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Gone Wishing

Some kids ask for a trip to Disneyland to see the magic rat. Some kids ask for tickets to a baseball game. But when eleven-year-old Galen Batsongot his shot, he asked for a road trip to Cape Cod so that he and his two siblings could play music at his cousin's wedding -- and the good folks at the Make-A-Wish Foundation were only too happy to oblige.

And what makes for a good road trip? Well, first you need a vehicle. And while my preference would have been a midnight blue Plymouth Fury with a big engine and a loud stereo, Galen went for a motor home -- one of those big-ass Winnebagos, which, now that I think about it, wouldn't be a bad way to see the country.

Next, you need food, and Galen was very specific about his desires in his letter to the Make-A-Wish Foundation: a whole lotta snacks from Marczyk Fine Foods(770 East 17th Avenue). Here the kid and I are on the same page.

While Galen was receiving treatment for leukemia at Children's Hospital, he and his family stayed at Brent's Place (their home is in Steamboat Springs), which is right around the corner from Marczyk's. So whenever the kid got hungry for something, he'd stop by the market. "He was a fruit-and-veggie kid," says Marczyk's Barbara Macfarlane. "He didn't head for the bakery or anything like that." Galen's mother told Macfarlane and her husband, Pete Marczyk, that she thought all the good food Galen got at their market played a big part in keeping him healthy.

And Galen had plenty for his trip, because Marczyk's and the Make-A-Wish Foundation came through in spades. Judie Jamros at Make-A-Wish (who has the best job title in the world: Director of Wish Granting) says the foundation was thinking along the lines of a nice gift basket, but when the family stopped by the market earlier this month to stock up for the cross-country trek, Marczyk's loaded them up with three carts filled with supplies. "We sent him off with steaks and vegetables," says Macfarlane. "Some fresh peaches, snacks and drinks, crackers and cheese. We even gave him a little grill that we found in the back and some charcoal to cook with while he was traveling."

So happy trails, Galen. We here at Bite Me HQ hope you rocked that wedding.

Members only: Believe it or not, I'm a shy guy -- and the thought of speaking in front of a crowd is enough to give me a screaming case of the heebie-jeebies. So the fact that I have a job that I must do anonymously is a blessing, because I have an easy excuse for getting out of any event that might involve more than three people. Yet I still managed to find myself down in the poker room at the Denver Press Club (1330 Glenarm Place) last week as the main course at one of the club's "Lunch on Deadline" shindigs.

Come to find out, it was a pretty mellow event. Only about a dozen people showed up to hear yours truly hold court on the danger of celebrity chefs, the evils of vegetarianism, and the very long list of famous food writers to whom I owe my livelihood. And not a single local chef showed up to shank me with an oyster fork.

Not only did I survive, but I got a chance to sample the cooking of new Press Club chef Daniel Young, who put together a simple spread of field green and summer vegetable salad, and chicken in a cream sauce over brown rice with yellow and green squash and carrots. It was good, fresh and bright, perfect for a room full of newspaper and PR-types all talking with their mouths full.

Young -- who got the gig after former Bistro Adde Brewster owner Adde Bjorklund dropped out -- had been the top dog at Fat Daddy(12 East 11th Avenue) until the March snowstorm put Daddy out of commission. Before that, he was in the kitchen at the long-gone Diced Onions (whose spot at 609 Corona Street then became the Beehive and will soon be taken over by the folks from Adega). So he's not exactly walking into this gig cold. And I have it on good authority that soon -- very soon -- Young will have the Press Club kitchen up and running on a full schedule.

And Daniel? Just because I left most of my lunch on the plate doesn't mean I didn't like it. A few bites of anything is more than enough for me these days. Since I've given up jogging (after the first try) and yoga (after just one look at the brochure), controlling portion size is the only method I have for keeping my trim and girlish figure.

Leftovers: The modest storefront at 2900 West 26th Avenue that had been El Tucan and then, briefly, El Bikini is now Roberto's. Not El Roberto's, just plain old Roberto's. At 15320 East Hampden Avenue, the small space that had housed the Aurora outpost of Shead's Fish and Barbecue Heaven (which served some of my favorite small ends and the best peach cobbler this side of the Mississippi -- the river, not the avenue), is now the Coffee Spot, serving the good stuff from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday, with shorter hours on Sunday.

Geisha Steakhouse (7950 East Mississippi -- the avenue, not the river) has closed. Going into that space? Old Siam Sushi Bar. Yes, that's just exactly what Denver needs: another strip-mall sushi bar.

