Tuesday, March 30, 2010

What's Up Duck?

So tonight, I had an epiphany. My vices go deeper than I thought, especially when I encounter 2 surprising ones that hang out together in a single dish.  I know I have already given this restaurant props on my website, but they just went from great to greaterest. Solera does it again.

After an exhausting work and road trip combo visiting Jess's family in Omaha, we kennelled up our new puppy and raced over to Solera to catch the end of happy hour. We ordered a few glasses of happy hour wine that were surprisingly good.  On top of that, a plate of olives grazed our table. We enjoyed great ambience, service, and honestly value as well. We, of course, needed our truffle mac and cheese (highlighted in my previous post), but we made a new best friend tonight: Rabbit Confit Risotto.

Let's talk meat. There are a handful of meats out there that just capture the soul in some sort of longing comfort zone.  I personally enjoy European-inspired options when it comes to the fine of fine.  I'm Italian (and biased) so of course prosciutto, pancetta, salami etc. all whet my appetite more than you know. But if you frequent French cuisine like I do, we got a couple more big players that take the bout any day of the week.

Enter the rabbit and duck.  The thing I love about the French is that they love the richness of food, they savor and celebrate it. Solera captures this and also routinely melds your classical cuisines in their dishes.  This one French and Italian, confit and risotto respectively. Now if you're not sure what confit is, it's technically any food (not just duck) that is seasoned and preserved in, you guessed it, FAT. It is then slow cooked in said fat and usually comes out velvety and rich.  Risotto is characteristically similar, with creaminess and depth.

Now these two dishes come together very nicely here, and this is where it get's unique. Traditionally duck is highlighted in such dishes. An already fatty, tender, and very flavorful option. However the rabbit normally shows up in braised dishes because of it's tough and gamy nature. Tonight, it was melt in your mouth tender and awesome.  The risotto was rich, earthy, and tangy with an accent of grain-mustard creme fraiche and herb oil drizzle.  I kid you not, even after we split up the truffle mac and cheese onto two share plates ready to dive in, we took one bite of the risotto and didn't stop until the bowl was completely empty.  The mac and cheese turned into a mere palate cleanser.

Along the way, I went on a little journey.  My wife and I honeymooned in Napa a few years ago.  French Laundry didn't allow riff-raff like us in their doors so we opted for the little brother. Bouchon.  Now tonight was the first time I have had a vivid trip back to that wonderful meal our first night in wine country. That time it was a duck confit cassoulet, another french classic. Either way, this was a meal that on a cold and dreary night helped me escape to spring in the valley and warmed me to the core. 

Needless to say, our price tag at the 2 restaurants was completely different.  There are some good deals out there for happy hour, and I now maintain that Solera has one of the best for an early small plate dinner (ends at 7, Tu-Sun). Two glasses of delicious wine and 3 good sized small plates for only 26 bucks this time around.  I couldn't be more satisfied. But be careful, it's easy to get carried away with their happy hour menu. Some good eats on there.

I have to say that finding this dish in my own backyard for such a stellar price of 8 bucks is pretty exciting stuff. I'll be sure to be back again over and over. 

Dish it up Denver.

Solera on Urbanspoon

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