Trading Spaces

There's news in Cherry Creek, where Eric Laslow, formerly of Corridor 44 and Restaurant 4580, has just been named chef for the Iron Mountain Winery that will be opening in the space at 235 Fillmore Street, home to the original Mel's. Although Iron Mountain's owners announced that they would be taking over the address shortly after the Masters vacated last spring, they've taken their time remodeling the address and deciding what, exactly, they want to do there.

The results should be revealed this week, when Iron Mountain is scheduled to open. "They've decided to go into the fine-dining business," Laslow told me last Thursday. "It allows me to get back in the kitchen, which is what I really want to do. You know, not investing, not driving the whole train." But his new bosses have already taken Laslow's advice and gone for a full liquor license (as opposed to a straight beer-and-wine license) in order to make the place a proper restaurant. Laslow's working through the wine list, which will feature Iron Mountain wines but will also encompass many other labels. Although Iron Mountain is technically a "Colorado winery," it doesn't grow a single Colorado grape. Instead, it imports juice and grape must from around the world, then does all the production and bottling here, making it — for lack of a better term — a "micro-winery," Laslow explained.

The day we talked, Laslow was making his last run up to 4580. But he'd already put his Iron Mountain team together (it includes such Cherry Creek veterans as Marcus Carmean, ex chef at Euro, as Laslow's sous, and Romano Sbrocca, the former chef de cuisine at Sketch) and had written a contemporary American menu. "Fresh and light and clean" is how he described it, with subtle Mediterranean and Spanish flavors and "clarity on the plate." And though many tales have been told about the storied (read: cramped) kitchen at Mel's, Laslow said he'll be turning out his dishes from "one of the better kitchens I've had. Clean workspaces, plenty of firepower. If I have to, I can reach out and grab one of the guys by their chef-coat lapels."

Not only that, but Iron Mountain already has a deal in the works for a second location downtown, with an eye to an opening early in the summer of 2008. Since the deal hasn't yet been finalized, Laslow wouldn't give any details other than it's a "nice little LoDo space," but he did add that Iron Mountain's plans made this "an offer I couldn't refuse."

Laughing, he added, "Now we just gotta open it up and hit it right."

Leftovers: Westword Steel Chef winner Duy Pham checked in to tell me that a buddy, Ben Nguyen, will open Blue Fin — a high-tone sushi bar in Stapleton — on November 24. "He's a very fast chef, a very good chef," Pham said. "I want to see him succeed." A veteran of Sushi Den, Japon and Sushi Sasa, Nguyen also worked behind the bar at Kyoto, Pham's former restaurant at 7301 South Santa Fe Drive in Littleton, which this summer became Table Mesa, the new restaurant from Eric Roeder.

Pham has been based at Aqua (925 Lincoln Street) since he left Littleton. "It's been weird," he said. "We're getting a decent response, but it's a really funky spot." Still, sales are up 100 percent, and owner Jay Chadrom is redoing the back space. Most recently it was Aphrodisiac Lounge, featuring models in lingerie hired to wait tables (with exactly the kind of outcome you might expect). Now it looks as though Chadrom will use his experience as a club guy to bring in DJs and live bands, and start charging a cover.

More of me to love: For those seven or so readers who don't think that several thousand words a week from me are enough, I have good news. First, this year's edition of the Best Food Writing series is on the shelves at fine bookstores everywhere — and editor Holly Hughes not only chose one of my favorite reviews ("Wedded Bliss," from June 1, 2006, the bizarre, time-tripping and nun-punching epic about the Royal Peacock in Boulder), but also gathered together some really good stuff from Jonathan Gold (Mr. Pulitzer Prize), John T. Edge (one of the best food writers out there), John Kessler (who once had this job), Marco Pierre White and Anthony Bourdain.

Still not enough? How's this: Two weeks ago, I sold my own first book, which is tentatively titled Whiskey Down: A Story of Love, Sex, Death and Kitchens and is tentatively scheduled for release in winter 2009. The brave folks at Farrar, Straus and Giroux picked it up at auction — the same brave folks who once took a chance on the likes of Jack Kerouac, John McPhee and Tom Wolfe.

Of course, Wolfe, McPhee and Kerouac wrote terribly important books that, in some cases, served to shape the future of America's literary landscape. They were big men who did big things. Me? I'm a runty half-bright fuck writing about food, making some dick jokes, mocking Bobby Flay and generally trying to upset everyone's pudding. Still, I had a blast writing the thing — basically using it as a vehicle for telling all the terrible, tragic, vicious, hilarious, blood-soaked and weird kitchen stories I've never managed to shoehorn into these pages, and settling some old scores. It's like one killer Bite Me column stretched out over 300 pages. And come next year, if all of you out there in Hotcakesland run out and buy ten or twelve copies, I'll finally be able to retire to my secret mountain fortress, where, protected by my army of monkey assassins, I'll write the book I've always wanted to write: a survival guide for the coming alien invasion-slash-zombie apocalypse.

A man can dream.