By Jonathan Shikes
By Alex Brown
By Cafe Society
By Samantha Alviani
By Lori Midson
By Mark Antonation
By Loren Lorenzo
By Nate Hemmert
It started with cheese and ended with a chicken suit. In between, I decided to start a revolution, found myself in three different chain restaurants and almost took a swing at Jesus. It was a weird week, and here's how it shook out
Friday --hearts and minds: By my second visit to Chedd's (see review), I was feeling brave -- brave enough to try the limburger. Anyone who serves limburger in any incarnation has got some major sack. It's a cheese with a hand grenade's area of effect, and working with it is like handling uranium. But the Bruleys, who own Chedd's, put plenty of limburger and onions between two slices of rye and serve up The Stinkey without batting an eye,
It was this potent sandwich that fueled my first thoughts of revolution. "This is where we will start to take back what is rightfully ours: the grilled cheese sandwich," I said to myself. And why not Chedd's? The last American culinary revolution started in a modest, wood-framed house in Berkeley, so there's no reason this one can't begin in a modest, gourmet-grilled-cheese restaurant in Denver. At Chez Panisse, the fight was for the minds of American foodies -- an attempt to convince them that fresh was better than frozen, local better than national and that all the pomp and fluffery of haute cuisine didn't do one thing to make the food on the plate taste any different. Me? I would suggest a revolution for the hearts of American diners, and I would focus it right here, with food that speaks to the kid in everyone.
15775 E. Briarwood Circle
Aurora, CO 80016
Saturday -- love, actually:Every revolution needs an enemy, and I soon settled on the French. My choice was easy. First, Frog-bashing has long been a sport among American chefs who know deep down in their bitter little hearts that no matter what they do in their own kitchens, the ghost of an old French master is standing over their shoulders cursing them, commanding them and dropping cigarette ashes in the bouillabaisse. Second, the French have this penchant for gastronomic flag-planting that's always bugged me, a habit of spiking their colors into every edible thing on the planet and making it French by association. Third, French cars may suck and French cigarettes are nasty, but to love food and to love cooking -- as I do -- means to love the French, because (Pan-Asian cuisines aside) the French have been doing it better, longer and with more crazy passion than anyone. So there's a tension here, a love/hate relationship, a brother-against-brother kind of battle.
Not too long ago, after the French had dared express an opinion disputing the actions of the trigger-happy man-child currently warming the big chair at 1600 Penny, a slew of knee-jerk, right-wing plutocrats out there in TV Land decided to teach them a lesson by boycotting all French products sold in the U.S. of A. They implored people to stay away from French wine, cheese, frogs' legs, snails -- the whole megillah -- and our lawmakers even went so far as to convene a special session to discuss the official renaming of certain food products with a Franco-American slant.
Thankfully, this insipid plan failed spectacularly. And after a weekend lunch at Le Central, one of my favorite restaurants, I talked with owner Robert Tournier, who told me that his business had increased (7 to 14 percent a month, on average) during the boycott. "People were coming in to support us, I think," Tournier said. Le Central held a concurrent contest, asking customers for essays describing their best and worst memories of France and the French people, and the bistro gathered more than 200 entries. "A few were nasty," Tournier told me. "But some? They were very touching."
Since the aborted boycott, several big-time French joints have opened in and around Denver. Bistro Vendome, Brasserie Rouge and Brasserie Ten-Ten all showcase fine French and country-French cuisine, and all are doing pretty well, despite the fact that Rush Limbaugh stopped spending his millions on Château Lafite and profiteroles and bought more Vicodin instead.
So the point is, I don't want any of you good people going all freedom toast on me, thinking that my call for the reclaiming of American-armchair, rumpus-room, nuclear-family cookery is politically, racially or culturally motivated. It has nothing to do with international diplomacy, the U.N., world economics or any of that crap. It has only to do with the defense of food. You know, something important.
Sunday -- Chili's today, hot tomorrow: In a revolutionary kind of temper, I caught the new Matrix movie. I gotta say that it was just one giant black hole of suck -- and this from a self-professed sci-fi geek who went into the theater looking for nothing more than a couple hours of mindless diversion and came out wanting to jump in a car, drive to California, find the Wachowski brothers, pick 'em up and shake them by the ankles till my eight bucks fell out. Seriously, somebody tell producer Joel Silver that the next time he wants to throw away $200 million, he should send a little my way. For half that, I could've made him six movies that blew almost as much as this one did.