The Oven Following culinary school in France, chef Mark Tarbell spent an entire month in New York City on what he describes as a "mad search" for the perfect pizza. Twenty years later, the owner of Tarbell's in Phoenix still eats pizza four nights a week, a passion that's led him to open this new restaurant in Denver's Lakewood suburb. Diners sit on lime-green pony-hair barstools and eat lightly charred pizzas from wood-stoked ovens, heaped with local, organic ingredients, including spicy Italian sausage from Marczyk Fine Foods and Haystack Mountain goat cheese. The house-made mozzarella topping the pies is so good that it's served as an appetizer. And the wine choices are eclectic, ranging from a Stone Cellars by Beringer Pinot Grigio that goes for $4 a glass to a $110 bottle of Kistler "Les Noisetiers" Chardonnay.
Rioja After 16 years of cooking, including 11 with mentor Wolfgang Puck, Jennifer Jasinski now has her own place, a lively downtown Mediterranean-inspired restaurant with a copper-topped bar and swatches of exposed brick. Inside her shiny, open kitchen, Jasinski bakes 700 mini goat-cheese biscuits a day to keep Rioja's bread baskets full and she still has the wherewithal to cover slices of preserved lemons with a crisp, lacy tempura batter and serve red snapper in a mustard-broth ragù of clams, mussels, haricots verts and chorizo.
Updated July 2009