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Mouthing Off

What's cooking? Beginning with this week's Cafe, when I review a restaurant where the chef turns out particularly noteworthy food, as John Platt does at Q's, I'll try to include a recipe (as long as the chef is willing to share it). And if I can't recommend any dish at...
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What's cooking?
Beginning with this week's Cafe, when I review a restaurant where the chef turns out particularly noteworthy food, as John Platt does at Q's, I'll try to include a recipe (as long as the chef is willing to share it). And if I can't recommend any dish at the reviewed restaurant--much less recommend attempting to re-create it at home--I'll serve up other specialties in Mouthing Off.

The following recipe is similar to a spoonbread recipe; Q's serves this sweet corn pudding as the basis for a vegetarian entree also featuring a sweet pepper coulis, corn relish, grilled portabello mushrooms and seared greens.

John Platt's Sweet Corn Pudding
4 ears sweet corn
2 eggs
1 cup buttermilk
2/3 cup flour
2/3 cup cornmeal
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
white pepper

Shuck corn. Cut kernels off cobs, scrape cobs with back of knife to remove all pulp and juice. Place eggs, buttermilk and two-thirds of corn in blender. Blend until smooth. Whisk together blended mixture, remaining corn, flour, cornmeal and baking powder. Season to taste.

Spray eight 6-ounce souffle dishes with nonstick vegetable spray. Fill dishes two-thirds full with pudding mix. Bake at 350 degrees for 15-18 minutes, or until puddings feel firm but fluffy. Puddings should be creamy but not wet in the center. Feeds eight.

Three's company: Boulder's skewed ratio of many excellent restaurants for a relatively small population reminds me of Naples, the Florida resort town where I lived prior to coming to Denver. Naples had many top-notch chefs; they were lured there by the inflated incomes and the high priority residents gave to dining out.

But Boulder goes Naples several better. In addition to Q's (see review above), a few of my favorite restaurants include Full Moon Grill (2525 Arapahoe Road), where the updated, upscale, classic Italian cooking is done by skilled food craftsman and part-owner Bradford Heap; John's (2338 Pearl Street), which counts a converted house, coddling servers and rich, whimsical fare among its many charms; Zolo Grill (2525 Arapahoe Road), a Dave Query baby that does the best Southwestern food around; Laudisio (2785 Iris Avenue), another upscale Italian that also features an incredible wine list; Sushi Zanmai (1221 Spruce Street), which does $1.45-per-piece sushi every day at lunch, again from 5 to 6:30 p.m. during the week and all night Sundays; Daily Bread Bakery & Cafe (1738 Pearl Street), which serves some of the best bread and sandwiches in the world; and Lucile's Creole Cafe (2124 14th Street), which offers up breakfast and lunch--get anything with eggs--New Orleans-style.

I've also been paying close attention to up-and-comer Trios (1155 Canyon Boulevard). Two visits there yielded two very different meals--one sophisticated and well-executed, the other full of seasoning missteps--and the third time could be a charm. In the meantime, I have no complaints about the scenery, though, which is Boulder all the way. Trios is housed in what used to be the Public Service building, sharing the address with an extensive banquet and catering company, also called Trios, and the "home gallery," a household-themed retail shop with a big emphasis on the kitchen that fits in with the attached restaurant's polished, urban-chic look.

Much of the credit for the updating goes to Brian Wise. Four years ago he bought into Two Bitts, a restaurant owned by Peggy and Terry Bittner. The new partners moved the restaurant from a difficult Baseline Road space to the building on Canyon Boulevard. But the Bittners soon moved on, taking Two Bitts with them to another spot on Baseline (the restaurant is now closed). Meanwhile, Wise wisely rethought the Public Service space and, now working with owner Bruce Bartlett, renamed it Trios.

As I said, my duo of Trios meals was less than a perfect match. At lunch, the carrot-ginger soup ($3.75) was all carrot and no ginger, and the Caesar salad ($4.95) was bitingly bitter. The chicken sandwich ($7.95) with chipotle mayo, avocado and roasted red peppers was dry and chewy, and the fettuccine with grilled asparagus, tomatoes, zucchini and eggplant ($8.50) failed to fuse: Each ingredient was too bold, and there were no herbs to tie them together.

Dinner was another story--a story with a much happier ending (and beginning, and middle). The lobster-and-salmon ravioli ($11.95) was a pricey but savvy starter, with the sweet licorice of tarragon toning down the richness, and the roasted-corn soup with tomatoes and poblanos ($3.75) fairly burst with flavor. I was glad to be dining solo, because that meant I didn't have to share the succulent herb-crusted lamb loin ($19.95), with its intense blood-orange reduction and beautiful garnish of baby vegetables.

Despite its inconsistencies, Trios is doing a brisk business in Boulder. The same cannot be said for its LoDo outpost, Trios Enoteca (1730 Wynkoop Street), which Bartlett bought out almost two years ago (adding the Boulder restaurant's name in the process). But that makes Trios Enoteca a natural choice when you want to have a serious drink and chat on a Friday evening; two weeks ago, we had our choice of a dozen tables.

The possibility of actually finding a seat is not Trios Enoteca's only asset. After settling at a table, we immediately ordered my companion's favorite snack there, the bassilla tort ($7.50). Housemade cheese--created by draining the whey of good-quality yogurt--had been layered with pesto and rimmed with pine nuts; a thick wedge of the cheese came with six large slices of basil-strewn, diced-tomato-topped bruschetta. We smeared the fresh, snappy cheese over every last bit of bread and then used our fingers. The rest of the menu looked pretty good, too, with such innovations as an individual canning jar filled with goat cheese floating in olive oil ($12.50; feeds two) and fried sweet-potato chips tossed with cinnamon and sugar.

Trios Enoteca has come a long way since its previous owners had the food brought in. So why isn't it busier?

I think there are two reasons. First, most of microbrew-soaked Denver doesn't get the wine-bar concept, and second, anyone who knows good wine is buying it by the bottle for $45 to drink at home instead of going to a bar and paying $15 for a glass of it. This is a nice space, though, and certainly worth checking out. Get a glass of the Renwood Zin for $7.50, and don't miss the homemade cheese.

In Boulder, this place would rank high on everyone's see-and-be-seen list.


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