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Well, almost. The tomato-pie recipe I'm used to is more complex and involves painting down the uncooked crust with powerful Dijon mustard and layering tomatoes both above and below a quiche-like center with Gruyère, chèvre, Emmentaler and sometimes brie in an egg-and-cream base kicked up with garden herbs. The pie is then baked, cooled, cut and served as a great one-handed lunch.
Still, cooking is all about innovation, and A La Tomate's version sounds good, too, with très haute add-ons available including prosciutto, Black Forest ham, roasted eggplant, shrimp, roasted portobello and -- what else? -- brie. The restaurant is also serving a spread of chausson (think French calzone), including one stuffed with fruit -- apples, cinnamon and raisins -- that sounds delicious. A medley of salads and sandwiches (both panini-style and the regular, un-squished variety), coffee from Allegro, and homemade pastries that range from simple oatmeal-raisin cookies to chocolate-mousse tartes, scones and croissants round out the board of fare.
714 Santa Fe Drive
Denver, CO 80204
Region: Central Denver
L'Opera held its grand opening on January 9. The new ristorante Italiano takes over the space at 12100 East 39th Avenue in Aurora, which lasted only a few months as the Bull and Bear Tavern and Steakhouse; before that, it was the Aurora Broker.
There's lots of action in Boulder, where the Boulder Cheese Company is now open at 1731 15th Street, next door to the Cream Puffery. This is the place whose floor-sealant fumes trashed everything in the Puff's inventory the night before my review of the Cuban cafe hit the stands ("Do You Believe in Magic?" November 6). But everything has been very nice and neighborly ever since. Cheese Company owner Saxon Brown has assembled a roster of about a hundred cheeses from all corners of the globe and offers tastings for a steady flow of customers. "She's been open since just before Thanksgiving, and she's been rockin'," says Lourdes Sanchez, co-owner of the Puff. "She's great, and we even invited her to one of our cafe parties last month."
See? It pays to be a good neighbor.
John's Restaurant has new owners -- after almost thirty years. John Bizzarro, John's namesake and a Boulder fine-dining pioneer, has turned over his archetypal "romantic little restaurant" to chef Corey Buck and Ashley Maxwell. I spoke with Bizzarro's wife, Nancy, last week, and she assures me that the new chef/owners will be "augmenting John's, not changing it. The menu will still focus on the fine food of France, Spain, Italy and America. They'll be expanding the menu and range, but many of John's mainstays -- the things we just could never get rid of -- will be remaining on the menu." That means shrimp Nancy and filet mignon with Stilton-ale sauce will still be available to those generations of Boulder diners who grew up with John's.
And John himself isn't really going anywhere. "John will still be a fixture here," Nancy says. "Honestly, I don't know what else he would do. He loves cooking. He's certainly not tired of cooking. He just needed to turn all the details of running a restaurant over to someone else."
It's good news that John's sticking around, because while chef Buck and Maxwell, his sister, aren't rookies in the restaurant game (Buck spent several years on the line at the Flagstaff House, and Maxwell was with the Peppercorn), John Bizzarro is probably the closest thing Boulder has to a true master. He's been cooking for 45 years, and in all that time has been at only two restaurants -- working first with his mentor, Raymondo Laudisio, and then on his own at John's. He's seen every trend that's ripped through the American dining scene over the past half-century, weathered every storm, ridden safely through every boom and bust and, along the way, picked up three stars in the Mobil Guide, a six-year run of nods from Zagat, and won the incredibly prestigious maître rotisseur from the Chaîne des Rôtisseurs society in 2001.
So here's a fond Bite Me farewell for John. We're sad to see you go, but glad you're not going far.
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