Jan 31 2010

The Top 100 List: #93 Table 6′s “Rabbit Salisbury Steak”

jko

table6-246x88

Rating: Not Available

I can’t say I’ve had the pleasure of dining at Table 6 yet – and I was really looking forward to their must eat dish.  Unfortunately it’s  now unavailable, the casualty of having a seasonal, ever changing menu.  For those who remember Adega downtown, these were some of the fellows behind it.  And not too long ago Esquire Magazine called it one of the top 21 best new restaurants in the country.  I’ll update when it comes back around.

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Jan 29 2010

The Top 100 List: #92 Sushi Den’s “Wild Copper River Salmon”

jko

Sushi Den

Rating: Not Available

Sushi Den is a citywide treasure.  Run by a couple of brothers, they consistently turn out the freshest and most delicious sushi in our land-locked town.  Part of the reason for their success is just the sheer difficulty in pulling the damn thing off.  One brother lives in Japan and gets up at 4am to pick through and select the best fish in the market.  Then he vacuum seals it in dry ice and ships it here, where it arrives on our plates 24 hours later.  An impressive feat considering it happens every single day.

Regrettably, the Wild Copper River Salmon is one of those dishes that’s available for only about a month during the year (mid-May to mid-June).  As such, I could not give it a taste and report back.  I have had Copper River Salmon before and am familiar with the wonderful flavors.  I’ll be excited to give it a whirl the next time it rolls around – for such a specialty fish, there is no where else to go but here.

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Rating: +1 (from 1 vote)

Jan 28 2010

The Top 100 List: #91 Kevin Taylor’s “Foie Gras”

jko

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Kevin Taylor’s “Foie Gras”

Location: Downtown

Rating: 8 (out of 10)

Price:  $16

The Skinny: I’ll tell you what – this dish was pretty goddamn delicious.  Not that anyone noticed.  I’ve been to Kevin Taylor a few times, and each time it was so dead I swear a tumbleweed passed through during dinner.  On this trip, there was literally one other table in the whole dining room.  What’s the deal?  Perhaps if they added some cliff diving – served their food factory –style… then they would really draw the crowds.

According to my nice-guy waiter, they change the menu fairly frequently, but always have a new fois gras creation.  It’s their thing.  One bite in, I can attest that their focus shows.  It was just very well thought out – very well designed.  The foie itself is rich and full of flavor.  It sits on a small, toasted brioche, which tasted a lot like French toast, and is surrounded by a port reduction and some almonds.  Since the foie gras is soft, the brioche and almonds give a great crunch and weight to the dish, and the port and sliced grapes provide a sweetness and acid to cut through the fat.  Everything balanced, everything executed well.  The only thing missing was the pleasant buzz of conversation throughout the room.  Maybe a selection of cheesecakes behind glass would do it?

AGREE OR DISAGREE?

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Rating: +3 (from 3 votes)

Jan 26 2010

The Top 100 List: #90 Barolo Grill’s “Anatra al Barolo (braised duckling)”

jko

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Barolo Grill’s “Anatra al Barolo (braised duckling)”

Location: Cherry Creek

Rating: 5.5 (out of 10)

Price:  $24

The Skinny: “Some people either love this dish or hate it” cautioned the waiter as I ordered their signature dish, the Braised Duckling.  Although I can’t say I hated it, I completely get the polarization.  The baby duck is braised in a red wine and kalamata olive liquid, giving the outside of the bird a deep purple hue and making it taste awfully bitter.  At half the price, it wouldn’t crack my must-eat list, let alone at $24.  Sure, I’ll give credit that the duck was fairly tender, but I just couldn’t get past the persistent jab of the outside flavor.

This is, however, not to downgrade the experience at the restaurant.  The service was outstanding.  Truly.  Some of the nicest staff I’ve met of all of the restaurants on this list.  And the food I had besides the duck was very, very good indeed.  I don’t know why in the hell they draw attention to this dish with the word “signature” – they’re better than this.

