Mile Hi-Life -- Places Worth the Splurge: The 9th Door
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The legend of the 9th door stems from the 60s, the time of bacchanalia made famous by the beatnik writers of the era. In the summer of '69 a picturesque mountain village named Mijas enjoyed its fame – or infamy – from being the center of a Michener novel, The Drifters. Writers and poets alike drifted into Mijas, somewhere between Marbella and Malaga on the Costa del Sol of Spain. These artists of the word gathered at their favorite no-name bar, a door in the village distinguishable only by the number "9" carved into the ancient Spanish wood. The wordsmiths in grand European fashion drank local wine and brandy. They shared tapas, as is the tradition of the region. They traded tall tales.They recited poetry to local women until the wee hours of the night. Perhaps they even provided palmas for an impromptu flamenco show. All behind the 9th door.
Today, far from the terraces of white structures on a mountain's side, sits the city of Denver within its own mountain cradle. And in the heart of LoDo resides a Spanish tapas bar: The 9th Door.
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Food and Drink
The 9th Door offers a full, Mediterranean-inspired menu, but people flock to a tapas bar for, well, tapas. These "little dishes" are a Spanish tradition to accompany a glass of wine or a cocktail, particularly in the southern region. In Spain, these snacks can range from a dish of olives to beef tongue to bruschetta-style taste bud teasers. At The 9th Door, the tapas are Mediterranean-influenced not only from Spain, but Roman, Greek, and Arab influences as well.
There are both tapas frias (cold) and tapas calientes (hot). Spanish cuisine is known for its Jamón Serrano, or Seranno-style ham. This dry-cured meat is a traditional Spanish delicacy similar to Italian prosciutto. The 9th Door includes Serrano ham in several tapas including "Membrillo, Manchego, y Serrano" in which pan-seared bites of Serrano ham are topped with quince jam and Manchego cheese, another Spanish tradition. A hot tapas of note are the " Dátiles," dates that have been stuffed with almonds and drunken goat cheese then wrapped in Serrano ham. The mixture of influences is clear in this dish! Tapas run $4 - $14, and it will take several if you mean to make a meal. This is a splurge!
The 9th Door offers wines from Spain and Central America. Several noteworthy wines, including the Campo Viejo Reserva Tempranillo (Rioja, Spain) and the Aveleda Vinho Verde (Portugal) are available by the glass. Bottles range from $50 to $235.
The restaurant contains a full bar with several specialty cocktails. Of course, the cocktails have a Latin feel to them including such standbys as Sangria, Mojitos, and Caipirinhas. Spain-inspired drinks include the Ibiza, made with Silvercoin tequila, Chambord, Triple Sec, fresh-squeezed lime juice, homemade simple syrup, served up with an orange twist, as well as the Sevilla Cocktail, Spanish cava, peach schnapps, splash of orange juice, served up with a twist of orange. The bartenders also mix a fresh, tangy margarita, the Silvercoin Margarita.
All of the cocktails go on specila during Happy Hour (usually $4) as do the house wines. There are several tapas included in Happy Hour, including "Pintxos Jamón," Spanish ham, Spanish olive, piparra and piquillo pepper for only $2.92! This is not a free plate like you might find in Grenada, but this isn't cow's tongue either.
Denver Restaurant Week is actually two weeks' worth of culinary celebration. The event features a fixed priced menu of $52.80 per couple in honor of the city's altitude: one mile high, or 5, 280 feet. The Restaurant Week event at The 9th Door promises a four-course meal with tapas.
Here is what The 9th Door offered Denver Restaurant Week patrons (I bolded my selections):
First Course, one tapa:
- Tortilla a la Española: Chef’s choice of traditional Spanish omelet
- Charcuteria: Assorted Spanish cured meats
- Pimientos del Piquillo Rellenos: Fire roasted piquillo peppers stuffed with goat cheese and rosemary
- Callo de Hacha: Seared, chilled sea scallops, crispy Serrano ham, fried arugula
Second Course, one tapa:
- Croquetas de Hongos: Risotto and mushroom croquette with truffle oil, mushroom sauce, and shaved manchego cheese
- Gambas al Ajillo: Marinated, grilled shrimp with garlic and piquin pepper
- Chorizo al Vino: Spicy Spanish sausage in Rioja wine sauce
- Alcachofas a la Plancha: Pan-fried artichoke hearts with lemon-thyme aioli
Third Course, one entree:
- Fileta con Cabrales: Beef filet served with Cabrales blue cheese sauce and grilled asparagus
- Pollo Oloroso: Grilled chicken breast with Oloroso sherry mushroom sauce and manchego cheese mashed potatoes
- Callo de Hongos: Pan-seared sea scallops with truffled mushroom compote
- Calabacitas: Spaghetti squash sautéed with garlic, piquillo peppers, asparagus, fresh basil, and shaved manchego cheese
Fourth Course, one dessert:
- Frutas Sevillana: Sangria-poached pear with marscapone and raspberries
- Chocolava: Chocolate cake with crème anglaise and chocolate sauce
The 9th Door is a splurge-worthy restaurant. The ingredients are high-quality, and the ambience is reminiscent of tapas bars in Spain. Perhaps you won't exactly expect to see a 60s writer composing poetry to the barmaid, but the intimidate, Mediterranean vibe would complement a date night. Happy Hour is a great way to slip into the secret of The 9th Door.
Hubs on Dining in Denver
Mile Hi Life -- Places Worth the Splurge: The 9th Door. Mile Hi-Life looks at Denver-area restaurants that are a little higher-priced, but worth the splurge. At The 9th Door a meal with wine will cost around $40-$60.
Denver Restaurant Week. Every year Visit Denver presents an event to celebrate the culinary offerings of the Mile Hi City.
Denver Dives Worth the Descent: Gomez Burritos: Denver Dives looks at the little holes in the wall that are worth seeking out. Located in Commerce City, Gomez Burritos is a hidey-hole worth finding.
Jamón serrano is a dry-cured Spanish ham. Generally this specialty is served in paper-thin slices, but in certain dishes it may be diced. "Serrano" means "mountain," and this ham is traditionally hung in cool, arid mountain breezes. It is similar to Italian prosciutto, though it is thought to be less salty.
Like prosciutto, its price often depends on amount of again time. Minimum is six months, but gourmet brands will age the jamón for eighteen months or longer. Most Serrano ham is made from several different breeds of white pigs, such as Duroc, Landrace or Large White. A typical method of curing includes packing the meat in salt for approximately two weeks; this draws out the excess moisture and acts as a preservative. After the salt has been washed off, the ham is hung to dry for six months. What gives the ham its distinctive aging is the final hanging, in a cool, arid spot for six to eighteen months.
Serrano ham is widely available in the United States, usually in specialty stores. In Denver, you can find jamón serrano at Oliver's Meat Market and at Marczyk's Fine Foods – besides The 9th Door, that is!