Denveater - Deconstructing Colorado Cuisine, Dish by Dish

Ocean Prime: Pearls amid beefs

Yes, I still have some beefs with this Ohio-based seafood franchise, beyond the fact that it’s an Ohio-based seafood franchise—at the price point of its urban-coastal superiors. But after a recent, somewhat reluctant excursion to its swank downstairs lounge, I have to admit it has its good points.

Bar service, for instance. Although markup, especially for wines by the glass, is way out of line—think $12 for a glass of Malbec that I happen to know goes for about $16-17 per retail bottle—pours are generous, & the Director’s (more reasonably priced) Scotch was handsomely presented with both ice & water on the side for diluting as desired. Plus: free popcorn! Reeking of truffle oil, to be sure, but I’m not in the camp that looks down its nose at the synthetic imitation of the precious fungus—smells like it, tastes like it, has its place, namely on popcorn.

Slivers of real truffle do, however, add aromatic verve to the creamiest of deviled eggs, along with a smidgen of caviar.

At nearly $20, the shellfish “Cobb” salad had better be bursting with chunks of lobster & shrimp as well as lump crab, & it is, plus plenty of crumbled bacon, blue cheese & egg. Honey-mustard-like “gourmet dressing” serves it well, adding a touch of sweetness & spice.

As for the Director’s hunk of Chilean sea bass over whipped potatoes in a Champagne sauce flecked with carrots & yet more (although in this case scant) truffle—I know the price of this fish per pound has increased dramatically, no doubt in relation to species depletion (I really should pay more attention to this stuff), but $42 still strikes me as over the top for a dish that, given its luxury ingredients, didn’t taste all that luxurious—it tasted fine, like a nice piece of fish over nice potatoes in a nice sauce.

Still, whatever cynicism born of greed may be operating in the corporate office, I don’t sense it coming from the ground crew; there’s genuine effort being made here to serve contemporary surf & turf with polish. If only they offered oysters à la carte, I might even return.

Ocean Prime on Urbanspoon

Cliff Lede Vineyards & A Mighty Fine Wine Dinner at Elway’s

Just passing through the dining room at Elway’s in the Ritz-Carlton, one understands where Tom Ripley was coming from. The merest snippets of conversation whisk you around the shadowy corporate boardrooms & echoing legislative chambers where shit goes down in milliseconds of inner turmoil that make you yearn for the rich & powerful so-&-so you meant to be.

Then again, I was just passing through because I was on my way to the private dining room for a wine dinner hosted by Elway’s extremely gracious young sommelier, Justin Jelinek, & Jack Bittner, the VP/GM of Cliff Lede Vineyards in Yountville, CA. So for all I know the VIPs thronging the place were jealous of me. Ha!

I’d have been jealous of me if I weren’t me, because the meal was terrific as well as revealing in terms both of the Napa winery’s portfolio aesthetic & what this kitchen is capable of beyond classic steakhouse fare. Seems to me that sous chefs Marco Ugarte & the excellently named Sayre Yazzle, to whom exec chef Robert Bogart handed over the reins for the evening, are capable of quite a lot.

The natural creaminess of scallops served al carpaccio with spicy guava drizzle (as well as frisée & red Fresno chiles) beautifully complemented a 2010 Sauvignon Blanc (almost wholly varietal, containing just a touch of Semillion) that downright startled me at first, so literally unctuous I could feel it clinging to my lips like balm. Tropical fruits & pink grapefruit were present in abundance, but the buttery mouthfeel remained almost to the finish.

Smoked over oak & napped with berry jus—primarily blackberry, I believe—over roasted new potatoes & sauteed chard, the duck breast wowed me such that I was hoping I’d see it on the regular dinner menu (not at present, sadly). Pinot Noir & duck is a classic pairing, & the 100% varietal from Cliff Lede’s sister label, Breggo—which, according to BIttner, “started in a 1-car garage with Soviet-era technology”—was no exception, its aromas of water flower, leather & spice mingling with the smoke off the meat. As Bittner observed of the winemaking process, “You’re almost worried that the fruit’s not gonna ripen. You kinda have to be on edge with cool-climate Pinot Noir”—but the results are “that bacon-fat quality” that highlighted the duck’s fat-ringed skin, crisped to mahogany.