AGREE OR DISAGREE?

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Rating: +1 (from 1 vote)

Jan 24 2010

The Top 100 List #89: Twelve Restaurant’s “Sweetbreads”

jko

12

Rating: Not Available

I’ve been to Twelve in the past 4 or 5 months and had an amazing meal.  The beef short ribs on the menu that night were nothing less than outstanding – so I was really looking forward to sampling their “must-eat” sweetbreads.  Alas, when researching their menu over the past 3 months, it has not made a reappearance.

If there is one issue with Twelve, it’s this.  The menu changes monthly, so more than likely whatever dish you had that blew your mind will be gone once you return.  I was disappointed to read recently that Jeff Osaka, the owner of Twelve, hasn’t quite had the success he hoped for with the restaurant.  And that’s a damn shame -by all accounts, the food has been excellent -  and I can say that the space is comfortable and warm, and the service is attentive.  Here’s hoping he and his ever-changing menu will stick around.  For every Troy Guard, challenging our palate with harmonious complexities, we need a Jeff Osaka, turning out simple and deep flavors.  It’s a great addition to the Denver food scene.

I’ll keep up with the menu, and report back once the sweetbreads come  around.

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Rating: +1 (from 3 votes)

Jan 22 2010

The Top 100 List #88: Fruitoin’s “Pork Chop with BBQ Sauce”

jko

Fruition

Rating: Not Available

Fruition was probably one of the top places I was looking forward to going for their must eat dish.  As it turns out, it is no longer being offered – said chef/owner Alex Seidel (in a considerate email):

“Unfortunately, because of the seasonality of our menu, I think it would be pretty hard to duplicate the dish with the same results.  Some of the produce that was on that dish are unavailable at this time.”

I’m sure there is a dish from here that will take its place, seeing as how it’s one of the best restaurants anywhere in the state.  I’ll have a recommendation up for a dish at this place before long.

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Jan 21 2010

The Top 100 List: #87 Capital Grille’s “Lobster Mac and Cheese”

jko

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Capital Grille’s “Lobster Mac and Cheese”

Location: Downtown

Rating: 7.5 (out of 10)

Price:  $14

The Skinny: I’ve run into more than a few people who have commented on this dish – heard it said that the lobster mac and cheese at Capital Grille will change my life.  The experience is supposedly comparable to a siren’s call and a beach sunset wrapped into one.  Needless to say, I was expecting big things.

First, I’m happy to report: it is really damn good.  Still, when I exited the restaurant, my life was roughly the same, for better or worse.  The lobster is clearly the star, with the delicious and creamy cheese sauce running in a close second.  A fork full of pasta, lobster, and melted, dripping sauce is a must eat indeed.

But, the dish isn’t without its flaws.  For instance, they heat the top of the dish to toast bits of breadcrumbs and melt some cheese, so they throw it under a broiler with the cooked pasta exposed to the high heat.  The results of which are pieces of macaroni on top that are completely dried out and hard to bite into once served.   And plating-wise, the pasta totally overflows the bowl, which is great to look at, but once you start pulling pasta elbows out to eat, the thing falls over like a  jenga set.  Even with these small warts, it’s a damn fine dish.  And at $14, it’s an excellent flavor-value.

AGREE OR DISAGREE?

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Rating: +2 (from 4 votes)

Jan 20 2010

The Top 100 List: #86 Bistro Vendome’s “Pommes Frites”

jko

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Bistro Vendome’s “Pommes Frites”

Location: Downtown

Rating: 6.5 (out of 10)

Price:  $4

The Skinny: About mid-way through dinner, I look around and try to determine if I like the fact that I’m seated outside of the restaurant, in a glorified hallway or not.  On one hand, it feels kinda like I’m outside a café, with chit-chat all around, and fake trees to make the scene.  On the other hand, I’m in a goddamn hallway – with windows next to me of a dark, closed dress store.  I decide to make the most of it and order a small feast for the table, the highly acclaimed Pommes Frites as piece de resistance.

