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MOUTHING OFF

Bust of Denver: It has been brought to my attention that an impostor lurks in some of the town's better neighborhoods. A glossy publication called Entree bills itself as "The Best of Denver Menus," but it has nothing to do with Westword's annual Best of Denver issue, for which I eat myself silly every year. The publishers of the magazine--actually a collection of menus with a little copy sprinkled in between--used upscale mailing lists to distribute this first issue but somehow managed to overlook Westword's trademark on the Best of Denver concept.

It's a sad reality that the Best of Denver issue frequently inspires unauthorized ripoffs. So as I head into this season's eatfest, I want to remind restaurateurs that all Best Of tasting is done in absolute secrecy and that the awards themselves carry no strings--or banners, or TV segments, or any of the gimmicks people try to tie to the issue. You cannot beg, borrow or steal an award--but you can win one, simply by serving fabulous food. If you think you've got a winner or would like to suggest a restaurant for my consideration, drop me a line at Westword.

Chew on this: My mail not only includes restaurant suggestions but often food samples that companies would like me to try. Specialty breads are all the rage now--we needed something to take our minds off brewpubs, coffeehouses and wood-grilled pizzas--and Rudi's Bakery in Boulder recently sent me loaves of "Rudi's Rustics" that are indeed chewier, heartier and have a crunchier crust than Rudi's usual fare. The New York rye just begs for salty slices of pastrami, and the rosemary/olive oil version would be perfect for a picnic in Tuscany. The bread--at $2.95 a loaf--is available at Alfalfa's, Wild Oats Markets and some King Soopers stores.

Under no circumstances, though, should you cover the bread with a piece of hemp cheese. The folks lobbying at the statehouse to legalize hemp dropped off a slab of Hemp Rella, an alleged cheese made by Sharon's Finest, in Santa Rosa, California. I tried the "Jamaica Jack" style; it looked like tofu gone bad, smelled like cheap beef bouillon cubes and tasted like the soles of Birkenstocks. The product is touted on the package as being "barely legal" (the hemp seeds are sterilized); 5 percent of the profits from any sale go to NORML, the national group working to make marijuana legal. I think you'd have to be really, really stoned--and possibly drunk and coming off a twelve-week fast--to work up an appetite for this cheese.

Luckily, the same day Sharon's not-so-finest arrived, I also received some low-fat and, believe it or not, excellent ice cream from a new company called Paragon. Yeah, I was afraid it might taste like cold hemp cheese, but three of the four flavors were great. (The Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough was lame--the vanilla ice cream was dotted with small, cheap-tasting chunks of dough.) The Chocolate Fudge Brownie actually seemed rich (the brownies themselves are made with applesauce instead of sugar), the Cherries & Chocolate was packed with cherry halves, and the Blueberry Bliss reminded me of Grandma's blueberry muffins. The ice cream is available in pints for $2.69, which is comparable to Ben & Jerry's and Haagen-Dazs, but it has one-half to one-tenth the fat for a comparable serving (about 3 grams of fat for a half-cup).

 
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