I am occasionally the lucky recipient of an invitation to visit a local restaurant and try some of their menu items. Obviously not at all in the same way a food critic would sample dishes but as a guest. Their hopes are that I will enjoy a meal and share it with my readers and my sincere hope is that I will too. It does seem the cards in the deck are stacked in their favor, after all they know why I am there so of course they pull out all the stops so you do have to wonder if it’s a fair representation of what a diner could expect right? I would like to believe that I’m discerning enough to be able to see through any smoke and mirrors and develop a real feel for the dining experience but I’m also no pro at this. I want it to be good; I want to say great things; showering negative criticism on any place is not something I would feel good about and so my I stick to that time honored tradition of ‘If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.’ I’m sharing my experience with you today so yes, you can expect to hear great things!
My most recent invitation was to visit one of Ted Turner’s restaurants aptly named Ted’s Montana Grill which has several locations in the Denver metro area. I agreed to one near my old home and invited Rajean Blomquist, another local blogger, to join me. We had a great time and shared some great food but my one caveat for an experience like this is to ask the restaurant to share a recipe with me. While a review might be nice for those of you situated near a Ted’s, for many others it would be a post lacking the one thing that I am determined to be a constant and that is to include something from my visit that you can make at home. While the memory of the Canyon Creek burger haunts my dreams, I knew as soon as I took a sip of dessert that it would be the one. I decry the use of the word swoon used so often by people that it has lost any meaning but in this case, this simple dessert was absolutely swoonworthy. From Urban Dictionary: To be overwhelmed by ecstatic joy, a state of ecstasy or rapture. Why yes, that might be exactly how I felt when I first sipped their Boozy Salted Caramel Milkshake!
I remember the first time I went to a Ted’s Montana Grill. It was my birthday and they had just recently opened their establishment on Larimer Square in downtown Denver. My girls wanted to take me there for my birthday so it was a big night out for us. Larimer Square is a charming, bustling block in the heart of Denver; the ever present overhead twinkling lights add an extra element of gaiety and the fact that my birthday is two weeks before Christmas meant things were really popping. Funny I don’t recall what I had that night but I will never forget what my daughter Lauren ordered and is still her favorite, the Kitchen Sink burger which includes American cheese, ham, bacon, grilled onions, mushrooms and a fried egg. The name is clearly perfect. Since that night, they have opened a couple of other locations and I chose to go to one closer to me in my old stomping grounds of Greenwood Village in the Landmark Shopping Center. Good call…loved the proprietor and staff.
Before deciding on our main course, we perused the menu for an appetizer and asked our server for a recommendation. The stars aligned as her suggestion was the one that intrigued me the most, the Smoked Trout Dip. Not really a dip in the typical sense, this was large pieces of trout that are smoked in house and combined with Anaheim peppers, fresh lime, cilantro and Southwestern spices and served surrounded by Ciabatta toast and tortilla chips. I loved it so much that I actually asked for that recipe but I’m thankful that I found something else to offer you today; as much as I love to smoke foods, our weather lately has not been conducive to hanging around the smoker; we’ve even got snow forecast for Mother’s Day so maybe this summer I’ll get that made and share it with you. Absolutely divine. I admit, I’m not a big fish eater so lately I’ve decided to focus more on those offerings and expand my horizons and I was not disappointed. The trout was mild and cut in large chunks with just the right amount of smokiness; add that to the touch of spice and it was the perfect starter. If my companion and I had one minor issue it was with the accompanying tortilla chips. Make it all Ciabatta toast we said…we were sorry to see it disappear and the chips just did not satisfy in the same way. Minor detail but one the proprietor agreed with!
