Freshly starched: Both owners of Cafe Bohemia (see review above) got early culinary starts. Jeffrey Cleary began at the age of thirteen, when he enrolled in the three-year culinary program of a vocational-technical college; by sixteen, he owned his own bakery in Minersville, Pennsylvania.
His partner, Pascal Trompeau, grew up in the small French town of Chaillac, where he started working at his father's bakery at fourteen. By eighteen he was enrolled in the Institut National de la Boulangerie in Rouen, and after graduation, he went to work for Club Mediterranee in the Bahamas and at Copper Mountain (where it's just Club Med).
With two bakers running a restaurant, it's not surprising that their combined love of breads and pastries finally rose above the confines of Cafe Bohemia and spilled into Trompeau Bakery, the shop adjoining the bistro. This retail outlet quickly became a burgeoning wholesale business, too. Many restaurants and, in particular, sandwich shops around town now use Trompeau breads, and with good reason: They're well-crafted and flavorful. The crusts are sturdy and crispy, and while the spongy insides aren't dense enough to be called rustic, they have a hearty body and a good, chewy texture.
Like the restaurant, though, the bakery suffers from a lack of employees. Trompeau laments that he's had to go national in his search for savvy bakers. "I don't know what else to do," he says. "We have a good product, people buy it like crazy, but we cannot make enough of it without having anyone to make it." Because of the staffing shortage, he's had to cut back on the offerings. And production of the bakery's sourdough bread--which Trompeau makes using an old, old starter that yields quite a heady loaf--and the Italian ciabatta has stopped entirely for the time being, because the two breads are too labor-intensive.
If you're driving past early one morning with your cup of Starbucks, be sure to stop by for the chocolate-filled croissants, which are absolute heaven, and grab a rich, buttery cinnamon roll while you're at it. But if you want a short baguette or the brioche, two of Trompeau's more popular items, you'd better get there when he opens, at 6:30 a.m.
You can make Cleary's lovely potato latkes at home any time. He was kind enough to provide the recipe, and I've thrown in my own for applesauce, because I think homemade makes a huge difference in flavor and texture. Since you're going to this much trouble, be sure to pick up a good-quality sour cream or creme frache. And as you shred the potatoes and onion, save any liquids to dump into the mix.
Cafe Bohemia's Latkes
3 medium russet potatoes, peeled and shredded
1 medium onion, peeled and shredded
1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
salt and pepper to taste (about 1/2 teaspoon of each)
1/2 cup canola oil
Place potatoes, onion, eggs, parsley, salt and pepper in a large bowl and mix by hand until well-incorporated. In a medium-sized saute pan, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Make small balls of the potato mixture (about 2-3 ounces each) and then press each ball lightly to make a pancake. Place the cakes in the oil and pan-fry until golden brown on both sides. Serves 3-4 as an appetizer course.
2 pounds apples, peeled, cored and diced
1 small piece cinnamon stick
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon lemon juice
Place apples in a saucepan with just enough water to cover the bottom of the pan. Add cinnamon stick. Bring to a simmer, cover and cook until apples are tender, about fifteen minutes. Add sugar and lemon juice; simmer for another ten minutes. Remove the cinnamon stick and serve hot, or let cool and chill in the refrigerator. Makes about two cups.
Bistro or bust: I'm still waiting to hear when Rue Cler will open at Third Avenue and Holly. The brainchild of Michael Degenhart, who cooked incredible food at Tante Louise for the last eight years, Rue Cler is supposed to be a cafe-type place with a New American bent. Right across the street, at 340 Holly, will be Ambrosia, a Mediterranean joint from Mark Gordon, who got out of Modena while the getting was good. Both spots had been scheduled to open within the next few weeks, but information doesn't yet have a listing for Rue Cler, and I haven't been able to reach anyone at Ambrosia for a week.
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Before Gordon's stint at Modena, he worked with Sonny Rando at Santino's (1939 Blake Street), one of a half-dozen Italian restaurants that followed Coors Field into the area. While Il Fornaio (1631 Wazee Street), like Santino's, still draws a respectable business, Sostanza closed two months ago, and its space at 1700 Wynkoop is available. And because of LoDo's excess of eateries of all culinary persuasions, another Italian spot, Bella Ristorante (1920 Market Street), has stopped serving lunch--although it remains open for dinner.
Meanwhile, one more restaurant just moved into the neighborhood: Anita's Crab Shack (not to be confused with Swanky's Oysters, another relatively new spot, at 1938 Blake) now occupies the space in the Ice House (1801 Wynkoop) formerly occupied by Cucina! Cucina!--another dead Italian joint. And yes, another Mexican joint has opened in LoDo, just across the street from the venerable Las Delicias #3, at 1530 Blake (how convenient!): It's the Rio Grande, at 1525 Blake, a Denver version of the homegrown chain already operating in Fort Collins, Boulder and Greeley. Watch out for that margarita.
Wine time: The Normandy, at 1515 Madison, is offering a prix-fixe seven-course dinner the second Friday of every month. The meal runs $45 per person--$60 per person with wines. The fourth annual Women, Food and Wine fete happens one night only: June 15 at the Flagstaff House (1138 Flagstaff Road in Boulder). The cost is $275 per person, but it buys a five-course winemaker's dinner, with each course prepared by a nationally known female chef; the food will be paired with wines from five female winemakers. Proceeds from the event will go to Boulder Community Hospital and other local groups that focus on the prevention and treatment of breast cancer.