IMG_5313What: Duo

Where: 2413 W. 32nd Ave., Denver

 Neighborhood: LoHi

Pros: New pastry chef, Crickett Burns, creates season-appropriate desserts which will cap off your meal on a high note.

Cons: Duo doesn’t open until 5 p.m.. If, like me, you enjoy eating dessert in the afternoon, you’re out of luck.

Despite the fact that Duo has been a Denver favorite for years now, the cozy spot still feels homey and rustic despite the throngs of eager patrons. It’s the kind of restaurant every neighborhood wishes it had, with seriously tasty farm-to-fork food in a comfortable setting (the affordable happy hour doesn’t hurt, either). Over the past couple years, Duo’s kitchen has seen quite a few changes. These changes were truly unprecedented, considering that Duo’s lineup of key players has stayed the same same since Keith Arnold and Stephanie Bonin opened the doors in 2005.

In 2013, long-time executive chef John Broening departed, opting to focus on his newest endeavor, Spuntino. Broening was replaced by his then-sous-chef Tyler Skrivanek. And just this last fall, Duo’s renowned pastry chef of nine years, Yasmin Lozada-Hissom (who also happens to be Broening’s wife), announced that she would be leaving the restaurant as well. Lozada-Hissom, a five time James Beard award semifinalist, single-handedly put Duo on the map for some of Denver’s best desserts, and many lamented her departure.

When Crickett Burns accepted the position of Duo’s new pastry chef, she knew that she had big shoes to fill. Burns, a veteran of The Squeaky Bean, Rioja, and most recently, The Truffle Table, has happily risen to the occasion.

“With the mantra “always seasonal, always fresh,” Burns seemsto be a natural fit with the Duo team.”

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Duo’s grapefruit curd brulee

Though this is Burns’s first full time pastry position, she’s been baking her entire life, and much of her tenure in previous Denver restaurants has included pastry duties. Burns is also no stranger to Duo. Since departing The Truffle Table, she’s been working the line at Duo ever since.

“I just fell in love with Duo,” said Burns. When Lozada-Hissom announced her departure, Burns jumped at the opportunity to helm the pastry program, launching a winter dessert menu filled with seasonal sweets. With the mantra “always seasonal, always fresh,” Burns seems to be a natural fit with the Duo team.

“I love working with Tyler and Tiffany—we’re a great match. We share similar ideas about flavor,” explained Burns of her Duo colleagues. Burns has been cooking since a young age, and she crafts her desserts around memories, tapping into nostalgic flavors that “draw people in.” Since she’s taken over creative control of the dessert menu, she’s focused on incorporating fresh seasonal fruits and wintry flavors into a range of plated desserts and sorbets.

Her chocolate dessert definitely evokes the season. Burns plates a silky chocolate semifreddo alongside a moist brown butter chocolate cake. The added touch of a spiced dark chocolate sauce gives the dish a spicy wintry quality, and a trail of candied ginger and cocoa nibs provide textural interest. There’s a lot to love in this season-appropriate dessert, which provides a nice balance of warm and cool, spicy and rich, and smoothness and crunch.

Duo's "chocolate dessert"

Duo’s “chocolate semifreddo”

Though it’s often difficult to create fresh fruit desserts in the winter with the limited options available, Burns’s grapefruit curd brulee proves that it can be done with aplomb. I can’t stop thinking about this dessert—a grapefruit shortbread square with a crackly bruleed top, adorned with house made winter citrus marmalade and a quenelle of sweet cream creama. Burns came up with the smart idea for the bruleed grapefruit bar from a memory of eating broiled grapefruit as a child. This refreshing and straightforward dessert makes a memorable ending for any rich winter meal.

After my recent visit, I think Burns is the perfect person to continue fueling Duo’s reputation for great desserts. Judging from the positive feedback, it seems that Duo’s loyal community of patrons feel the same way. On the next snowy evening, sidle up to a cozy table at Duo and warm up with one of Burns’s seasonal desserts for the perfect end to a cold winter night.

All photography by Jackie Collins. 

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