Down and Out in Denver

Satchel’s on 6th

Posted in denver, food by Alastair on April 30, 2011

The asparagus salad from Satchel's on 6th

On a recent Thursday evening, Blake and I stopped by the newly opened Satchel’s on 6th. Thrilled to have another eating establishment opening within walking distance of home, we headed over to 6th and Gilpin. Satchel’s, which seats about 50, is outfitted with handsome tables constructed from beetle-kill pine, surprisingly comfortable metal red chairs, charming red brick walls, and a bar uniquely placed in the center of the space. The tight menu of about a dozen offerings features American comfort food… with a twist. After ordering our wine, Blake began his meal with Satchel’s take on the classic wedge… Blake likes his wedge. Nice big pieces of bacon, cherry tomato, some pickled onion, Roquefort, and a yoghurt dressing. I had a pretty amazing salad of asparagus, with shavings of country-style ham, a perfectly poached egg, and what appeared to be house made ricotta. Delish!

Satchel’s take on the wedge

Now, mind you, Satchel’s may have only  been open for a few days. And we thoroughly enjoyed our meals. More to come. Generally speaking, the service provided by the staff was attentive and informative; however, our server was perhaps a little less prepared    than one might like when making a first impression. She didn’t appear to be very knowledgable about many of the items on the menu we had asked about. Additionally, she basically alluded to not trying some items on the menu. This is a must in my experience! Especially for such a pared down menu. Back to the food!

Cured Artic Char

For his main course, Blake was brought the Cured Arctic Char. Mind you, he ordered the herbed Sole Gratinee. The mistake, which was quickly corrected, was to our advantage. We got to sample another dish and on the house! Who can complain!? When the Sole did arrive, Blake was very pleased. Melted leeks, Dijon, and baby potatoes gratinee of herbed sole. I think the melted leeks were the big hit of this dish. Perhaps most notable was that the Sole was a much bigger portion than the Char. Significantly so. It would have been considered a starter by some… and certainly was by Blake.

Sole Gratinee

While he enjoyed the Char, which was served with a cucumber salad that would have made my mother proud, I dug into my Short Rib Meatloaf. I’m a fan of short ribs. I’ve had them numerous times at Potager, tried them at P17, and I was really intrigued as to how one would make meatloaf out of it. A small log of tender beef was served with pot au feu vegetables and a smokey ketchup. I could not have been more pleased with my choice.

Short Rib Meatloaf

Blake and I are looking forward to stopping by again. I know I’m going to be asking my neighborhood gal pals to join me for Satchel’s “punch brunch” on one of those warm Saturday or Sundays, when bowls of liquid punch will be served!

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The ATL, y’all!

Posted in fashion, food, gays, travel by Blake on April 19, 2011

View of Piedmont Park from the 20th Floor

While Alastair was in New York for the weekend, I also flew East, but further South: to Atlanta to celebrate my Gentleman Friend’s birthday.  He’s from “the ATL,” as he calls it, and so we were able to stay at his parents’ apartment; they were conveniently out of town in Puerto Rico celebrating their anniversary.  The shot above was taken from the balcony of the GF’s parents’ apartment; they live in Midtown, overlooking Piedmont Park, which was devoted this past weekend to celebrating the Dogwood Festival.  Aside from the first night’s storms, we had perfect weather the entire time and a really fantastic time in Hotlanta.

My previous two or three experiences there had been for conferences and I had mostly stuck to the conference hotel and its environs, getting lost amid all the streets named Peachtree (Atlanta could invest in a few more street names; they’re free!), but this time, with the GF in the role of Julie McCoy, I saw lots of the city I’d never seen before.  That first night we dined across the park at the Park Tavern, which was probably the worst of the many meals we ate out.  The Park Tavern is a combination of a bar specializing in beer on tap, burger joint, and sushi bar.  Filled to the brim with straight folks on the make.  It was all just a little bit loud, and the queso with which we began was of the creamy variety (not the kind I was recently introduced to by our Oklahoma Gal Pal, which is essentially just melted cheese on a plate and far preferable).  After braving the stormy weather, we headed to one of the neighborhood gay bars (the parents live, coincidentally, in the heart of the gays), Blake’s on the Park.  I was feeling right at home!

