Cafe Society

John Broening may be quiet, but he's the consummate craftsman at Olivea

"Jesus," I said to no one in particular, dopey smile aimed down 17th Avenue, waddling a little as I cleared the doors of Olivea. "He is just so fucking good..."

John Broening keeps a relatively low profile, even though he frequently writes for the Denver Post food section. He doesn't get talked about on this blog very often, or really, on any of the blogs - today's equivalent of the society pages, gossip sheets and (occasionally) police blotter all in one. He does some charity work, sure. He grants interviews when asked (and just did a great one with Lori Midson for Chef and Tell).

Still, this is not a guy who is going to cook a third-rate wine dinner just to get a little ink spilled in his direction. He's not going to drop his checks and bone a warthog on the sidewalk in front of his restaurant and hope that Penny Parker wanders by.

I know it's partially my fault that Broening doesn't get more attention. But in my defense, it's tough to write about a guy who just cooks -- without drama, without fireworks, without embarrassing himself or bringing shame onto his house. Epic flameouts, bad behavior, openings, closings (especially fast and suspicious ones), disasters or works of loud, public genius -- these are the things that get press, that rise above the background static of day-to-day business.

I can only call Broening one of the best chefs in the city so many times before it starts sounding like ass-kissery, or worse. I can only say that he's the best once or twice. And I have. Usually within minutes of walking out of one of the restaurants where he cooks, waddling a little under the weight of several courses, light-headed from being reminded of just how good he can be when he and his crew are at their best. And that's exactly what happened after my last review meal at Olivea, the restaurant that opened in May at 719 East 17th Avenue. Broening and wife Yasmin Lozada-Hissom, who also work at Duo, partnered with Duo owners Keith Arnold and Stephanie Bonin in this venture, and it's going very, very well.

You can read all about it here this week -- as well as my review of Vine Street Pub, one of many worthwhile stops on 17th Avenue, which has turned into a real restaurant row.