Snooze's menu is changing, too. Chef Brenda Buenviaje has put together an expanded autumn lineup that, in addition to pancakes (the other thing I liked about Snooze), relies on Deep South/comfort foods (Buenviaje is from Louisiana), bulking up with pot pies, mahi po'boys and sweet-potato pancakes with caramel-pecan syrup and ginger butter. The bar menu has been updated, too, bringing a little more class to Denver's morning drinkers. Sure, we all have days that begin with us sitting on the couch in our underwear, drinking the dregs of last night's beers and watching Mexican soap operas on TV. But Snooze -- and, in particular, Snooze's new cherry mocha and Knob Creek whiskey "Morning Manhattan" -- gives us a reason to put our pants on, fish our sunglasses out of the toilet and get out of the house for a while.
Northern exposure: You know what I like almost as much as bacon? Tater Tots. But while many local bars and restaurants -- Steuben's, Sketch, Rockbar, Chedd's, the new Meltz gourmet grilled-cheese place in the Oriental Theater, etc. -- have been banking on the almost limitless capacity for people to be charmed by the foods of their youth, none put Tater Tots on a menu. Until now.
North Star Brewing Company opened just two weeks ago at 3200 Tejon Street (it's a quick drive from the dry Los Carboncitos, reviewed this week), and Tater Tots have a starring role on the menu. Up-from-frozen, just-like-Mom-used-to-get-at-the-grocery-store Tater Tots, except these are deep-fried and served with a peppercorn-ranch dipping sauce. And spuds aren't the only amenity at North Star. The place has a very Colorado bistro-cum-brewpub feel that's pretty tough to get right despite the ubiquity of those who try, with a dining room (rooms, actually) with lots of blond wood and green walls. But Tater Tots aside, the rest of the menu coming out of the shiny new kitchen seems a little light (burgers, a couple of salads, steaks and slow-roasted chicken), and since this joint will be competing for customers in a neighborhood that now boasts Duo, Lola and Z Cuisine, I'm hoping that owner Kyle Carstens adds to it soon.
But Carstens has something else going for him -- or will soon. Beer. He cut his teeth as a brewmaster at the Wynkoop Brewing Co. and has installed a seriously micro microbrewery at the back of North Star, a system capable of doing four beers at once, three of which he plans to have on tap very shortly. But he's already poured his first microbrew (a pint of Pic's Pale Ale, named after the notorious Pic's Corner Bar that was just up 32nd) for local beer expert and armchair bar historian Lew Cady. According to my sources (namely, Lew), the pint was drawn straight off the fermenter, guaranteeing that this pint would be the first sold by the new brewpub and its brewmaster.
Sixth Avenue shuffle: After six years as one of the town's best cheese and gourmet whatsis stores, The Truffle, at 2906 East Sixth Avenue, has been sold. "I wanted to call you before you started hearing any kind of weird rumors about the place," said soon-to-be-former owner David Kaufman when he got me on the blower last week. "The Truffle was never for sale. It was never on the market. This was just one of those walk-in-the-door kind of things."
Kaufman's co-owner -- his wife, Kate -- is already gone; a former floor manager for Sean Kelly at Aubergine, she took a job at the Kitchen up in Boulder a couple of months ago. And in just over a month, David will officially hand over the keys to the new owners, Rob and Karin Lawler. (If those names sound familiar, they should. Rob was the executive sous under John Broening at Duo, and worked with him at Brasserie Rouge before that place imploded. Karin was -- among other things -- a server and wine buyer for Kelly at Clair de Lune and on the floor at Potager.)
"There's no way I could've handpicked a better couple," Kaufman said. The Lawlers had been looking for a restaurant or a high-end deli, maybe, someplace where they could do their own thing for a while. And after six years and two kids, Kaufman could still put 75 hours a week into the place, but not the hundred it needed. The rest was synchronicity. And the best part of the deal is that the Truffle will remain the Truffle.
"I just don't have the ego to put my name on the front and maybe scare people away," Rob Lawler told me when I phoned to ask about the new/old Truffle. "It's a good business, a great place. And you know, if it ain't broke, don't fix it." The Truffle will shut down for two weeks at the start of the new year, then reopen on January 15. After that, the Lawlers plan to continue the wine-and-cheese dinners that the Kaufmans had introduced, and also make a few additions. Cured meats, maybe. A deli case or two.
In the meantime, David Kaufman is still at the Truffle, showing the Lawlers the ropes and scouting for his next spot. "I'm hoping to death that I can still be a cheese-monger," says Kaufman, who has dreams of finding a place where he can put his years of cheese obsession to good use.