The Tasting Panel magazine

December 2017

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38  /  the tasting panel  /  december 2017 DENVER DINING T alk about destination dining: Directly overlooking the Union Station railway platform in downtown Denver, Italian hot spot Tavernetta literally marks a point of arrival for thousands of travelers a day since its September opening. It also happens to be the restaurant locals have been waiting for since chef Lachlan Mackinnon-Patterson and Master Sommelier Bobby Stuckey marked their own arrival with the opening of nearby Boulder's special- occasion icon Frasca Food and Wine back in 2004. In those 13 years, the concept of fine dining has changed dramatically. From open kitchens to communal spaces, the trend toward more informal, convivial, and interac- tive experiences has transformed the hospitality industry. Stuckey, who earned a James Beard Award for Outstanding Wine Program in 2013, has taken the shift to heart, and says the goal at Tavernetta is to "hone in on the discipline of fine dining and use its benefits in a casual setting." Instrumental to that endeavor is Wine Director Carlin Karr, whom Stuckey calls "such a humble superstar." "The fundamentals of service are the same as at Frasca," Karr observes. "We still use trays and Zalto glassware. We're still decanting most things. When we can walk around the table in a circular motion, we will." But with its spacious lounge, exhibition kitchen, and splashy, sexy Slim Aarons photographs lining the walls, Tavernetta's "space is inher- ently livelier," Karr adds. "That's proving to make service more casual in itself." And while the offerings in Frasca's world-class cellar span the globe, Karr explains she and Stuckey "decided more than two years ago that Tavernetta would, with the exception of Champagne, have an all-Italian wine list" to complement Executive Chef Ian Wortham's pan-regional menu. While committing solely to Italian wines was difficult at first, the shift has proved more enlightening than limiting. "It has forced me to get to know the great wines of Le Marche, Abruzzo, and Campania," Karr admits. "I'm so excited to learn more about them, as well as the coastal whites of Liguria— and Sicily, where I've been surprised by great Grillo." The resulting 16-page list naturally emphasizes Piedmont, Tuscany, and the Friuli region so dominant at Frasca as well, but the surprise highlight is the ample bubbly selection. "People don't realize Champagne is such a big part of Italian culture," Karr says. "So I want multiple Champagnes in dif- ferent styles by the glass always, and I want people to come in and have a glass on a weekly basis, not only when they're celebrating a special occasion." We'll toast to that. Bringing Italy to the Mile High City UPSCALE DINING GETS DOWN TO EARTH AT TAVERNETTA by Ruth Tobias / photos by Mike Thurk The central, open kitchen of Tavernetta in Denver separates the lounge from the main dining room. PHOTO COURTESY OF FRASCA FOOD AND WINE Master Sommelier Bobby Stuckey's legendary hospitality on display. Carlin Karr, the Wine Director for Tavernetta, decided with Stuckey that the wine list would only feature Italian labels to complement the pan-regional menu.

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