Made in America: The Manor House (reviewed above) would be wise to skip the fusion and instead focus on classic American cooking--and I'm not talking dry turkey and mashed potatoes from a box (have you polished off your leftovers yet?). For some great American recipes, check out the U.S.A. Cookbook ($19.95), by Sheila Lukins, which is also full of American folklore and food fantasy. Lukins's lineup includes a recipe for killer skin-on, garlic-packed mashed potatoes that are heaven with barbecued pulled pork and fresh peas--the sort of Southern fare I'd serve if I owned the Manor House.
Garlicky Red-Jacket Mashed Potatoes
(from the U.S.A. Cookbook, reprinted with permission)
6 red-skinned boiling potatoes (about 2 pounds), unpeeled, cut into quarters
2 Tbsp. olive oil
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup milk, warmed
1 Tbsp. cider vinegar or more to taste
salt and pepper to taste
Place the quartered potatoes in a saucepan, cover with cold water, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook until tender, about 25 minutes. Drain well. Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a skillet over low heat. Add the garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until pale golden, 2 minutes. Place the garlic in a mixing bowl and add the drained potatoes. Mash the potatoes and the garlic with a fork or potato masher. Add the sour cream. Slowly pour in the warm milk and continue to mash. Add the vinegar and season with salt and pepper. Serves 4 to 6.
Bronco season: Tony Pasquini, who now owns two Pasquini's (1310 South Broadway and the new one in the old home of Acappella's, at 1336 East 17th Avenue), has just bought another building, the long-closed Bronco Bar, at 2219 Larimer Street. But don't expect him to fill the old storefront with another pizza place. "I don't think we're going to put a restaurant in there," says Pasquini. "It's only about 1,200 feet, so it's a little small for a restaurant. But if anyone wants to put one in there, call me."
The building, which dates from the 1880s, was originally called Christopher Columbus Hall. "It was built by these Italians who used it as a meeting place," Pasquini says. "They sold liquor and cigars and olive oil out of there." Later the place became a sheet-metal company and then, in the Sixties, the infamous Bronco Bar, which it remained until five years ago. Since then, the place has been boarded up--although there wasn't much left inside those four walls to protect. "We're redoing the upstairs now," Pasquini adds. "My sister's going to live there."
Sake to me: My November 12 Mouthing Off column wasn't the first time owner Gaku Homma had heard about problems at Domo, 1365 Osage Street. According to the marketing consultant the country-style Japanese restaurant hired to improve its image, Domo already knew it had to do something about the lengthy wait for a table, the surly staff and the anti-family attitude. "This is a restaurant that truly wants to make things better," says the PR guy, Dave Cech. "They asked me to help them figure out what needs to be done, and they really seem to listen to my suggestions."
One of Cech's recommendations, which was also at the top of my list, was that the smallish eatery start taking reservations so people don't have to wait one or two hours to get a meal. "Their feeling is that it could hurt them if people don't show up," Cech explains. "So I don't think they're ready to do that yet. But they have put in a sake bar out front, with twenty types of sake, which makes them the largest seller of sake in the area, and you can get food there, too, so you can have an appetizer while you're waiting for a table or even eat a meal there." As for service troubles, Cech points out that every restaurant in town is having those. "It's getting really ridiculous out there," he adds. "No one is having an easy time of it when it comes to staffing. But Domo is trying to work with its people, and I think you'll see a big improvement."
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Domo's also trying to address the fact that people want to bring their children there, Cech says. I understand Homma's fears that younger kids could hurt themselves (I never take mine there, because I keep envisioning their heads splitting open against the flagstone tables), but older ones, such as the preteens I spotted during my last visit, shouldn't be a concern. "They do have a couple of high chairs now," Cech says. "And they want to make their staff understand that when people do have their kids with them, they shouldn't be punished. They should get the same service everyone else gets."
The number you are calling: Once again, that kiss-of-death space upstairs at 15th and Champa is available; over the years, it's housed a dozen restaurants, including a Chubby's, Curt's Blue Plate and, most recently, CityView Cafe. The leasing number's posted on the window--dial it if you dare. The phone is disconnected at another eatery with almost as tricky a location: Siena, a good restaurant tucked into a bad space at 266 South Downing Street. And no one's answering at Lanie's Philippine Kitchenette (14583 East Alameda in Aurora), either. With the disappearance of Lanie's, in particular, the Denver dining scene just became a little less interesting.
Meanwhile, the crowds continue to flock to the eateries at the Denver Pavilions, and even with 1,700 new restaurant seats in the downtown mall, there are still lines to get in. If you can't stand the hour (or longer) wait for a table at Wolfgang Puck, at least you have an option: His soups--nine kinds--are now available at local supermarkets, so you can simply grab a can on your way home, heat it up, pretend you're spooning it up in L.A. and save yourself several hours and lots of dough. And speaking of dough, the Pavilions now delivers the baked goods via the Corner Bakery, the lower-priced sibling of Maggiano's Little Italy. Maggiano's boasts big servings and the most opulent bathrooms this side of the Oxford Hotel. It also promises to take you back to Forties-style dining, and it apparently takes that mission seriously: The boxes for leftovers (the portions are so large, you're bound to have some) include instructions for reheating in the oven--not the microwave.