Denveater - Deconstructing Colorado Cuisine, Dish by Dish

Shave Your Head, Raise Your Glass: Friday, March 16 at Fadó Irish Pub

Once again, the fine folks at Fadó aren’t waiting until the rising of the shamrock on Saturday to get the party started, opening their doors tomorrow at 11am for the annual St. Baldrick’s Foundation Charity Event. Come cheer on the brave souls going bald to raise money for childhood cancer research (& the braver young souls counting on it); chow down on corned beef & boxty warm in the knowledge that 20% of all food proceeds will go to the foundation; &, if you’re still standing come 5pm, commence with the pounding of bottomless Stella Artois.

Trust me, as a former Bostonian, St. Patrick’s Day is a *lot* more fun on any other day than St. Patrick’s Day.

Denveater’s (Final) Week in Review: The Mostly Boulder Edition

Research for my upcoming guidebook, the Food Lover’s Guide to Denver/Boulder, is finally drawing to a close; my immersion in the world of wine at Sommelier Journal is just beginning. Who knows if I’ll ever again have the opportunity to eat quite this much in quite this brief a time span—part of me hopes so, part of me (the part that’s gotten bigger & bigger & bigger) doesn’t. Time will tell.

Squid scampi at Arugula Bar e Ristorante

Black Cat Bistro’s brilliant gnocchi with grilled chicken livers

Brasserie Ten Ten’s pesto chicken salad

Fried cauliflower with curried yogurt at Café Aion

Fish in numbing chili oil from Chef Liu’s Authentic Chinese Cuisine (oh. So addictive)

Brisket on onion roll from Jimmy & Drew’s 28th Street Deli

The Pinyon’s fried chicken

The Vuelta at Rueben’s Burger Bistro

Mortadella spuma at Riffs Urban Fare

Tiffin’s vada pav

Big News at the Denveater HQ

Still finishing up the guidebook; I’ll post my final related Week in Review, a double issue, in the days to come.

For now, a drumroll: as of tomorrow I’ll largely be giving up the freelance sked to serve as assistant editor at Sommelier Journal. Very excited about the long-overdue move—which isn’t to say I tend to chuck the food writing in my downtime, nor the blog…to which I really, really will return in the next couple of weeks.

That is all.

El Bulli, Schmell Schmulli: Jiro Dreams of Sushi Comes to the DFC/C Next Week!

If you liked El Bulli: Cooking in Progress, which kicked off Film Feast at the Denver Film Center/Colfax, you’re gonna love this doc about the titular 85-year-old itamae, which plays next Tuesday, 9/27. But don’t take my word for it; check these hilarious outtakes from the critics:

Per Slant Magazine: “The film every so often practically swims in close-up shots of freshly made sushi—sauces still dripping from the fish—as well as Wong Kar-Wai-like slow-motion montages of chefs cutting and massaging fish, stirring rice, and applying sauce on top…[This] is food porn par excellence.”

Per the Hollywood Reporter: “The lengths Jiro takes to maintain and improve his standards—from never taking a day off except to go to funerals, to massaging an octopus for 50 minutes, to customizing plate layout for left-handed customers — have their amusement value…[but] the most touching anecdote comes from an apprentice’s account of how he wept when Jiro finally gave his approval to an egg dish after rejecting the previous 200 he had made.”

Per Indiewire: When you see Jiro Dreams of Sushi, make sure you’ve already staked out the nearest sushi place. It doesn’t matter if you’re really in the mood, or even if you dislike raw fish, you’re going to have a pretty strong craving within five minutes, and by the time the lights go up you’ll be ravenous.

That would be Okinawa, just across the street. But not so fast—you’ll want to stick around when the movie ends, because director David Gelb is appearing in person for a Q&A!! For that matter, don’t show up late—the screening’s proceeded by Joe York’s charming CUT/CHOP/COOK, a short about a guy you might call the Jiro of Carolina barbecue.

 

Denveater’s All-New Week in Review

See here, I’m writing a guidebook. Details to follow, but by way of promo pronto, I’ll be posting photos of each week’s highlights, while sparing you close-ups of the downside (this should suffice).

