are good you’re looking for specific food stylings. Denver’s a great place to get a steak, some Southwestern signature Tex Mex-style cookery, American fusion cuisine, and, increasingly, restaurants that cater to those who want to try locally sourced foods. The city's culinary culture is taking off, and it's never been easier to eat well in the Mile High City. But one thing Denver’s restaurants has in common is a terrific dessert or two to finish off your meal. If you’re lucky, you’ll have a great cocktail and aperitif menu to seal the perfection of the evening.
While we never really admit that we go out just for dessert, the reality is that sometimes, you just want to splurge at the end of the meal. With that in mind, here are some worthwhile choices to binge on, if you want to blow a few calories and truly enjoy the experience. Dessert, after all, should be pleasure.
Fudge at Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory
I've been quietly indulging in this stuff for years, dating back Vail and Breckinridge ski trips during college, which was in the '90s. The company has spread far and wide, but the originals remain in Colorado. The stores offer a plethora of chocolate confections, but the fudge is what you really want. I’m an old-school chocolate walnut girl, myself, but Rocky Road is high on most of my Colorado-based friends’ lists. (I am required by my mother to mention the English toffee is also very good at this juncture.)
500 16th St., (303) 629-5500; 1512 Larimer St., (303) 623-1887
Original Baum Cake at Glaze, the Baum Cake Shoppe
The brainchild of local baker Heather Alcott, Baumkuchen is a German-style dessert she first tried in Tokyo where they are supremely popular. The richly layered, soft, buttery, yummy cake is ripe with vanilla, accented with a lemony, almond flour base, and finished with Cointreau or rum glaze. They have quite a few flavors, but start here, according to regular Denver visitor Jennifer Tippens, "These cakes are delicious - start with the original, and work you way up to the macha!" If you’re picking up cake, you might also swing by Infinite Monkey Theorem urban winery on Latimer Street and pick up a few cans (yes, really) of their lovely Rose or Moscato to pair with this at home with guests.
1160 Madison St., (720) 387-7890 or order online at www.glazebaumcakes.com
Split at Fire & Ice Bistro in Arveda
While it's located just outside Denver, this one is worth the drive. So swears my friend Amber, who says, “All of their desserts are awesome, but that is amazing.” The description: Grilled banana stuffed with fried coconut, nitrogen-chilled ice cream topped with dark chili chocolate, strawberries, raspberries, blueberries and French cream. Clearly it’s a masterwork, but if you’re not quite up to so much, try one of their famous milkshakes in flavors like Candied Bacon or the S’more inspired Campfire shake.
5515 Olde Wadsworth Blvd., Arvada, CO 80002; (303) 420- 3473
Baklava at Jerusalem Restaurant
Baklava may be the world’s most perfect dessert – layers of flaky pastry, honey, pistachios, cinnamon and walnuts, which absolutely require the licking of one’s fingers in public. Keeping true to their heritage, Jerusalem does it right. The honey and rose flavored jalebi is a less familiar treat that’s also worth the try if you want to branch out.
1890 E. Evans Ave., (303) 777-8828
Daily macaroons at Sugarmill
Sugarmill is a café with an open kitchen and clever, diverse menu that includes a myriad of good desserts that are part of the restaurant’s charm, and indeed, are the real specialty here. There’s plenty of European inspiration behind the dessert menu, and there are abundant ways to soothe the troubled palate the moment you walk in. The distinctive house-made sorbets are a very nice touch, and they pair brilliantly with the macaroons as well – but if you have room for only one little light thing, pick the macaroon of the day, whatever it happens to be.
2461 Larimer St., (303) 297-3540
Maple Bacon Crème Caramel at Old Major; Seafood Swine and Wine
Old Major bills itself as honest farmhouse cuisine, and these folks make their own charcuterie, keep a good whiskey list and a better wine list, and they know about dessert. The menu tells you it’s maple bacon flan, Denver Bacon Co. candied bacon, and bourbon caramel corn, but it doesn’t prepare you for the way it just explodes on your taste buds.
3316 Tejon St., (720) 420-0622.
Ice cream cone at Bonnie Brae Ice Cream
If you’re an ice cream fan, you must visit this adorable shop, covered in vintage signage, offering up the most fantastic ice cream you’ll find in Denver or possibly anywhere, all made in house. Find flavors like banana cream pie, Grand Marnier chocolate (yum!), mocha Oreo, and amaretto cheesecake along with the standards. You can order ice cream cakes and pick up quantities to go, too. Whether you want the standbys or exotic originals, this is a place to take every member of your family.
799 S. University Blvd., (303) 777-0808
Tiramisu at Crave Dessert Bar and Lounge
"Their menu changes a lot," says local clothing designer Caroline Smith, "but typically, they deconstruct traditional dishes and have beautiful plating. I love the tiramisu best, but everything I've had there has been fantastic. In addition, they have amazing cocktails, coffees and pastries." The lush mix of ladyfingers with an espresso rum mascarpone, cocoa, espresso caramel sauce, spiced cookie crumbles and fudge makes this variation special.
891 14th St., (303) 586-4199