Arugula's big night in Boulder

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Squeaking in just under the wire before one of the biggest dining nights of the year is Arugula, a very-very-Boulder restaurant that's scheduled to throw wide the doors at 2785 Iris Avenue on February 13 -- just 24 short hours before the big Valentine's Day rush. That's a helluva way to blood your staff; my sympathies are with all involved.

For those of you still looking for a last-minute V-Day reservation, here are the details on Arugula: It's running on a modern, Northern Italian concept. Being in Boulder (and a graduate of Manhattan's Natural Gourmet Cookery school), chef Alec Schuler has to make a big deal out of his recycled paper menus, sustainable wood flooring, handpainted Tunisian tile and seasonal, ecological and earth-friendly sourcing of everything from his meats and seafoods to his traditionally grown produce. 

But really?  Who isn't recycling their floors and growing their own lentils these days?  I'm just waiting for the moment when a bold chef comes forward with a concept of "Earth-Unfriendly" cuisine, offering oil-slicked penguin filet, loin of unicorn and a footnote at the bottom of the menu promising that every cow brutally killed for its meat was individually punched in the face by the chef on its way into the slaughterhouse. But I digress... 

All food politics aside, Schuler's non-cow-punching menu does look good, offering winter squash and apple penne, shrimp and gnocchi in a vodka arrabiatta, Dover sole Francese and a very nice cheese and meat board that made me drool a little just reading it. 

The thing I'm most impressed by, though? Schuler is ex of the kitchen at L'Atelier, Radek Cerny's mad-scientist laboratory and workshop.  And while the hook with L'Atelier was always that it was supposed to be a one-man show -- a solo, man-alone trip with Cerny personally cooking every single plate that went out -- I don't think anyone ever really believed that he was doing it all himself. 

So because Schuler is a former disciple of Cerny (and because those who spend any amount of time around Cerny tend to come away from the experience irrevocably altered and twisted in unusual directions), I'm curious to see what effect this will have on Schuler's simple, back-to-nature food philosophy.

Potato foam anyone?

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