Down and Out in Denver

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!

Warhol In Colorado

Posted in art, denver, food, parties, wine by Alastair on January 21, 2011

Last night, Blake and I had the opportunity to help celebrate the opening of “Warhol In  Colorado,” an exhibition at the University of Denver. A little background: Beginning in 2007, the Andy Warhol Foundation dispersed more than 28,000 of the celebrated artist’s Polaroid portraits and other photographs to 183 university galleries across the United States. Among the three recipients in Colorado was the University of Denver, which has mounted an exhibition centered on the gift. “Warhol in Colorado” opened last night and runs through March 13 in DU’s Victoria H. Myhren Gallery.

John Bonath: Andy Warhol, Ft. Collins, CO, 1981.

Blake and I attended the VIP preview with other Warhol admirers, art afficonados, and dedicated partygoers of all ages. Before exploring the show, Blake and I immediately order drinks from the bar. I went for a scotch and soda, while Blake had a glass of Cabernet Sauvignon, which he was not so thrilled about… it was free. During the preview we snacked on some tasty hors d’œuvres, including lamb chops, Beef Wellington pockets (not to be confused with Hot Pockets, but more about that later), and mini crab cakes topped with shrimp.

The exhibition was fun, though the gallery left a lot to be desired. Let’s hope the funds raised from this event will go towards modernization of the Myhren. Setting aside, Warhol’s time in Colorado seemed like a good theme. And just as Warhol’s visits pulled the Colorado art community together three decades ago, the new exhibit,  draws from the University of Denver, the Denver Art Museum, Colorado State University in Fort Collins, the University of Colorado at Boulder, and the Kirkland Museum of Fine & Decorative Arts.

Revel in the perfect fusion of art, fashion and design at the WARHOL HAPPENING, and let your inner hipster out!!!

Next, Blake and I jumped on the shuttle to the gala, or “Happening” over at the Cable Center– a building program I have not entirely figured out. There was video, music, photo booth opportunities, and specialty fare, all to be had. Thankfully, Blake and I found some familiar and new faces to pass the time, along with mini corn dogs, tater tots, paper cones filled with sweet potato fries, mac and cheese, and tomato bisque shooters with mini grilled cheese sandwiches.  Among those spotted in the crowd, philanthropist Laura Merage. Her husband, David Merage and his brother Paul founded Chef America, maker of Hot Pockets. Nestle paid $2.6 billion for Chef America in 2002. Blake was rather excited by this news… as he is a real big Hot Pocket lover.

A sign of what's to come?

Just as the night was coming to a close, and we were debating on whether to jump ship, chaos ensued! A rather frantic cater waiter collided with a party patron and a tray of tomato bisque shooters and grilled cheese sandwiches flew onto the floor… and onto Blake! The collision also caused Blake to dump his glass of Cab Sav down the sleeve of his fitted Theory shirt. The Ted Baker jacket was hit by the bisque, while his  Nudie jeans suffered a minor hit. Oh, it was terrible. I awoke this morning, thinking I had escaped unscathed, to find small amounts of bisque spread over my very own pants. Andy never wanted it this way!!!

Aria: Dial it Down, Girl!

Posted in denver, food, gays, wine by Blake on January 18, 2011

 

Aria: Inspired Cuisine?

Dear Reader, it is true: I have been AWOL for the better part of a month.  What with the holiday season and time away and the celebration of Alastair’s milestone birthday (though that will continue in early February as well; stay tuned), and a recent trip to Lake Tahoe to see my Gentleman Friend and his friends, I’ve barely had time for our little blog.  But I commit to changing all that.  Starting right now.

