Brunch banking: Brunch buffets are high-maintenance and, as a result, often low-flavor--quality ingredients such as real egg yolks and delicate cheeses don't take kindly to the heat of Sterno cans and hours in chafing pans. (For a buffet that works, see the previous page for a review of Ellyngton's at the Brown Palace Hotel.) To avoid this problem, many restaurants offer an a la carte Sunday brunch, but most of their lineups are bacon-and-eggs revues with maybe a kitchen-sink omelette for variety.

And then there's Today's Gourmet Highland's Garden Cafe, at 3927 West 32nd Avenue, which goes above and beyond the call. Highland's Garden has done brunch since the restaurant opened a year and a half ago. Reopened, actually: Owners Pat and Chuck Perry ran the first Today's Gourmet at the corner of Sixth Avenue and Marion Street from 1990 to 1993, and Pat's reputation for kitchen expertise usually makes this a by-reservation-only deal.

Although in the summer it's a treat to eat brunch in the garden, sitting inside the charming, trompe l'oeil-decorated dining room is also a pleasure. Expect a fair amount of noise, a lot of waitstaff squeezing past and some wonderful, don't-see-anywhere-else food. For example, on the breakfast-oriented portion of the hand-scribbled menu we found smoked trout with barely scrambled eggs and just-snipped parsley ($7.75) and an andouille sausage omelette ($7.50) sweetened by sauteed red bell peppers and red onions. An order of the fresh-peach-filled crepes with sour cream and brown sugar ($6.75) was worth every calorie, as was the quiche ($7.50) of apples, sausage and sage, served with a house salad doused with a wake-'em-up lemon-parmesan dressing. Otherwise, just about every breakfasty entree came with freshly hashed potatoes and fresh fruit.

In the interest of research, on a second visit we ordered plain old eggs with toast, potatoes and bacon ($6.50). The two eggs were cooked to a perfect over-easy and accompanied by thick slices of sweet-smoked side pork. The eggs Benedict ($7.50) also boasted excellent pig--top-drawer Canadian bacon--as well as made-to-order hollandaise. (A smidgen more lemon would make this sauce less buttery-rich.) This dish was a Best of Denver winner at the original Today's Gourmet, and it's certainly a contender again. From the list of lunch-like items, we plucked duck manicotti ($9) with sun-dried tomato sauce, wild mushrooms and Marsala; although the portion looked small, we were unable to finish the filling concoction. But then, we also split a pate-and-cheese plate ($8.25) that contained two pates--one country-style peppercorn-encrusted, the other a mousse of duck livers and truffles--and two cheeses, a mild blue and a killer, triple-cream Saint-Andre. (I've since found the latter at The Cheese Company, 735 South Colorado Boulevard, for $11.98 a pound--it's worth every cent.) The pate plate came with the heavy, rustic-style house bread, which didn't work at all with the more fragile components; Pat says she's looking into alternatives. In the meantime, however, Today's Gourmet Highland's Garden Cafe still puts on quite a spread.

P.D.Q. Bock: On Saturday, February 10, Tabernash Brewing Co. will host its annual "Blessing of the Bock," the tapping of its potent winter brew, Doppelbock. Food and fun for $15 at 205 Denargo Market at noon.

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Kyle Wagner
Contact: Kyle Wagner