A year ago, we visited CPK (or California Pizza Kitchen, as most of us know it), to see how they had remodeled their interior and revamped their menu. Calling it the “Next Chapter,” the idea was to play up creating menu items based on what was seasonal and at the peak of flavor and freshness. An old favorite for pizza, we found that they did the expanded menu just as well as they did their pizzas. At the time, only the Cherry Creek Mall location of CPK had the revamp but recently, we visited that location again in honor of all of the Colorado locations enterring their “Next Chapter.” Again, we found very good food plus some new options we wanted to tell you about.

We started with something new and addictive – Spicy Buffalo Cauliflower. We’ve had spiced up cauliflower before and it was good but this dish comes closest to actually fooling a chicken wing-lover. In fact, this particular chicken-wing-fanatic could easily be convinced to switch over to these veinless, boneless, vegetarian versions! Fresh cauliflower florets are fried with a buttermilk batter, then tossed in CPK’s own Sriracha buffalo sauce (a slightly different flavor than the traditional “Frank’s”). The texture was firm enough and the flavor authentic enough to satisfy that wing thing I get when I just gotta have ’em! I know you know what I’m talking about!

Spicy Buffalo Cauliflower.

One of our favorites was there, the super-grained up Quinoa and Arugula Salad, with the addition of asparagus, sun-dried tomatoes, red onions, toasted pine nuts and feta cheese in a champagne vinaigrette. Last time, we ordered it with chicken but we had it completely vegetarian this time and loved it just the same. Toasted pine nuts make everything better!

A beautiful and very healthy salad, the Quinoa and Arugula.

I love roasty, earthy mushrooms, especially when there is a variety of them. I was, therefore, excited to try the Wild Mushroom Strozzapreti. The rolled pasta translates into “priest choker” and there are several variations on how the name came to be. CPK pan-sautees Cremini, Portobello and whatever other mushrooms are in season in each of their different cities, plus parmesan cheese, fresh thyme and parsley. Just the right amount of doughiness, the pasta was delicious and the mushrooms very good.

Wild Mushroom Strozzapreti

Very hearty, the Roasted Garlic Chicken with Seasonal Vegetables is pan-roasted in a lemon-garlic sauce with fingerling potatoes, cauliflower, herbs and veggies. There was a good variety of flavors and textures and a sense of Sunday supper at Grandma’s house with this dish.

Roasted Garlic Chicken

Last time, we’d had the Fire-Grilled Ribeye, which I’d been surprised to see at a pizza place. It was then, and remains a year later, one of the best steaks I’ve had! I’m glad to see they’ve kept it on the menu. Also still on the menu is the delicious Butter Cake. I’m one of those people who feels if it isn’t chocolate it isn’t worth bothering with. But this dense, rich dessert could convince me otherwise.

CPK still specializes in pizzas, of course, and does them very well with dough that has a nice tug and a big variety of toppings. This new menu just gives diners even more reason to take in the popular restaurant chain that pays particular attention to what’s local, healthy and really good.

Visit the CPK website for all of their locations.

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