The next morning, after nursing my hangover with some Tivoed HGTV (I do miss TV sometimes) we headed to the Flying Biscuit for brunch. Love their name!  Filled with biscuits and a chicken sandwich with bacon and cheddar (I’m not much for breakfast food), our day was just beginning: a trip to the Georgia Aquarium.  Not only did we take in all the fishes and sharks, but the GF had bought us tickets for the dolphin show, “A T & T Dolphin Tales,” which had only debuted a couple weeks previously. Here’s the thing: the aquarium itself was very impressive and while the dolphins themselves were adorable and their tricks were fun, the show itself was pretty dumb.  They had turned it into a Disney-style musical with an Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoatesque cape worn by some mythical ship captain who relied upon the dolphins to rescue him from a different evil ship captain.  Or something like that.  He sang about all of this drama and I got kind of confused. Thankfully we had saved the sea otters and Beluga whales for post-show, and they were adorable.  After that we needed to do some shopping.  The GF’s mother had suggested that we shop at Midtown’s “The Boy Next Door,” which seems to sell what my friends and I call “homosexual clothing”: lots of underwear and what the store itself calls “exciting summer swimwear.”  We went to Buckhead instead, home to two large malls. This is all I have to say about Buckhead’s malls: Alastair may be excited about the new H&M, but Atlanta has us beat.  There was a Vince and a Theory.  Be still my heart.

That night we dined at South City Kitchen.  Delicious.  Appetizers: fried green tomatoes with goat cheese and red pepper coulis; pork barbecue on a scallion hoecake with slaw.  Entrees: jambalaya and buttermilk fried chicken.  Dessert: banana pudding and pecan pie.  Desserts were not as great as everything else, but the meal itself was wonderful, including the GF’s “Country Thyme” lemonade: spiked lemonade with fresh thyme.  Our waitress, Autumn, was a little loopy, but very friendly.  And the neighbors at the next table, a flight attendant named Connie from Minnesota and her best gal pal joining her on a buddy pass, were delightful. While the GF was the only native (Autumn is from Connecticut), it was just southern hospitality and friendliness all around. (And, it must be said, just a wee bit of heartburn later that night, but well worth it.)

View of Atlanta through Botanical Gardens

But wait!  It wasn’t over.  There was still Sunday.  We had reservations at Watershed for brunch. And it, too, was scrumptious. Brainchild of Indigo Girl Emily Saliers, Watershed is located in lesbian-friendly Decatur, a suburb of Atlanta.  I had the shrimp and crab burger with fries and among the most delicious cole slaw I have ever tasted.  The GF got the sausage gravy with biscuits (that was the third meal in 24 hours in which he’d had biscuits; someone was missing his Southern home!).  We strolled around downtown Decatur, then toured Emory University, alma mater of the GF, and finally finished the afternoon with a walk through Atlanta’s Botanical Garden.  This must be said: while Denver’s Botanical Garden seems much smaller, it is also much more impressive and has, well, flowers.  And paths that lead somewhere instead of into what the GF called “traps”: seating areas devoid of flowers.  The ABG had just finished its “Atlanta Blooms” bulb extravaganza and was distinctly short on blooms of any sort.  A wee bit disappointing, but we hadn’t allotted it much time.

A scant few blooms at the Botanical Gardens

Finally, that night we dined in Virginia Highlands, another very cute Atlanta neighborhood, at Panita Thai Kitchen.  This little Thai restaurant, which had created a front garden for itself out of tubs of plants and herbs, seemed to be run as a one-woman show: she cooked, she poured, she served, she chatted with her guests.  And it was really tasty.  The spices reminded me of Thailand more than most Thai food I’ve eaten in the U.S.  This tom yum goong had a kick!  And the GF loved his fresh ginger tea and chicken curry.