Last night Alastair and I joined our gal pals Gareth, Justine, Christine, and Big Texas for dinner to celebrate Christine’s birthday (and it was just Big Tex’s birthday as well — so many occasions to celebrate!).  We went to Aria, the second restaurant from Chef Sean McGaughey (of Opus in Littleton).  Aria is located on Josephine between First and Second in the space formerly occupied by Juicy Lucy’s Steakhouse.  The space itself is quite large; one might even say cavernous.  One definitely would when one is seated at the only table with customers.  Which was the case for our party of six for at least half the meal.  Yup, it’s early days for Aria but they need to fill those seats if they’re going to stick around.  I’m not sure this review is going to help them…

 

Lamb Meat Balls (foreground); Duck Duck Goose (background)

We began with three appetizers, all of which were really quite good, even if they had slightly ridiculous names (this is a theme, it turns out): Duck Duck Goose (foie gras, goose confit, cured duck breast); Tuna Tar Tar PB&J (tuna tartar with coconut jelly and peanut sauce); Colorado Lamb Meatballs.  The lamb was probably my favorite: great tomato sauce and the balls came with mozzarella inside them.  But there were genuine fans of the Duck Duck Goose at our table as well, especially of the foie gras.

Oh, we also had wine.  Of course.  A couple glasses of pinot grigio for me (I was having fowl), and a couple bottles of Emeritus Pinot Noir for the table. On to the main courses… Overall I think most were in agreement about two things:

  1. The meat was overcooked, though this was not universally true: my chicken was quite tender and juicy.  And Alastair’s steak was also the “medium” that he had requested.  But Gareth’s pork was slightly dry and Big Texas’s steak more resembled Alastair’s than the “rare” he had requested.
  2. While many of the flavors were quite tasty, the dishes just need to be edited.  There are way too many elements on every plate.  Take, for example, my entrée:  the French Onion Redbird Chicken.  The chicken itself was breaded, then covered with melted gruyère, and topped with dried onions and bread crumbs (I think). It was served with caramelized onions, “spiced pan perdu” (their misspelling of pain; perhaps deliberate?), flavored whipped potatoes, steamed carrots, and cauliflower.  The other entrées were similarly over-accessorized.  Most of us felt that the plates could have taken the advice of the immortal Coco Chanel, who advised that before leaving one’s home, one should take a look in the mirror and remove at least one accessory.  Or, in this case, three.  Nina Garcia has similarly counseled contestants on Project Runway: enough accessories.  Let the outfit/meal stand on its own.

This is hardly the end of the world, of course, but the entrées were just all too complicated and confusing when they have, on average, about 6 different actual creations on each one.

 

Chocolate Chip Cookie Spring Rolls

The same thing seemed to hold true for dessert.  We only sampled one, and it was very tasty, but a quick look at the dessert menu (which arrives in a picture frame sitting in the middle of your table) revealed that they were overly complicated as well. There is, for instance, a “Tropical Trio Cheesecake” that features a macadamia crust, vanilla roasted pineapple, and passionfruit caramel. One might feel that the entire Hawaiian archipelago had been baked into one’s cake. We opted for the Chocolate Chip Cookie Spring Rolls, which were very tasty, but again, came complete with umpteen separate elements: the actual spring rolls (delicious), a spicy chocolate mousse (less so), a ginger anglaise, and vanilla bean ice cream.  There was also a little cookie. And a mint leaf. And maybe berries, too. Granted, we split all this between six, but what would one person have done? And when the rolls and the ice cream are both delicious and so complementary, why add more?

The wait staff, I’m pleased to report, was quite attentive.  But how could they not be with so few diners around?  The chef came out to ask if we had questions and we were sent over a new experimental cocktail from the bar.  There was one problem in service: the birthday gal was taking a little longer to finish his dinner than the rest of us, and yet the runner cleared the rest of our plates first, leaving Christine forlornly finishing his meal as the rest of us sat at a cleared table. This is breaking one of the cardinal rules of table-waiting: clear plates only when the last person is finished! But they were very friendly, including the gay waiter who easily could have doubled as the fourth fruit on the cheesecake (and who wished me a good afternoon as we exited at 9 PM; too many experimental cocktails?).

Will we go back?  Probably not, but more so because the location isn’t super convenient for les boys de DOD.  They’re just starting out, so give them a try.  Maybe they’ll tone down the gastronomical accessorizing and focus on the main event. That would be our advice, but who are we to advise? Well, we are two gays who dine out far too frequently and spend inordinate proportions of our paychecks on food that others prepare for us. Maybe we do know what we’re talking about.  You be the judge!

