Top

dining

Stories

 

Sugar Whore

With pastries this good, I'll lie down for Emogene's bad service.

At Emogene Patisserie et Cafe, it was the bakery cases that hooked me -- a glossy, sluttish, sugar-coated come-on speaking straight to my baser instincts and addictive personality. Biscotti and miniature cheesecakes, chocolate muffins glazed in shiny black icing, airy cream puffs, dense meringues and thick slices of almond cake and chocolate cake and carrot cake. Petit fours -- the shameless flirts of the pastry world -- were stacked on trays beside the artisan chocolates and all kinds of cookies laid out like offerings, like manna from the food gods, like temptation embodied in flour and butter and eggs and cream and sugar.

Hate the place, love the stuff: a classic critical conundrum. In the year since Emogene opened, I've never grown to like the space, have never felt anything but cramped or abandoned or overwhelmed in its small, slick, shiny, vaguely European, urban-modern dining room. Waiting for coffee, a snack or another expensive sugar high, I've watched manager Kim Stutsman stalk the narrow trench behind the counter like Rommel in the desert, watching her crew with one eye, the door with the other. She's got a pit-boss stare, that woman. She's fierce. Any hour I've come in -- and Emogene has expansive hours -- she's always been there, and frankly, I'm a little scared of her. I'd be more scared if she weren't there, though, because sometimes she seems like the only one in the front of the house who has any idea what she's doing. When I stop by a cafe looking for a fancy-pants three-dollar coffee, I don't want to have to explain to the barista what goes in a cafe au lait. Twice now, I've seen the manager step up and remind someone how to work the register. Had Stutsman been otherwise engaged, I'm pretty sure the cashier would've simply walked out or stood there and cried.

And if there are problems at the counter, Emogene fails completely as the wine bar that it was partly styled to be, since it looks exactly like a big-city cafe and bakery with an excellent wine and champagne list thrown in as an afterthought of licensing. And as a place to dine? Forget it. At lunch, Emogene is mobbed. Late at night, it can be spooky-quiet and awkward, because Cherry Creek rolls up the sidewalks early, and I know the staff just wants to close and go home. When the weather is nice, the sidewalk seating is a who's who of socialites and the leisure class, all sipping sparkling water, picking at their scones and jockeying their jogging strollers like a toddler demolition derby. And on Saturday and Sunday mornings, the place is a yuppie riot, with real estate in the dining room as valuable as...well, as valuable as Cherry Creek real estate, something with which developer/restaurateur Jim Sullivan (who also owns about-to-open Ocean next door, along with a slew of other concepts both working and planned) is intimately familiar.

What a way to go: The takeout and pastry displays 
make a strong case for Emogene.
Mark Manger
What a way to go: The takeout and pastry displays make a strong case for Emogene.

Details

2415 East Second Avenue, 303-388- 7900. Hours: 7 a.m.-10 p.m. Monday- Thursday; 7 a.m.-midnight Friday- Saturday; 8 a.m.-8 p.m. Sunday
Closed Location

But when the kitchen is working well and the menu -- an abbreviated breakfast, sandwich and salad lineup -- tight, the fight to get food can be worth it. Once I came in for the cinnamon French toast (baked, covered with poached peaches and lavender-scented syrup), which I ate with my elbows tucked in, squeezed between a group of sweaty, muffin-eating mountain bikers on one side and three men who managed to spend 45 minutes comparing watches on the other. After I finished my uncomfortable (but delicious) breakfast, as a reward for my grinning tolerance I loaded up on fruit tarts and fruit Napoleons and a peanut-butter-and-jelly mousse bomb inside a polished chocolate shell, but made it only as far as the sidewalk before I'd opened the little white takeout boxes and started eating again.

Other mornings, I've ordered the breakfast sandwich -- scrambled eggs and muenster cheese with frisee and fleur de sel and thick-cut bacon on toasted brioche -- which fluctuates between just good and occasionally sublime. But later in the day, I've always gotten excellent versions of my favorite sandwiches: the croque monsieur with Black Forest ham and gruyere doused in bechamel, and the roast beef sandwich with Irish cheddar, horseradish mayo and sweet caramelized onions cooked down gently until they're nearly a marmalade.

Still, this is not the place to relax over a leisurely lunch. And on a busy day, there's no room to relax, anyway. The prices are too high to inspire additional rounds of ordering, the crowds are often intolerable, and the service oscillates wildly between poor and so bad that I've sometimes wondered where Alan Funt hid the camera. One Sunday afternoon, I watched the entire crew self-destruct over a missing ham sandwich -- a simple misplaced order that quickly devolved into a back-room squabble between servers and the manager over whose fault it was (the customer's, they finally decided) and how to fix it. Meanwhile, the croque monsieur in question was sitting forgotten on the counter. On a busy weekend morning, I watched one of the waitresses -- dressed like all the others, in black-on-black house livery -- get the cuff of her enormous hipster bellbottoms caught in the swinging door to the kitchen, and listened while another waitress yelled at an old woman for bringing the wrong glass to the counter for hot water for her tea.

1
 
2
 
3
 
All
 
Next Page »
 
My Voice Nation Help
0 comments
 
Loading...