We retired early that night to finish our taxes after 2.5 days of sunny weather, delicious food, and lovely sights.  If I had been skeptical about Atlanta before (and I admit it, I had been), my doubts had been quelled.  The ATL is delightful. And people really do say “y’all” quite a bit.

This Weekend

Posted in art, bars, denver, design, entertainment, food, music by Alastair on April 8, 2011

Earthquake & Tsunami Relief Poster Show

There are some pretty amazing things happening this weekend. In addition to the suggestions of the dance/design variety provided by the folks at Fancy Tiger, you can Shake your Buddha this evening at MCA Denver from 7:30 – 9:30 pm. There are three openings on Saturday evening: The previously mentioned Grand Opening of the I Heart Denver Store, an Earthquake & Tsunami Relief Poster show to be held at Super Ordinary Gallery located in the RINO Art District, and a few blocks away the opening of Love Letters, “a graphic exploration of the duality of love through typography, symbolism and pop culture” at CREMA Coffee House.

These last two events are part of RiNo’s Second Saturday. And, according to Westword’s Susan Froyd, there will be live music, food trucks, and a number of other gallery open houses and openings in the area.

Get out, bring your checkbook, and have fun this weekend!

Wearable Foods

Posted in fashion, food by Alastair on March 30, 2011

We DOD boys love food… and fashion. So, you can only imagine the thoughts that ran through our heads when we came across these constructed art forms made with food. Wearable Foods is a series of works by Korean artist Yeonju Sung in which photographs depict exquisite models of clothing made from foodstuffs — aubergine, bubble gum, and bananas in these three examples. They triggered some of our fundamental senses: the desire to wear clothes and the desire to eat.

The Cherry Cricket

Posted in denver, food by Blake on March 29, 2011

Look at the Size of that Diet Coke!

Alastair and I have lived in Colorado for a combined total of almost eight years now. And we’ve never been to the Cherry Cricket, that staple of Denver dining out in Cherry Creek.  Well, last week we were out shopping in preparation for Alastair’s upcoming very first cocktail party in his Denver apartment (which, by the way, was a blast) and we were in Cherry Creek to go to the Crate and Barrel and the Whole Foods (just for the seafood; otherwise we’re King Soopers boys).  So we decided to give it a whirl.

Caesar Salad with Chicken and a LOT of dressing

I have to say that I’m not sure what all the fuss is about.  The ambiance is more than questionable, kind of loud and crowded and cramped.  And the food was fine, but hardly exceptional.  What is it that makes the Cherry Cricket so desirable?  Is it that it remains a pretty traditional diner in the midst of all that overpriced fanciness that is Cherry Creek (we support that!)?  Or do people find the food better than we did?  Alastair had a burger and he liked it just fine, but wasn’t blown away.  I foolishly had — brace yourselves — a caesar salad (no anchovies, natch).  I’m on a wee bit of a diet and I’m pretty sure this didn’t really comply, because it was drenched in dressing.  We also split an order of fries (see below) and those were quite tasty, coated with some sort of flavorful seasoning. Perhaps my favorite part of the Cricket experience was my never-ending and thoroughly gigantic Diet Coke (see above; it dwarfs Alastair’s pint of beer).

Flavorful Fries

Let me say that I love a good diner as much as the next person and I definitely don’t believe that all restaurants need to be super fancy, but even as diners go, this one just didn’t stand out all that much to me.  I’ve been to Pete’s Kitchen and its neighbor Mama’s, both on Colfax, and preferred both of them.  So, what’s with all the love for the Cherry Cricket, Denverites?

Grill a Hot Dog Almost Anywhere

Posted in food, outdoors by Alastair on March 5, 2011

The Portable swings into action at a moment's notice. Attach the adjustable canvas shoulder strap to the sides of the grill, fling it over your shoulder and hit the road.