Consisting of 75% Cabernet Sauvignon (the rest being a blend of Merlot, Malbec, Cab Franc, & Petit Verdot), Cliff Lede’s 2007 bottling from the Stag’s Leap District offered milk chocolate, dried plums & ripe blackberries in spades as well as a dash of cinnamon sugar—all apropos for the wild boar that filled two large ravioli topped with a chunky mixture of fresh heirloom tomatoes & herbs lightly sauteed in olive oil to yield a few exquisite final spoonfuls of juice (plus shavings of Mahon, Spain’s slightly subtler answer to parmesan).

As with the duck, I’m sorry to say lamb osso buco is not a regular item, because the giant shank, braised in wine & sprinkled with gremolata (a mixture of lemon zest, parsley, & garlic that’s integral to the original, veal-based, Milanese version of the dish) was near-perfect: fork-tender & velvety as well as deeply robust. Thoroughly crusty grilled bread made for a satisfying sop.

And the wine? A glass of 2007 Poetry, Cliff Lede’s Cab-dominant, single-vineyard signature wine, was likewise velvety & meaty—& actually not my favorite pairing of the evening, craving as I did a touch more acid to balance out the richness. In fact, close as it came to to evoking raspberry-chocolate truffles, the wine showed up even better against the single, bitter-edged lozenge of dark chocolate-almond bark with which the meal ended—

on a sweet note, in short.

Elway's (Ritz-Carlton) on Urbanspoon

Republic Tequila Dinner at Elway’s Cherry Creek, May 26 (+ bonus cocktail recipe!)

I get press releases all the live-long day, but some jump out at me—like this one, because hey, free recipes! On Thursday, May 26, at 6:30pm, the Cherry Creek branch of Elway’s is hosting a 5-course Republic Tequila dinner; $65 pp gets you the following:

1st Course: Passed Apps
Al pastor skewers, Mexican bay scallop spoon with charred tomatillo
Spiced Savory Paloma Cocktail (see below for details!)

2nd Course
Lime & cilantro grilled snapper tostada with pickled jalapeño-radish slaw, smooth avocado
Republic Tequila Blanco

3rd Course
Ancho-braised goat empanada with grilled chayote squash salsa, ancho chile jus
Republic Tequila Reposado

4th Course
Beef cheek barbacoa with smoked posole cake, rajas onion slaw
Republic Tequila Añejo

5th Course
Mexican chocolate flan with chimayo-pepita tuille
Irish Cactus Cocktail

Call 303.399.7616 for reservations, & prepare thyself with an advance nip:

Spiced Savory Paloma

Ingredients:

•2 oz. Republic Plata tequila
•2 oz. pink grapefruit juice
•1/2 oz. lime juice
•1/2 oz. agave nectar
•1 1/2 oz. club soda

Instructions:

1. Rim a highball glass with spice mix (see below).
2. Ice up the highball.
3. Into a Boston shaker, pour all ingredients except the soda.
4. Shake well.
5. Strain carefully into the rimmed glass.
6. Cap with soda & stir gently.

Spice Mix: Take sea salt & a little table salt, combine in a saucer with cayenne pepper & smoked paprika, crush together, & mix well.

Stick-to-itiveness at EDGE Restaurant & Bar

Every morning, I jump out of bed raring to start a low-carb diet, & every evening, it all dissolves in wine & tears. But I bet if I lived at EDGE Restaurant & Bar—the Four Seasons Denver’s signature steakhouse, which now seems to be on solid ground after what I felt was a somewhat shaky start—I could commit. ImagineI Every day a seafood Cobb salad

or grilled scallops and veggies—maybe topped with butter-poached lobster if I’m feeling fine!—for lunch; truffled mushroom soup & bone-in buffalo ribeye or trout in lemony brown butter for dinner; & to kick it all off, something like this.

That it’s made of whites rather than whole eggs doesn’t mean it’s dry or boringly “lite”; chock-full of chicken chorizo crumbles, oozing pepper jack cheese, & topped with fresh avocado & smoky salsa, it’s all flavor all the time, with a heck of a kick from a slew of chopped chiles.