Rajean decided to order the St. Phillip’s Island Crab Cakes which boasted a Southwestern seasoning, guacamole, roasted asparagus and kale salad and while I’m not typically keen on fish offerings, I am a big fan of seafood and was sorely tempted to follow her lead. I had a certain ping of envy but that was silly; we’re all about sharing! Rajean gave me a nice large piece to sample and they were amazing. Amazing in that they were filled with crab; not filled with filler. You know what I mean. Tender, moist, lightly seasoned with just a touch of spice, they were absolutely wonderful and we both just loved the horseradish sauce served on the side. A real winner.
Still, remembering Lauren’s love of their burger I chose one that was a bit unique and seriously the PERFECT choice for me. The Canyon Creek burger includes Cheddar cheese, bacon, jalapeno, blackberry jam and a fried egg. I buy a local jam that is blackberry with serrano peppers and I simply love that sweet/hot combination so felt good about going that direction with this burger and I was not wrong. Each burger has the option of beef or bison; I did bison on my birthday so this day I went all beef. I do remember hoping I had not erred in this choice. But…no wait, BUT I just loved this burger. I say this without reservation; I think it was the best burger I’ve ever had. Juicy enough that I had to remain watchful and not embarrass myself with rivers of juice running down my shirt and that flavor combination was everything I had hoped for. It was the Kitchen Sink and more. So much more that I could barely make it through half even after sharing some with Rajean. I think I had some fries on the side but that swooning thing? Yes, it happened here too.
Kyle, the proprietor, was great. Not just attentive but warm and friendly too. He shared some of his personal path towards ending up at Ted’s and his enthusiasm for the company was palpable. He told us how involved Mr. Turner is with the business and that ‘Aunt Fannie’s’ Squash Casserole is really and truly his aunt’s dish. Rajean wasn’t sure she had ever had a squash casserole before and within minutes a sample appeared for her to try. A short story about how they hand cut and make all of their onion rings daily and again, magically, a plate appeared for us to try. My kind of rings; onions tender enough to bite through and a crispy seasoned crust to die for. Dipped in some of their horseradish sauce? Heaven. We were full and content and I believe I might have even inquired about a cot when Kyle asked if we would like some dessert. Oh how I love dessert but we were so full we couldn’t so of course we did. You know just not to be rude. 🙂
Highly recommended was their Strawberry Shortcake, delivered in a tall stack with house made drop biscuits, vanilla ice cream, fresh strawberry sauce and whipped cream. It reminded me of what I make for my family with the drop biscuits and the truth is it was enough for a family on that one plate! Loved it. It really was enough for a crowd and we were full so…oh shoot who am I kidding? We ate it all.
BUT. There it is again. BUT…nothing prepared me for the Salted Caramel Shake listed under ‘Adult Shakes.’ Oh my. Simple too…which is why I requested (OK, begged) for the recipe. Please, please, please??? No secret I love using bourbon in desserts but often there is just the slight hint. This was no hint. This was a for real bourbon kick. Rajean and I are adults but I think there might have been a bit of ‘no it’s MINE’ going on…it really was that good. I already imagined it for Friday Cocktails and have been anxious to share but well, the Kentucky Derby really does require a Mint Julep so patience was required. Now the day is here and it’s not to be missed. Easy too. OK, maybe you won’t have your own milkshake machine (yay for garage sales!) but a blender will do nicely. While I did make my own caramel sauce (and added 2 Tbsps of bourbon) you do not have to. Just buy a good brand at the grocery store. Do try making your whipped cream using brown sugar; it’s great with the bourbon. Ted’s recipe includes Haagen-Dazs ice cream and Jack Daniel’s bourbon. I bought the ice cream but the bourbon is up to you. Still, the real bottom line? You must try this. I saved some for Amy, my neighbor across the street. She of the, ‘not sure I love bourbon’ type? Well in less than a week I’ve got her loving Mint Juleps and this shake….how do you like bourbon now my dear??
Make a date to go to your nearest Ted’s Montana Grill. If you’re close to the Tech Center? Make your reservation but be sure to let Kyle know I sent you; he promises you won’t be sorry. We weren’t; I think I’m still full.