Gay Ornament Party!

Posted in food, gays, parties, wine by Blake on December 5, 2010

Alastair’s out of town for the weekend so I was hanging out with my gal pals Tony and Tina.  We headed to LoHi SteakBar for a lateish supper.  After a couple glasses of Malbec we were seated and proceeded to order.  Tony had the Highlander Burger (mushrooms, swiss, and Bearnaise); Tina the Rock Shrimp Po’Boy, which our waiter helpfully informed him was not the traditional southern po’boy; and I had the SteakBar Steak with the blue cheese butter.  Satisfaction all around.  LoHi was actually the very first restaurant that Alastair and I reviewed on DOD a whole year ago.  And I ordered exactly the same thing.  I should probably branch out a little, but at a SteakBar, one feels obligated to order a steak.  Well, this one feels obligated.  The fries were as good as I remembered, and quite plentiful.  The steak was tender and juicy.  The only downside was that the blue cheese butter didn’t really taste much like blue cheese.  Same deal last year.  Tony ‘n’ Tina were also impressed with the generous burger and po’boy.  Bravo, LoHi.

We were then on to the evening’s final destination: a gay Christmas ornament exchange party.  Yes, you read correctly.  A party hosted by gays where the activity would be an organized Christmas ornament exchange.  Each partygoer was requested to bring a wrapped Christmas present.  I was deeply skeptical and Tina clearly was having none of it, so Tony bought and wrapped our ornaments. Part of our dinner discussion revolved around activities at parties.  Attitudes at the table ranged from tolerance to disdain.  You can probably guess where I stood.  I am of the opinion that all a party really needs is interesting people, food, and alcohol.  Activities not necessary.

Thoroughly Revolting

As it turns out, the party was actually a lot of fun, largely because the ornament exchange only took up about 10 minutes and was not a big public spectacle.  Each attendee was given a sticker upon arrival.  Your job was then to find the person who had the matching sticker and exchange ornaments with him or her.  But it all happened simultaneously so we didn’t have to unwrap before an audience and oooh and ahhh about what was revealed.  It was quick and dirty and got you to talk to someone you probably didn’t know.  And you got a new ornament.  (I gave mine to Tony because he had shopped for mine.  And because Tina had broken Tony’s accidentally.  Oops.)

Ceviche!

Among the highlights of the party was the food!  Chilled shrimp cocktail, a variety of cheese and crackers, a whole ham, chips with salsa and guacamole.  Best of all: homemade ceviche.  I kid you not. An enormous bowl of it.  And it was really delicious. You’d think that my steak frites would have filled me up. You would be wrong. I ate and drank enough to leave me feeling not only full but a wee bit hung over this morning.  Recovery has involved watching episodes of House Hunters at Alastair’s house.  I call it housesitting.

Walt and Wendy Do Denver (Part Three)

Posted in bars, denver, fashion, food, gays, wine by Alastair on October 28, 2010

Friday evening, in my new role as Cruise Director, I reunited with my San Francisco gal pals Walt and Wendy and their super cute companion Jess (who was sporting an adorable chunky necklace) for a post-conference cocktail at The Corner Office located in the Curtis Hotel at 14th and Curtis. CURTIS, much? There was only one question on everyone’s mind that evening: What happened to Whitney!? She was not seen at the conference that day… and her roommate was also missing in action. Was she OK? Did she survive the night? Did she get alcohol poisoning? These questions would linger in our minds for the remainder of the night as we waited for Jess to receive a text message update.  So, in an effort to take our thoughts off such worries we ordered some tasty cocktails and a selection of delicious shared plates from our tattooed server: a trio of sliders, empanadas, fish tacos, and tempura shoshito peppers stuffed with crab. Yum! We also took notice of the large amount of ink liberally applied to the remianing staff of the Office. Apparently it was a prerequisite to work that evening’s shift.

