A Brunch by Any Other Cover

Imagine for a moment you standing in a line. It’s long and its slow. A woman with walking sticks and a brand new Patagonia frame backpack seems to be holding things up with discussing her dear Fido’s most recent visit to his “Pet Therapist”. As the basket in your arms grows heavier and heavier, weighed down by piles of kale, kind bars and coconut water you scan around the room. The young girl, in all over her dreaded, tattooed glory behind the register is valiantly trying to keep up with the growing line. Suddenly, yours eyes fall on the newest issue of Bon Appetit Magazine sitting shiny and new on the rack. The cover claims to hold to secrets to all of summer’s food and promises to make you a master griller. A colorful picture smack in the center shows a grilled chicken breast mounting a heaping pile of fresh vegetables. All grilled and all colorful. Radicchio, romaine provide greens and purples as do ramps and red onions. Garbanzo beans and goat cheese provide yellows and white. The caption promises that this dish is gluten free, low fat, sodium free… you get the idea. It certainly looks good, but… does it taste any good? These days our city has become so dressed up that no one can know. And this dear reader, is precisely why the Mashugana is here.

The first thing noticeable thing about Beatrice and Woodsley is the windows, odd as that may seem. As I walked up I couldn’t help but wonder, why are the windows tinted yellow?! Upon opening the door my question was both answered and exemplified. Along one wall ran a bar spotted with chainsaws and high backed white stools and along the other wall ran a series of sheer linen shrouded booths.  Naturally, there were Aspen tree trunks running from floor to ceiling sporadically throughout the dining room.

As it was relatively early in the evening on a Wednesday the restaurant was almost empty and we found a seat at the far end of the bar. In my mind I couldn’t help but imagine the restaurant full on Sunday morning. In my imagination the shrouded booths overflowed with trophy wives and father in laws. Toddlers weaved in and out of the Aspens in their “Nordstrom Sunday Best”, BMW’s and Lexus’s crammed the street parking outside as all of Cherry Creek clamored to get a taste of Denver’s new favorite thing, Brunch.

Putting my prejudice aside we looked over the cocktail list. I went with a Fernet Branca based cocktail while my lovely companion chose Bring us the Shrubbery, a rye based cocktail brightened by peach and mint. While mine was a touch sweet for my taste it was without a doubt a very good cocktail and went down far too quickly. The rye cocktail was definitely my favorite and included both the mint and peach flavors distinctly while still being dry and spirit forward. Along with our cocktails we ordered a Charred Onion Salad to begin. Simple and delicious, spicy greens were dressed with a cumin lime vinaigrette and accompanied by a poached egg, charred onion and bacon. Not overdressed and featuring impeccably produce the bitterness and spiciness of the greens shone through making this salad a fantastic beginning.

Next came Crawfish Beignets. They were a house favorite I was assured and I could see why. Deep fried the crawfish and sweet corn batter was filled with a rouille style aioli. It had all the marks of the type of dish that is so good and so popular that the chef eventually ends up cursing the day he put them on the menu. Like a burnt out Rockstar the chef is forced day after day to fry as hordes of fans demand he play is greatest hit over and over again. And unfortunately for the chef I must say I can’t blame them. I was tempted to forget the rest of the evening and keep stay right there ordering beignet after beignet until sickness eventually overcame me.


At this point in the meal, faith beginning to take hold, we left the last two dishes up to our host, choosing a few things from the menu and letting the good man behind the bar decide. Next came the Duo of Ravioli, my favorite dish of the evening. In a bowl of asparagus and a brown butter tomato sauce sat two perfectly formed green watercress ravioli, one stuffed with chicken confit and one with an egg yolk so perfectly liquid that when cut into it slowly rolled into the bowl like some sort of national geographic depiction of lava. Sitting regally atop all of this as a tiny perfectly white quinelle of ricotta. Not only was this dish balanced, rich and wonderfully flavor full but it held an impish and pervish sense of humor. Looking at the plate I wondered how often does one see a buttery tomato sauce, how often do you find ravioli with the quintessential ricotta stuffing removed and used as a garnish and how was I suppose to decide which to eat first, the chicken or the egg?


