Jeff Osaka on monthly menu creation and twelve's February lineup

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Several Denver restaurants make seasonal changes to their menus, but none with the clockwork regularity of twelve, which rolls out a new board on the first of every month. And Jeff Osaka, chef-owner of the place, isn't simply recycling items from a dozen different menus.

"We've been through three Februaries now," he says. "They've all been different."

For each month's list, Osaka starts pretty much from scratch. "A week or two out, I'll call my purveyors and see what's looking good and fresh," he explains. "And I ask them for a list of what no one else is using."

For February, that question netted rock shrimp out of Florida and fat prawns from California. Osaka is using a lot of dried fruit, because fresh fruit is harder to get this time of year; winter vegetables, such as russet potatoes, fennel and Brussels sprouts, abound. And because he's able to get trout locally year-round, he's also doing an entree of the fish.

There's foie gras, of course, which was one of my favorite dishes when I reviewed twelve last year. This time, Osaka will be serving seared slices on brioche with dried plum. "I love to eat foie gras when I'm out," he says, "but not a lot of people in town do it. There's a million different ways to eat foie gras."

Keeping his dishes different from what diners might find elsewhere is important to Osaka. "I try to do something that not a lot of people carry," he says. "Last month, it was the calf's liver." And he might add tripe to a menu this summer.

Thanks to both seasonality and a desire to use everything he orders, Osaka will sometimes carry ingredients from one month's menu over to the next. January's menu employed black kale and grits, for example, and February's will, too -- but they'll be used in very different ways this time around.

And because February is the month of love, there are a couple of aphrodisiacs on the list -- oysters in the starters, spicy elements on several dishes,chocolate cake for dessert. On Valentine's Day, twelve will offer a couple of specials in addition to the regular menu.

The restaurant's February menu is available starting tonight; read it in advance on twelve's website. For more information, call 303-293-0287.

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