The Bar at Beatrice & Woodsley

I must confess, over the past few days I had been talking up BoyzTown to both Wendy and Walt. I’m not sure exactly why… It certainly was not for anything spectacular, like the “Male Revue,” but perhaps more for the fact that something like this actually existed in Denver. The boys were excited. After sending Jess off to her flight back to the City by the Bay, Wendy was ready to go! However, it was too early and I wanted to invite my guests to share a civilized cocktail at Beatrice & Woodsley, the South Broadway bar / restaurant know for its unique rustic cabin interior lined with Aspens and chain saws. [Side note: Walt will need to strengthen his hand-washing skills before using B&W’s one-of-a-kind faucet and sink on his next visit. Just saying. It’s a simple pully system people. This ain’t the dark ages.]

One round of cocktails, one crawfish beignet appetizer, and one a call into the office later, it was still too early to show ourselves at BoyzTown. So, we decided to stop by the nearby not-so-hot-spot, Compound/Basix. This would be the evening that Walt earned his nom de plume. BTW, I love how every gay bar in this town describes themselves as “Denver’s Best.” Really? I digress. Walt, dressed in conference attire: jeans, shirt, tie, sweater, blazer, and chucks, apparently caused quite a stir among the Compound cognoscenti, earning him many compliments. Some welcomed, so not so much. This struck Walt as odd, but this is Denver where ill-fitting jeans, and an Abercrombie & Fitch t-shirt reign supreme. In typical Blake and Alastair fashion, Walt and Wendy often took notice of the terrible jeans that endlessly plague Menver. One gentleman, who took a break from dancing all by his lonesome commented that Walt looked liked something along the lines of an English poet. Walt also had an interesting and similar encounter at 3:00 in the afternoon the same day with a woman drinking her fifth margarita in the Four Seasons elevator. I decided that if I wanted a little more attention in these parts, all I had to do was wear a tie and a blazer, or something along the same lines. Easy enough.

Give it up, give it up for BoyzTown.

Then, finally, Boyztown. Oh Boyztown. Give it up, give it up for Tyler . Give it up for sexy Tyler. A master of disguise… Tyler was striking up conversations left and right with Walt. Oh, our “Little Nugget.” There was lumberjack Tyler, business man Tyler, and Denver Nugget Tyler. Tyler, just about more than any other performer that evening, put some serious thought into his outfits. Give it up, give it up for Tyler .

All of the BoyzTown excitement must have worn out Wendy. He decided it was time to go back to the hotel for the night… shocking indeed! In the meantime, Walt chatted up Tyler, and we had a rather interesting conversation with Jackson regarding his original Rufskin padded chest piece with adjustable straps. And we were generally enjoying ourselves so much that four hours later,  the lights were on and we got the hell out of Dodge!

Before sending Walt off into his cab, we stopped around the corner at El Diablo’s late-night taco window to grab ourselves a snack. That torta had to be one of the best I’ve had in recent memory. If you find yourself looking for something lat at night, I highly suggest El Diablo’s taco window. Quick, fresh, and super delicious.

The Squeaky Bean

Posted in denver, food, wine by Blake on October 24, 2010

We are alive.  Even though it seems we have disappeared, we do in fact still exist.  There’s been all kinds of busyness going on in the lives of your DOD boys.  Work has been hectic for both of us.  We’ve both been traveling.  And we’ve both had visitors lately.  My Gentleman Friend was in town for a few days and Alastair has had some of his best gal pals from SF visiting as well.  All of this should have resulted in a series of witty posts about our adventures, but that’s how busy we’ve actually been: all adventure, no posting.  I will attempt to right that pattern today, with the first of a series of posts on what we’ve been up to.

My Gentleman Friend and I met up with Alastair for dinner last week at The Squeaky Bean (at Tejon and 33nd in the Highlands).  I had been before, but just for lunch; Alastair had been for dinner.  We had never dined there ensemble.  We were impressed, though maybe not quite as impressed as our gal pal Mama Monroe over at The Denver Omelette, who gave it one of her ravest reviews. We began with a couple glasses of white and a cocktail for the GF, who doesn’t go in much for vino (don’t even get me started).  We opted to split a couple appetizers: the pig platter and the chicken liver mousse.  Both came with lovely toast points and neither disappointed.  This is where we concur with Mama: these folks know their meats.  I’m not sure if they know their service quite as well as their meats, as we had to wait to place our orders for quite some time, and this was on a weeknight.  I can’t imagine what it might be like on a weekend.