Yes, I’ve been thinking about hot dogs, again. But, I’m craving more than just a great dawg. I’m ready for summer… More specifically, weekend picnics in the park. This is something I have not fully embraced in Menver. My Oklahoma gal pal and I talked the big talk last spring, but we spent most of our time on our bikes. I’m convinced the Element Portable gas grill is going to change that. Targeted at apartment dwellers like me, who have limited or no outdoor space, the Element Portable is intended to be as attractive during storage and transportation as it is when set up. What I like most is that it looks like a messenger bag when you’re transporting it. I can picture it already… a bottle of rosé, some of my best gal pals, and a couple of steaks on the grill. Who could ask for anything more?

The Portable becomes available late March for about $150.

Japoix

Posted in food, wine by Blake on February 16, 2011

Last night Alastair and I headed to Japoix, the Japanese-themed new restaurant in the first floor of the Beauvallon, the hideous and half-empty apartment building on Lincoln between 9th and 10th Avenues.  Alastair had purchased himself a coupon on Living Social (25 bucks for a 50 dollar coupon) and we came prepared to eat and drink.

Japoix is large, very large.  It stretches back-to-front the entirety of one section of the Beauvallon.  In front is the dining room; the back is taken up by a bar and lounge, complete with multiple enormous televisions (it is Denver, of course).  Because of this the back does have a very large window overlooking Broadway, which is nice, though that section of Broadway is hardly beautiful.  I arrived early and sat myself down at the bar to wait for Alastair, who himself was a little early.  We checked in with the hostess and ordered two classes of wine: a viognier for A and a pinot blanc for me.  The selection of wines by the glass is good and there is a real range in prices, which is also nice.  The only problem was that the wine fridge wasn’t properly cooling so we had to wait while the two bottles chilled on ice. After about half an hour the friendly barkeep asked when our reservation was.  We informed him that we had been told there was a 15-minute wait but that we had no reservation.  He very kindly went to check on our table.  Turns out there was some sort of buzzer malfunction. Japoix employs those blinking vibrating alerts to let you know your table is ready, the kind you tend to associate with a TGIFridays (not that I’ve ever been). Well, it didn’t work when the hostess tried to summon us.  She did not, as one might expect a hostess to do on a not-so-busy night, come and get us after we didn’t show up for 15 minutes.  If nothing else, we did have her buzzer!

With that, we were seated by the mini-skirted hostess.  Japoix is a little strange, it must be said.  It claims to be a Japanese fusion restaurant with French influences.  The French influences (aside from the name and the fact that it is in the absurd and ridiculously named faux European Bauvallon) are apparent in certain dishes.  For instance, they offer a “Mr. Croque.”  Get it?  “Poisson (aka Fish)” is also one of the menu items.  Others have various French flourishes: “le” and “petit” get thrown around a bit too much.  I would say it’s more pan-Asian than anything else.  The décor is also a little weird.  There is a lot of bamboo everywhere (some of it covered in white lights and emerging out of Asian planters) and it’s very dark. It feels a little bit like a generic restaurant that was fitted after the fact to be Japanese themed, like it could be converted at a moment’s notice (and with not too much work) to a nightclub emphasizing another national origin. Oh, and all the women wear extremely short and tight skirts.  This was not so appealing to your DOD boys but might be a selling point with readers.  We leave it up to you.

 

Ahi Poke and Its Accompaniments

We began with two appetizers (and more wine, of course, though Alastair promptly spilled his on the table): the Ahi Poke (pictured above) and the Tempura Rock Shrimp.  The Poke was a generous portion and the tuna was good.  It was also rather busy, coming with rice, avocado, seaweed salad, greens, various sauces drizzled on the plate, and crispy carbohydrates on top.  It could be edited a little.  The rock shrimp was accompanied by an aioli and a tangy citrusy dip.  It was all good enough but it sort of seemed like the kind of thing that might be on offer at Long John Silver’s (again, not that I’ve ever been).  So, all in all, tasty, but not mind-blowing.

