Sommelier and world traveler Travis Gee is nearly ready to open Brik on York, his wine bar and restaurant in a former watch repair store, antique furniture shop and movie theater on East Colfax Avenue. The old wood-and-stucco facade has been removed to reveal the underlying brick that gives the space its name, and the imported Acunto wood-burning oven has been installed; when fully cured and fired up, chef Shoshana Frost will use that oven to turn out Neapolitan pizzas and other roasted dishes. Gee has hosted a couple of friends-and-family gatherings to put the staff through their paces and test-run some of those dishes.
Frost won't be able to turn out any pizzas for a week or so, as the new oven, which just spent thirty days at sea between Naples, Italy, and Houston, Texas, takes eight days of heating to cure the brick and clay dome before it can be tiled and brought up to full cooking temperature. But she's been able to work through a couple of chalkboard "passport" menus that will be part of Brik's dining experience. Gee and Frost plan to have rotating tasting menus featuring themed dishes from the wine regions of the world that will come with recommended wine pairings.
This week, as a sample of the chalkboard specials to come, Frost put together a menu of small plates featuring pork products from Denver's own Tender Belly, a company that specializes in bacon but offers a wide range of meat selections from heritage-breed pigs. The menu included pancetta, Frost's bacon jam, sweetbreads, pork cheeks and tenderloin, each paired with a wine from Gee's collection.
Frost is no stranger to wood-fired cooking, having worked in Vera Pizza Napolitana (VPN)-certified kitchens before moving to Denver from Arizona. She originally planned on just consulting on the menu development for Brik, but she and Gee shared a vision for how the kitchen should run, so she ended up signing on as the executive chef. Although only a few minor details stand between Brik's pizza setup and VPN certification (the style of dough mixer and the type of tomatoes in the sauce, for example), Frost says not being certified means more flexibility when it comes to sourcing ingredients and creating pizzas. Instead of the recommended imported San Marzano canned tomatoes, for example, she'll be using a new product developed by Chris Bianco of Pizzeria Bianco in Phoenix and Rob DiNapoli, whose family has been in the tomato business for over seventy years.
That oven will also turn out steak Florentine and brunch items like maple-bacon breakfast pizza and cinnamon rolls glazed with limoncello-cream-cheese frosting; the limoncello in the recipe is made in-house.
Frost is anti-GMO and working with her suppliers to ensure that as many products as possible meet her standards. "If we can't guarantee the source for our guests, we won't bring it into the kitchen," she explains.
Gee's goal with the wine program is to offer introductory wines at reasonable prices — starting at $6 a glass — but also to use technology to present more expensive wines for those who want to delve into more esoteric bottles. Special equipment will allow the bar to tap into bottles without removing the cork so that expensive vintages can be tasted without a diner having to commit to a full bottle.
Gee also plans on highlighting the history of the building in the final design. Part of the original movie-theater sign hangs above the doorway, and vintage photographs of Colfax Avenue trolleys have been turned into mural art that adorns the interior brick walls. Gee has also met and talked with Lee Tulper, who owned and operated a watch-repair shop in the building until just recently, when he retired at the age of 92. (Check out Gee's video interview with Tulper at the bottom of this page.)
Gee expects to open Brik at the end of next week, with regular hours from 3 p.m. to midnight Tuesday through Thursday and 3 p.m. to 2 a.m. Friday and Saturday; he hopes to add Sunday brunch beginning at 10 a.m. the following week.
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Video courtesy of Brik on York/Travis Gee.