Deconstructed Shepherd's Pie

Alastair and I were also pleased with our main courses.  Alastair had a deconstructed “no bake” Shepherd’s pie, though he didn’t actually know how deconstructed it would be till it arrived.  Very.  He wasn’t actually given a knife to deal with his pie and the pieces of lamb were big enough that he could have used one.  I opted for the wild boar chops, served with wilted tatsoi and Brussel sprouts faro.  Delicious, but the meat was remarkably difficult to cut.  It was tender once removed from the bone, but that removal was no easy matter, it must be said.  The GF decided he’d go for a couple appetizers for dinner and neither one particularly impressed.  The spinach and artichoke dip, though different from what you might expect — indeed it looked like a soup with a flower headband — was not all that thrilling.  But the real disappointment was the kohlrabi and apple soup, which had little in the way of flavor, though is served in its own little teapot, poured for you right there at the table.  The presentation at the Bean is done with flair.

Apple tartelet with ice cream and caramel apple

Dear reader, we weren’t done there; we had dessert.  After all, it was a special occasion, the GF being in town.  I opted for the crisp apple tartelet with ice cream and a smallish caramel apple.  I can barely recall what the GF and Alastair had, so long has it been.  But Alastair’s involved a mini milkshake of his very own.  And all of them were artfully arranged on our plates.  I must say that my apple business surely had some sort of nut in it because my mildish nut allergy was making my throat all scratchy, but a few extra sips of Malbec and an hour later and I seemed to be OK.

All in all, we had a lovely time at the Bean, where we were informed by our waiter that all staff members have their own bean-inspired nickname and beans — coffee beans, green beans, all kinds of beans — make appearances on the menu to unite the restaurant in its bean theme.

Highlands Charcuterie

Posted in denver, food, wine by Blake on October 10, 2010

Fresh off a plane from a work trip to the Midwest, I met up with Alastair at Cellar Wine Bar at the corner of 15th, Umatilla, and Boulder, in the Highlands.  Alastair has written about Cellar before, but I had never been.  Unsure of what we wanted to do that evening, we decided to start out here and hatch a plan.  We each had a couple glasses of wine, Alastair consulting with the friendly barkeep about his choices.  By 8:30 we were getting a little hungry so we ordered a selection of cheeses and pâté de campagne: any three meats and cheeses for $15.  They come served with bread, olives, marcona almonds, and fresh raspberries. The pâté was delicious and so were the cheeses: a Camembert and a local Cabra Blanca.  Alastair and I decided that sometimes a well chosen platter like this is just about all that’s necessary for a satisfying meal.  And Cellar delivers, on both the snacking and the vino.

Z Cuisine and A Cote

But we wanted more.  So we headed out in search of a second course.  We stopped in at Root Down, one of our faves, but it was crowded and we couldn’t be seated for about 45 minutes.  Just at that moment we got a text from our gal pal Christine. He and our friend Gareth were just settling in at À Côté, the wine and absinthe bar à côté de Z Cuisine on 30th at Wyandot.  So we met up with them there.  And indulged in yet more charcuterie: pork shoulder rilletes, more pâté de campagne, local cheeses, saucissons, and cornichons, accompanied by a number of freshly prepared garnishes and French bread (which Alastair declared the best baguette he’d had in Denver!).  Alastair ordered a glass of chenin blanc; I chose Sauvignon blanc.  Upon their arrival we each tasted our own, and then each other’s, announced in unison that we preferred each other’s to our own, and promptly switched. Gareth and Christine giggled at us and sipped their Manhattans.  While we definitely enjoyed the charcuterie platter we had at Osteria Marco in February, these two Highlands plates were also delicious and, together, fully satisfying.  Who needs an entrée when one can graze like this?

