Cafe Society

Mouthing Off

The Master plan: When Mel and Jane Master sold almost all of their interest in Bruno's to Tom Mirabito (see review above), they got Bruno's chef Frank Bonanno out of the deal and moved him over to Mel's Bar and Grill, at 235 Fillmore Street, where he joined Tyler Wiard, formerly of the now-defunct Napa Cafe. To that heavy-hitting duo, the Masters have now added chef Ben Davis, who came straight from the fabulous Cypress Club in San Francisco. With Davis as executive chef, Wiard as chef de cuisine and Bonanno as sous chef, Mel's has one heck of a lineup on the line.

And to back up the trio, the Masters recently put tens of thousands of dollars into renovating Mel's pathetic kitchen. "We felt like it was time to put our energies into Mel's and stop spreading ourselves so thin," Mel says. The couple also released the majority of their claim on Starfish--which is now owned by its chef, Goose Sorenson, and general manager John Richard--but that doesn't mean they're going to sit around drinking Mai Tais. This past month, the Masters released three blends under their new wine label, Tortoise Creek.

Beer nuts: And we thought we had lost him. Fortunately, Eric Warner, former brewmaster and founding partner of the estimable Tabernash Brewing Company, is back from a short stint at a Michigan brewery; he's been hired by the Broadway Brewing Company as VP of operations. Mountain Sun Pub & Brewery, at 1535 Pearl Street in Boulder, marks its fourth anniversary November 18 with a party featuring music by the Flood Plain Gang and $1 pints of Anniversary Ale, an India pale ale brewed just for the occasion. Mountain Sun has another reason to celebrate, too: a new head brewer, Mike Altman, who joined the brewpub in late September after six years of brewing in Oregon.

And congrats to the Great Divide Brewing Co., which won a gold medal at last month's Great American Beer Festival. The medal was for the company's seasonal, and delicious, Hibernation Ale, which it just released again last week. Great Divide also won a bronze medal for its Denver Pale Ale. I would tell you who else won, but it seems that the GABF doesn't want to be bothered mailing the information to press people who weren't able to attend--even though Denver was the host city.

I do know that the Rockies Brewing Company won a gold medal at last year's GABF; the company's just brewed another batch of its award-winning winter elixir.

Food and drink nuts: Fifteen Degrees, the restaurant formerly known as Diva, at 1965 15th Street in Boulder, makes its name change--and other changes--official this week. Although the eatery's already serving up great food (see my October 16 review, "The Name Game"), on November 13 it will also serve up a five-course, prix fixe dinner complete with piano accompaniment. The fee is $75, but it's for a good cause: The proceeds go to three local charities. And it's also a good chance to check out Fifteen Degrees' changing cuisine. "Diva was known as an Italian place," explains chef Juan Martinez, "but our current menu moves us beyond that niche. We still have a slight Italian flair, but the new menu is clearly not just Italian."

There's nothing Italian about Dick's Last Resort, at 1909 Blake Street. For the month of November, Dick's is offering yet another way to make a pig of yourself--with "All You Can Eat Crab Nights" on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays. The price is just $11.95--and all that crabby attitude from the servers is thrown in for free.

A few blocks away, two more restaurants joined the crowded LoDo scene. Cucina!Cucina! Italian Cafe debuted Wednesday in the Ice House, at 1801 Wynkoop; its next-door neighbor, Rodizio Grill, got its doors open a week earlier for a big, private bash Friday night. My review skewering Rodizio ("Bye Bye, Brazil," October 24, 1996) continues to draw angry mail from people who love the "Brazilian steakhouse" concept (appetizers, salad bar and costumed servers delivering chunks of meat on a stick, all for $15.95 at dinner and Sundays; $9.95 at lunch); I'll be keeping a close eye on this third outpost, conveniently located across the street from the Westword office. LoDo could use another salad bar (appetizers and all the salad you can eat, but no meat, runs $10.95 at night, $6.95 at lunch), and the atmosphere here is certainly an improvement over the original, at 7900 West Quincy Avenue in Littleton, which reminded me of a college-dorm cafeteria. The large, open space on the Ice House's first floor has been stripped down to its original brick and beams, then filled with dark, shiny tables and sleek, surprisingly comfortable wooden chairs. By the way, Vesta Dipping Grill reports that the chairs I criticized in my recent review ("Have a Nice Trip," October 30) will soon be replaced.

Two more places I've mentioned in this column also made their official debuts last week: JV's The Cork, which occupies the space at 410 East Seventh Avenue formerly filled (but not for long) by Pinots, and Kevin Taylor's latest, Palettes, in the Denver Art Museum. And now sleeping with the fishes is Fuji-En Japanese Restaurant, one of Denver's first sources of sushi; its old home at 930 Lincoln is slated to be taken over by something called Dazzle.

Without reservations: It's never too early to reserve a spot at this year's Taste of Vail, scheduled for early April in, of course, Vail. Expect the usual orgy of consumption, with seminars and the infamous mountaintop picnic and grand tasting, both of which give new meaning to the word "gluttony"--but in a very good way. A full-event pass goes for $295, but the tasting events and the seminars can be sampled individually. Call 1-888-311-5665 for information, or e-mail the festival at [email protected]


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Kyle Wagner
Contact: Kyle Wagner