The benefits of Denver Restaurant Week. I enjoyed a fine meal at Root Down restaurant last evening with five lovely girl friends. I may never have eaten there if it hadn’t been for my friend LeaAnn who loves to take advantage of this two-week event. She just takes the bull by the horns, so-to-speak, and makes dinner reservations for six. She doesn’t know who the other five friends will be, she just sends out the email. First come, first served. For this particular evening, no husbands allowed. Yeah LeaAnn.

Six ladies got together that might not otherwise have done so. I’d never been to Root Down so I enjoyed discovering this incredibly unique restaurant in a neighborhood I rarely go to. They recycle just about everything from their cooking oil to the art on the walls, and have a passion for sustainability. I especially enjoyed their wall of re-purposed tin can lids. Art can be found everywhere here. They even purify their water through a technique called reverse osmosis. They must really love their guests and the environment.

It’s ironic that my new flavor, which isn’t really new, is beets. Growing up on the farm, my dad loved his hard-boiled eggs steeped in pickled beet juice. The white orbs would float in this ruby elixir for days until they turned beet red themselves. I’ve never really thought of beets in any other way. Last week I worked on my Easter blog, which included eggs soaked in beet juice (thanks Dad), but with an elegant twist (stay tuned). A few days ago I watched a Food Network cooking competition where beet juice and carrot juice were reduced to sweet and savory sauces. So I was really surprised and delighted to see Roasted Beet Gnocchi on last night’s menu. Thanks to the talents of creative chefs like Chef Daniel at Root Down, beets don’t have to be down-home farm food, but can be elevated to elegance. The gnocchi was pillowy soft, sweet and savory, and full of beet flavor. Maybe a little too salty was my only complaint.

Call up your friends. Make it happen. Restaurant Week ends on March 11, 2011.

The trick to soft gnocchi is to mix it enough to bring the ingredients together but not enough to activate the gluten in the flour. We aren’t making bread here. Be careful not to overmix.

Thank you Chef Daniel for sharing your Beet Gnocchi recipe with us. I took a few liberties in editing.

Roasted Red Beet Gnocchi

½ lbs Yukon potatoes
1 lb red beets, roasted
¾ cup all purpose flour
3 cups semolina
½ cup crème fraîche
1 ½ cups parmesan cheese
1 ½ – 2 eggs
1 tablespoon thyme, finely chopped
1 tablespoon mint, finely chopped
2 ½ tablespoons Agave syrup
1 ½ tablespoons salt (or to taste)
½ tablespoon black pepper

Bake potatoes in the oven at 350 degrees until soft. Cover beets halfway with water and cook in oven. Once the beets and potatoes are cooked, put the beets in the robot coupe and chop them (not purée). Pass the potatoes through a ricer. Then put the potatoes and beets in a mixing bowl and add the cheese, herbs, egg, agave, salt and pepper, mix well. Add semolina, flour and crème fraîche. Mix well and start rolling into long strands. Cut into gnocchi pieces.

Apple Cider Sauce
¼ cup shallots, minced
1 garlic clove, minced
1 ½ stems thyme
1 ½ Kaffir lime leaves
4 cups apple cider
½ ounce lime Juice
½ tablespoon Adobo, from Chipotles in adobo

2 tablespoons corn starch
1/2 cups of the Apple Cider Sauce sauce

Put the first four ingredients in a sauce pan and cook them for 45 seconds then add the next three and reduce by half. Make slurry and add back to the sauce. Allow sauce to reduce on medium heat by half. About 1 hour.

More info on Root Down and their Sustainability Philosophy
• Reverse osmosis water is used for all our cooking, drinking, ice and sodas
• 100% wind powered and all our cardboard, glass, plastic and cooking oil is recycled
• Locally farmed, sustainable and organic foods are used whenever possible
• Rice Bran oil for all our flash frying:”The World’s Healthiest” edible oil, containing vitamins, antioxidants, nutrients and trans fat free. Delicate and flavorful, it can help lower cholesterol, fight diseases & enhance the immune system
• Approximately 70% of Root Down was built and finished with reclaimed, reused and recycled materials

Root Down is located just off the 20th 
Street Exit from I-25. Find them on the corner of 33rd and Osage in the historic 
Highland neighborhood.
1600 W. 33rd Avenue 
Denver, CO 80211