My entrée, however, was really quite good: spicy and tangy and plentiful.  I had the Duck Ramen: duck, egg noodles, crispy pork belly, snap peas, and duck broth.  Using my chop sticks and spoon I cleaned my bowl. Alastair had the Chicken Yakisoba: egg noodles, spicy garlic black bean sauce, and vegetables. It was marked by a little chili pepper, indicating its purported spiciness.  Not so much, really.  It was more sweet than spicy. Alastair didn’t love it, and because I really did love mine, I finished my meal before he did his. (Confession: I always finish my meal before Alastair does.  Like walking, I eat quickly.  Alastair once ordered a three-scallop appetizer for dinner and made it last as long as the entire tiny-boned quail I dissected.)  The consequence of all this was that my empty bowl was sitting in front of me while Alastair continued to eat.  You know where this is going … the waiter came along and broke the cardinal rule of service: he took my bowl, leaving Alastair to eat self-consciously onwards.  The situation is pictured below.

 

Alastair's Meal (foreground); My Empty Place (background; that's me!)

Would we go back?  I would consider it.  I think the problem is that Japoix is not conveniently located for us, though I suppose one could duck in there for dinner before a night out on Lower Broadway (at Alastair’s fave, Boyztown, perhaps). The back lounge would also be a great place for a private party.  I will also say that there were lots of other things on the rather strangely organized menu that looked engageant (aka tempting).

Table 6 Birthday!

Posted in denver, food, gays, wine by Blake on February 7, 2011

Happy Birthday Alastair! xoxox Table Six

After a truly delightful evening at Design After Dark — with all kinds of our gal pals in tow — many of us reassembled, albeit after a full day of recovery, at Table 6 to belatedly celebrate Alastair’s Milestone Birthday in Denver (previous celebrations were in San Francisco, as loyal readers will recall).  We had a big table and we had a lot of food, all ably described and served by our lovely server, LeeLynn.

So, on to the nitty gritty.  Gal Pal Gareth ordered wine for the table, and I admit I didn’t pay all that much attention.  So long as it kept coming, I was delighted.  It was red, and while we depleted them of their supply of the first selection, LeeLynn helped us choose another to succeed it.  Starters all around: I split the charcuterie platter with visiting gal pal Wendy (and designer of DOD’s website!): shrimp sausage, tasso, lamb bacon, and a variety of cornichons, nuts, grilled bread, and mustard.  It was all very tasty — particularly the shrimp sausage; who would have thought?  The lamb bacon was a little too crisp and salty for me (this is a sentence I utter about once a decade, so addicted to NaCl am I) but Wendy loved it.  Alastair split a cheese plate with his end of the table and other faves included the Little Phillies (mini Philly cheesesteak sandwiches) and homemade tater tots served with bacon, frisee, and a 150 degree egg.  Here’s the thing about Table Six: the appetizers are not only good, they are plentiful.  And this caused something of a problem for the consumption of the main course.

Ahi Tuna Casserole

The main course choices were varied.  I had a Camembert chicken roll stuffed with mushrooms and served with wilted chard and hedgehog mushrooms (I think).  It was one of the more reasonably sized portions of the evening and thus I had no difficulty finishing it.  Another popular choice was the Ahi Tuna Casserole (pictured above): basically a fancified version of a tuna casserole.  The only difficulty with this was that the taste of the ahi tuna seemed to be drowned out by all its casserole accessories.  And who wants that to happen to ahi tuna?  The steak — served with generously cut fries — was also popular, as was the shrimp risotto (pictured below): served with melted leeks, onion rings, and arugula.  The real difficulty with the risotto was that it was unbelievably rich and if you’ve already consumed three Little Phillies, the odds of finishing such a risotto are slim to none.  It was also a very saucy risotto, not the congealed mess that is the traditional risotto of the Veneto.  This is not my preference but I’m willing to allow for variation in taste on the issue.

Shrimp Risotto

By the time the main course was over, one would think we would all have been too full for dessert.  One would be correct.  But Table Six sent over a whole dessert platter!  And LeeLynn arrived to give a toast to the power and importance of birthdays. It was quite sweet. The birthday platter, which, despite our protestations, we seemed to work through pretty quickly, was composed of chocolate sauce-filled beignets nestled in a pomegranate sauce, a fruit tart with some sort of whipped topping, basmati rice pudding, and a sweet potato bread pudding with ice cream.  (I may be sketchy on some of the details because we’d had a fair bit of wine at that point, and the most recent menu is not posted on their website.)

