Photo by Mark Woolcott Photography, Presented by The Patrician PaletteOne of my favorite memories is walking the streets of Paris for the first time. (Four days of bliss.) The streets were narrow and the cobblestone alleys heavily rutted. The buildings were ancient and ornate with balconies trimmed in frilly ironwork. The air was filled with smells of bread, sweets and meats. It was overwhelming. I was definitely in another world and I felt I belonged there. An old man walked past me with his arms full of freshly-baked baguettes, and it just made me happy. They smelled so good. I had to have one.

There wasn’t much money because I was a poor student travelling with a backpack. But I could afford a baguette, grapes, a wedge of brie, tomatoes and some wine. My Swiss Army knife made quick work of the tomato and easily uncorked the wine. It was heaven and very liberating to be on a budget and to eat so well.

That was then. Thankfully, today I can afford a more elaborate meal. Entering Bistro Vendôme at Larimer Square was a trip down memory lane for me. While located in the heart of Denver, I can feel, see and smell a moment of Paris again. Sweeping red drapes invite you in, the wooden floors creak a little and gold-leaf lettering on the plate-glass windows announce that this place is très Français.

Photo by Mark Woolcott Photography, The Patrician Palette, Bistro Vendome

The menu has classic French menu items such as Moules and Steak au Poivre. Not everything is heavy, though. Their new Chef de Cuisine, Dana Rodriguez, has introduced some new items that I found particularly creative and fresh. The stars of the evening for me were the pork rillette and the strawberry salad. The salad was beautiful in presentation as well as flavor – served with pink and white pickled radishes, a burgundy-colored red onion jam, and a pink strawberry vinaigrette.

Bistro Vendôme passed the baguette test, too. They were introducing a new baguette made just for them – perfectly crusty on the outside while soft and chewy on the inside. It had a surprising mélange of spices sprinkled on the crust that were held on by a sweetened mustard glaze. It was divine. I’d go back just for the bread and that strawberry salad.