I was invited to join other local bloggers to participate in a tasting at Denver’s D Bar Desserts as a prelude to Tillamook Cheese Loaf Love Tour in Denver next week; June 23rd through June 30th. Four different restaurants will feature a specialty burger using Tillamook Cheese. If last night’s experience is an example of what diners can expect; this should be a fun week! We sampled some Tillamook Cheese, were treated to a tasting of the burger that D Bar Desserts will be making and for me, the best of all…this oh my gosh Lemon Drop Martini!
Created by Keegan Gerhard & Lisa Bailey, D Bar Desserts was opened in May of 2008 and has been acclaimed every year since. You might know Keegan from his many appearances on the Food Network Challenge programs. It’s easy to see why he is successful in those endeavors; his comfort in front of our audience was evident. He was gracious and warm and spent time conversing with everyone there and definitely went out of his way to insure that everything was perfect; especially the food! I’m sure I speak for our entire group; we could not have been more impressed.
We started outdoors with appetizers including fresh fruit, samples of different types of Tillamook Cheese and a favorite item on the restaurant menu, some amazing Tillamook cheese stuffed dates wrapped in bacon. Cocktails were served and I am so glad I ordered the Lemon Drop Vanilla Bean cocktail I’m featuring. Many thanks to Keegan and his staff for helping me get this cocktail done on such short notice. Be warned…those sugar crystals come in multiple colors; they are sure to be gracing more of my cocktails down the road; I love them!
Denver Burger Week, which runs from June 23 to June 30 will feature four local burger hotspots offering a unique burger special featuring award-winning Tillamook Cheese. Look out Denver for the ‘Loafster’ – the most adorable vehicle ever; a retrofitted 1960’s Volkswagen van. If I had known they made these mini versions I might have been sourcing the country for one too! Here are the participating restaurants and the specialty burger they’ll be serving next week:
- D Bar Desserts
KGB 2.0 – Kobe beef, Applewood bacon, lettuce, tomato, caramelized onions, and Tillamook Medium Cheddar Cheese, served on a Cheesy waffle stuffed with Pimento cheese. ($12)
- Rackhouse Pub
The Saucy – Premium certified Angus beef cooked mid-rare to medium, topped with onion, mushroom, and Tillamook Sharp Cheddar Cheese sauce. ($11)
The Funky Tilla-monkey Burger – A Steuben’s burger topped with Tillamook Pepper Jack Cheese, bacon, crispy romaine lettuce, and banana pepper pico de gallo. Served on a locally made brioche bun. ($9)
Tri Pepper Caribbean Burger – House ground lamb and pork Juicy Lucy, stuffed with Tillamook Pepper Jack Cheese, topped with Scotch bonnet sofrito and plantain chips, served on a roasted jalapeño bun. ($10.50)
Now back to that burger! We watched as Keegan prepared herbed, cheesy waffles which would serve as the ‘bun’ for what has to be the most innovative burger I’ve ever had. As he mixed and prepared the waffle mixture; it was the perfect opportunity to wrangle some insight from him on high altitude cooking and much of his theory solidified things I’ve been doing (higher heat is key). Do you want to know how much better I felt when he concurred that angel food cake is HARD; that of the EPIC fail. I’ll try it again now that I’ve got some tips from an expert who also knows the issues of high altitude; I’ll let you know how that works out. ;)
The herbed, cheese stuffed waffle ‘bun’ was amazing but it was the combination of all of the elements that really took this burger over the top. Kobe beef, Applewood bacon, lettuce, tomato, caramelized onions, and Tillamook Medium Cheddar Cheese were fantastic. I’m thinking I’ll have to get back to D Bar this week; I want a whole one all for myself!
D Bar Desserts made it’s name with desserts; Chef Keegan is an award winning pastry chef so it made sense that his venture would specialize in desserts (though D Bar is more than ‘just’ desserts). Our dessert trio consisted of a luscious chocolate for dipping, a fried pastry that was lovingly referred to as a ‘Chia Churro’ (yes, that’s chia on top!) and an amazing mini creme brulee. My friend Karen, who has a recipe for what she has always considered the best churro was now not so sure; she said these were the lightest, best she has ever had. That rich chocolate sauce for dipping didn’t hurt either. The creme brulee was fantastic. Much like my attitude towards cheesecake, I like them simple and not filled or flavored with a bunch of other ingredients; that perfectly crisp and lightly burned sugar topping should not have to compete and this one was just perfect.
LOVE the flecks of vanilla and grateful for the sparkling sugar tip for the rim!
An altogether fabulous evening filled with wonderful people, some new friends and great food. My thanks to both Tillamook and D Bar Desserts.
This Lemon Drop really was a fabulous cocktail; unique in that lemonade is the base instead of lemon simple syrup and also in it’s inclusion of vanilla bean paste; both the taste and visual effect of floating vanilla flecks made for the best Lemon Drop I’ve ever had. Loved it. You will be thanking them too; this cocktail is divine!
- 1/4 cup hot water
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 & 1/2 tsp vanilla paste
- 2 lemons
- 1/2 lime
- 1 & 1/2 - 2 cups cold water
- 3-4 oz of Lemon Drop Mixture
- 1.5 oz of Vodka
- Lemon slices
- Sugar (The restaurant used larger granule cake decorating sugar and I HAD to have some. I found it at Michaels.)
- Blend 1/4 cup hot water, sugar and vanilla paste in food processor at low speed while you cut fruit in quarters. Stop blender, add cut fruit and cold water to taste (I had large fruit so used 2 cups). Pulse until no large pieces remain; approximately 5 or 6 times (do not over blend because it could create a sour taste). Strain into container and chill.
- Rim the edge of a martini glass with lemon juice and dip in sugar.
- Combine the Lemon Drop Mixture with vodka in a cocktail mixer. Add ice and shake vigorously 10-12 times. Pour into glass and serve.
I didn't have any vanilla paste on hand so made my own vanilla bean syrup but you can buy the paste online or at Williams-Sonoma stores.
Here is how to make the syrup at home:
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
1 whole vanilla bean, split lengthwise & seeds scraped, pod cut into 1 inch pieces
1 tsp vodka (for preserving)
Combine the water & sugar in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Simmer for 1 to 2 minutes until the sugar is dissolved.
Add the vanilla beans and the pods and leave uncovered until cooled. Stir in the vodka and pour into a container with a lid and let steep.
Store in the refrigerator.
Join me every Friday for Friday Cocktail Hour when I’ll make a cocktail I love, recreate one from a local establishment or maybe just have some fun experimenting!