Down and Out in Denver

Check, Please! Bay Area

Posted in food, travel, tv by Blake on September 13, 2010

I’ve been traveling back and forth between Denver and San Francisco over the past year to see my Gentleman Friend.  And one of the things I’ve discovered in my time in the Bay Area is a public television show called “Check, Please!  Bay Area.”  I love it.  More than I can probably describe to you in this post.  This is the deal: Three “regular Bay Area residents” apply to be on the show by picking a favorite restaurant and extolling its virtues.  When they are selected they are given the names of two other restaurants. All three people visit each other’s favorite restaurants and assemble for the taping of the show, which is hosted by Leslie Sbrocco, oenophile and foodie.  And this is where the fun begins!  They all sit around talking about their experiences at the three restaurants.  Things remain calm if everyone is in agreement about how wonderful they all are.  But that is rarely the case.  Usually at least one person doesn’t like another’s very favorite restaurant.  And it can be all kinds of uncomfortable as one person is either aggressively or apologetically critical, all while Leslie tries to smooth things over.  The production values are pretty low and the awkwardness level can be well nigh excruciating because many people in the Bay Area are WACKY, but it is, quite simply, addictive.  I can’t get enough.  I can talk about CP!BA in the way that I can talk about my favorite NPR reporters: obsessively.  And that includes talking about its host, Leslie Sbrocco, who is herself a polarizing figure, even amongst people otherwise devoted to the show.  I adore all of her quirks and her awkwardness; she drives some people insane.

The show is great, however, not just for entertainment, but of course because you can go visit any of the restaurants reviewed!  For instance, I have now been to two of the three restaurants featured in Episode 5 of Season 5 (above), neither of which I would have known about without CP!BA.  Marnee Thai (locations in the Inner and Outer Sunset) is the best Thai I’ve had in the Bay Area and certainly better than anything I’ve had in Denver (and I’ve been to Thailand).  And on Friday night, my Gentleman Friend took me to Chez Spencer for my birthday.  We had a true feast, which included a number of the dishes featured on this episode of CP!BA: the pan seared sea scallops with hearts of palm; the steamed asparagus with shaved parmesan and truffle emulsion; and the filet mignon with morels and truffle oil.  We also ordered the foie gras and the my GF had the venison.  We split the profiteroles for dessert.  Tucked away in the Mission on 14th at Folsom, Chez Spencer is a bit unexpected in that neighborhood.  And while it wasn’t cheap, it was delicious and romantic and the service was excellent. And we knew about it because of the wonders of Check, Please! Bay Area.

So what does all of this have to do with Denver, you ask?  I want such a show here!  I’m not fully convinced that we have the restaurants to support it, but I think we could swing it.  The show in SF covers the entire Bay Area — suburbs from San Jose all the way up through Marin — so they’ve drawn their boundaries generously.  We could even just do the whole state or everything within two hours of Denver, say.  Chicago also has its own version (in 2001 state senator Barack Obama was on to talk about his favorite restaurant.)  What do you think, Denver foodies?  Check Please! Denver?

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6 Responses

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  1. Mama Monroe said, on September 13, 2010 at 9:45 am

    i SOOOOO want to be your co-host… i’m a foodie AND a good time…

  2. Mama Monroe said, on September 13, 2010 at 12:56 pm

    I must admit… the idea of being in front of a camera terrifies me so much that I would probably never go through with it.

  3. MEJ said, on September 15, 2010 at 1:05 pm

    this is totes my fave show!

    • Blake said, on September 15, 2010 at 1:07 pm

      MEJ: I could talk about CP!BA for hours. What is your feeling about Ms. Sbrocco?

  4. […] you might want to seriously consider your dream of producing your very own public television show “Check, Please! Denver.” At least we could write off all of these […]


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