I'm still receiving heated responses -- both pro and con -- regarding the December 5 "Smoke Free or Die" Bite Me. Among the messages was this, from reader Matt Roper:
"Unfortunately, I read your article a day after the public meeting on the 5th. I read somewhere that even if Denver City Council rejects Smoke Free's requests for a city-wide ban, the issue will most likely end up on the ballot for a public vote next election. Since the election will not require that the voter has actually visited a bar since Reagan was president, I am concerned that a smoking ban will pass easily. 1) Is my information accurate? 2) What can we do to help decrease the odds of this happening?"
In answer to Matt's first question: No, his information isn't accurate -- but that's not his fault. Last month the dailies reported that Smoke-Free Denver had a fall-back plan for putting the anti-smoking ordinance to a public vote in May 2003 if it failed to pass through the Denver City Council in a timely manner. And according to a very carefully worded release from the anti-smoking group, that was just plain wrong: "Smoke-Free Denver's goal is to work with [their emphasis, not mine] the city council on this important public health issue and Smoke-Free Denver has no plans to place this measure on the May ballot." Bob Doyle, chairman of Smoke-Free Denver, said more or less the same thing when I spoke to him directly two weeks ago. He insisted that it was "city council's job to deal with public health issues," and that this was where the decision should properly be made.
Not about a restaurant
Second, Matt and anyone else can call their city councilmembers and tell them how they feel. They can also talk to their local restaurant and bar owners, start a petition and do all of those things that we, the people, have a right to do when we feel like the man is standing on our necks. For example, they can visit the Denver Department of Environmental Health Web site (www.denvergov.org/environmental_protection/template112824.asp), where they'll find more information on the proposal and a link to firstname.lastname@example.org, the best address for giving city managers a piece of their minds. According to Celia VanDerLoop, director of the Denver Board of Environmental Health, the department is still "in the process of tabulating data" from its own studies, as well as petitions, surveys, e-mails and statements from those who spoke at the city's two public forums on the subject. "We've received a lot of comment and haven't yet done a complete count," says VanDerLoop. Although the board met on December 12 to discuss the issue, it's waiting until a special meeting scheduled for January 23 to announce whether it plans to introduce a rewritten smoking-ban proposal.
Meanwhile, I spoke this week with Denver City Councilman Ed Thomas, who told me that the Department of Environmental Health has been doing its own internal polling of the thirteen members of the Denver City Council. If the department can't come up with seven firm votes in favor of a ban, there will be no proposal, Thomas says. And he won't be one of those seven. Thomas, who represents both Cherry Creek and Capitol Hill, where many businesses would be affected by any policy changes, stands in opposition to a ban.
Since smoking prohibitions were announced last week in cities as diverse as Pueblo and New York City, the best advice I can give, Matt, is to make yourself heard. And sooner rather than later.
Blowing smoke: In the December 5 issue, I also reviewed Bistro Adde Brewster (250 Steele Street), praising both its pommes frites and its sensible stance on smoking. Well, owner Adde Bjorkland just revealed that he's selling the popular basement bistro that he founded a decade ago with former partner Brewster Hansen. The proud new owners are Karen L'Anglais and her husband, Rodney, of Emil-Lene's Sirloin House (16000 Smith Road in Aurora), who'll attempt to make a smooth transition into the space just after the first of the year.
According to Bjorklund, the menu and staff will remain the same, with chef Joe Sinopoli continuing in his position. Although he didn't so much as hint that a deal was in the works when I spoke with him in late November, Bjorkland now says that the private transaction was under discussion for a year. "A mutual friend, Ken Malcolm, put us together," he explains. "He's just this wild and crazy business guy who introduced us, and sometimes in life, it's just time to move on, you know?"
As of January 1, Bistro Adde Brewster will be known simply as Adde's, and Bjorkland will have moved on from his Cherry Creek namesake to devote himself full-time to Adde's at the Denver Press Club (1330 Glenarm Place) and other hush-hush, top-secret, off-the-record projects around town.
Procrastinators, unite: Is there a dedicated foodie on your Christmas list, or an amateur home cook looking at turning pro? The fifth edition of Wayne Gisslen's classic primer Professional Cooking -- which is required reading at many culinary schools and has been used to train hundreds of thousands of kitchen professionals, including yours truly -- is now on the shelves. This version contains new chapters on pâtés and terrines, sausages and game, as well as updated sections on food safety using the 2001 FDA Food Code and a thousand recipes structured with a professional kitchen in mind.
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Gisslen's books are invaluable resources, not just for people entering the industry, but for weekend dabblers, too. His straightforward approach provides all of the information you could ever want on the basics of technique, kitchen organization, menu planning and costing, preparation, plating and garnishing, and he does so with the assumption that the book will be sitting on a cutting board in some dank, basement prep kitchen somewhere, covered in flour and spilled court bouillion, pages held back with pie weights, chapters marked with torn cocktail napkins, additions and subtractions to recipes scribbled in the margins.
Cracking the spine on one of Gisslen's tomes is like getting a peek at the Broncos' playbook or the first draft of the Bible, and my own fourth edition -- tattered and stained as it might be -- still has a place of honor on my bookshelf.
While visiting www.wiley.com/procooking -- the promotional site for Gisslen's book -- click on the "for students" tab, then the "self tests" button along the left side. Think you have what it takes to make it in the pros? These tests -- about 250 multiple-choice questions from every chapter of the book -- will tell you just how much you really know about all the intimate arcana of the food-service world. What do you call that little bit of meat found in the hollow of the hip bone? What is the common name of Japanese soup stock? What's the proper brigade title of the guy in the kitchen who handles braising and roasting meats?
Give up? Japanese stock is called dashi; the guy handling your meat is your rotisseur, and that little chunk of meat is the oyster. Incidentally, it's a fantastic cut.