Lastly we dove into a rabbit roulade served atop a lentil ragu. The rabbit loin was stuffed with rabbit leg and carrots and served in thin warm slices shingled atop the lentils. Taking salt to the limits of perfect it was fantastically flavorful without being over seasoned. The lentils brought the saltiness of the rabbit back down with their earthy flavors and the acidity tomato made me forget about the salt all together. With the perfect last piece of the puzzle Beatrice and Woodsley re-taught the Mashugana a valuable lesson. While I may never be in doubt that does not mean I’m always right and sometimes a book truly is better than its cover may lead me to believe. All prejudice forced aside B&W was delightful and is a god damn win.



Sunday morning found the Mashugana loading up a Jeep and turning west for some ski therapy. Ski bums everywhere will be familiar with process. Everyone has their own unique routine that they follow time and time again in an almost religious fashion. Personally I am stringently OCD about my ski bag. My bag, containing everything I will want or need, is always loaded and ready to go. Including all my gear, plus spares, it also has several pairs of headphones, a flask, cigarettes, extra lighters, etc. As I never know when I’ll be headed to higher altitude on a whim the bag is essential for taking the thought and effort out of ski mornings. Next, its off to the corner store for some high protien snacks and the largest red bull I can get my hands on.


On this particular occasion I was heading to Copper, a resort that I have somehow in my 25 years in Colorado never skied. My companion for the day was a neighbor of mine. Always down for tom foolery I am confident he will be appearing in many more adventures. A former lifty at Copper he insisted on taking me to his former stomping grounds to show them off. About  10 minutes past Frisco, Copper is owned a separate resort company than Vail where I normally buy my passes. As we trucked up I-70 I had no idea that like an unexpected beautiful woman, Copper was about to steal my heart and run away with it.


Upon arriving we headed straight to a pro shop for a few gear adjustments. My neighbor seemed to know everyone and we made quick and inexpensive work of the things we needed. With our gear ready to rock and roll we walked across the street to Red Hots to meet a few other Copperites that we would be riding with. Red Hots sits directly at the bottom of the American Eagle Lift in Center Village. Serving almost exclusively mac n’ cheese, hot dogs and beer, Red Hots is brilliant, but I’ll get to that later. It was clear that the staff of both Copper and Red Hots all knew each other and operated as a sort of ski bum family, existing in a sort of endless winter, college life style, Neverland. My partner and I threw back a quick shot of Jager as the man at the cash register was relieved of his duties with a tap on the shoulder and a simple “go ride man”.


The three of us headed clipped in and headed up the lift. Riding towards the top I was witness to a quick and friendly argument of where we would be skiing/riding. Every suggestion and comment between the two Copperites was met by a “yea man, I’m down with that, or we could go to…, but I’m cool with anything, but this run is sick, or we could go here, but its up to you, or this, but its all good”. Extremely entertained, it was clear I was along for a ride and I was completely OK with that. Hopping off the lift we jumped another to the top. After disembarking we immediately dove into an epically steep mogul run. Beginning with my partner taking a head over heals tumble within the first 100 yards our first run set the tone for the day. By the time we got to the lift again we had skied bumps, trees and open terrain, all in one run.


Skiing with the liftys of Copper was like what I imagine playing golf with a masters level caddy would be like. The new every inch of their turf like it was the back of their hands. Dragging me around the mountain all day we skied/rode every type of terrain. I quickly realized I was seeing parts of Copper that while 100 percent open to the public, few people new of. In addition to this I had a sort of play by play breakdown of the mountain. Occasionally we would stop and I would be told of some hidden gem.


My favorite of these during the day was what I think was a frozen over creek bed complete with a waterfall that provided an excelent steep drop out of nowhere. Taking the T-Bar lift to the top of Alpine we traversed to skiier left and dropped down into some of the most fantastic tree skiing I’ve ever done. We made our way through soft powder and perfectly spaced trees, following lines that the lifties obviously knew well until we came across the creek. About 5-10 yards across the creek bed provided a narrow snow packed track that wound through the woods allowing us to pick up quite a bit of speed as we eventually went flying over the waterfall hovering a few inches over the snow as suddenly the pitch of the mountain increased exponentially for a few seconds.


With aching knees and an icy beard from my guided tour of Copper we stumbled back into Red Hots at the end of the day for a beer and a snack. A few cooks lingered behind the open line throwing together cheesy delicious mac n’ cheese. Sinful items stood out all over the menu such as buffalo chicken mac and philly cheese steak mac. Opting to go with the Buffalo chicken I was not disappointed. Rich and cheesy it was full of fried chicken, bacon and a distinct buffalo flavor.
Accompanied by a Ranger IPA it left me wondering how in 20 years of skiing I never realized that obviously this was the only choice for post skiing sustenance.

