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New Year's Peeve

But I'll tell you what: I resolve to try to keep my misty reminiscences short and on point in the future. I will take care to always let you, the public and all of the folks in white know whether or not the coffee sucks, how the room looks and if your grandma would approve. Further, I resolve to continue talking about food as if it were the most important thing in the world and letting you guys -- the chefs, the grunts and the dishwashers -- know where to go for the best grub in town.

But only if you'll admit that there's no such thing as too much Dean Martin.

I received another letter recently from the good folks at City Wine(347 South Colorado Boulevard), which started out fine: "We enjoy your reviews in Cafe." But then it continued with this: "However, what would really pique our interest is a short mention of the wine program."

Ah, so you noticed? I don't write much about the wine lists offered at restaurants around town for the same reason I don't write much about sushi or Bulgarian food: I don't know much about it. Yet. Ask my opinion on three different cuts of beef, six different preparations of bordelaise or a dozen different plates of foie gras, and I can speak (or write) in an educated manner about each. I could taste subtle differences in the fat content of the goose livers and tell you which bordelaise sauces had been mounted with marrow and which with butter. But when it comes to wine, I just don't have the depth of experience necessary to confidently judge one bottle against another.

But I'm working on it. And I do hereby resolve to spend the next six months getting snockered on expensive bottles of grapa in order to learn the differences between regions and growers, and to spend a lot of time on the phone with my little brother -- a sommelier and front-of-the-house guy back in New York -- learning all of those snooty words that wine experts use to describe their fancy-pants grape juice.

I'm going to do the same with sushi. Slowly but surely, I'm being educated by people who know much better than I do how to appreciate the delights of eel and seaweed and fish skin. By this time next year, I hope to be at least half as confident in my knowledge of wine and fish balls as I am about the classical French, New American, Asian and Italian cuisine I grew up with.

Hey, they serve lots of fish in the South Pacific . . .


Ice, ice baby: In my review of the Fourth Story ("Tale Spin," December 19), I mistakenly credited pastry chef Syd Berkowitz for the fantastic apricot-tangerine sorbet I had there. Turns out that sorbet was the work of Michael Rubens and crew from The Iceman Cometh. For over six years, Iceman has been supplying killer sorbets to some of the best kitchens in town. Places like Barolo Grill, the Rialto Cafe and the Fourth Story have been dishing up Iceman desserts on their menus, while markets like Spinelli's and Marczyk's Fine Foods have been selling their handmade half gallons retail to the Denver dining public.

But now the Iceman leaveth. "Since 9/11, our sales have taken such a nosedive," explains owner Rubens. That, coupled with some health concerns, caused Rubens to make the tough decision to stop production and get out of the business for good. "I've had incredible loyalty over the years," he says. "I mean, there's been a few jerks, but I just want to let everyone know how thankful I am."

The only silver lining to this dark cloud is that Iceman has a lot of sorbet stocked up in the coolers and is trying to get rid of it before the lights go out for good. Rubens is loading up his restaurant customers with all they can take, but he's also got some for sale to the public. So if you've got a post-holiday dinner party coming up or just want to fill your freezer in anticipation of the long, hot summer to come, give Iceman a call at 303-394-3466.


Leftovers: And the first restaurant casualty of the new year is...the Little Russian Cafe, a longtime fixture in Larimer Square that closed its doors after a New Year's Eve blowout. When I talked with co-owner Steve Ryan a few days before the final bacchanal, he told me that the owners of Larimer Square (and the restaurant's landlords) had decided not to renew their lease with the venerable cafe. "I think they're looking for a younger crowd," Ryan said. "They have to justify their existence, you know? And I think they're getting a little cocky with all the new places coming in." We've always attracted an older crowd," he continued. "The theater crowd and like that." And while Ryan said his restaurant's numbers were up -- no small feat in these lean times -- the owners still wanted to get a new tenant that would attract a slice of that bar-hopping, bistro-loving demographic that frequents the nearby Lime. "Personally," Ryan added, "I don't think they know what they're doing, but they think they know what they're doing. We'll see what happens."

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