6.5  is where I’d put them.  Better than good, but not quite great.  I don’t know what this odd trend is of putting sugar on French fries, but Vendome and TAG better cut it the hell out.  On top of the crispy, herb-seasoned fries was a sugary sweet syrup.  It deflated the crunch out of the fry and stuck to my hands after every bite.  Taste-wise, it was fine at first, but got tiresome towards the end – the novelty of the sweet flavor wearing out its welcome.  In general, I did really enjoy the herbs de provence seasoning, and thought the crust on the fries were great before it was done in by the hummingbird food.

AGREE OR DISAGREE?

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Rating: -5 (from 7 votes)

Jan 19 2010

The Top 100 List: #85 Izakya Den’s “Calamari Salad”

jko

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Izakya Den’s “Calamari Salad”

Location: Pearl St Denver

Rating: 7 (out of 10)

Price:  $12

The Skinny: Izakya Den is basically the twin brother of Sushi Den.  They share the same parent, the same style, the same taste in food – they even share their plates (mine here said “sushi den”).  Anyone who has been on a 2 hour wait at the original Den can see why it was probably a good idea to put a clone across the street.  Owner Toshi Kizaki is creating quite a little empire for himself on that corner of Pearl – recently opening Den Deli just a few steps away.  Between Frank Bonanno’s neighborhood at 7th and Grant, and Kizaki’s area of Pearl, we could have ourselves a good old fashioned turf war.   A prospect more terrifying than the time the Jet’s danced their way into a fight with the Sharks.

Den’s calamari salad nearly caused a similar war at my table for the tasty, but few, pieces of pan fried calamari.  They were slightly crisp and light, seasoned well, and gently drizzled in the excellent salad sauce.  The sauce was a mixture of capers, white wine, garlic, and lemon – a can’t miss combination so long as everything is balanced, which it was.  The calamari lays on a bed of wilted, soft spinach, and some roma tomatoes, which have been roasted and given a dab of yuzu vinaigrette.  My one complaint is that I wished the sauce didn’t drown out the crunch of the calamari, but overall, it was very well done.

AGREE OR DISAGREE?

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Rating: +1 (from 1 vote)

Jan 17 2010

The Top 100 List: #84 Duo’s “Brown Butter Cake”

jko

duo

Rating: Not Available

Regrettably, there will be certain dishes that cannot be reviewed beacause the restaurant is closed, the dish is out of season, or it is simply just not being served anymore.

The last of these was the fate of the Brown Butter Cake at Duo.  I look forward to checking back with Duo over the course of the year to see if this makes a comeback, and if it does, I will revisit it here.  Duo is an exceptional restuarant, and I’m bummed that I didn’t get a chance to eat one of their “must eat” dishes.

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Rating: +1 (from 1 vote)

Jan 15 2010

The Top 100 List: #83 Locanda Del Borgo’s “House Sausages with Roasted Bell Peppers”

jko

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Locanda Del Borgo’s “House Sausages and Roasted Bell Peppers”

Location: Cherry Creek Area

Rating: 5 (out of 10)

Price:  $12

The Skinny: “Locanda del Borgo” in English translates into “Inn of the village”.  Yes, I looked it up.  The name certainly fits, seeing as how it’s located in the residential part of Cherry Creek – steps away from what I imagine are homes containing stroller-pushing moms and husbands with Bluetooth where ears used to be.   The restaurant itself is semi-chic in a minimalist way – stone floors, brick walls, shining silver, wide open and dark.  Just the kind of village spot to order some authentic Italian with a glass of wine.

After my first couple of bites, I really wished I had that wine.  Maybe it would make me forget about the charred-to-hell outside of the sausage.  It was carbon city.  They should have served it with a grille scraper.  Yeah, the inside of the sausage was good and juicy, but nothing could take my mind and tastebuds off of the awful casing.  After taking my knife and running it down the side of the sausage, painting my plate black, it was redeemed to average.