Amira Bakery & Deli’s Lebanese pie with lebni & zaatar

Arada Restaurant’s platter with lamb stew & kitfo

Budapest Bistro’s Indian frybread-like lángos

Bittersweet’s sinus-clearing chorizo over black bean purée

Black Pearl’s duck-confit-stuffed piquillo pepper over cauliflower-studded polenta 

Caffè’s pretzel bread & bombolone in a peekaboo bag

H Burger’s fried jalapeños & apple coleslaw

Devil’s Food Bakery & Cookery’s chocolate–peanut butter Buckeyes

Le Grand’s garlic sausage over lentils

OTOTO Food & Wine’s Wagyu tartare & housemade ricotta

Pizzeria Locale’s stellar cantaloupe-prosecco spritzer

Pizzeria Locale’s tuna–red pepper rolls & insalata ai frutti di mare

Oh yeah, & Pizzeria Locale’s sophisto butterscotch budino

Sugar Bakeshop’s cherry-sprinkle pop tart

Lordy, that’s just the beginning. Enjoy the weekly sneak peek while it lasts, I may be lowered into an untimely grave by forklift before the book hits the shelves.

Blood Into Wine + a Caduceus tasting at the DFC/C, 9/20!

If you weren’t at Tuesday’s screening of I LIKE KILLING FLIES, you missed—in addition to a hilarious doc—a faceful of bacon, deviled eggs & shrimp with grits courtesy of Steuben’s & Vesta Dipping Grill wunderkinds Brandon Biederman & Matt Selby.

And if you’re not at the Denver Film Center/Colfax for next Tuesday’s screening of BLOOD INTO WINE, you’ll miss—in addition to an intensely up-close-&-personal look at cultishly worshipped rock star Maynard James Keenan as he strives tirelessly to get blood from a stone, or rather wine from desert soil—a real-life taste of the fruits of his efforts. We’ve got a case of Caduceus, you’ve got a fine night ahead of you.

I Like Killing Flies + Eats from Steuben’s Brandon Biederman, 9/13!

A quick reminder that I sure do hope to see y’all at tomorrow’s screening of I Like Killing Flies. Not only is the documentary about New York’s notorious Shopsin’s hilarious—the menu alone will BLOW YOUR MIND—but it’s being followed by a reception complete with tidbits from Steuben’s Brandon Biederman (who happens to be a fan of the film, because he’s cool like that).

Extra bonus: it all kicks off with a lovely little short about an 80-year-old hot-dog slinger.

Right On! Hatch Green Chili Festival & Cookoff at Centro Latin Kitchen, 9/11

HEADS UP!! Month-long series FilmFeast debuts at Denver FilmCenter/Colfax 9/6

Yeah, so, I had something to do with this, in case you caught it in the Denver Post today. The Director & I chose the films, the Denver Film Society’s screening ’em each Tuesday in September, & there are some tasting components & in-person appearances to boot. The schedule follows; click here for tickets.

September 6 – EL BULLI: COOKING IN PROGRESS – 7:00pm

As uncompromisingly detailed as its subject, Gereon Wetzel’s stunning documentary captures the creative process of Ferran Adrià—oft-named the best chef in the world—as the avant-garde master & his team retire to their Barcelona kitchen-laboratory to create the menu for El Bulli’s final season in business.

Preceded by GIVING THANKS IN AWENDAW
Every year on the day before Thanksgiving, members of the Colleton-Green family of Awendaw, South Carolina, head into the woods to hunt squirrels for the holiday table.

Local expert Adrian Miller will appear in person to introduce the vast & glorious topic of Southern food, which is also the subject of all the shorts preceding the features, directed by young-gun documentarian Joe York

 

September 13 – I LIKE KILLING FLIES – 7:00pm

Facing the prospect of closure after decades in New York’s Greenwich Village, Eve & Kenny Shopsin reflect on the past, present, & future of their iconic namesake eatery. While kvetching, swatting pests, & cooking up a storm, the notoriously eccentric Kenny waxes philosophic about everything under the heatlamps in Matt Mahurin’s funny, poignant documentary.