And then, once I got super-svelte, I could tangle with the pile of fried onions atop the salad of rare seared steak with blue cheese dressing.

Or tackle a lamb burger with tzatziki & superb, tangy-sweet cured tomatoes on a housemade sesame bun,

or this hefty slab of rare ahi on tender focaccia, slathered with aioli & sprinkled with bright pickled red onion, shiitakes & arugula,

perhaps followed by pastry chef Christopher Jordan’s adorably memorable cheesecake & panna cotta in a jar, with a graham-cracker crust & a layer of blood orange gelée worth digging deep for, plus an ultra-refreshing scoop of tart blood orange sorbet alongside a dried orange “chip” on top.

And then I’d probably have to start all over again with the self-recrimination & sheepish resolve. C’est la vie at the Four Seasons.

Edge Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Hideaway Steakhouse: A Glimpse at the Newest of Old-School Joints

The name is apropos: Hideaway Steakhouse (@HideawaySH) is nestled in the unassuming midst of a residential neighborhood in Westminster.

The woody, manly vibe is classic Rat Pack–era—stone fireplaces, giant banquettes, warm golden-brown tones, a baby grand in the lounge.

Speaking of which, the music, of course, is all Frank.

And though, in advance of the Tuesday opening, the food on Sunday night consisted of mostly off-menu hors d’oeuvres, chef Christopher Cina (@ccina) is clearly raring to go. As a serious photographer, he takes far better food snaps than I, so check out his blog to see all he’s capable of. That said, one on-menu item is definitely a keeper: heady chicken liver pâté with brie & dried-cherry compote.

Rare seared sirloin with red onion marmalade didn’t suck either, of course.

As for the full menu, it’s everything a suburban steakhouse repertoire in the 21st century should be: chops & filets with an array of sauces & sides are the natural centerpiece, but starters & a selection of specialty entrées give Cina the kind of creative license that appeals to people like me, less interested in the meat of the matter than in what’s happening around it. With fond childhood memories of the steak soup at 100-year-old Cattlemen’s Steakhouse in Oklahoma City, for instance, I can’t wait to try Cina’s modern take with braised Kobe shortrib; eggplant ravioli in parmesan broth & slow-roasted pork belly with cheddar grits & grilled endive are right up the alley of this particular cat as well.

In short, I’m holding good thoughts for Hideaway.

Dish of the Week: LoHi SteakBar’s Big Salad

To inaugurate the new blog, Dish of the Week is back, baby!

And it’s big. A big big salad with a totally incongruous array of ingredients that just goes to show ya—if you take just about anything of quality, add lettuce & toss it all lightly in well-made dressing, you’re gonna have a hit.

LoHi‘s heap

mixes an array of vinaigrette–moistened greens with sliced tomatoes, red onion, cucumber roasted yellow beets, goat cheese, dates & dollops of guacamole (the menu description just lists avocado, so it’s a bit of a surprising twist); it’s all topped with frizzled…I’m guessing shallots.

It’s ripe, textured, fruity, fun to pick through—it’s not just an afterthought for the vegetarian customers that I assume are in the vast minority here. (As for the spud on the side—there’s no entree in the world a baked potato doesn’t make even better. Maybe not a potato casserole. But maybe even that.)

Critic-Proof Pickins at Mickey’s Top Sirloin

To love the streets of Denver is to love America. Not the United States, but bygone America—the gleaming desert sprawl of the Space Age, all neon cheer & chrome cool, all verve & leeway. Along Federal, Sheridan, Broadway & Colfax, the boomerangs & curlicues of yesteryear’s roadside architecture still point to the faded promises of life in limbo, its attractions, its distractions: the old reptile museums & Big Chief trading posts, the truck stop coffee shops & whitewashed, blacked-out bars. In fact, the past decade’s yield of retro-flavored bar-&-grills—from Steuben’s to Interstate & Billy’s Inn to Ernie’s Bar & Pizza—owe it all to their likes: Bastien’s & Bonnie Brae Tavern, the Columbine Steak House & the Satire, & of course the long-lost original Billy’s Inn & Ernie’s Lounge & Restaurant. Now here comes next-gen Gennaro’s. Et cetera, et cetera, into the distance. And then there’s Mickey’s Top Sirloin.

