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rlm

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  1. I respect your opinion and palate, Fred, and it’s fun to see a post from you here again. I wish I lived closer to your better half’s deli because it’s spectacular. I do miss all the different spins on Zlikrofi (one of my favorites too). The last time I remember seeing it was last September. Ditto the Canederli and Toc. I’ve loved some of the newer items they’ve come up with though, such as the La Tur and Soft Ricotta Tortelloni that was a menu staple in the last year. I devoured delicious Rabbit and Root Vegetable Cjalsons from Friuli a couple of weeks ago when Joe Bastianich was in the house with his vino. Another spin on Cjalsons was on the February menu (Rancho Gordo beans and mortadella) and yet another in January (chicken and vegetables with brown butter, parmesan and pecans). I’m not sure where else in Colorado I can order Cjalsons. How much is it that Lachlan’s menu has changed to be like everyone else’s versus everyone else’s menus starting to look more like Frasca’s? I would submit that dining in the Denver area and in most places across the country is so much better than it was even five years ago when they opened. There’s more of an emphasis everywhere on local/artisan products, and diners are becoming more savvy. I would also imagine there are economic factors to consider. Transportation and food costs have sharply risen, so chefs have to walk a tightrope of what they want to include in a dish versus what the public in a relatively small town (as in the case of Boulder) may be willing to pay for it. When they first opened, their special Monday wine dinner menu was $25 and now sits at $45 (although it is four courses rather than the three they initially offered), and some locals whined about their prices even back then. Are there certain dishes I miss and crave? Yes! The long-gone Peanut Butter Cup; the plain-looking yet utterly amazing BOWL of juicy shaved pork leg tossed simply with cherries or peaches or plums; various incarnations of fritta, especially the lobster; and on and on. If the past is any guide, I’m quite certain there will be many new amazing dishes I’ll have there in the future too. This made me think of a quote from Terry Theise on Grape Radio about assigning a numerical value to wine, which might seem completely silly here but I like it: “As soon as you assign an absolute value to wine, which is of course a moving target itself and we also—we tasters—are also moving targets, you are misleading.” Restaurants change over time just as we the diners are changing with them. Chef Lachlan’s a dad now. He and Bobby are making wine in Italy. They’re traveling and doing more charity events and industry functions. They’re planning an expansion in a new building on the other side of Pearl. They’ve been on TV quite a bit (Mark Bittman, Martha Stewart, and now Top Chef Masters). Their hard work has opened up a world of opportunities for them which can hopefully only benefit the restaurant and we their guests. Dining there every month they’ve been in business has afforded me the opportunity to see all their peaks and valleys, and I must say their valleys are higher than the peaks of most. They have spoiled me rotten and I love them for it.
  2. Frasca is a small restaurant with one early staggered seating and a late one. They are very good about knowing their customer base and gauging how long it might take for a particular table to turn when booking reservations. However, sometimes the early diners “camp out” and take more time than anticipated. Management can’t run over to their table and say, “The jeremyn party has arrived, so we need you to drain the rest of that Conterno as quickly as you can and leave NOW.” We requested a special table for my birthday once and arrived to find the early diners were long finished with their food but were still drinking and engaged in animated conversation and clearly weren’t leaving soon. We were offered a different table if we didn’t want to wait for the requested one, as well as a comped beverage, and felt like they were taking care of us the whole time. You mentioned there was free wine waiting at your table, so I’m assuming this wasn’t brought up as a complaint. Co-owner Bobby Stuckey, who has an MS but doesn’t think he’s too good to bus tables and run out plates from the kitchen with his crew, clearly loves the hospitality business and wants every person walking through the door to leave happy. I see Bobby and his staff bending over backwards for guests time and time again, even if the guests are grumpy and look like they’ve just rolled out of bed and would be more comfortable at Wendy’s. In this post, you expressed concerns about your food and the service but indicated “we didn’t say anything.” I can assure you that if you had simply asked to speak to an owner or manager about your concerns that they would have made things right and your impressions would have probably been much different. Not all places are as good about this and sometimes it’s just better to cut your losses and leave, but Frasca continues to get my business because they do care. There are a few dishes I haven’t been enamored with in the past (rice pudding on a set Monday