Copper provided a perfect day of skiing and an addictive new food group (Red Hot Mac n’ cheese). While both the skiing and the food were great they were made exponentially better by the distinct “vibe” that existed throughout the mountain, the restaurant and the community. A sort of combination between Skulls Secret Society and the Lost Boys of Peter Pan this community may have converted the Mashugana forever. They lived a carefree, never summer, life that made me want to sell everything but my skis, trade in my Audi for a Jeep and disappear forever into Copperland wehre I could spend the rest of my days frolicking through the woods with Peter and the boys.



Summer Chili and a Few Thoughts on Produce

The thing about being a Mashugana is that I a spend much of my time supporting things that don’t exactly fit into a healthy lifestyle. When I’m not ranting about various forms of alcohol I can generally be found chasing my tale around Denver seeking out decadent and visceral food experiences. I’m constantly on the hunt for pork belly, poutine, lamb heart, foie gras, charcuterie and the like. Where in Denver can I simultaneously add both foie gras and bernaise sauce to my already excellent burger? (St. Ellie’s of Platte St.) Is there any where in Denver that I can add a fried egg to my loaded fries? (Park & CO of 17th St) Is anybody serving candied bacon? (Ignite of Larimer St.) These are the types of questions that haunt both by waking and my sleeping hours. However, along side the passion for decadence comes a passion for sustenance and wholesomeness.

Food holds incredible power to heal and sustain us as humans. There is incredible research being done on how what we eat affects us. Many commons foods that we consume in America are being shown to be borderline poison. Documentaries such as Food Inc., Supersize Me, etc. are revealing startling truths about our diets. Unbelievably large portions of our population eat unbelievably small amounts of fresh food.  While I may be a supporter of gravy soaked French fries I am also a supporter of local produce, responsibly raised meats and freshly made food. I have an intense passion for making everything from scratch, I regularly patronize a shop that sells almost exclusively organic cold pressed juices, (The Juicing Tree on Colfax) and there is little in the world that excites me as much as the beginning of Farmers Market season. After all, it is important for a Mashugana to keep his body in good condition so that it can survive the pork fat and whiskey binges. As my old Chef use to say, “don’t eat less, workout more.”

On that note I am posting a recipe that I have been working on for some time. Consisting only of vegetables and honey it one of my all time favorite health meals. A spicy and sweet chili it is very simple to throw together and absolutely delicious.


Summer Chili



  • Tomatoes
  • Bell Peppers
  • Zucchini
  • Jalapeno
  • Red Onion
  • Garlic
  • Oregano
  • Cilantro
  • Honey
  • Whole Canned Peeled Tomatoes in Juice(Carmelina San Marzanos are my preference)
  • Vegetable Stock (Make your own! Make Large batches and freeze)
  • Paprika





Rough chop all vegetables into about a macedoine (medium dice). It may desirable to cut jalapenos into smaller pieces (bruniouse) to distribute spice more evenly. Thinly slice garlic. Empty tomato cans into a large bowl and hand crush tomatoes into chunks about the same size as vegetables. Saute onions, garlic and oregano in soup pot briefly before adding the rest of the vegetables. Cook until vegetables begin to soften. Add crushed tomatoes (along with the juice) and vegetable stock. Bring to a simmer. Add honey, salt and pepper to taste.  Chili should be spicy and identifiably sweet. Add fresh cilantro leaves.


-Enjoy and Stay Happy


You and Me and the Bottle Makes Three

Piedmontese in the heart

Piedmontese in the heart

What is it about the relationship between a diner and a bottle of wine that is so special? It is difficult to define why a bottle of wine is so enjoyable. It’s not just about the contents of the bottle. It’s not just about the story behind what’s inside the bottle. It’s not as simple as enjoyment of the presentation. There are so many factors, that those who appreciate wine experience when they select a bottle from a list. I for one can remember the very first time I enjoyed the experience of drinking a good bottle of wine. It wasn’t the first wine I’d ever tasted or even the best. It was however the first time I opened a bottle with intention, aware of what was inside of it and where it came from. My first experience was something of a right of passage. Late one evening in a restaurant where I was working, a dining room manager and a few senior servers called me over to a corner table . They invited me to sit down and drink with them. For me it was one of those moments of inclusion. I was being invited into an exciting world that I had previously only watched from the outside. I still remember the bottle, a 2007 Il Nero di Casanova from La Spinetta. That was the night that I would be hooked forever.

