Wine, wine, wine: Simon F. Cocks, part-owner of Enoteca LoDo, apparently popped his cork when I expressed surprise that the Readers' Choice award for Best Wine List--Price in the June 27 Best of Denver issue went to Enoteca (Mouthing Off, July 4). Enoteca's prices are "way up there," I wrote, prompting Cocks to shoot off a letter asking, "Compared to whom?" and then suggesting that I must be talking about restaurants that offer "the same old Californian Chard/Merlot/Cab hierarchy" on their lists.
It's not that simple, Simon (and shame on you for showing what a cowtown you think Denver is). There are restaurants here that offer excellent wine lists, and some of them even carry a few of the ultra-exclusive ones available at Enoteca. And guess what: They're all priced lower than at Enoteca. For a few examples, I turned to the rosters of the Best Wine List winners, Today's Gourmet/Highlands Garden Cafe (winner for Selection) and Fourth Story (Price). At Enoteca, Sonoma Cutrer/ Cutrer Vineyard Chardonnay '93 goes for $10 a glass and $39 a bottle; at Fourth Story, a glass is $7.25. (By the way, I noticed that at this week's review spot, Jane's on Madison, that same bottle costs $34, and at 240 Union, which features a small but fun wine list, it's $36.) Jarvis Estate Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon '92 is $75 a bottle at Enoteca and $65 at Fourth Story; Raymond Private Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon '91 is $37 at Enoteca and $28 at Today's Gourmet. Caymus Cabernet Sauvignon Special Selection '91 is $144 at Enoteca and $120 at Papillon, another area eatery that features more than the "Californian Chard/ Merlot/Cab hierarchy." I could go on, but I think you get the picture--bottle for bottle, the prices are higher at Enoteca.
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In his letter, Cocks notes that Enoteca has "some" expensive wines on its list because people like those indulgences. So how about lowering the prices on the stuff you can get elsewhere in town and only charging the big bucks for the splurge bottles? And while you're at it, make that pathetic area that's supposedly set aside for non-smokers actually non-smoking; as it stands, the cigar room is so close that there's no escaping the fumes. Nothing like trying to sniff the fruit in your delicate Chateau Raymond-Lafon '89 in a smog.
Speaking of smoke, Cocks had it coming out of his ears over the Readers' Choice award itself, asking why I didn't give our "loyal readers the benefit of the doubt." That's because year after year, the readers choose Taco Bell as the best taco, and this year, they really distinguished themselves by picking Firehouse Bar and Grill as Best Fusion Restaurant. "Fusion" does not refer to restaurants that offer dishes from a variety of countries, people. It's used to describe cooking that pulls from international ingredients and "fuses" them into one multicultural dish. So the fact that Firehouse offers Asian bowls, Italian pasta and Southwestern food does not make it a fusion restaurant.
The really cranky calls and letters, though, have been coming from diners who wanted to share their nasty experiences at Mostly Seafood, a restaurant where I could not get a decent meal for love or money ("A Rough Sea," July 4). And many of my callers apparently had it much rougher than I did. As Alan Ludwig put it, "There's nothing like chewing on raw catfish to ruin your day."