Where: 1552 East 17th Avenue
Pros: Organic food and pastries are all made fresh and can be purchased rather quickly for those on the go. I’d be hard pressed to think of another place in Denver where you can find organic breakfast, lunch, dinner, juice, coffee, and such great desserts under one roof. Also, the prices are more-than-fair.
Cons: The space is not huge, so at busy times it may be hard to find a seat.
As you probably know by now, Olive and Finch, recently named one of Denver’s best new restaurants, is pretty much the perfect spot to spend a sunny Denver afternoon. From patrons enjoying an afternoon glass of wine on the patio, to the display case brimming with tarts and petite cakes, chef-owner Mary Nguyen has managed to capture the relaxed, informal European cafe setting that she was going for.
Chef Nguyen, who is also chef-owner of of P17 and Street Kitchen, opened O&F in December with a vision for healthy, organic, chef-inspired food that fits the pace of our modern lives. The shop serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner, as well as scratch-baked pastries. Not to mention some deli-style items, fresh-squeezed juices, espresso drinks, and cocktails. Just in time for summer, the kitchen has debuted a selection of picnic baskets filled with the likes of artisan charcuterie or sandwiches for those who want to eat al fresco without all the prep.
On a recent visit, I was able to try some of those pastries, and I can tell you that they are as good as they look (and you can’t miss them, as the case is practically the first thing you see as you step through the door). Though the sandwich breads are provided by City Bakery and Grateful Bread, and the croissants are from Trompeau, all of the cakes, cookies, tarts, and bars are made in-house. While there’s a lot going on at O&F, the bakery element is a central part of its concept, with the pastries being made fresh every single day by their talented pastry chef, Amber Otis.
Olive and Finch’s Fresh Desserts
Otis (formerly of Trillium) is the woman behind all of the decadent pastries. Though Otis definitely has a talent for making striking, refined desserts, at O&F she isn’t going for anything pretentious or overly complicated.
Take the berry tart, for instance. Otis always uses seasonal fruit to top the luxurious vanilla pastry’s cream and flaky, buttery crust. The result is more than the sum of its parts. There are usually a variety of different fruit tarts available, and keep an eye open for peach tarts once the Colorado peaches begin to come in.
Another deceptively simple offering are the melt-in-your-mouth alfajores. If you’ve never tried alfajores before, I implore you to try Otis’ version at O&F. I first discovered these little cookies while living in Chile and am still surprised they’re not more popular here. Two light-as-a-feather cookies sandwiching a layer of dulce de leche, all dusted in a snowy drift of powdered sugar—what’s not to love?
While the coconut cake and the strawberry mousse cake were tempting, the best seller at O&F (and Otis’ favorite) is the miniature chocolate cake. As a chocolate lover myself, one bite and I understood why. Otis brought the cake recipe from the East Coast with her. The buttery chocolate frosting and white chocolate shavings on top make this little cake pretty enough to celebrate a special occasion.
Overall, O&F represents a new kind of dining culture, one that falls somewhere between fast casual and farm-to-table bistro. The versatile mix makes it perfect for just about any time of day, with a menu that’s sure to please just about anyone, from health nuts to dessert lovers. Denverites have surely embraced it, and it looks like O&F is here to stay.
All photos by Roman Tafoya.