Preceded by GUS
A short profile of Constantine “Gus” Koutroulakis, owner of Pete’s Famous Hot Dogs in Birmingham, Alabama, who passed away on April 5, 2011, at the age of 81.

Steuben’s kick-ass Brandon Biederman will provide some sweet eats.

 

September 20 – BLOOD INTO WINE – 7:00pm

Hard rock fans know Maynard James Keenan as the frontman of Tool, A Perfect Circle, & Puscifer. But in this intriguing documentary, Christopher Pomerenke & Ryan Page profile Keenan the winemaker as he works to transform an arid stretch of Arizona desert into a lush vineyard.

Preceded by GOAT
Victor “Goat” Lafayette has worked as an oysterman on Bowens Island, South Carolina, for more than 50 years—& he has the words of wisdom to show for it.

A wine tasting will accompany this screening; details TBA. 

 

September 27 – JIRO DREAMS OF SUSHI – 7:00pm

Filmmaker David Gelb follows 85-year-old master itamae Jiro Ono of Tokyo’s three-star Sukiyabashi Jiro as he bids on tuna at the fishmarket auction, massages octopus, & otherwise exemplifies the intricacies of the art of sushi.

Preceded by CUT/CHOP/COOK
Rodney Scott of Scott’s Bar-B-Q in Hemingway, South Carolina, does three things & three things only: He cuts. He chops. And he cooks.

Jiro director David Gelb will appear in person.

Meet William, The Man of the Moment at Le Grand Bistro & Oyster Bar

But first meet H, a gal pal newly arrived from Boston, who, like me, lost her heart to a Denver boy & wound up here. As my date to Le Grand Bistro & Oyster Bar for the opening last night, she & I found ourselves on familiar terrain: from its cavernous, high-ceilinged dining room, woody amid twinkling lights & red leather upholstery, to a menu awash in shellfish & charcuterie, we might as well have been back home at Eastern Standard Kitchen & Drinks. For us, the similarities were striking, & while the comparison may not mean much to you Denverites, it’s pertinent as far as the main point: Le Grand is sticking to the straightforward formula of the American brasserie, which in the past decade has become a neoclassic genre in its own right—all big, bustling, glittery spaces, a vintage Belle Époque-era aura, a bar that’s solid on all fronts, & deceptively simple, hearty French plats.

It also happens to employ William, with whom we were both smitten pronto. For whatever reason, he managed to hone in on us as gung-ho eaters, & not only kept the hors d’oeuvres coming but totally hammed it up for snaps. He’s a character, that one, so I’ll be seeking his seating section out.

I should note that we didn’t need the special attention. Grand openings & preview parties are usually shitshows, with a shell-shocked staff getting swarmed at every turn by a crowd for which the kitchen isn’t quite prepared—but not this one: there was plenty of food for everybody, so the pace was relaxed yet efficient, not hectic. Owner Robert Thompson, head chef Sergio Romero & crew have definitely hit the ground running.

Of course, the evidence that Le Grand’s likely gonna be a smash came first & foremost from the sampling of appetizers. While platters of roast bone marrow were comme-il-faut, sweet Kumamotos & creamy Barcats dared to diverge: oyster purists would have been appalled at the dollop of Fumé Blanc Béarnaise, but ’twas a happy surprise when the sauce actually worked with the shellfish, not against it. (Oysters with more complex, delicate flavor profiles might be another matter.)

Other faves included the richly garnished duck confit, the house-smoked salmon—above all for the smooth potato pancake it came on—

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

the funky, chunky head cheese made with beef as well as pork,

the heady combo of smoked sardines on toast slathered with duck-confit compound butter,

& the judiciously truffled crème fraîche atop frico (basically a parmesan crisp), its mousselike texture melting in the mouth to make new & fresh what on paper seemed passé.

Come to think of it, the only bite that didn’t make H & me do the fried-butter dance was the chicken liver-&-pork butt pâté, which didn’t quite have its seasoning down pat, coming across as a bit muddled & overwhelmed by the shallot compote.

But all in all, Thompson & Romero killed it. I’m already jazzed to return for the ultimate litmus tests: beef tartare & moules frites. If Le Grand passes those, we’re in business. Nice blackberries.