According to the website, this 50-year-old joint at Broadway & 70th was razed & rebuilt a few years back—but rest assured you can’t tell by looking, plain as it is from the sports-oriented bar to the straitlaced dining room lined with old family photos. You can’t tell from the motherly service or the red-white-&-blue-striped crowd that change was ever afoot. And you sure wouldn’t know from the food. The huge menu’s divided into sections ranging from Mama’s Italian Kitchen to Jose’s Mexican Entrees to, sure, Steaks from the Broiler, & it reads like a timeline of postwar twentieth-century food fads: shrimp scampi,** fettuccine Alfredo, shish kabob, crab salad in tomato shells, fajitas & holy spumoni for dessert.

It is, in a word, critic-proof.

What can I say about this sausage garlic bread that you can’t already see for yourself,*** only to shrug & order it anyway—stale crumb, prepackaged mozz & all? And you’d be right to so do. After all, it’s got cocktail toothpicks.

MTSgarlicbread
Or the Director’s prime rib special.

MTSprimerib

From the gobsmack of margarine (? see comments) on the giant spud to the growth of fat on the side of stain-colored beef, it was 1 ugly bugger. But you know what? The meat was cooked to spec, pink enough & juicy enough. The potato was a potato. No complaints.

Or Beth’s shish kabob with rice pilaf & Todd’s sirloin, both with sides of spaghetti.

MTSkabob MTSsteak

Crummy photo quality aside, you can gauge what they were up against—bouncy mushrooms, grill marks. They didn’t seem to relish or resent their lot much either way; well, would you?

Meanwhile, I figured a girl like me had nothing to lose at a place like Mickey’s, so I might as well go for the gusto with the homemade shells Florentine, “jumbo shells cooked al dente filled with a blend of fresh leaf spinach & 3 cheeses, then topped with Mickey’s homemade sauce”—which came with my choice of sausage or the meatball I obviously got.

MTSshells
But 1st I had to ask: was the pasta itself truly made in-house, per the description? After all, conchiglione (jumbo shells) are one shape you rarely see fresh. But our waitress swore up & down.

MTSshells2

I can’t second that motion. All I can say for sure is that they were properly cooked & nicely filled with ricotta & spinach that really tasted light, mild & fresh, for all the thick, heavy marinara on top. Who could ask for anything more?

Besides, that is, a side salad of iceberg with 2 cuke disks, 2 slices of pepperoni & a package of saltines.

MTSsalad

Now that’s keeping it real.
**The oft-made protestation that shrimp scampi is redundant isn’t quite accurate. Lost in search of my hotel once in Venice, I went into shop after shop asking for L’Antica Locanda al Gambero—but kept calling it L’Antica Locanda ai Scampi. When one local finally figured out what I meant, oh, how he laughed—kindly, but loudly. Learned my lesson in crustaceans then & there.

***Apologies for the blurrier photos—forgot my flash wasn’t on.

Mickey's Top Sirloin on Urbanspoon

Hey, ho—let’s go! LoHi SteakBar A-OK on day 2

Okay, technically, B-OK. But to be B-OK on your 2nd day in business is in itself A-OK, eh?

So  like Joey & Johnny & Dee Dee too Mo & L & I got all revved up & ready to go to this brand-spanking already-hot spot in the East Highlands pronto on the strength of the juicy name alone, which covers more ground in 12 letters than any of the world’s La Maison de la Casa Houses ever could, never mind their obscure minimalist postpostmodern equivalents (see, e.g., Root Down, a name you could be forgiven for thinking referred to anything from a BBQ shack to a raw-foods temple). But with “LoHi SteakBar,” you know you’ve got your comfort zone, your upscale twist, your meat, your cocktails. (Plus it’s an anagram for Aloha Brisket.) What more do you need? That’s it & that’s all you need, to quote Steve Martin in The Jerknot one other thing.

