Ophelia’s Electric Soapbox: Restaurant, Music Venue + Hospitality-First ‘Gastrobrothel’

Ophelia's Electric Soapbox

Ophelia’s Electric Soapbox, in Denver, recently named one of the 100 Hottest Restaurants in America by OpenTable diners, defies most attempts at categorization. It is a restaurant and a bar first, but most nights of the week it doubles as a live music venue. When there’s no music, you may see a major sports game projected onto the space’s 22-foot screen.

To add another layer of intrigue, the restaurant is housed in a historic Victorian building from the 1890s with a sordid history: over the years, it’s been used as a bordello, an adult video store, and a peep show. As chef-owner Justin Cucci explains, he saw in the space the perfect opportunity to marry food, music, and sex in one experience.

“Normally you listen to music, and everything else is a third-hand experience: shitty beer, mediocre food, it smells,” he says. “I wanted to do something like the old-school jazz and supper clubs where you could go out on a date and experience some live music but also have great service, hospitality, and food. You can start here, and you can end here.”

We asked Justin all about the unique experience at Ophelia’s and how he delivers on expectations for his many diverse guests. Here’s how he pulls it off. Continue Reading

Smoked, Baked + Fried: Stoner Munchies in Pot-Friendly DC, Denver + Seattle for #420Day

April 20th is practically a national holiday for herb enthusiasts. The date – 4/20 – is a reference to 4:20 in the afternoon, the time of day when smokers traditionally spark up. As several states and the District of Columbia move to legalize marijuana, stoners can now puff-puff-pass to their heart’s desire. As anyone who has ever indulged before knows, the practice often awakens the appetite, leading to blissful binges of epic proportions. To give tokers better options than Cheetos, Ho Hos, and DiGiorno, we’ve rounded up the best smoked, baked, and fried stoner munchies in the pot-friendly cities of Washington, D.C., Denver, and Colorado. [Ed. note: One need not partake to appreciate the deliciousness of these dishes.]

Denver

Smoked

Stoner Munchies

Ribs at Russell’s Smokehouse
Funnily enough, the Smokehouse was the nickname for our off-campus duplex during college. But we digress. These generously portioned dry rubbed ribs – your choice of beef, pork, baby back, or a combo – come with three sauces on the side, including a spicy varietal that’s a longtime customer favorite. Don’t forget to ask for plenty of napkins. Make a reservation at Russell’s Smokehouse.

Baked

Stoner Munchies

The Georgio at Pizza Republica
Honestly, if we were only allowed to eat pizza for every meal of the day, we wouldn’t complain. We love ‘za that much. The Georgia is a god amongst men, decked out with rounds of fennel sausage, char-kissed pearl onions, fried garlic, and fresh mozzarella. Just what we crave after a long night of partying – or the morning after. Make a reservation at Pizza Republica.

Fried

Stoner Munchies

Doughnut Sundae at Sugar Mill
Could there be anything greater than a doughnut sundae? Possibly, but who cares? When you’re in the zone digging into a doughnut sundae, nothing else matters. A sweet circle of glazed brioche comes with ice cream, caramel sauce, chocolate sauce, and candied nuts. Not included? A gym membership, which you’ll desperately need after you devour this dainty. Make a reservation at Sugar Mill.

Washington, D.C.

Smoked

Stoner Munchies

S’mores at Bourbon Steak
This haute s’more arrives hidden under a smoke-filled cloche, which the server pulls away to release a hazy cloud. You’re welcome to inhale, but, unfortunately, it has no mind-altering properties. Once the smoke clears, you’ll find marshmallow, toasted marshmallow ice cream, hazelnut graham streusel, and caramel and milk chocolate shards. Make a reservation at Bourbon Steak.

 

Baked

Stoner Munchies

Sticky Toffee Pudding at Convivial
Pastry chef Eva Kronenburg soaks dates in dark rum for a week for the base of this gloriously gluttonous sticky toffee pudding. The molasses sweetened mound is enhanced further with dark raisins and prunes. Served warm, the pudding sits in a pool of rum rich toffee sauce, while a scoop of maple ice cream on top slowly melts down the sides. A perfect meal ender for the stoner with a sweet tooth. Make a reservation at Convivial.

Fried

Stoner Munchies

French Fries at Blue Duck Tavern
It takes a full day to make these substantial sticks, which are definitely not your average French fries. Chef de cuisine Brad Deboy begins by steaming gold potatoes until tender and then mixing them until velveteen. The smooth spuds are set in a pan, cut into logs, dried overnight, and fried until golden brown for service. The Jenga tower of outsized frites comes with a spicy smoked pepper aioli. They sure beat the fries at the McDonald’s drive-through you normally scarf down after a smoke session. Make a reservation at Blue Duck Tavern.

Seattle

Smoked

Stoner Munchies

Catfish Deviled Eggs at Sazerac
There are deviled eggs and then there are smoked catfish deviled eggs. The fish is balanced on a peak of whipped yolks, garnished with pickled mustard seeds, and dusted with Spanish smoked paprika. Yes, it’s okay to eat these outrageous oeufs in a single bite. We won’t judge, dude. Make a reservation at Sazerac.

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Super Bowls: 7 Winning One-Bowl Dishes for Winter + Beyond

In celebration of the Bowl that’s going down in the Bay Area this weekend, let’s dish about bowls — not plates — of oodles of noodles and other well-rounded meals. These 7 spots will bowl you over with one-bowl dishes highlighting warm ramen noodles, chilled spicy noodles, rice, and more. And, if your favorite team didn’t make it to the big game, consider these bowls to be warm culinary consolation hugs, too. 