I will say this, though – the service was excellent.  I ordered a pizza to go, and since my hands were full, the waiter took the time to leave the restaurant and walk to over it to my car.  Above and beyond what I generally expect.

AGREE OR DISAGREE?

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Rating: +1 (from 1 vote)

Jan 12 2010

The Top 100 List #82: The Palm’s “Jumbo Nova Scotia”

jko

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The Palm’s “Jumbo Nova Scotia”

Location: Downtown

Rating: 6.5 (out of 10)

Price:  Read Below for the answer

The Skinny: Take a guess at how much the Jumbo Nova Scotia costs at The Palm:

A)    $25

B)     $35

C)    $40

D)    $66

For those who guessed the ridiculous D, you would be correct.  It’s the sort of thing that’s just obnoxiously ostentatious.  A full grown lobster split open end-to-end.  A” big bastard”, as my father-in-law would say – the thing was all of 3 pounds and nearly took up the whole table.  The plate comes complete with a bib that the waiter ties onto you (for the butter drip, of course!), and a guy to crack the son-of-a-bitch open and present you the meaty parts.

Was it good?  Yeah… it was good.  It was good in that over-the-top kinda way.  If I was trying to wine and dine someone and let them know I was out to impress them, this would be my jam.  It’s just such a display.  Taste-wise, the lobster is cooked nicely and is plenty fine and good.  But… I have to say that for me, there comes a point when there is too much lobster.  Go ahead and shake your head – tell me I’m crazy.  Then have this dish.  At the end, you’ll see what I mean – It’s all one-note.  And the lobster is HUGE, so it’s ton of one note.

The waiter, upon hearing my order of an $85 dish (with tax & tip), slightly brightened his eyes and started going off about how I had to join their Club.  It’s a standard rewards club that costs $25 to join.  I was polite, but didn’t express interest – I’m not a normal Palm patron.  The man proceeded to hound me for the better part of an hour about why I should join and whether or not I had filled out my membership info on the brochure he gave me.  I felt like I was in Cancun getting pitched a timeshare.  Come on guy… you’re a waiter at a fancy restaurant, not a salesman at a swap meet.

** Bonus Question: On an average day, how many of these dishes do they sell at the Palm in Denver?  (I asked the waiter to stop him from talking about the goddamn club for one second)

AGREE OR DISAGREE?

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Rating: +4 (from 4 votes)

Jan 11 2010

The Top 100 List: #81 Indulge French Bistro’s “Tea Infused Orange Soup”

jko

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Indulge’s “Tea Infused Orange Soup”

Location: Highlands

Rating: 6 (out of 10)

Price:  $7

The Skinny: Indulge caught me a little by surprise.  Located on a stretch of 38th that’s not exactly glamorous, the outside of the restaurant is fairly uninspiring.  Like you might walk in and get a good home cooked French meal for under $20 bucks.  In actuality, once you step through the door, you’re immediately struck by the sense that this is, in fact, fine dining.  Upscale food, high prices, and I’d argue – something of elegance.   Well, maybe it was the wonderfully fitting French accent of the female owner that gave it the elegant flair.  Who among us doesn’t fall for a French accent?  It was all a much different scene than what I was expecting from the outside.  A pleasant surprise, to be sure.

Their Tea Infused Orange Soup was a solid 6 on my scale, and not with any bad feelings – it was respectable and good.  The citrus of the orange is balanced very well with the sweetness in the soup broth.  Apparently, it’s supposed to have flavors of roasted pistachios in there as well, which definitely caught my eye, but I didn’t taste any of it.  That was my only disappointment.  What was there was good enough to make me finish every drop of the sugary sweet soup.  It’s probably not on my list of Denver’s must eats, but it was refreshing and nice.

* My apologies for the ridiculously bad photo.

