By Jonathan Shikes
By Alex Brown
By Cafe Society
By Samantha Alviani
By Lori Midson
By Mark Antonation
By Loren Lorenzo
By Nate Hemmert
Hey, big guy,
I know it's been a long time since I've written, and for that, I apologize. You were pretty good to me back in the day -- easy on the coal, no matter how bad a boy I'd been. You overlooked that unfortunate incident with the lawnmower and Superman, my brother's pet squirrel. You let it slide when I punched John Felerman in the back of the head for making fun of me when I wore that über-cool Miami Vice-style skinny red-leather tie to school in sixth grade. You always came through for me.
And it's not that I stopped believing -- not at all. It's not that I finally wised up when I saw you on TV hawking bargain-priced VCRs for Crazy Eddie or hanging out behind JC Penney with your beard in your pocket catching a quick smoke on your union-mandated fifteen-minute break. And it has nothing to do with you not answering that letter I sent about six years back in which I asked for only a good-quality baseball bat and five minutes alone in a locked room with Alfred Portale -- the sonofabitch who invented the vertical food trend and made my next couple years in the kitchen a hell of Springforms and PVC tubing. As a Christmas wish, I understand that was probably out of line. And I mailed it in August. But in my defense, I'd been having a pretty lousy year.
2390 S. Havana St.
Aurora, CO 80014
410 S. Colorado Blvd.
Denver, CO 80246
Region: Southeast Denver
922 N. 4th St.
Brighton, CO 80601
Region: North Denver Suburbs
3000 E. 1st Ave.
Denver, CO 80203
Region: Central Denver
8343 S. Park Meadows Center Drive
Littleton, CO 80124
Region: Southeast Denver Suburbs
1 W. Flatiron Circle
Broomfield, CO 80021
Region: Northwest Denver Suburbs
No, I've just been busy. And I know you're a busy guy, too, so I'm sure you understand.
But now it's time to drop you another line. I know you have your hands full there, what with all those reindeer and elves to keep track of and the missus always getting in your business about losing weight and your cholesterol and whatnot. Still, I hope you can take a look at my list of Christmas wishes for improving the restaurant scene both here in Denver and nationally.
1) I'd like to see an end to chain restaurants. Not all of them, necessarily, but most of them. Okay, like 98 percent of them. And I want to start with the Olive Garden. I want you to make every Olive Garden vanish. No one needs to get hurt; I'm not asking for fires or floods or anything truly cataclysmic (although that wouldn't be entirely bad). Just snap your fingers or wiggle your nose or do whatever it is you do to get that Kris Kringle juju flowing, and bam! No more Applebee's. No more California Pizza Kitchen. No more goddamn Olive Garden.
I know this is a tall order and maybe somewhat beyond your purview as the ambassador of joy and niceness during the holiday season, but I figure, you're Santa, right? You've got some powerful friends. You've got that super-fast sleigh and some magical reindeer, and if you gathered up, say, the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy and some of the kids on your naughty list to do a community-service kind of deal whereby they could clean up their records for the coming year, we could do something about this. It's time, Santa.
And if we can't get rid of the chains entirely, then how 'bout visiting a little holiday cheer on some of the good guys laboring in a market dominated by Bloomin' Onions, Riblets and Extreme Fajitas? Maybe you could have Rudolph blind a bus driver on Sixth Avenue and make him wreck right in front of Clair de Lune, stranding all those passengers there with nothing to eat and not a Bennigan's in sight. Or what about endorsements? Going on TV as the official spokesman for Vega or Indigo or that Korean BBQ place out by my house could do a lot. Tell the kids that if they want to grow up to be a big, fat magical figment like you, they'd better start bugging their parents to take them to Le Central or Vesta Dipping Grill or Bastien's or Chedd's. Tell them that every time they eat a Happy Meal, an elf dies. Better yet, call a press conference and reveal that Riblets are made out of reindeer meat. Hell, you'd be doing Applebee's a favor. Compared to what those things taste like they're made of, reindeer would be a great improvement.
2) Please put an end to food served in martini glasses. With the exception of the cosmopolitan served at Mel's (see page 55), this must stop. Because if you fill up the glass with steak tartare or ceviche or chocolate mousse or apple pie or whatever, where does the gin go? Santa, deliver unto these poor, deluded fools a copy of Simply Sensational Desserts, by Francois Payard, which has plenty of pictures of desserts displayed in the traditional manner: on a plate.
3) The overuse of cilantro must stop. In its place, cilantro is wonderful. Cilantro in my eggs is not. Cilantro in my soup is not. Cheap, dried cilantro added by the fistful to salsa tastes like tomato-flavored grass clippings. And rosemary? So 1990s. Santa, unless someone really knows what he's doing with rosemary, he shouldn't use it, because when rosemary's used wrong, it tastes like either feet or soap -- two things I don't want anywhere near my mouth. Same thing with purple basil (delicate, and generally abused); cinnamon (it's very difficult to get good cinnamon in the U.S., and if someone isn't using good cinnamon, he might as well be using cedar shavings); vanilla bean (which is the exact opposite of cinnamon -- the good stuff used to be tough to get, and now it's everywhere); and lemongrass/lemon verbena. Give them spice racks, Santa, and let them learn the basics.