night menu, a couple of soup experiments, a flavor of gelato that I felt overwhelmed a dessert), and they were for reasons of personal preference rather than how the dish was executed by the kitchen. In some of these cases my better half vehemently disagreed with my assessment, yet when a server would pick up on my visual cues that I wasn’t enjoying it or when I spoke up and offered my opinion, I’ve always been offered something else. I’m not suggesting, of course, that this gives anyone free license to almost lick their plate clean and then complain and ask for a replacement dish. If you know you don’t like the flavor profile of a dish or feel the kitchen has botched the preparation, you will know with the first bite or two. Speak up. I don’t think being younger than the “typical Frasca crowd” means you will be treated somehow worse. Some of their staffers are and have historically been quite young. I sat next to a very young couple once all dressed up and sipping sodas, and even though they obviously couldn’t drink legally and would therefore have a much lower check average, they were doted on like you wouldn’t believe. They have turn-over like all restaurants and I would imagine that sometimes it takes a while to get all the back waiters and servers (as well as the cooks busting their humps in the tiny kitchen) educated about the menu and working in concert. Think about when you have started a new job—are you perfect during your first month? However, even with all the changes I’ve seen over the years they seem to be able to roll with it better than almost any other restaurant I’ve encountered. I started this thread five years ago because I was so blown away by my experience. Even the bar stools I complained about in that initial post were quickly replaced with comfortable chairs (as sometimes not everything you ordered arrives on time when you’re trying to throw open the doors of a restaurant, and you just have to make do). On one of my earlier visits during their opening year, I was mildly irritated with our server, but after encountering her again many times after that and receiving stellar service realized she may have just been having a bad day (and maybe I was as well, and this could have colored my perceptions, as well as the way I was acting towards her). Unless someone is overtly rude and incompetent, I try to take better care now in not making snap judgments about a server’s personality because I have been flat-out wrong before. Let’s face it—working with the public is a tough job. People in the hospitality business have illnesses and deaths in the family and financial crises just like people in other occupations, only they have to be “on” all the time and still take care of hundreds of people with vastly different preferences and dining expectations, even on days when they really need someone taking care of them. There was a nice article in the Denver Post earlier this year about one of Frasca’s long-time servers: Service with a Soul There is an excellent article in the February issue of Sommelier Journal called “The Philosophy of Service” where a group of industry veterans including Bobby Stuckey of Frasca and Nick Peyton of Cyrus in Healdsburg share what they’ve learned over the years. I don’t believe the article is available online, but you probably can still order a back issue: Sommelier Journal
  3. I'm on the fence about this since I'm not really a dessert person (unless it's foie and Sauternes or selections from an enormous cheese cart), so do you think it's a must-go? Their guest dinners have always been amazing (Michelle Bernstein, Suzanne Goin, David Lynch, etc). They've already had a couple this year with Marc Vetri and Nate Appleman and they were fantastic (and included autographed hard-cover books). I must admit I don't know much about Mr. Iuzzini, so persuade me.
  4. If you are having dinner in the Denver metro area tonight, please consider visiting one of these excellent restaurants, as 25% of the food proceeds will be donated to Project Angel Heart (which delivers wholesome, nutritionally-appropriate meals to people with serious diseases): Dining Out for Life
  5. I enjoyed your blog post and pictures, UE. As someone whose visits to Frasca now number somewhere in the triple digits since '04, I've never personally experienced a drop-off in quality as mentioned in some posts here. Yes, I've seen sous chefs and staffers come and go and all the twists and turns in the menu develop like any restaurant, but the bottom line is that Bobby and Lachlan run a tight ship and manage to deliver a superior experience in every aspect year in and year out. I turned into a regular because I was treated like one from the moment I stepped through the door (alone, mind you, without a reservation and not draped in Prada or anything resembling it). I'm super-critical and even a little snarky, yet they continually floor me with all the small details they have perfected over time that other places miss entirely. I never would have imagined that a place like this would have opened up so close to my corner of the world. The fact that they impressed me when their doors had barely even been thrown open for business and continue to do so surprises even me. My favorite musicians aren't even that consistent.
