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Mouthing Off

Greasing the wheels: Although there's no such thing as a free lunch, on January 2 there were free fries. To introduce its new, allegedly improved French fry, Burger King offered potatoes au gratis--over 15 million small orders of them--at its 7,600 (and counting) restaurants as part of a $70 million marketing campaign. Along with the free fries came lots of free publicity--some good, some bad. The January 2 Wall Street Journal weighed in with "Governors Kneel to Burger King as the French Fry Wars Sizzle On" and reported that the governors of Oklahoma, Kentucky and New Mexico had gone so far as to officially proclaim January 2 "Free FryDay" in their states. According to the Journal, eleven other states were complying with Burger King's request for endorsements of the new spuds, including Colorado.

The fat's in the fryer now! Although spokesman Matt Sugar concedes that the governor sent Burger King a letter, he says it was no endorsement. So you be the judge--of both the new fries and the gubernatorial missive, dated December 31 and signed by Roy Romer: "On behalf of the State of Colorado, I would like to congratulate Burger King on its continued success. Burger King is an important corporate citizen of Colorado. I thank you for your solid commitment to providing jobs and opportunities for Colorado citizens. Again, thank you and best wishes on your latest campaign."

Colorado, this spud's for you.
There's no such thing as free beer, either, but there is free speech. At least, that's the argument of the American Civil Liberties Union, which on Monday filed suit in Denver District Court challenging the state's censorship of the original label for Road Dog Ale, which the Broadway Brewing Company began bottling in 1995 as part of its author series; this one featured a story by Hunter S. Thompson on how "Good people drink good beer." Under Colorado law, brewers can't distribute beer unless the label has been approved by the Colorado Division of Liquor; the state didn't appreciate Road Dog's "good beer...no shit" boast drawn into the label (but didn't say anything about Ralph Steadman's dog-in-sunglasses drawing). After the Division of Liquor complained--1,200 bottles into the run--Broadway still bottled the beer, but with a modified label reading "good beer...no censorship."

The Coors family rates an uncensored segment of A&E's Biography later this month, a one-hour episode scheduled for January 28 that "looks at the private, proud, right-wing, born-again, highly controversial and remarkably successful family that has won renown with its signature beer," according to the program listings. But although the show will delve into Coors's controversial past, it fails to uncover one of the company's best-kept secrets: Barmen.

That's the name of a new brew created to match a beer that Peter Coors found in Germany last year--and named after the town where Adolph Coors was born in 1847. So far it's only available (on tap, at $4 a draw) in three Denver restaurants: 240 Union (240 Union in Lakewood), The Fourth Story (2955 East First Avenue) and Marlowe's (511 16th Street). Barmen is hard to find, but it's worth the search; the high-end designer pilsner even comes in a specially shaped glass, with gold lettering that announces it's a "German brewing legacy."

Colorado, this non-Bud's for you.
There may be no such thing as free beer, but the wine is almost free at the Red Wine and Fish event January 21 at the Metropolitan State Center for the Visual Arts, 1701 Wazee Street. For $35, participants get all the red vino they want, as well as unlimited samples from entrees prepared by sponsor McCormick's Fish House & Bar. This is also a good chance for karma in the new year, since proceeds benefit the Volunteers of America Guild. Space is limited, so call 297-0408 soon.

Openings and closings: Although Pat Miller, the "Gabby Gourmet," gabs on through her Saturday KHOW-AM radio show, she won't be doing any face time anytime soon. When she arrived at Channel 7 for her standard restaurant gig last week, Miller was told that her services were no longer needed. After fifty years of business at 2030 Larimer Street, Johnnie's Market closed last fall; owner Ed Maestas's decades of service to the neighborhood will be honored with a Martin Luther King Jr. Business Responsibility Award at a ceremony January 16.

Don't panic if you've heard that Highland's Garden Cafe (Today's Gourmet), at 3927 West 32nd Avenue, is closed. It is, but only until sometime in February, when the owners will have completed their takeover and remodeling of the house next door. That means more space, which means more of us will be able to get into this wonderful restaurant. Then again, the answering machine at 1512 Lawrence, which took over the old space at (surprise) 1512 Lawrence occupied by Mel and Janie Master's Top Hat, says the restaurant is closed for the holidays--but as of Monday, it hadn't reopened. That location, which held a long string of chili-and-beer joints like Charlie & Barney's before it went upscale, has all the hallmarks of a real kiss-of-death address. Another kiss-of-death spot, at the corner of 9th Avenue and Lincoln, once the home of the Paradise Bar & Grill, the trying-harder Lincoln 100 and, recently, a stream of wildly unsuccessful ventures, will get new life from the folks who own Cafe Papillon (250 Josephine). They reportedly plan to open a high-end seafood place, a project that's already gobbled up the next-door Garbo's--a gay bar that was once the greatest place in town to watch Dynasty.

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