Another contestant in the name game, Wedge Pizza Company, is no more. Its old home at 1 Broadway is now filled by Fasano's, and "the concept is health food," according to new owner Ryan Fasano. "But if you don't want health food, you can always still come in for a slice." Yep, that's right: Fasano will continue to serve the pizza (and the calzones and the sandwiches) that made Wedge famous, but he's added a menu full of fresh and steamed veggies, white rice, yams, steak and chicken. "Sandwiches, a slice and a piece of health," Fasano says. "That's like our motto."

Sweet B.O.B.'s BBQ, another occupant of the 1 Broadway complex, has apparently vanished in a puff of smoke. The phones are disconnected, the space is empty, and as I strolled by last Friday, someone was inside with a tape measure checking on the height of the doors and the width of the windows -- as if preparing it for a coffin. No word yet on what's going into this space, but if any future restaurateurs out there want my advice, here it is: Stay away. This must be one of the most cursed locations in all of Denver, with a half-dozen small restaurants coming and then quickly going over the past few years. Even the Best BBQ award I gave Sweet B.O.B.'s this past March wasn't enough to overcome the curse.

The space at 1512 Lawrence Street, in a corner of Writer Square, was vacant for years after Top Hat hung it up. Earlier this month, though, it reopened as Max Burgerworks. Brought to you by Greg Waldbaum, and Gerard and Jason Rudofsky (the guys behind Zaidy's Deli), Max vows to serve high-quality, custom gourmet burgers (made from salmon, all-natural chicken, Niman Ranch beef and more) and hand-cut fries in a simple-but-sophisticated atmosphere with beers on tap, a wine list and -- best of all -- root-beer floats. I'm a sucker for root-beer floats.

Know what else I'm a sucker for? In-n-Out Burgers. They're one of those great, guilty pleasures that -- as a jet-setting young journalist on the go -- I simply can't get enough of. Why, just yesterday I had my personal concierge gas up the Bite Me HQ Learjet and buzz me out to Barstow for....

Okay, that's a lie. Westword has yet to pony up the green for my jet, but when it does, bi-weekly trips out to Chino, Oceanside and San Bernardino to pick up big, greasy bags of Double-Doubles and chocolate shakes will commence immediately.

In the meantime, though, we have this: Burgers-n-Sports, the brainchild of Goose Gossage, a Colorado native and former big-league pitcher (most recently on the mound for the San Diego Padres and the New York Yankees), which opened this month at 18695 Stage Run Road in Parker. I haven't gotten out there yet, but I've heard from dependable sources that this quick-service burgers-and-shakes joint is the next best thing to the pride of Southern California drive-throughs. It serves big burgers, hand-cut fries, thick shakes and not much else -- but when the urge for exactly that seizes you, a quick run out to Parker beats the hell out of a fourteen-hour high-speed run across the Mojave.

And that's not the only reason to head to Parker. I got a letter the other day from Jack Goldsmith, restaurateur, touting the six-month-old Junz, a Japanese-French fusion joint at 1005 South Dransfedt Road. "I have lived in the Parker area for the past seven years," Goldsmith wrote. "I am blown away having a restaurant of this caliber in my sleepy little country town.... They are worthy of local and regional recognition. I have from day one had excellent food offerings and service. I will put them up against all the Japanese-French restaurants in the region and even the famous master sushi chef Nobu Matsuhisa. We visit this establishment weekly, as do many other local 'foodies' who appreciate the talent. I have been trained as a chef and have close to thirty years' experience in the restaurant industry. I am not much of a letter writer; this is actually the first time I have been compelled to write to a food critic concerning a fellow chef.

"We all know how difficult it is to open and successfully run a profitable restaurant in our current economic times," continued Goldsmith. "It is always nice to see a talented operator go into suburbia and try to persuade Americana to dine at an independent, high-quality operation in lieu of another national chain-fabricated venue."

The chef in question is Jun Makino, a protegé of the late Jean-Louis Palladin. Along with sushi chef Ben Ngyuen, he's bringing a little bit of the sushi-fusion freak show to Parker. Diver scallops and sea snails? Absolutely. Tempura and tonkatsu? Bring it on. Halibut belly? Foie gras in a shallot-thyme marinade? Now you're talking. There are also rumors of toro sashimi on the premises, and a secret stash of fresh wasabe held in secret for the regulars -- but I'll leave that for you to discover.

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