Except this potted salmon. LoHipottedsalmon

And this hummus. LoHihummus

If I were down & getting kicked out of LoHi like Navin R. Johnson from his mansion, those would totally be

my ashtray & my paddle game. The-jerk

In light of LoHi’s easygoing, all-American bar & grillesque ways, both struck me as the unlikeliest of delights. The salmon was unusually creamy—less straightforwardly fishy than The Kitchen’s, say, & more like taramosalata. Like postnatal taramosalata (heh). The hummus, meanwhile, we ordered skeptically on the waitress’s rec but were convinced on sight by the gorgeously bubbled, soft & airy flatbread—& on taste by the fresh, light, clean, red-peppery spread itself.

Perhaps erring a little on the side of lightness & cleanness, however, were the gnudi—essentially flourless dumplings with ricotta & spinach—in tomato sauce.

LoHignudi

Appealing as its simplicity was, all that the dish ultimately seemed to lack was a sufficient dash of S&P—just a little more would likely have brought out the full flavor of those basic ingredients.

Meanwhile, at the other end of the spectrum was the blue cheese fondue with housemade chips.

LoHichips

As Mo put it, after the first couple of bites something overpowering in it began to wear on the palate—not, I think, the blue cheese itself; maybe dijon? Something sharp & smoky at any rate. The chips were a touch greasy, but impressively thin & satisfyingly crackly.

Full as we were all getting by now, we had to remind ourselves where we were—this wasn’t some Dip & Dumpling Den, this was the SteakBar. If we didn’t eat steak & drink deep we might as well be tasting not this particular Pierian spring.

(Granted, we were already on our 3rd round by this point. It’s probably equally true to say that, deeply drunk as we were all getting, we needed to remind ourselves where we were besides in our cups. Especially Mo with her ginormous—make that vodkanormous—

caviar martini LoHicaviarmartini .)

So both she & L opted for steak frites—the strip steak with bearnaise & the ribeye with shallot sauce respectively.

LoHisteakfrites2

LiHosteakfrites1

Me, I slobbered all over the open-face steak sandwich on plain ol,’ good ol’ meat-&-mushroom-jus-soaked white toast—a terrific midnight snack that just happened to overlap with dinner.

LoHisteaksandwich

And actually it was almost midnight when we polished off our 5th-round—amazing, ultra-light & fresh (apparently chef Sean Kelly’s mantra—but once again, given the place-name, who’d a thunk it?) banana daiquiris, nothing like the near-pudding they used to pour in the era of Rupert Holmes & fern bars—& blitzkrieg bopped our way out the door, agreeing that Kelly & crew really appear to have something here—something, like good steak itself, rare for all its familiarity.

***Update 4/2010: For a more recent review, click here.***

LoHi SteakBar on Urbanspoon

Dear John, It’s Been Real: Elway’s

My principles look good on paper. But money looks better on paper, as do menus. So when it comes to the meat markets of the grande bourgeoisie, I tend to eschew making shows of my ethics in favor of chewing. (Eat the rich, swallow the cost, what’s the diff?) Thus did the Fortune Rookie (whom you may have met here) & I tackle the bar at Elway’s in Cherry Creek recently.

Being lefty, broke & increasingly bitter with age (in no particular order), I’d steeled myself with a sneer for the McCain campaign donors in varying combinations of hair transplants, pleated pants, braided belts & tasseled loafers, & for the honey-blonde haves twice my age who looked half it. But there’s no mechanism on earth that would have allowed me to cope with the load I got of that cross between

Bad_plastic_surgery Axl

Jocelyn Wildenstein & Axl from back in the day

a-mingling in stirrup pants, or that

Cleveland_tn

Cleveland Brown lookalike

taking to the floor for a live piano-&-guitar cover of “Your Mama Don’t Dance, Your Daddy Don’t Rock ‘n’ Roll” with a peanut-in-the-shell of an old lady who in fact did dance but could not have been his mama, unless her obviously Ashkenazi genes were recessive to the vanishing point. Were they on a date? Was she his Miss Daisy? What gives? Has anybody else seen whom I mean there before, or were they figments of the Rookie’s & my joint imagination, starved as it was by the swarm of WASPs who left nothing to it?