AGREE OR DISAGREE?

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Jan 8 2010

The Top 100 List: #80 TAG’s “Szechuan Colorado Lamb”

jko

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TAG’s “Szechuan Colorado Lamb”

Location: Downtown

Rating: 9 (out of 10)

Price: $29

The Skinny: TAG is fairly new to the Larimer Square scene, but it’s gonna have a long run.  The food is inventive and exciting, the chef (Troy Guard) is getting tremendous buzz, and the feel of the restaurant is hip and inviting.  You get the sense that the chef is saying “here – try this.  Yeah, it’s pop rocks on fish, but you’ll love it”. And you’ll love it.  Then, he’ll serve you French onion soup in the form of 5 dumplings on an escargot dish.  And you’ll love it.  As each dish makes you trust the chef a little more, you might allow him to challenge you and push you to try things you haven’t heard of or don’t quite understand

Such was the case with the ridiculously good Szechuan Colorado Lamb.  The perfectly cooked meat is served over a vegetable couscous, and surrounded by a mysterious and colorful “dragon sauce”.  Now, I don’t know what dragon sauce is, and I suspect no one else does either, but you trust Guard.  The plate arrives and the sauce is an eye-catcher.  Vibrant green and red, and everywhere.  The first taste of it was sweet and light with a slight pepper bend that went perfectly with the lamb and couscous.  The lamb, as it should for 30 bucks, was cooked to a beautiful meadium rare and was every bit as excellent as you hope lamb will be.  An outstanding dish overall

TAG has a wonderfully bright future, with its star chef pushing delighted fans with dishes like “lobster caramel ice cream”, and cooking nearly everything in duck fat.  I expect big things from him in the future –  this guy has got to be one of the top 2 or 3 chefs in the whole city.

AGREE OR DISAGREE?

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Rating: +6 (from 6 votes)

Jan 7 2010

The Top 100 List: #79 Cuba Cuba’s “Arroz Con Pollo”

jko

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Cuba Cuba’s “Arroz con Pollo”

Location: Speer and 12th

Rating: 7.5 (out of 10)

Price: $17

The Skinny: I had only been to Cuba Cuba one other time than this – and under much different circumstances.  My friend had a thing for one of the waitresses and needed to pretend like we were there for a drink so he could hit on her.  So, my role was more or less like a job.  I was to be the decoy and I rocked the part.  Finally this time, unencumbered with such bullshit, I could focus on the food… and the ambiance.  The latter of which is worth noting, since it is simultaneously hip and island-like: beach-worn table tops, palm frond fans, and more 28-39 year olds in jeans than a U2 concert.

The dish was a total hit for me.  Very, very good – I honestly could not stop eating it.  The dark meat chicken was tender and moist, and the rice was fluffy and perfectly seasoned.  The whole thing shouted with flavor all the way through.  Excellent take on a classic dish.

PS – Friend was turned down by aforementioned waitress.  Ohhh!

AGREE OR DISAGREE?

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Rating: -1 (from 1 vote)

Jan 6 2010

The Top 100 List: #78 Ellyngton’s “Portobello Eggs Florentine”

jko

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Ellyngton’s “Portobello Eggs Florentine”

Location: Brown Palace – Downtown

Rating: 7 (out of 10)

Price: $14

The Skinny: The “charm” of the Brown Palace is lost on me.  Their tan and brown colors may pass for old world elegance with some, but to me, it all seems drab and dated.  I prefer to think of the Brown Palace as the place that the Beatles stayed prior to playing at Red Rocks.  As the story goes, there was a flood of housekeeper job applications by young girls, and money was offered for the sheets they slept in and the dishes they ate on.  I regret to say, I got no offers for my dish once I was done.  If I had, I would have handed over a completely clean plate – the food was delicious.

