Former Denver Post food writer Hsiao-Ching Chou, who now works at the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, had to eat a large portion of crow after she failed to credit cookbook author Rosa Lo San Ross in a July 26 piece on Asian greens. A reader caught the error and accused Chou of plagiarism, and on August 30, Chou wrote a lengthy and pathetic apology that described her profound regret, her commitment to principles and her embarrassment for letting down the community of food writers as well as her family name. The whole thing nearly became an international incident, even rating a major mention from Jim Romenesko on his media watchdog Web site at poynter.org.
Do I think Chou, who has always been pretty passionate about food and has a strong journalism background, deliberately tried to pass off Lo San Ross's material as her own? No. I don't know Chou as more than a passing acquaintance I'd periodically run into at Denver area restaurants, but I find it hard to believe that anyone with that high-profile of a position would think she could get away with not crediting an author in a fairly long piece lifted right from a nationally known cookbook. Was it a stupid mistake? You bet. For journalists, attribution is as natural and crucial as breathing, especially to food writers who use others' recipes frequently, and the excuse Chou used of being in a hurry on deadline is a lame one (and let's not even get into her admission that she waits a while before reading her stories after they're printed -- which is sort of like a doctor closing in surgery and then waiting a few weeks to look at the patient to "gain some perspective," as Chou reasons). But, geez, she doesn't need to be roasted on a spit or anything. And Lo San Ross has gotten more publicity for her book, Beyond Bok Choy, than the original piece ever would have garnered her had she been properly credited there.
Ch-ch-ch-changes: It's possible for an eatery as bad as the Moonlight Diner (reviewed this issue) to get its act together -- but sometimes it takes a major overhaul. Case in point: Chef Zorba, at 2630 East 12th Avenue, where the breakfasts were starting to make Denny's look healthy and gourmet and the grease from the filthy grill put a film in the air that stuck to your clothes all day. All it took for Chef Zorba to clean up its act -- both in the kitchen and at the table -- were new owners, brothers Jimmy and Dino Tsiopelas. They took over a little more than a week ago, and already the improvements are apparent. "We had to start cleaning right away," Jimmy says. "It was pretty bad."
A clean grill makes for a clean meal, and the breakfast pitas ($4.25) we had there the other day were a real pleasure -- and a real change from the old Chef Zorba. A fresh pita -- one of my biggest complaints about the previous regime was that it wasn't very discriminatory about the ingredients -- had been stuffed with plenty of gyros and feta mixed in with the gently scrambled egg. The pita had spent a few minutes on the grill, too, which resulted in a crispy, golden exterior that matched the crispy shell on the soft-centered fried potatoes that arrived on the side. We didn't miss the grease that used to slick those spuds, or the limp, fatty bacon.
Chef Zorba's servers are all welcome holdovers, with the exception of Jimmy's daughter, Veronica Tsiopelas, who's come on board to help out. But she'll have to go the distance to top Raymond Churchwell: The wisecracking neighborhood favorite has experienced enough to handle the whole place himself, including a full dining room and patio -- I've seen him do it -- and not only keep smiling, but keep everyone else smiling.
Too bad the folks at Seven 30 South (730 South University Boulevard) aren't quite as accommodating. Although the food is just as good as I found it six months ago, when I reviewed Pour La France!'s more contemporary incarnation ("Guess Who's Coming to Dinner?" March 2), it was very annoying to pop in recently and have the smarmy host tell us he couldn't possibly seat two of us in a booth or at another four-top table because "we have to save those for larger parties" -- and then watch as he sat couple after couple at those very same tables. Meanwhile, we ate our meal squished into one of the two-top tables that are jammed against the wall in the corner. The food -- a well-made eggs Benedict ($8.95) and a skillet breakfast of bacon, eggs and potatoes ($8.95) -- was delicious and arrived quickly, and otherwise the service was cheerful, but we still left with a sour taste in our mouths. We were dressed better than most of the people in there and had smiled and asked ever-so-nicely, so what was up with the second-rate treatment?
A more pressing question concerns Jeff Cleary, chef/owner of the wonderful, if eccentric, Cafe Bohemia (1729 East Evans Avenue). He's been named executive director of the Petroleum Club, a gig that involves overseeing the operations in both the front and back of that upscale house, which makes you wonder: Who's running the show at Bohemia? Cleary says his chef de cuisine, Lance Hines, will continue with the day-to-day cooking at Cafe Bohemia, while Cleary will continue to "monitor" the eatery's food. That's a lot of responsibility; I hope Cleary can carry the load.
The managers at Vasil's Euro-Grille (7340 South Clinton Street in Englewood) have dropped their responsibilities there in favor of buying Coos Bay Bistro (2076 South University Boulevard), where they plan to revamp both the concept and the menu. Phillip Sauer and Carolyn Montanez worked together at Del Frisco's Double Eagle Steakhouse (8100 East Orchard Road in Greenwood Village) before joining forces at Vasil's; they'll be replaced there by in-house employees. But Vasil's went out-of-house for the hire that's made the biggest improvement in its food: Jeff Erickson, formerly of the Palace Arms (321 17th Avenue in the Brown Palace Hotel) now heads that kitchen.
The new owners of Sea Dragon, which replaced the short-lived Billy Lam's Yankee Noodle at 77 West Alameda Avenue, have also made some changes, keeping those great lunch specials under $5 and the rest of Lam's Vietnamese offerings, but also adding a roster of Chinese dishes. For starters, we sampled a tangy, delightful lemon chicken ($7.25) that featured a crispy exterior on the tender breast meat; the Saigon crispy dumplings ($2.95) filled with marinated pork, onions and scallions were a true treat. Now if Sea Dragon could just get the businesses next door to ban customers from parking in its spaces, more people would be able to sample these delights.
You might not find much more than a cheese cube at the opening for Feast Your Eyes: A Celebration of Food, a show I'm jurying that runs October 6 through November 12 at the Women's Arts Center & Gallery, 282 Delaware Street, but it's all for a good cause. The show is a fundraiser for the gallery, open to Colorado artists ages eighteen and over -- so long as their work has something to do with food and they ante up the $15 entrance fee (that's for the first piece; there's a discount if more than one work is entered). Artists as well as visitors to the gallery are also asked to donate a non-perishable food item that will go to SafeHouse Denver. Call 303-282-8000 for more information. -- Kyle Wagner
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