Speaking of starvation, you can plan on it at Elway’s so long as you also plan on spending within your means. If you’re willing to shell out the bigger-than-thou bucks, you’ll be repaid with big portions of good, not great, cookery—which is to say you won’t really be repaid, at least not in full. So: close but no Cuban-cigar-such-as-some-pro-embargo-neocon-dining-at-Elway’s-on-any-given-night-might-secretly-enjoy-afterward.

Clearly hand-chopped, sprinkled with julienned radish & finely minced parsley, ringed with capers fried in butter & served with a basket of toast points,

Elwaystartare

my $17 steak tartare

was as gorgeous as it was slightly, hence all the more woefully, oversalted; the fact that the flavor of the beef, exquisite with a touch each of yolk & Dijon, was still palpable just meant I knew all too well what I was missing.

Back in ’99 I’d geekily counted the weeks leading up to the release of Blair Witch Project, only to have an old friend totally ruin the movie for me by saying, “It’s just a bunch of people screaming at sticks.” I was just snatching a forkful of the filling on

Elwaystacos2

the Rookie’s $9 steak taco plate

when she whispered, “Tell me if you taste taco seasoning mix.” I’m not saying Ortega, I’m just saying. Either way, I don’t know if someone thought placing the filling & the tortillas in identical bowls would function as some sort of

Jastrow_objects

optical illusion of size

whereby the diner might think there was enough of the former to stuff the latter, but if so, someone should think again. That there’s a lot of dough per smidgen of meat.

Go figure that our salads therefore put the smackdown on our steakhouse steak.

I didn’t sample the Rookie’s signature chopped salad with cherry tomato, yellow pepper, cuke, red onion, celery, heart of palm, shredded cheddar, housemade green goddess dressing &, by request, mesclun instead of iceberg, but it sure looked like pavement after a parade, & she praised it.

Elwayssignaturesalad

As for my shrimp salad—

Elwaysshrimpsalad

if, at $17.50, it’s the most expensive dish whose main ingredient is lettuce (not having occasion to try this) I’ve ever eaten, I’ll allow that it was practically worth it. Though you can’t tell from the photo, it was loaded with chunks of mighty fine chilled shrimp, along with bacon, eggs, shredded cheddar & chopped tomatoes & onions. I asked our awfully nice & on-the-ball bartender-server—whose name I didn’t catch but whose resemblance to

Patton_Oswalt_large_closeup

comedian Patton Oswalt,

whose Lists of Top 5 Things to Look Forward to in 2009 is really pretty great, I did—to swap its creamy mustard dressing with the green goddess, a childhood fave whose recent comeback (see for instance here) was long overdue. Though one of the milder renditions I’ve encountered, it had enough tang to add oomph to an already reasonably oomphy situation.

Whether I’ll return depends on whether I manage to sell my soul, since that’s pretty much the only scenario in which I can see myself ordering a steak whose sauce costs extra. Then again, acquiring a nice chunk of change for something that’s already on the raggedy black side has lately begun to sound like a pretty nifty trade-off. So maybe that’ll be one center cut with hollandaise, & one tax cut with all the trimmings?

Elway's on Urbanspoon

The dumbest thing I ever heard & its relation to Buckhorn Exchange

This needs prefacing at length with a monologue by Lewis Black, who recalls standing in a line at the movies or something