  6. H Mart is Korean. They even have a Wikipedia entry: H Mart
  7. Someone responded on another food board recently that it is illegal for cabs to "cruise" in Denver and pick people up on the streets, but that they are thinking of changing the regulation before the Democratic National Convention next year. Seems like a silly regulation. I did a Google search and found a Denver Post article about it Cabbies hail easier pickups. There are always cabs sitting outside of major hotels and at places like Union Station. We too always have the maitre d' at restaurants call when we need one.
  8. Wow. If Casa de Hades was the culinary highlight, I almost hate to ask where else you ate.
  9. Like BekkiM, I am not sure I truly have 10 clear-cut “can’t miss” places in mind for the Denver area like I have for SF. I immediately thought of 4 (with numbers 2 through 4 subject to change based on my own personal culinary schizophrenia). 100 other places are tied for slots 5 through 10. There are many different types of places here that I enjoy equally (from sushi to Mexican to sandwiches to steak), and I’m excited that the dining scene keeps getting better. There are particular dishes like the duck confit leg at Café Star or the $3 rajas con queso pupusas at Pupusas Sabor Hispano (thanks to critic Lori Midson for the rec) or the cassoulet maison at Z Cuisine that can rock with the best of them. But while Denver is no longer a “cow town,” we still lack places that are particularly dressy and formal like Per Se (except for maybe high tea at the Brown Palace, but you can't really compare that to a place like Per Se either). Here’s my current 4 (with the number one slot being unchanged since August of 2004 when they opened): 1. Frasca Food and Wine-Boulder. Simply unbeatable, especially if you love wine, whether you’re an aficionado or a newbie. Not many places in the country have a down-to-earth master somm walking the floor (along with a cadre of knowledgeable somms and servers) giving your Aunt Edna from Toledo detailed advice on Barbarescos. 2. Fruition-Denver. It just opened this year, but I’ve been stunned at the quality of the food. It’s small and they have an equally tiny wine list, but they are so friendly and welcoming and I hope they make buckets of money. 3. Rioja-Denver. The pork belly is indeed to die for. I have to throw in my love for their weekend brunch (especially if you just walk in, sidle up to the bar, and throw back a Loca Hot while perusing the menu). 4. nine75-Denver. This place is more funky and casual than the others, but Troy Guard has got the “goods” when it comes to the food. It also helps if you have fond music memories from the ‘80’s and can effortlessly switch between eating sushi, meatloaf, quesadillas, and cotton candy in one sitting. I will forgive them for forcing Journey upon me when I click on their website. My out-of-town guests vary, so I try to take them to places I know they will enjoy (although I love nudging people outside of their comfort zones too). My friends who have procreated DO love it when we take their offspring to the evil Casa Bonita since they’re running around elated at the cliff divers and ski-ball. Mi madre is a teetotaler and wouldn’t appreciate Frasca (she would be mortified to see me quaffing Prosecco), so I take her to places that are more her speed (I won't give them any publicity though).
  10. Thanks for the detailed review. Maybe the stars aligned just right for me, but I am an incredibly picky diner and have had three exceptional experiences at Fruition in a row spaced apart in three different months. I can’t think of any other high-end place in the metro area other than Frasca and Adega where I found myself subsequently craving the food to such a high degree. I only wish Fruition had more room for wine storage and could offer more selections, particularly by the glass. I’m actually a bit averse to over-salting and haven’t had anything yet at Fruition that I thought was too salty (including some of the dishes you mentioned). In contrast, I ordered an herbed filet at Aix recently and couldn’t taste the herbs or even the meat given the predominance of salt, and I’ve thankfully never experienced that at Fruition yet (and hopefully won’t). I think my favorite dishes so far have been the earlier incarnation of the Butter Poached Smoked Salmon with roasted beet spaetzle, shaved asparagus salad, and horseradish beurre blanc; the BBQ Pork Shoulder Confit; and the beet carpaccio salad with goat cheese fritters. 35 minutes is obviously unacceptable to wait for the dessert course, although I will say that two of my visits were on Sunday evenings and I luckily didn’t encounter any pacing issues like that with the courses. I don’t generally eat bread on every trip to restaurants after the initial visit (Frasca included) unless it’s brought out warm (like the focaccia at 240 Union, although I haven’t been there in ages so I’m not sure if they still do that or not) or there’s a unique flavor to it (like the goat cheese biscuits at Rioja), but I had a slice of the wheat bread at Fruition and it didn’t seem any better or worse than what other establishments offer (not that this is necessarily high praise, of course). Do they make their bread in-house or source it from somewhere else? While I don’t think there’s anywhere else in the metro area that can consistently match what Frasca is doing in terms of food, wine, and service across-the-board, it’s also a different kind of restaurant than Fruition (regional Italian vs. haute comfort food). I like how they’re both small, welcoming, neighborhood-style places with great food where the service isn’t incredibly formal but isn’t amateur-ish or too informal either.
