It what has turned out to be an annual event in Denver, the Colorado Audio Society, in conjunction with Red Rock Audio, hosts the Rocky Mountain Audio Festival at the Marriott in the heart of the Tech Center in the southeast part of the city. It went from a very basic gathering of high-end, tweaky audio companies to what could now be called the biggest high-end audio show in the United States. (Stereophile used to put on an annual high-end audio show that would be either in New York, Los Angeles or San Francisco, but that has been defunct now for a couple years.) Nearly 4000 people attended the show in early October looking at products from over 200 firms.
We were there in full force with new products from Focal, Pathos and Micromega. We had our own room on the main floor, but also had some of our Focal Utopia Be III products that were shown in conjunction with Audio Unlimited from Denver. John Barnes and Carl Jerritts from Audio Unlimited featured the $180,000 Focal Utopia Grande EM loudspeakers, and it was the North American debut of the new Focal Maestro Utopia loudspeakers - a bargain at a mere $50,000.
Now, the crowd of high-end audio enthusiasts, some of whom I'd classify as audiophiles, is a broad and somewhat rather different crowd. You'll see all types of people, all dressed in God-awful clothes. I saw guys in shorts wearing black dress shoes and white socks, one 60-something guy was sporting mullet of gray hair, earthy ladies in hemp dresses were prevalent, and fat guys with ill-fitting Hawaiian shirts were there. One guy, I shit you not, was wearing black pants with a silver metal belt and the buckle was the size of a satellite dish. And he was wearing pointy alligator shoes. I mean, LONG pointy alligator shoes. Who dresses these people?
Then you had the smug assholes in horn-rimmed glasses, wearing old tweed jackets who were self-professed audiophiles, but really weren't. And, of course, you had the propeller-head nerds who spent hours upon hours in their parent's basement memorizing each and every detail of some product, then asking inane questions to the manufacturers present to try and trip them up. As you can tell, I wasn't impressed with many of the attendees.
This was my first trip to the Rocky Mountain Audio Festival. Actually, I had hoped to be going back to New York for the AES Convention a week after the Denver show, but my boss determined that my hips were good enough to do some heavy lifting and moving. So, I was tabbed to be part of the group that went to Denver. That's OK, that afforded me a chance to get back to my favorite burger place in the world, the Cherry Cricket. (We visited the Cricket twice, so more on that later.)
But I came here today to not talk about the Rocky Mountain Audio Fest as much as I wanted to tell you about a place that we went to for dinner one evening - the Cool River Cafe. The restaurant was not far from the Tech Center area in the southeast Denver suburb of Greenwood Village (see map). We took John Barnes, his wife, Pam; and Carl Jerritts, and his wife, Christine, and one of their employees there for dinner one evening. John was one of the dealers who we took to France in the summer of 2008 to unveil the new Focal Utopia III loudspeakers. I'd met Carl before, but only in passing.
Now, Christine Jerritts - or I should say Dr. Christine Jerritts - is one interesting woman. From the first meeting and initial conversations I had with her, I had no idea that she was a leading mathematician and also an open wheel race car driver. Actually, I knew the wife of one of our dealers was a race car driver, but I didn't realize until later on that it was Christine. Christine was so unassuming, had a good sense of humor and could actually carry on a conversation without sounding professorial. It turns out that Carl is her crew chief and head mechanic. "Just a nice little weekend diversion for us," Carl said.
There were ten of us for dinner at the Cool River Cafe - an upscale Southwestern cuisine/Steak house that is based out of Dallas. There's one Cool River Cafe location in Dallas, and there's also a Cool River Cafe in Austin, TX. The restaurants are under the direction of the Consolidated Restaurant Operations, Inc. Consolidated Restaurants, or C.R.O. is an investment group headed by John Harkey. They also operate the Cantina Laredo and El Chico Mexican restaurants, and also own upscale restaurants such as III Forks and Silver Fox Cafe.
We had a reservation for 8 p.m. at Cool River Cafe, but they weren't ready to seat us. I passed the time having a beer and talking with John and Carl's guy, whose name escapes me. We waited patiently as our table was readied and we finally were seated around 8:30. The manager apologized profusely for the delay and he bought us all a round of drinks and gave us some complementary appetizers for our wait. Now, that was a classy move to say the least.
The main dining room at Cool River Cafe is very elegant and chic. It has sort of an old world steak house feel to the place, but with some Southwestern decor splashed in. The lighting is subdued and the ambiance is rather comfortable. I could tell that a good meal was about to be had.
We were given menus and told of some of the specials that evening. I was in the mood for a steak and that is the highlight on the menu. They also featured some seafood items, pork chops, rack of lamb and some interesting entrees such as Chicken-fried Venison, Peach chicken, and short rib Pot Roast. You also had your choice of side items with the entree such as six-cheese scalloped potatoes, cilantro basmati rice and sweet potato hash.
Our free appetizers came to the table while we were looking at our menus. They gave us calimari, crab cake and a couple orders of their Absolut Peppar shrimp cocktail. The calimari was outstanding, the crab cakes were flavorful and rich, and the shrimp were very large. Coupled with the Absolut Peppar-infused cocktail sauce, they, too, were very good. But the large portions of appetizers they brought out to us pretty much ruled out a chance for me to get a wedge salad. It would have been too much food before the main entree.
I ended up ordering the 16 oz. tenderloin filet - rare plus. We all decided to just order a number of sides as they were served family-style and one portion was way too much for just one or two people. Christine Jerritts said, "I could just eat their six cheese mac and cheese for dinner. It's the best mac and cheese I've ever had!"
We spent the time before our food showed up talking and I got to know Carl and Christine a little better. They were talking about the places they've been to for racing. But most of the races they compete in are around the Colorado area. Carl said, "We'll go out and do road races like up at Elkhart Lake. But there aren't a lot of road courses out this way."
I told them that I'd been up to Elkhart Lake to look at the track during our trip to Door County last summer. He said, "We may get back up there next summer. If we do, we'll let you know so you can come up and watch Christine race."
Our food showed up and I was ready. My beef tenderloin filet was on the more done side of rare, which is exactly what rare plus should be. (Rare plus, I've found, gives you the best of rare cooked meat, but with a little more a warm center.) And it was juicy, tender and flavorful.
The sides we ordered up were pretty damn good. Christine wasn't kidding about the six cheese mac and cheese - it was very good, and I'm not a big mac and cheese guy. I also liked the sweet potato hash, and I had bites of the white cheddar and chives creamed corn, the creamed spinach and the six cheese scalloped potatoes. The scalloped potatoes were the best of the bunch, in my opinion. But they were so rich and heavy that I limited myself to only a couple three bites.
The 16 oz. filet proved to be more than enough food, however. When the waiter came around to ask for dessert, I said, "No, way. I'm stuffed."
My boss, Daniel, who was seated across the table from me said, "Oh, come on! Not even any creme brulee?"
(It's a standard joke in our company about me and creme brulee. On my first trip to France in 2003, I literally had creme brulee as a dessert every time it was offered on the menu. I love creme brulee and I had some of the best creme brulee on that trip.)
I couldn't lie - Cool River Cafe was well above average. The steak was delicious and we had great service from our waiter. They had an interesting menu and wonderful food. Cool River Cafe was a fun place and they took very good care of us. I would have no qualms about recommending Cool River Cafe for a very good meal.