By Jamie Swinnerton
By Mark Antonation
By Lori Midson
By Jonathan Shikes
By Amber Taufen
By Cafe Society
By Juliet Wittman
By Jonathan Shikes
Is nothing Sacre?As promised, rumored, alleged and speculated about at length, Sacre Bleu is coming back -- although not as Sacre Bleu. The space, at 410 East Seventh Avenue, will be reincarnated as Vega, a joint venture of Marco Colantonio, former floor man at Denver's Tamayo (and director of operations for all four of Richard Sandoval's Tamayo and Maya restaurants around the country) and executive chef Sean Yontz, also recently of Tamayo and, before that, with Kevin Taylor at Zenith and the long-dead Cafe Iguana.
"I want to stress that we're not reopening Sacre Bleu," says Yontz. "It's in the same space, but it's an entirely new restaurant."
Michael Payne -- whose ex-wife, Julie Payne, opened Sacre Bleu with a splash in April 2000, then got out after the initial buzz subsided -- had been running Sacre Bleu until it closed for "remodeling" this summer; his role as building owner and landlord continues with the new project. Colantonio is in charge of that promised remodel and is running the front of the house; Yontz is responsible for the kitchen and the menu, which he promises will be contemporary American with Latin influences. "I've worked a long time for other people," Yontz says. "And I didn't think I was ready for my own place until about eight months ago. With my food, my learning, looking for spaces, the right deal, the right sommelier, the right front-of-the-house guy -- everything just seemed to fall together in the last eight months. I just think I'm ready."
Let's hope so. Yontz's cooking at Tamayo inspired raves, but the menu and recipes were all designed by Sandoval; at Taylor's ventures, he was still working under that renowned chef. But now all of the back-of-the-house responsibility involved in opening a high-end eatery will fall squarely on the 35-year-old Yontz's shoulders.
"I'm excited," he says. "I've cooked in Denver -- at some of the best restaurants in Denver -- for seventeen years, and this is the most exciting time there is. With places like Adega coming in and raising the bar, I think this is a great time."
Speaking of bars, Vega will be able to accommodate more diners than Sacre Bleu could, thanks to a redesigned bar area. Although the interior will be getting a major facelift, too, according to Payne, everything is set to be wrapped up in time for a mid-October opening.
"We like October 18," Yontz says, his voice so enthusiastic I can feel his smile over the phone.
And you know what? October 18 sounds pretty good to me, too. I can't wait.
Nuclear lunchmeat:The U.S. Army Soldier Systems Center in Natick, Massachusetts, has come up with pre-packaged sandwiches that are supposed to be able to last three years and survive such rough handling as air drops, extreme temperatures and other combat situations. These indestructible sandwiches are made possible by the use of chemicals called humectants, which prevent sogginess and limit the moisture necessary for that green funk that grows on your normal, non-combat bologna-and-cheese sandwich when it's left in the back of the fridge for a couple of months. The sandwiches themselves -- which are currently being tested in pepperoni and barbecue-chicken varieties -- come sealed in airtight packages, kind of like the ones found in Amtrak-station vending machines.
Meanwhile, British researchers are hard at work designing special meals for soldiers that would cause them to glow. Compounds in the food would be exhaled or ooze through pores -- making troops visible to pilots or specially equipped satellites and therefore less likely to be shot at by their own side.
Could these developments lead to a new Cold War among the sandwich-loving nations of the world? Could we be seeing the beginning of a humectorized, glowing lunchmeat stockpile that will explode into a full-blown arms race reminiscent of the nuclear brinksmanship of decades past? It's possible, and we here at Bite Me HQ are cool with that, because we all know that Nuclear Lunchmeat would be a great name for a punk band.
And besides, glow-in-the-dark snacks can't be any more dangerous than the 717,000 pounds of ground beef mixed with E. coli-contaminated meat that was recently recalled by GFI American, a Minneapolis meatpacker. Originally intended for pet food, the stuff was shipped to hotels, restaurants and institutions in twenty states (including Colorado) before anyone caught the error. It wasn't until August 22 -- during an inventory audit almost two months after the beef was shipped -- that the USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service was notified. And Colorado health-department officials didn't hear about the recall until five days after that.
While Congress continues to quiz the USDA about the earlier ConAgrarecall (the largest of the 73 recalls announced this year), I asked Steven Cohen, an FSIS representative, and learned that of the 717,000 pounds of bad GFI beef "distributed into commerce," only 85,000 pounds had been returned by September 6; it's likely that most of the rest had been eaten. In a recall of this nature, where a significant amount of time has passed, it's "not common to recover a large proportion of the product," Cohen said. "We are working on requiring the company to look at their inventory-control system and to demonstrate that this won't happen again."