I grew up in the suburbs south of Denver, where the best restaurant was Mr. Steak -- which I loved back then solely for its Texas toast. Today the Texas toast I like best is "Here's to Texas, living single and drinking double -- belly up!" And while I know the suburbs have changed as much as I have over the years, I'm still surprised to find decent independent restaurants there -- and am amazed when my friends suggest having a drink at a place like Ventura Grill. But I quickly became a fan when Kim, our lovely and gracious bartender, suggested I try a Sparkling Blue Eyes ($9), made with Blue Curaçao, Absolut Vodka, sweet and sour and a touch of champagne. Generally I try to steer away from blue cocktails (they're trouble if spilled), but I found this drink quite enjoyable, with none of the usual funny blue aftertaste you get when the bar adds too much Blue Curaçao. There was plenty of everything else in this cocktail, though, because the first thing my companion said when she saw it was, "Isn't this a huge drink?" To which Kim replied, "I know, isn't it fun?" Now, that's a bartender I want to order more drinks from! So I did, taking Kim's non-blue suggestion and next going with a Shirley Temple for Grown Ups ($6.50), made with Stoli Vanil vodka, club soda and a maraschino cherry, which was every bit as drinkable as the original kiddie version. Although we didn't have much luck at Ventura's sibling restaurant just down the strip mall -- where we were treated so poorly by a bartender named Drew (or Drool, after his nasty attitude) that we abandoned our margaritas -- I plan to drink my fill of Kim's Sparkling Blue Eyes whenever I Ventura back to the suburbs.
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