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From Basta to Mezcal: A Second Helping of Westword Food & Drink, June 1-5

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This week the long-awaited Milk & Honey Bar-Kitchen debuted in Larimer Square, and 740 Front finally opened in the space previously occupied by the historic Old Louisville Inn on Louisville's Front Street; other restaurants are taking time in June to retool. Basta, chef/owner Kelly Whitaker's wood-fired Italian eatery in Boulder, reopened yesterday after a four-day closure to make some minor improvements to the interior — one more seat at the chef's counter, some new liquor display shelves — and some fun expansions to the menu.

A number of seasonal dishes have been added — right now, those include fiddle head ferns and porcini mushrooms pelted with ricotta salata, and roasted top-on radishes with black walnut and black garlic, among others — and starters like a chicken liver mousse with kaffir lime and rhubarb. A pre-order program will allow guests to order large-format dishes for big groups, like the current lasagna offering made with fresh-rolled pasta (using Anson Mills "crema" pasta flour) for $20 per person. Seven-days notice is required for the pre-order program, primarily because almost everything on Basta's menu is cooked in the pizza oven, which means space for food is extremely limited. Diners can also take part in a chef's tasting menu, with small plates created from the menu. when they call ahead for a reservation.

Whitaker says the changes are intended to let the guests enjoy eating and drinking without focusing on the provenance of the food — although he's happy to talk about that too, for customers who are interested. He also says the tasting menu will lean toward the affordable side but that add-ons, like individual portions of large-format dishes, will be offered for those who want to explore more of the menu.

On Colfax Avenue, Mezcal owners Chris Swank and Loris Venegas are closing the Mexican eatery for its first major overhaul in its twelve-year history, after dinner service on Sunday, June 7. The interior will receive an update from Venegas, who also created the original design, and the food and drinks menus will receive a complete revamp from a duo of consulting chefs (who have yet to be named, but who Mezcal promises are well-known veterans in Denver). No reopening date has been named, so this one looks to be a summer-long project.

In other news, Gretchen Kurtz slurped through a variety of chowders at the Chowder Room, and while she didn't find her beloved Manhattan clam chowder there, she tracked down a recipe from chef Sheila Lucero at Jax.

RESTAURANTS/BARS OPENING THIS WEEK*
740 Front, 740 Front Street, Louisville
Mighty Joe's Kitchen, 10160 West 50th Avenue #5, Wheat Ridge
Milk & Honey Restaurant-Bar, 1414 Larimer Street

RESTAURANTS TEMPORARILY CLOSING THIS WEEK*
Mezcal, 3230 East Colfax Avenue

*Or earlier, and not reported in a previous Second Helping.

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