Chef doesn't cut mustard

Column by Penny Parker


I have the deepest respect for Denver restaurant owner and super chef Jennifer Jasinski (Rioja, Bistro Vendome, Euclid Hall) for her stellar performance in Bravo's “Top Chef Masters,” which ended sadly not in her favor on Sept. 25.

In losing, as part of the final three, she was nothing but gracious, of course. Here's what James Oseland, editor-in-chief of Saveur magazine, had to say about the end results:

“I thought I had a handle on Jennifer's excellence as a cook, and then during the finale meal, she served us her paella gnocchi. My God, it was the single best dish I ate all season — so perfectly balanced, so beautifully executed, so lovely to look at. Unfortunately, for her chances at winning the season, her other three courses — while very, very good — didn't come anywhere near the glory of that dish. Still, if we're handing out prizes for individual plates of food, this one is the season five gold-medal winner.”

Not to be overlooked was her remarkable job of snaring the most money for her charity: $35,000 for Work Options for Women, a Denver nonprofit that teaches food service skills to women in poverty.

“I have no regrets at all about this experience,” Jasinski said after being defeated by chef Douglas Keane. “Top Chef Masters” win or lose aside, Sept. 25 was still a good day for the Denver chef. Two of her restaurants, Rioja and Euclid Hall, were named among the Top 25 Best Restaurants in the October edition of 5280 magazine.

Another Boulder best

The University of Colorado-Boulder is back in the top 10. No, not its football program, but on Playboy magazine's top 10 party schools.

CU ranked third in Playboy's 2013 list in the October issue. West Virginia University topped the list, followed by the University of Wisconsin.

CU topped the list in 2011 and has been a regular in Playboy's poll, which began as the top 40 party colleges in 1987. CU did not make the list a year ago.

This year's list was determined by Playboy's editors, who used data from resources including the National Center for Education Statistics, the NCAA and the U.S. Economic Census, as well as feedback from Playboy's more than 12 million social media fans.

The 2012 top party school, University of Virginia, failed to make the 2013 list.

Restaurant Week does the splits

Denver Restaurant Week(s), one of the most popular events in town for the generous portions for a small price, is doing a double take by splitting its personality with two weeks spaced out during the year.

In observation of the event's 10th anniversary, Visit Denver's Denver Restaurant Week will double the fun by holding one week from Feb. 22-28 and a second week Aug. 23-29.

The new price per meal per person is $30, FYI ... Not a bad deal when you factor in inflation with the cost of food, etc. As you may recall, in several of the previous years, Denver Restaurant Week was two weeks, which in many cases put a mad crush on diner volumes, although the financial gains, in many cases, were well worth the effort.

“A summer version of the event offers restaurants a lot of interesting serving and meal options,” said Richard Scharf, president and CEO of Visit Denver, the creator and organizer of DRW. “Restaurants will be able to offer outdoor dining and feature fresh Colorado produce. We anticipate that summer menus will be very different from the winter ones, and they will be able to showcase the farm-to-fork movement that is so popular in the state.”

In 2013, a record 355 participating restaurants served 436,650 meals. For more information, go to or

Cider Days coming in Lakewood

The 38th annual Cider Days returns to the Lakewood Cultural Center on the weekend of Oct. 5-6.

The center is at 801 S. Yarrow St. in Lakewood. Admission each day is $7 for adults and $4 for children, 3-12 years old. Saturday's event runs from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Sunday will be from noon to 4 p.m.

This fun event celebrates Lakewood's agricultural heritage and offers live entertainment, demonstrations, cider tastings and food.

On Oct. 6, the event will host a cider tasting at noon, sponsored by the newly formed Rocky Mountain Cider Association. There will be 20 ciders available at the tasting, including 14 from Colorado producers, which will be the largest collection of state-made ciders gathered in one place. Tickets for groups of four 2.5-ounce tasters of cider can be purchased for $5. Other ciders will be from producers in Montana, England, France, Spain and New Zealand.

For more details, visit

Mary Nguyen's new venture

The lovely and talented Mary Nguyen, who originally opened Parallel 17 at 1600 17th Ave., is concocting a new venture called Olive & Finch at 1552 E. 17th Ave. She also owns Street Kitchen Asian Bistro at the Villagio in the Inverness area.

The latest concept from chef/owner Nguyen is an eatery, which includes a bakery and market. Specialties include scratch-made pastries, artisan sandwiches and soups, salads, fresh pressed juices, and a coffee bar with monthly rotating beans, all with a focus on healthy options for those with allergies.

Olive & Finch also will have handcrafted items for the table (linens, dishware), fine prepared foods for takeaway and will be providing curbside delivery, catering, boxed breakfast and lunches in addition to holiday menu planning/preparation.


Eavesdropping on a woman watching “Top Chef Masters”: “Chef Jen got robbed!”

Penny Parker's “Mile High Life” column gives insights into the best events, restaurants, businesses, parties and people throughout the metro area. Parker also writes for You can subscribe and read her columns (Monday, Wednesday and Friday) at She can be reached at or at 303-619-5209.


No comments on this story | Please log in to comment by clicking here
Please log in or register to add your comment