The Bite

Season's Eatings

If you don't have time to buy a cookbook and whip up a few impressive appetizers, several local merchants offer some options. In the category of to-die-for are the locally smoked salmon ($19.95 a pound) at Whole Foods (2375 East First Avenue) -- it comes from Basalt, made by a company called Loganstock -- and the smoked duck breast from The Truffle (2906 East Sixth Avenue), which runs $27 a pound. I've seen people actually fight over both; the salmon is richly flavored and has one of the most supple textures available in a non-lox format, and the duck breast is like eating duck bacon.

The diet starts first of the year, remember.

Not about a Restaurant

More resolutions: I'm the one who's seeing stars after giving myself a good smack in the head for mistakenly calling the Penrose Room at the Broadmoor Hotel a Mobil five-star restaurant ("Star Struck," December 6). The hotel is indeed rated five stars -- and touts that rating everywhere -- but the restaurant is only rated four.

Still, according to the Mobil Travel Guide, this means the four-star eatery should have displayed "highly polished, efficient" service, with waiters who are "confident, adept and able to handle unusual situations in stride, with no pretension or attitude," and the "pace, timing and table maintenance" should have been "very good." The food, on the other hand, should have been "perfect and unique, because of the superior execution of either featured cuisine or of the personal culinary vision of the chef," who also should have displayed "excellent technique" in preparation of his dishes with "intense flavors."

All of those elements were sorely lacking in our far-from-four-star meal. And the hotel was even less deserving of its five-star rating. I think the Broadmoor needs to pay more attention to earning its reputation than to marketing it.

And as it turns out, quite a few readers agree. While no one has written or called to defend the place, several have shared experiences similar to mine. A food scientist and golfer in Colorado Springs phoned to say that "the review brought back memories of how bad our meals have always been there," and both Kim Siebert and Briana Hutchins, who also live in the Springs, said they drive to Boulder to eat at the Flagstaff House (1138 Flagstaff Road) whenever they want to splurge on a special occasion -- and steer clear of the Broadmoor. Rick Doerr wrote a lengthy e-mail describing a terrible celebratory meal he and his then-fiancée had there, a day after he'd popped the question at the top of Pikes Peak. "After years of enduring the propaganda, all the while knowing the truth firsthand, your review was a great way to start my day," Doerr said. "What an embarrassing disappointment. Thank God I didn't plan to pop the question there."

Several more readers asked for other options for a truly first-rate celebratory meal. "I've eaten at the Penrose Room twice, once to celebrate my wedding and once to celebrate my thirtieth anniversary," said Jeanette Davis. "The first time, it was awful, but we were so young, we thought we must not know what it should be like. The second time, it was awful, and we knew it would be our last time. Now I want to celebrate with my daughter, who just gave birth to our first grandchild, over the holidays, and I want it to be perfect."

If I were Jeanette, I'd head to one of the following, all rated four stars by Mobil and often deserving of more: the aforementioned Flagstaff, Tante Louise (4900 East Colfax Avenue), the Palace Arms at the Brown Palace Hotel (321 17th Street), or Q's in the Hotel Boulderado in Boulder (2115 13th Street).

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