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Mouthing Off

Noodling around: If the only carbonara you've tried has involved ham and peas, Theo Roe's Dazzle recipe is sure to do just that. One indisputable ingredient for good carbonara is concentration, and for that, the instructions of Patricia Wells in Patricia Wells at Home in Provence remain a constant: "Despite its popularity, spaghetti alla carbonara is often disappointing. Deceptively simple, it is an easily put together dish that demands great attention to detail. When I do it, I send everyone out of the kitchen so I can concentrate 100 percent."

I've found that to be good advice, because when you're preparing this dish, the eggs sometimes scramble instead of fusing into the sauce, a snafu that can be avoided if you remember to take the pan off the heat when adding the eggs. Aside from the instruction about keeping people out of the kitchen, Wells's recipe is pretty similar to Roe's, but the Dazzle chef also adds onion and deglazes his pan with white wine, which gives the sauce an added depth that's lacking in Wells's version. When Dazzle's kitchen makes carbonara, it uses a pound of pancetta and a large onion for the base, which serves as the starter for ten orders; I altered the recipe for two people and came up with the following:

Theo Roe's Classic Spaghetti Carbonara
1/4 pound of pancetta, diced
1 small onion, minced
1 cup white wine
1/2 cup cream
1 Tbsp. butter
1/2 pound spaghetti or linguine
1 egg, at room temperature and beaten
4 Tbsp. Parmigiano-Reggiano, Asiago or other grana-type cheese
2 Tbsp. minced fresh Italian flat-leaf parsley

Place the pancetta in a large skillet over medium heat and render until crisp. Remove pancetta and reserve, leaving the fat in the pan. Add the onion, cover and let sweat until soft and translucent. Add wine and deglaze the pan, scraping to pull up any pancetta scraps and residue; simmer until wine is reduced by half. Add cream and butter and reduce until mixture thickens, being careful not to let it boil. Meanwhile, bring three quarts of water to a roiling boil and add pasta; cook until al dente. Drain thoroughly. Add pasta and at least half of the reserved pancetta (or more, if preferred) to the skillet, stirring to combine. Remove pan from heat and quickly whip in the egg, being sure that all of the pasta is evenly coated. Finish with cheese and parsley. Serves two.

A real corker: After Pinots, Roe's former kitchen at 410 Seventh Avenue, closed, Jason and Vanessa Helfrich moved in and opened JV's The Cork. In the early days, JV's kitchen suffered from staff problems and production glitches. But recently, trusted friends told me that things were better--so I made those friends put their money where their stomachs are, and they treated me to a wonderful meal at the restaurant. Wonderful not because it was free, but because JV's has indeed settled down and come into its own.

The place was packed, and once I'd tasted the tamale-style Red River trout ($15.95), I knew why. The kitchen took trout fillet and stuffed it with corn, cilantro and roasted bell and hot peppers, then wrapped it in a corn husk and roasted it until everything coalesced into a Southwestern dream; lime essence and smoked tomatoes injected a gourmet quality. Despite all the competing elements, the trout still managed to make its presence known. JV's also did right by a much more basic menu item that's perfect for the casual, neighborhood feel of this restaurant: burgers. My friends, who are big fans of JV's burgers, ordered the Ultimate Carnivore Burger ($7.95), a half-pounder with applewood-smoked bacon, a mostly sweet barbecue sauce and melted cheddar, and the Black & Blue ($7.95), a smart combo of the same juicy beef encrusted with cracked peppercorns and gooey gorgonzola.

Service had never been a problem at this restaurant, and with those production glitches solved, I've now put JV's on my list of places to go for good food in a comfortable atmosphere.

Open-and-shut cases: After many, many delays, Radek Cerny of Cherry Creek's Papillon Cafe (250 Josephine) is getting ready to open RADEX in early November, right around the corner from Dazzle, at Ninth and Lincoln. Since its heyday as the Paradise Cafe in the early Eighties, this location has gone through many incarnations; maybe Cerny can break the recent jinx. Plans for the space at 1434 Blake Street, the home of the defunct LoDo institution City Spirit, have also gone through some stops and starts, but Andrew's Pub & Lounge is finally set to open its doors this week.

Open-and-shut-up cases: You'd think BD's Mongolian Barbeque had cooked this up to get free press, but calls keep coming in about my recent items on the impending eatery at 1620 Blake Street. Mr. Grumpy, who's apparently still afraid to leave his name and number, called to give the name of a longtime Mongolian-barbecue-serving restaurant mentioned in the October 8 Mouthing Off: Mongolian Barbeque, at 7555 East Arapahoe Road. Grumpy thought there might have been one on Colorado Boulevard, too. Maybe it was the place that Sam Arnold, owner of The Fort in Morrison, called to say had held down the fort in the University Hills shopping center fifteen or twenty years ago. "As I recollect, we cooked our own there," Arnold says. "There might have been a man there to help you out, but I don't think so."

And Jim LaVita wrote to say that the very thought that BD's owner Billy Downs opened the first Mongolian barbecue in the U.S. was "so utterly laughable as to inspire some correction, like 'the first Mongolian barbeque restaurant north of Windsor, Ontario.'" LaVita's right--but it's my mistake to correct. I misunderstood a newspaper article in the press kit, which said Downs had "opened the first Mongolian Barbeque in the United States," meaning the first place that happened to be named Mongolian Barbeque--not the first place that served it. I haven't been able to track down what truly was the first Mongolian-barbecue restaurant in the country, but LaVita's offering, the now-defunct Colonel Lee's Mongolian Barbeque in L.A., which opened in the early Seventies, seems like a good possibility. LaVita adds that he's going to hurry over to Lim's Mongolian BBQ, at 1530 Blake Street, before BD's does them in.

He won't meet Bob Morgan there. "Normally, when I hear about a restaurant being threatened by a corporate newcomer, I rally for the little guy," Morgan wrote. Not this time. Morgan says he'll be happy to see Lim's close, because he doesn't like the woman who runs it, the name of whom I've been unable to get out of Lim's, because the suspicious guy who answers the phone when I call doesn't believe I just want to know her name. Interestingly, BD's is going to join the small but growing faction of restaurants in Denver owned by women. Roxanne Fish worked her way up through the BD's company to gain the honor of owning this, its eleventh franchise outlet.

Now, I promise not to write about this again until the damn place actually opens in November.

--Wagner


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