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Mouthing Off

Trick or treat?: Don't be scared off by the chair problems at Vesta Dipping Grill (see review, this page), and do drop by on October 31, when in addition to the regular menu, three courses of theme cuisine (roasted-pumpkin creme brulee, for example) will be available for $30 per person. The price of dinner includes a Halloween party that begins at 10 p.m.--those who don't eat there that night can get in for $5--and features costume prizes and dancing to Gordito, a Latin jazz band. Since Vesta has yet to receive its cabaret license, it's relying on special-event permits--but once that license is granted, the plan is to offer music on a regular basis.

Vesta's artsy design recently earned the restaurant recognition from the Denver branch of the American Institute of Architects. Earlier this month the Colorado AIA announced its picks for this year's Design Awards winners, which included two more restaurants: Tommy Tsunami's Pacific Diner, at 1432 Market Street, and Brasserie Z, at 815 17th Street.

McCormick's Fish House & Bar celebrates its tenth anniversary at 1659 Wazee Street on October 30, with free birthday cake at lunch and a dinner special that night of fresh lobster with all the trimmings for $11.95 (be sure to mention the lobster when you make reservations, since quantities are limited). The restaurant also continues to offer its lunchtime "hard hat to-go specials" in honor of the construction that's taking up half of Wazee (and gobbling all of the street's parking). For $5.95, you get a sandwich, iced tea, fresh fruit and a cookie, all packed up for takeout. The in-house blue plates are a good deal, too; five or six bucks nets hearty fare such as chicken-fried steak (Thursdays) and chicken pot pie (Fridays), along with a salad or piece of cake.

Happy birthday greetings also go to Tante Louise, at 4900 East Colfax, which has been marking its 25th anniversary pretty much since the first of this year with special dinners and deals. On November 13 the venerable aunt will offer a comparative tasting of California pinot noirs and French burgundy; for $100, participants get five courses and six wines. And on December 14 the restaurant will pull out the bubbly for a Perrier-Jouët tasting; $125 buys you five courses and five wines. Call now to reserve (355-4488), then keep up with Tante Louise's frequent wine events online at www.tantelouise.com

Everyone's a critic: The Denver Post has finally hired a restaurant-reviewer replacement for John Kessler, who left for Atlanta three months ago. Diane Gould has an odd view of dining (judging from her Boulder Daily Camera reviews), but at least she knows something about food. Word is that theater critic Thom Wise will be doing double duty as the Rocky Mountain News restaurant reviewer into the new year; the paper seems to be dead set on hiring an "entertainment reporter" who also happens to be a food expert. As if.

But the real puzzler is Wise's replacement as restaurant reviewer at 5280: Channel 4 critic-at-large Greg Moody, who not only admits he doesn't know much about food--he's positioning himself as the "regular guy" food critic--but proves it through his writing. He's a really nice guy, though.

And he has an explanation for why his recent list of the top ten restaurants in Denver included the Cherry Tomato, at 4645 East 23rd Avenue--and it's not that a Channel 4 producer, Rayetta Webster, is one of the owners. (I liked the place when I ate there for my September 18 review, but one of Denver's top ten?) "I mentioned that [the Webster connection] was the case in the first review I did of the Cherry Tomato," Moody explains. "That review was my test run for the magazine, and when they said they were going to go ahead and run it, I immediately said, 'Okay, but you've got to put this in.' So I made it very clear then. And I wanted it to be in the dining guide, too, but there wasn't enough space."

In hindsight, Moody adds, it was probably a mistake to include the Cherry Tomato in his top ten, but he was running short of restaurants he could recommend. That's because he hasn't eaten at a lot of Denver's top eateries--and so Moody also wants to issue a blanket apology to restaurants that probably should have been included. (For starters, how about Barolo Grill, Papillon and Today's Gourmet Highland's Garden Cafe?) "I did the best I could in the amount of time I had," Moody says. "I was starting from scratch, and I had two and a half weeks to pull this all together. I was going out of my mind. And at some point, someone said, 'Why don't you just put these in?' but I couldn't do that. I couldn't lie, and I hadn't been to those places."

But he'll get there sooner or later, Moody promises--and when he does, he'll be paying his way. "I'm not one of those who have to sell ads or anything," he says, "and I pay for meals and for movies. I take as few freebies as humanly possible."

Hey, now Moody's starting to sound like a legitimate food critic.

--Wagner

 
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