The Bite

Heart of the matter: Valentine's Day is a cheesy way to get attention from someone who should be giving it to you anyway. But if you're hell-bent on observing this Hallmark holiday, try an alternative to the usual dinner-and-roses format. For example, you can go cheesy at The Truffle (2906 East Sixth Avenue), a new specialty market I raved about in the December 21 Bite. Pick up some creamy, buttery, smooth Explorateur cheese ($12 for about a half pound), maybe a musty, earthy black truffle ($55 an ounce) to shave over your significant other's belly button, and for dessert, a few to-die-for oversized chocolate truffles ($5 for two) from The Chocolate Garden. The Michigan company makes its truffles in such fab flavors as milk chocolate, dark-chocolate cherry, iced white coffee, chocolate raspberry and milk-chocolate hazelnut, and rolls them by hand, without wax. And just in time for V-Day, the Truffle also has a limited supply of the heart-shaped Coeur de Berry chèvres ($10 each) that are coated in paprika and presented in little wooden boxes. (Berry, in the Loire Valley, is home to some of the more famous goat cheeses, such as Crottin de Chavignol.) The Truffle will package up little made-to-order baskets of these goodies, too. Then head over to my favorite boutique wine store, City Wine (347 South Colorado Boulevard). Grab a bottle of Le Graville Bordeaux Blanc ($12.99) if you went with the triple-cream Explorateur, or, for the goat cheese, Ostertag Gewürztraminer ($18.99). After all this, if your significant other doesn't smooch you, you obviously don't have the important things in common.

The Truffle and City Wine recently instituted a great bargain wine-and-cheese tasting for $10 one Monday each month; call 303-322-7363 for the schedule.

More sweet somethings: Tammy Davis served up some of the city's most tempting treats at her Divine Temptations, a cafe at 5820 Ogden Street that closed last year, sending chocoholics into a decline. But now Davis is back in business at the Sweet Rockin' Cafe, which recently opened at 414 East 20th Avenue. Although Davis isn't cooking up her famous (and Best of Denver award-winning) fried chicken or those delectable Swedish meatballs, she's back to making her delectable chocolates. And she has pastry chef André Roman, who worked at Bluepoint Bakery back when it was still a retail operation, baking up a storm. I stopped by recently for some sweets, and they rocked, all right. The homemade croissants filled with ham and Swiss ($3.25) and spinach and feta ($3.50) were delicious mini-meals; the chocolate croissants improved on the traditional French version, with the chocolate actually filling the buttery package, rather than appearing as a slim sliver down the center. The icing-slicked cinnamon rolls ($1.95) were classics: doughy, heavily swirled with cinnamon, and super-sweet. And just a slice of the apple pie ($2.95) or chocolate soufflé torte ($3.95) was enough to send my insulin levels sky-high.

The cafe itself is cute (but not sickeningly-sweetly so), with an open, bright dining area, laminated tables sporting concert memorabilia, and stylin' rock posters plastered on the walls. It's an inviting place for a morning latte or espresso and a croissant -- and a consolation prize for those of us still mourning the loss of The Biscuit, the cafe that closed its doors just a few blocks away last month.

In Denver's tough restaurant scene, sweet survival alone is sometimes cause for celebration. Much, much older than the Sweet Rockin' Cafe, Annie's Cafe (4012 East Eighth Avenue) celebrates its twentieth anniversary on February 9 with a champagne open house from 4-9 p.m. that's bound to draw fans from the across-the-street CU Health Sciences Center as well as nearby neighborhoods. Champagne isn't the usual fare at Annie's, though; it specializes in diner-style food that makes this a favorite stop not just for breakfast, but also for lunch and dinner (not to mention mid-day snacks). The pancakes are so good they keep my daughters content while I read the morning papers, and I'm always happy to dig into an Annie's burger accompanied by decent fries and a superb shake.

Older still than Annie's is the White Spot, at 800 Broadway, the last vestige of a local chain that once spanned Denver. And now even this location is doomed, with a major development slated to go up on the corner that the Spot has occupied since 1961. But that development won't be going up this month: On February 1, owner Tony Clements -- son of the founder -- announced that he'd gotten another month (at least) on his month-to-month lease. Which means there's still time to stop in, any time of the day or night, to have your White Spot meal ticket punched (good for $1 off a future lunch or dinner), drink in the ambience (the building is a classic example of what is now called California coffee-shop style, a true "googie" -- not that the designation will save it from the wrecking ball) and wolf down a meatloaf special. And, of course, the coffeepot is always on.

The breakfast booby prize goes to the Southside Cafe (560 South Broadway), which had been one of my favorite morning joints for crispy bacon and gooey breakfast burritos. But lately the Southside's service has been going downhill -- and it was never at the top of the hill to begin with. One recent morning, three of us ordered our usuals: bacon and eggs, a green chile-smothered breakfast burrito, and a plate of hash browns smothered in green chile with a side of dry wheat toast. When that toast came out as buttered rye, the server promised a replacement; twenty minutes later, we still had no toast with which to sop up the chile. "Oh, the kitchen screwed that up," she said. "I'll go check on it."

She then proceeded to disappear -- unlike the toast, which we could see sitting, done, beside the toaster in the kitchen. After a half-hour of this nonsense, I finally went and asked the cook if we could please have our toast. "What toast?" he asked. Turns out our server had just hoped we'd forget about it. The cook threw the cold toast at me with a sarcastic apology. "We're having some communication difficulties today," he said.

You don't say.