… when from behind me, a woman of 25 uttered the dumbest thing I’d ever heard in my life … She said, “If it weren’t for my horse, I wouldn’t have spent that year in college.” I’ll repeat that. I’ll repeat that because that’s the kind of sentence that when you hear it, your brain comes to a screeching halt. And the left hand side of the brain looks at the right hand side and goes, “It’s dark in here, and we may die.” She said, “If it weren’t for my horse”—as in, giddy up, giddy up, let’s go—”I wouldn’t have spent that year in college,” a degree-granting institution. Don’t! Don’t think about that sentence for more than three minutes, or blood’ll shoot out your nose. The American medical profession doesn’t know why we get an aneurysm. It’s when a blood vessel bursts in our head for no apparent reason. There’s a reason. You’re at the mall one day, and somebody over there says the dumbest thing you’ve ever heard and it goes in your ear. So you turn around to see if your friends heard it, ’cause if your friends heard it, and you can talk about what the jackass said, then it’ll be gone. But your friends are over here, pretending they’re gonna buy a cellular phone, and they’re not gonna buy a cellular phone, because they don’t even understand how the rate structure works. So you turn back, to find the person who said it, because if you can ask ‘em a question like, “WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU TALKIN’ ABOUT?!” then it’ll go away. But they’re gone. And now those words are in your head. And those words don’t go away. Cause the way I see it, 7% of our brains functions all the time, because 99% of everything that happens is the same old stuff. We get it. All right. Move on. Get it. Right. But every so often, somethin’ like that happens: “If it weren’t for my horse, I wouldn’t have spent that year in college.” So your brain goes, “LET’S FIGURE IT OUT! Son of a bitch! I wonder what that’s about!” I wonder, was she riding the horse to school? No, she wouldn’t be riding the horse to school. Maybe it was a polo pony; she had a polo pony scholarship. Maybe she sold the horse and that’s how she … she was betting on the horse! WHAT THE FUCK?!! And then you realize that anybody who went to college would never say anything that stupid in public. And as soon as you have that thought, your eyes close and the next morning they find you dead in your bathroom.

That’s exactly what happened to me, the death on the john & everything, one day some years back in Boston. I was in a crammed cablecar on the B Line, which runs straight through the hell on earth that is Allston/Brighton, crammed as it is in turn with the damned souls of BU & BC coeds—not tortured, mind you, in fact perfectly blithe, in fact soulless, but nonetheless or hence utterly damned—when I heard a girl with a larynx like a squeak toy say this:

“I’ve never tasted an artichoke. I mean, I have, but I haven’t, do you know what I mean?”

I’ve regretted not giving her at least half of what she was (&/or wasn’t) missing by wringing her neck ever since.

Until now. Now that I’ve been to Buckhorn Exchange, I’m really relieved I’m not doing time for choking the life out of the only daughter of a Norwegian shipping magnate or whatever sort of heiress she presumably was to be able to afford tuition at BU or BC. Now that I’ve been to Buckhorn Exchange (BE?), I get her; I hear her; & I can honestly say with her that I’ve had something but not had something. A number of things, in fact—namely alligator, rattlesnake & above all Rocky Mountain oysters.

BEalligator

Says the menu: fried, center-cut alligator tail with seafood cocktail sauce. Says I: if you say so. Practically minced & heavily breaded, it could’ve been leg meat. It could’ve been crocodile leg meat. Hell, it could’ve been ocean perch. Maybe it needed freshwater swamp–critter cocktail sauce to really bring out the flavor.

BErattlesnake

Says the menu: rattlesnake marinated in red chile & lime & served with a chipotle cream cheese. Says the dictionary under the entry for “with”: used as a function word to indicate combination, accompaniment, or addition. Apparently the chef confused it with “under”: in or into a position below or beneath something; or, better yet, in or into a condition of subjection, subordination, or unconsciousness. As in: The rattlesnake was rendered unconscious when it was smothered under a blanket of chipotle cream cheese.

BERMO

Says the menu: Rocky Mountain oysters with horseradish dippin’ sauce. Period. Says I: substitute “Rocky Mountain oysters” with “chicken fingers” or “calamari fritti” or “not even roadkill but bits of the blown-out tire that hit the roadkill.” You’d still get the same thing.

Too bad; covered every inch with the stuffed heads of ibexes & impalas, bucks & buffalo, humming with the sounds of a dead ringer for Sam Elliott in The Big Lebowski on the autoharp,

Images

the place is a kick in the assless chaps. & there is 1 anomaly of a nibble, a gem among the rubble—namely the buffalo sausage with red-chile polenta & what the menu calls “spicy wild-game mustard,” which seems to contain both honey & horseradish, much like my soul. The sausage was rich, firm & pepper-spiked; the polenta was properly creamy; the mustard I could & did eat all by itself, with a spoon.

BEsausage

But overall Exchange appears to be a euphemism for Sellout, Blackmail, or plain old Bum Deal.

Buckhorn Exchange on Urbanspoon