The Kitchen by Wolfgang Puck, Grand Rapids, Michigan
A cold-weather hotspot in The Amway Grand Plaza Hotel, eight of the 10 appetizers on the menu are served in bowls, as well as all of the pasta dishes and most of the sides. “I personally love to serve dishes in bowls,” says chef Austin Gresham. “If I build a dish in the center of the bowl, the guest is forced to draw the food from the center of the bowl against the wall of the dish. That forces them to enjoy the dish exactly how I want them to. Much better than a ‘decomposed’ plating strategy, where parts of the dish are spread out and guests are able to enjoy components of dishes separately. This could potentially take away from the whole experience of a dish, like a bite of steak without the sauce.” Noodle dishes include Chicken lo Mein — egg noodles, bean sprouts, bok choy, oyster sauce and soy. And there’s Pad Thai on the menu, too — scallops, shrimp, scallions, mint, and peanut sauce. Make a reservation at The Kitchen by Wolfgang Puck.

One-bowl dishes

Bubu-Lowry, Denver, Colorado
The Denver Broncos are going to the Super Bowl! You’re not! But … you can to go Bubu-Lowry, where the Chicken Thigh Ramen Bowl with Swiss chard, edamame, pickled fennel, peppers, ginger, and chicken broth is a crowd pleaser. Feeling creative at half time? You can opt to make your own bubu bowl creations. A win-win, for sure. Make a reservation at Bubu-Lowry.

One-bowl dishes

Momofuku CCDC, Washington, D.C.
The mother of all bowls, David Chang’s Momofuku gives a noodle nod to D.C. with its first U.S. capital location in City Center. There are rice and noodle bowls aplenty to cheer for including Momofuku Beef Noodle Soup, which features brisket, baby bok choy, and black pepper. Spice it up with the Chilled Spicy Noodles with Szechuan sausage, spinach, and candied cashews. Or tackle the Ginger Scallion Noodles, rich with pickled shiitake, cucumber, cabbage. Make a reservation at Momofuku CCDC.

One-Bowl Dishes

Il Palio, Chapel Hill, North Carolina
Chef Teddy Diggs will serve his pasta “super bowls” as a nod to football’s biggest day. He’s teamed his authentic Italian recipes with playful ingredients to produce winning dishes, such as duck egg carbonara and hay-smoked potato gnocchi infused with wood smoke (the smoky flavors of the grill are infused into the pasta). Andiamo! Make a reservation at Il Palio.

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Cure All: Top Restaurant Charcuterie Programs

Long before the widespread use of industrial chemical preservatives, butchers shops kept their meats from spoilage using a battery of techniques that not only preserved them, but greatly enhanced their flavors and textures. Today, OpenTable chefs have embraced these techniques by making their own bacon, sausages, pâtés, and more in-house. If you’re a fan of mortadella, head cheese, galantines, and terrines, book a table to sample the delicious creations from these top restaurant charcuterie programs.

Lusca, Atlanta, Georgia
Jonathan Sellitto serves as head butcher for this seafood-forward restaurant. After a stint working on a hog farm outside Siena, Italy, Sellitto returned to the U.S. to practice traditional Italian and French charcuterie. “One of the things I love about charcuterie is that it has stood the test of time,” says Sellitto. “Old world techniques are still relevant and have become a bit of a specialty art.”

His charcuterie board changes weekly, but is likely to have two cooked meats (e.g., terrines, pâtés) and two cured meats, served with house pickles and charred bread. He says diners have an increasingly greater appreciation for the whole animal and for Old World techniques for preserving meats. He’s also not a fan of shortcuts. “A proper terrine should take you three to four days,” says Sellitto. “If you rush the steps, it’s very noticeable.”

Top Restaurant Charcuterie

The Wharf Pub, Newport, Rhode Island
Executive Chef Scott Kirmil cures his own porchetta, pâtés, and terrines using grass-fed heritage pigs that he sources locally. “The difference in flavor and texture is huge when compared to the pork belly you can get from large food distributors.” Of course, it costs more, but Kirmil says it is well worth the expense. “We feel our charcuterie should be something that gives guests items they can’t just serve up at home without spending some serious time in the kitchen,” says Kirmil. The Wharf Pub makes as much of its menu as it possibly can — from bread to cured and ground meats — in-house.

Top Restaurant Charcuterie

Mandolin, Raleigh, North Carolina
Expect an enormous selection of house-cured and smoked meats, terrines, pâtés, and sausages. From smoked bacon and hams to pancetta, lambcetta, head cheese, bologna, mortadella, and soppressata, just to name a few. “Most meat-centric charcuterie is really just trying to bring out the layers of flavor already present in the meat by using traditional curing, smoking, and curing techniques,” says executive chef Sean Fowler. “Accordingly, we choose flavor components (herbs, spices, vegetables, fruit) that complement a particular protein.” And like many chefs with a passion for charcuterie, Fowler fashions himself a traditionalist. “Most of our methods and recipes are pretty classical,” he says. “We do play around a bit with some of the ingredients in our uncured sausages, incorporating things like pickled blueberries, sauerkraut powder, and black garlic. But really good meat and sound technique are the foundations of our program.”

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