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  • Writer's pictureEric Elkins

Ode: The Beef Tallow Candle and Fresh Bread from the Fifth String

I howled when Justin Brunson shuttered Old Major. The restaurant closing felt like more than just a loss for the neighborhood — it was also the end of the Chef Justin era in Denver. We all know that guy can cook, but only a lucky few know what a humble, loving, warm, and sweet dude he is. I was despondent that I wouldn’t receive the occasional text saying he was doing something delicious with local lamb and that I should get my ass up there before it was gone.

So when Chef Amos opened the Fifth String, it took me longer than I care to admit to walk over and see what he was up to. My loss, because the place is a wonder and carries Justin’s legacy (and his River Bear American Meats) in all the best ways while still being its own magical thing.

The dynamic, seasonal menu is always packed with perfection, but the stellar stable staple is the beef tallow candle. This dish is like a small miracle on fire.

The tallow itself tastes clean — like dippable herbal oil with a meaty punch. But the way it slowly melts into the fleur de sel — picking up that gentle saltiness in a slow progression — is what sets it apart. And of course it doesn’t hurt that you’re laying into it with torn pieces of fresh bread made from Kelly Whitacre’s heritage grains, which elevates each bite to something close to a religious experience.

And then as other dishes arrive. You’re momentarily distracted by that elegant delicata squash something or other. The tiny flame sputters and flickers and the tallow begins to thicken.

You notice the candle has melted into a puddle.

You stop between bites.

You realize you still have bread left.

And this time, instead of dipping a chunk into the oil, you slide a knife around in the seasoned meat butter and smear it on thick.

The rest of the food at your table disappears because that perfect bite immerses you in all its richness. You don’t know what to do with yourself in that moment of pure gustatory transcendence.

Your little prayer of gratitude comes from the soul.

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