A Deluxe Night on the Town

Posted in bars, denver, fashion, food, gays, wine by Blake on September 18, 2010

Sketch Wine Bar

Last night Alastair and I met up with our gal pals Christine and Justine for drinks and dinner and then far too many drinks, as it turned out.  We rendezvoused (can I use the word that way?) at our fave, Sketch Wine Bar, at Broadway and 1st. There we enjoyed a few glasses of albariño and pinot grigio (we do like our dry whites) as we contemplated our dinner options. We had not made a reservation but we also weren’t ready to eat till around 9:00 and in Denver that is the equivalent of midnight in other cities, so our odds were good.  We decided to try the nearby Deluxe; I was slightly worried that it might be too crowded (it’s not a big space, after all) but all worry was for naught.  At that hour the place was nearly empty, mostly filled with fellow homosexuals, though of the female persuasion.  Seriously, it was lesbian date night at Deluxe.

We ordered a couple appetizers to begin: the monsoon dumplings (filled with chicken and ginger) and the halibut ceviche.  Both were quite tasty.  We also had a nice bottle of California cabernet (OK, we had two; there were four of us).  Justine and Alastair both opted for beef for their main course: the NY strip for Alastair and the T-bone special for Justine.  Though both found their meat tasty, neither felt it was properly cooked to order.  Alastair had ordered medium because he wanted rare but feared that it would be too rare.  It arrived rare, so he got what he wanted but he had to be devious in order to do so.  Justine requested his steak “bloody” and it, too, arrived rare.  Maybe Alastair needn’t have worried after all; perhaps all meat is cooked rare at Deluxe?  Christine and I, so tempted were we by all options on the menu, decided to split two of them.  We ordered the Deluxe paella, one of their specialties, which I had had before.  And the chicken Bolognese, made with wide flat noodles.  Both were great.  I am very picky about paella, in large part because there are just so many ways to do it wrong.  It can easily be too granular (the rice should be quite sticky and almost glumpy) or it can be too saucy (paella is not gumbo).  The seasoning can be off or the seafood portions can be stingy.  But Deluxe’s paella suffers from none of these afflictions.  It is true that they are a wee bit generous with the peas (and really who cares about peas in a paella?).  Christine also found it a bit salty for his taste, but it seemed great to me.  Granted, I could also bathe in a salt lick and be happy; in fact, I ended up salting my portion (as Christine looked on, horrified).  The pasta was also very nice: well cooked with tangy tomato sauce and fresh ricotta and parsley.

The Bar at Deluxe

Two complaints about Deluxe: the décor needs some help.  The leopard carpet is looking tired and the big mirrors and letters commanding one to EAT over the bar are starting to seem a little dated.  Particularly when the place isn’t full it all just seems a little bit sad.  This is nothing that can’t be fixed pretty easily, but fixed it should be.  The waitstaff also seemed, it must be said, intoxicated.  There was more confusion than was warranted by the small number of people present.  And our waiter also committed what I consider to be one of the Seven Deadly Sins of Serving: he cleared plates before everyone was finished eating.  Justine was still working away at his not-bloody-enough T-bone and he was doing it at a table devoid of all other plates.  This is the sort of thing that can make a diner self-conscious.  All plates should remain until all diners have finished. It’s as simple as that.

After dinner we headed to the nearby and tacky-as-ever Boyztown.  And who should we see, but Mondo!  Of course he must just have come from Fashion Week in New York and must also know who won this season of Project Runway.  It might even be him! We left Mr. Guerra alone to enjoy the evening with his friends and proceeded to order far too many cocktails (your DOD boys were in pain this morning).  Alastair also got rather friendly with one of the dancing boyz.  Maybe Alastair will start demanding that we go to Boyztown more often to see his newfound friend.  Maybe this will be like a gay version of Pretty Woman!  (I get to be the sassy Kit DeLuca.)

After Boyztown, somehow we convinced ourselves that we still weren’t done and headed back to the ‘hood for a nightcap AND a second meal at the absurdly spelled Barricuda’s.  Yes, with an i.  Apparently Barricuda’s is open till 4 AM but their 2 AM last call — get this — is not a last call to order alcohol, but instead to consume it.  Anything not imbibed by 2 is actually confiscated.  I have never experienced such a thing.  What is the reasoning behind this?  Can anyone explain?