Three Denver eating places are getting it proper in the course of the pandemic

A selection of starters in the Barolo Grill, starting from the front, clockwise: duck confit, chicory and braised fennel salad; Stain with horseradish crema; warm Brussels sprouts salad; and Hamachi Crudo. (Josie Sexton, the Denver Post)

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Before the pandemic, I ate in restaurants regularly and at work. Then for the past 11 months I clicked reset. When I wasn’t in my own kitchen, I preferred to stay in the neighborhood or only venture further out when I really lacked certain foods, attitudes, and people. When I look back on the last year of culinary experiences, what these three restaurants stand out for is that they comfort me in ways I didn’t know I needed.

French press coffee, spicy curtido and pork hash for brunch at Annette. (Josie Sexton, the Denver Post)

For a day or a night with friends …

Annette at Stanley Marketplace in Aurora was a constant. Private greenhouses line the terrace and a spacious yurt takes the dining experience to an entirely different level. I ate on the terrace in the summer, had brunch in the greenhouse outdoors on a snowy day, and had dinner in a yurt to usher in the holidays and get a sense of normalcy. Start brunch with seasonal Kolachen ($ 4) – or other daily pastries – then order a version of hashish, toast, or breakfast sandwich ($ 7-14). For dinner, divisible snacks like house popcorn ($ 3.25), followed by seasonal salads ($ 11-14) and roasted fish for the table (MP) are my choices. But the menu (and service) are so focused that you can really never go wrong.

2501 Dallas St., 720-710-9975, annettescratchtotable.com

Every evening for dinner at home …

A regular yoga session in small groups got me into this Himchuli in the highlands over and over again. I order online before class and then pick up Rogan Josh ($ 14-16) or Sherpa stew ($ 12-17) or Korma ($ 15-17) with Papadum and Raita by my side. These Indian and Nepalese dishes have become a staple of my take away routine.

3489 W. 32nd Ave., 303-728-9957, himchulidenver.com

If there is something to celebrate …

Barolo Grill On the edge of Cherry Creek are private outdoor “bungalows” that transported me during a meal on special occasions. The rooms felt like fishermen’s huts, outfitted with sliding windows – when a server wants to take your order – and built-in heaters, as well as carpets and artwork. The restaurant only offers a four-course meal ($ 85), but the options and portions are generous. Winter salads mix chicory with duck confit and kumquats or warm Brussels sprouts with pickled cranberries and Montasio cheese. Pastas are homemade and perfect; The Castelmagno cheesecake is a must for dessert. Trust your staff full of sommeliers on the wine.

3030 E. 6th Ave., 303-393-1040, barologrilldenver.com

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