  11. Bistro Vendome has consistently improved since the Rioja owners took it over. I didn't go back for a long time until I heard of the management change. I listed both for brunch recs, as that's the best time to go to, imo, although I've had some great dinners at Rioja too. A problem with Denver restaurants in general is consistency, as I've had varied experiences at Zengo too (even within the span of one meal). Of course, ordering is key at any establishment in the country since every place has a few knock-your-socks off dishes that will make an immediate impact (and sometimes a few clunkers as well). I've generally had good luck in Denver asking staffers for recs (especially the bartenders), and I always scan the reviews online of local critics beforehand to see if they mention any highlights or lowlights on the menu. They don't always agree, of course, but if you can find a place or dish that mesmerizes all of them, then it's a safe bet. The Denver Post food section has Tucker Shaw's reviews and an online dining guide. The Rocky Mountain News has John Lehndorff's reviews and an online dining guide. Westword has Jason Sheehan's reviews, a "Best Of" section that contains their annual awards, and an online restaurant search. Google any of Lori Midson's reviews online at AOL CityGuide, GoColorado or any number of other places (and nab a copy of Colorado Avid Golfer magazine for her dining column). You could also pick up a copy of 5280 magazine when you are in town. Frasca and Fruition are my personal iron-clad recommendations for the higher end (keeping in mind that Fruition has only been open about 4 months and Frasca's been perfecting things for 3 years).
  12. If you can't make it to Frasca, at least don't miss Fruition. Your taste buds will thank you. Please don't go out of your way for the Denver Diner, as its main selling point is that it's open 24 hours and relatively close to several concert venues. There's nothing adventurous about it, except for the prospect that you might be accosted by a crack head on Colfax.
  13. I'm no prude, but I don't understand how anyone could eat a steak while a stranger is simultaneously shaking their nether regions and good-n-plentys in your face. Is this a guy thing? El Chapultepec is still going. At Sushi Sasa, if you're really hungry, don't let them talk you into splitting the cheapest tasting menu with another person (be greedy and get your own). The Diablo Roll is quite good. I've had the omakase a couple of times and they started with oysters each time (once they were from Boston and more recently, hama hamas from Washington state) and later brought out a cooked "kitchen sampler" plate with things like miso black cod and wagyu beef followed by various kinds of sushi. I really liked a small cup of fatty toro served with a dipping sauce, and a salmon/crab/avocado/asparagus concoction rolled up in cucumbers. Pass on the dessert course and add a savory one if they'll let you, as you're not going to a sushi place for Choco-Banana Surprise, are you?
  14. I went to Davies Chuck Wagon Diner on a Saturday morning earlier this year and sat at the counter between the afore-mentioned club kids and truckers. I had their $4.95 special that included steak. Pro: I'm not sure you can get a steak anywhere else for around 5 bucks. Con: It definitely tasted like a 5-dollar steak. It didn't remind me of the diners I went to growing up. Their hash browns just weren't as good (not greasy enough...heh heh). I would be interested in trying their CFS though. I can recommend the omakase at Sushi Sasa that JWest mentioned. Sit at the sushi bar and start with the cheapest option--then let them know if you are still hungry before the desserts arrive. And get some Wakatake Sake! Busboy, Duffy's closed. The steakhouse/jug emporium you are thinking of might be the Diamond Cabaret. The Sullivan restaurant group took over the kitchen there and it is called Oscar's. I only know this factoid because I love Troy Guard's other places like nine75 (which is slated to have a second location open next month in Westminster on 120th). I ate at the Rocky Mtn. Diner occasionally when I worked downtown (the pot roast is reliable), but I wouldn't make a special trip there.
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