Cafe Society

Mouthing Off

Talk lobster: David Francavilla, owner of the three Chowda House Light House restaurants (see review above), thought he might attract some attention with the recent lobster giveaway at his newest location, at 158 Fillmore Place. But the fundraiser netted much more than $300 for Lakewood's Hospice of Saint John and lots of local press: CNN's Coast to Coast, Good Morning America and a host of other national outlets turned their cameras on Bob, the ten-pound, seventy-year-old crustacean that Francavilla auctioned off.

That's because the guy who won the lobster (and who wishes to remain anonymous) decided to send the creature back to his home off Boston. Good idea: When a lobster's as old as Bob, no amount of butter can soften him up. United Airlines pilot Ted Hand volunteered to fly the lobster back, and Francavilla supervised Bob's return to the deep. But--oops--he neglected to take the band off Bob's one remaining claw (the other was lost when Bob got angry one day and tore it off himself in the tank at the Cherry Creek Chowda House, perhaps protesting the continual parade of his cousins going by on plates), and when Bostonians caught the lobster's predicament on their local news, they decided Francavilla was in hot water.

After divers failed to find Bob and public outrage increased, Francavilla finally located a lobster expert, who says that the septuagenarian is likely just fine.

I recently went fishing for some lobster of my own and found it at lunch at The Palm (1201 16th Street). The steakhouse's lobster bisque ($4) was superb: rich and thick, with a strong seafood flavor. The Caesar salad ($5), too, was heavy with fish--anchovy, of course--but not unpleasantly so. And the grilled salmon ($11), one of the few Healthmark items on The Palm's menu, was expertly cooked and covered with spicy seasonings. But we didn't eschew beef entirely: The barbecued-beef sandwich ($8.50) was a big, messy affair (definitely not for the white-shirted businessperson) dripping with a sweet sauce and paired with good steak fries.

We could have done without the uppity used-car-salesman of a waiter, though, who tried to hard-sell extras during every course. The bills are high enough at The Palm; no need to be greedy.

When I returned for dinner a few days later, our waiter was much more charming, but the lobster bisque tasted like the commercial base used at many restaurants--although not usually at restaurants as highfalutin' as The Palm. The lackluster--and lobster-lacking--soup had the consistency of mayonnaise. And mayo was the overriding flavor in the otherwise exemplary crab cakes ($24), three crab-lumpy patties with thin, crisp shells. Not surprisingly, both the ribeye special ($26) and the filet mignon ($27.50) were excellent. But the steamed vegetable platter ($14) was almost all green beans, with a few other flavorless veggies beneath them; the presentation was awful, mostly dark green and stringy-looking, without so much as a lemon wedge to liven it up; the portion was absurd for fourteen bucks; and it would have been more accurate to call the vegetables "heated" rather than steamed, as they were nearly raw. Still, what was my companion doing ordering a vegetable platter at The Palm?

Really in the raw: The seafood I've been truly craving lately, though, is oysters, and I've catered to that craving at several local spots. The best sampler was at Jax Fish House (1539 17th Street), where sixteen detritus-free bivalves cost a mere $11.50. The oysters Jax featured that day were the fabulous Malpeques (from Malpeque Bay off the coast of Prince Edward Island), Chesapeake Bay, and four varieties from Washington.

I also sucked down a dozen at Redfish (1711 Wynkoop Street), where the cost was higher--$14.95--but the flavor of the Bluepoints wasn't quite as good as at Jax. At McCormick's Fish House & Bar (1659 Wazee Street), the oysters are always fabulous--well-varied and nicely shucked, if pricey ($19.95 per dozen, for two each of Pearl Bay, Malpeque, Totten Inlet, Olympia, Quilecene and Trails End oysters). The tab was also high (a dozen for $13.99) at Willie G's (1585 Lawrence Street), but the Bluepoints were icy fresh. I paired them with a bowl of fantastic clam chowder ($4.99), which, unfortunately, was offered as the soup of the day and therefore isn't always on the menu. Willie G's has great bread, too, which comes as a whole round loaf on a cutting board.

Dough nuts: A wholesale bakery and takeout gourmet pizza company called Hungry Mother Foods in Summit County is running a contest to "give away" the business. The owners want people to send them, in 500 words or less, an essay on how owning the Hungry Mother could make their dreams come true, along with a check for $100. They promise they'll pick the most "enthusiastic, creative and passionate" entry, whose author will own the business free and clear. Hmmm...isn't that what they did in the movie Spitfire Grill? Anyway, if you must own the Hungry Mother, send your essay, the $100, and a separate piece of paper with your name, address and phone number to: Hungry Mother's Essay Contest, P.O. Box 1955, Silverthorne, CO 80498. Oh, by the way, the owners say the business grossed "approximately $300,000 in 1997" and that they'll complete the contest only if they get a minimum of 3,500 entries. If not, they guarantee you'll get your escrow-held money back.


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Kyle Wagner
Contact: Kyle Wagner