If you think about the ingredients: (egg, spinach, tomato, mushroom) all of these are soft in consistency, but Ellyngtons does a nice job of incorporating some bacon for flavor and texture.  It’s chewy and crispy, and adds a great salt balance to the creaminess of the eggs and hollandaise sauce.  Speaking of balance, they put a nice ruby-red strawberry on the side of the plate, which I thought was probably there to add color and make the dish look “breakfasty”.  I was wrong.  The acid was very refreshing and cut through all of the cream and fat in the dish.  Very nice note to finish the plate on.

One last thing.  They gave a palate cleanser for breakfast.  For breakfast!  How cool is that!  It was a watermelon lemonade shot.  And how did it taste, you might be asking?  I couldn’t really tell you since I just swallowed a gulp of my screaming hot coffee moments before it arrived.  The lingering coffee just murdered the soft and delicate flavors of the drink.  Oh well, it looked as though it might have been nice.

AGREE OR DISAGREE?

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Jan 5 2010

The Top 100 List: #77 Jonesy’s Eatbar’s “Pan Roasted Pork Tenderloin”

jko

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Jonesy’s Eatbar’s “Pan Roasted Pork Tenderloin”

Location: Uptown

Rating: 6.5 (out of 10)

Price: $18

The Skinny: I like Jonesy’s.  It has a good, solid bar feel to the place, even though they call themselves a “gastropub”.  The name is just a bunch of nonsense to indicate that in addition to serving drinks as a bar should, they cook good food too.  Apparently “restaurant” was inadequate – it doesn’t properly describe their array of drink options (23 beers, but only like 3 on tap).  One thing is for sure, they definitely put out some excellent food.

In addition to ordering the tenderloin, we tried the truffle fries and lamb sliders (lamby joe’s), which were glorious – particularly the fries.  The tenderloin was good too.  Tender meat, peppery flavor, sides were above average.  Nothing that compared to their fries, but a pretty good effort and execution.

I left very satisfied with the meal, noting the spot for future visits.  I wonder if, at a gastropub the bartender will listen to your tale of woe, pour your glass full “on the house”, and give you some sage advice?  I’ll report back on this, dear reader…

AGREE OR DISAGREE?

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Rating: 0 (from 2 votes)

Jan 4 2010

The Top 100 List: #76 Jerusalem’s “Baba Ghanouj”

jko

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Jerusalem’s “Baba Ghanouj”

Location: DU

Rating: 4 (out of 10)

Price:  $5.50

The Skinny: I have no doubt that Jerusalem’s has a very vocal and loyal following.  I got there on a late afternoon and nearly sprinted to claim the only open table in the place, barely beating the other disappointed and slower patron.  Once I did, a quick look around revealed the college-cult atmosphere: scruffy faces, backpacks, hats slightly askew.  I half expected to see a philosophy club meeting complete with thoughtful expressions – perhaps that ended before I showed up.  Regardless, it’s a decent little hang-out spot.  One that’s certainly beloved in that area.  I wondered if it was the proximity to the school, or the food that made it so.

Whatever it is, it can’t be the Baba Ghanouj.  I’m no expert on the dish, but I do know bitter pretty well and this had it in spades.  At times, the bitter seemed almost pleasant, like the taste of unsweetened cocoa, and other times it wasn’t pleasant at all.  In consistency and presentation, it’s very similar to hummus, which for my money had to have been better.

As I was leaving, the table next to me asked what I had and whether I liked it.  I was honest and told them my thoughts.  Upon hearing it, they were shocked and unanimously insisted that I had to go back – I had to give it a second chance.  Ok, cultists, I’ll give it another try… just don’t ask me to start building a village in Guyana.

AGREE OR DISAGREE?

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Rating: +1 (from 1 vote)

Jan 1 2010

Happy New Year!

jko

Jeremy Vegas

Happy New Year to all MustEatDenver readers!

I wish you the best of luck and lots of success in 2010…  and if that fails, at least we can drown our sorrows in plates of Denver’s finest soul-warming food.

Jko

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Rating: +1 (from 1 vote)