Dessert Platter

The whole gang (sans moi; I was exhausted!)  headed off to BoyzTown in hopes of encountering their favorite dancer, Tyler.  (“Give it up, give it up, give it up for sexy boy, Tyler!”)  The snow was starting to come down in earnest as I walked my way home…

Happy Birthday (again) Alastair!  And thanks to Table Six for a fantastic dinner.

Design After Dark: Get Your Tickets!

Posted in bars, denver, design, fashion, food, gays, parties, wine by Blake on January 29, 2011

Ever since Alastair and I moved here we’ve gone to the Denver Art Museum Design Council’s annual fundraiser — and all-around great party — Design After Dark.  And this year will be no exception. It’s next Friday night, the 4th of February, and if previous years are any basis for judgment, it’s sure to be a great time. You don’t have to know anything about design to attend this thing: while Alastair fancies himself a design buff, I know absolutely nothing except that I like mid-century modern (but what self-respecting homo doesn’t?).  It’s fun no matter what you know. Yes, there are architects and designers competing for the best interpretation of the year’s theme — this year it’s “Light” — and yes, there is a silent auction of various designery accessories and pieces of art.  But the price of a ticket also includes some booze and a whole lot of food and lots of good conversation with, wait for it, stylish people in Denver.  I know you thought such people did not exist — aside from your DOD boys, of course — but if you’re going to find them anywhere, this is the place.  Plus, there’s an after party this year at Beauty Bar beginning at 11.  Gay, anyone?!

So head on over to their website and buy yourself some tickets (click on the ticket button on the bottom right corner).  We’ll see you there!

Potager’s New Menu

Posted in food by Blake on January 23, 2011

Potager's Doorway on Ogden

As if you hadn’t figured it out already, Potager (11th and Ogden) is DOD’s favorite restaurant. Alastair and I returned (as we are wont to do with some regularity) this past Friday night to sample the new menu (which our server helpfully explained had been introduced after the New Year).  And we were not disappointed.  But then, we’ve only been disappointed one time at Potager.

Our favorite hostess was working the seating on Friday and that alone was comforting.  We had only a brief wait (about 15 minutes) and to make it even more pleasant the friendly barkeep approached us as we sat on a couch and set us up with two classes of Oregon Pinot Noir.  After being seated we actually looked around the room trying to figure out if we had previously sat at every table in sight. Pretty much. Including the Yoko Ono Table (the large round table near the front windows; rumor has it that’s where Yoko sat when she visited).  That should give you some indication of how much we love Potager.  There is very little this restaurant does wrong.

We began with the crispy duck dumplings in pumpkin soup with dates, oranges, pecans, and celery root.  Not quite as crispy as anticipated but still very tasty.  Probably my favorite dish of the evening was the pan-roasted Stonington (Maine) scallops with tangerine brown butter, celery root puree, and celery root remoulade.  (Noticing a theme ingredient?)  Perfectly cooked and the remoulade in particular was tangy and crisp.

We ended up with some old favorites for entrees this time around, though the accompaniments were somewhat different: Grass Root’s Farm grass-fed beef short ribs (with kimchi and fresh kwan sang noodles) and the roast Wisdom Farm chicken (with potatoes, mushrooms, and vinegar glaze).  I’ve heard Potager criticized before for small portions.  Not these ones.  Almost too large to finish.  I emphasize the word “almost.”  The kimchi and noodles with Alastair’s ribs were spicy.  And the lemon and paprika roasted under the skin of my chicken flavored it perfectly.

The entire check was a reasonable 100 bucks between the two of us, and we also had more wine (a Malbec/Merlot for me and a Beaujolais for Alastair).  This was fully half what we paid for the overpriced and overdressed meal we’d had earlier in the week at Aria.  And this was so much better: refined, subtle, delicious.  As always.  Merci Potager!