One of the best things about wine is every time you sit down to drink there is a process, a long standing order of operations and traditions observed time and time again. There is a familiarity to it that couples with excitement in the act of exploring a wine. Obliviously not all of these traditions are observed exactly the same way in all circumstances but there is a commonality to it from glass to glass, bottle to bottle. Thus, I found myself sitting down on Friday evening, bellying up to both the physical and proverbial bar, for one more.

Barolo Grill is a locally owned and operated restaurant on 6th Ave and St Paul St. Small. Simple and in a quiet corner of the city, Barolo Grill speaks softly and carries a big stick. Fabulous food, fantastic service and genuine understanding (bordering on reverence) of true Italian cuisine makes this restaurant a must visit for winos and Italian purists. When at the Barolo Grill, I was able to tell that for the staff this was more than a job, it was a lifestyle. My bartender that evening, as we chatted, told me that he had been working there for eighteen years while his coworker (the other bartender) had been there for thirteen years. A bit of digging unveiled that the owner of this establishment closes the restaurant for a period every year to take the entire staff to Italy.

The wine list was extensive, containing more than enough verticals of the Piedmontese Kings to qualify the name Barolo Grill several times over. Also containing a plethora of other wines, both old world and new world, the list stretched on leaving me vowing to return time and time again. It was the kind of list that begs you to simply empty your bank account into it.  A brief discussion with my partner in crime left me steering towards France (not something I would normally do in a place like this but I have, after all, been having a ripping affair with France since leaving my last Italian occupation).

With Cornas in mind I questioned the bartender about a label I had not seen before, Vencent Paris Granit 30’. “Wonderful,” the bartender exclaimed as he proceeded to launch in to a story about him visiting the vineyard and the story of Vencent Paris. He told of his three vineyards, one at the base of the hill, one at the middle and one at the top. Each of these vineyards produces a different wine. They are named for the angle of the slope. The bottle I was considering, the Granit 30’ came from the bottom vineyard, which has a slope of 30’. Following his recommendation I ordered a bottle at the same time that I fired in three courses. We had arrived fairly late to the restaurant and I wanted to get my order in quickly.

The bottle arrived with a pair of glasses and the presentation ritual began. There is a sort of excitement that comes when a good bottle of wine is being opened. It carries the type of anticipation one feels while on a date. Sitting there at the table there is a vague idea of what is in front you. Certain facts are already known. There are basic preconceived inclinations based on what’s presented. However, rising out of these facts and inclinations is the unknown. No two experiences will ever be the same. Subtle nuances make each night wonderfully unique and beautiful.  The bottle is opened and a taste is poured. The anticipation is built up to a moment of truth and you taste it for the first time. Substance and body, yet youthful, bright and beautiful, the Vincent Paris drank fantastically. Having a nose of flowers and berries it was intriguing. Glasses were poured and we began to enjoy. As the first glass disappeared the real world melted away.

The first course, although not a great pair with our wine, was my favorite of the three. Kampachi, a fish similar to tuna, was served raw in generous portions. Accompanied by shaved fennel and citrus the flavors were bright, delicate and playful. A truffle sauce was dotted around the plate adding a very light yet earthy and rich undertone for balance. Small amounts of fennel greens provided addition anise flavor as well as sharply contrasting color. The truly excellent part of this dish however, was the seasoning. Large black crystals of lava salt were scattered over the fish. Kampachi, fennel and citrus all have a definite sweetness to their flavor profiles. Delightful sparks of saltiness balanced this as the large crystals were bit down on.

Next came a simple and wonderful plate of agnolotti. Minature raviolis agnolotti are a classic dish from Piedmont, a northwestern state of Italy. Traditionally stuffed with veal and spinach they are made by folding many small portions of filling into a long strip of pasta and cutting it into small individual pieces with a rolling cutter. Served in a thick brown sauce and garnished with micro sage this bowl of pasta was wonderfully rich and flavorful. A nice pairing, the brightness of the wine cut the richness of dish nicely without overpowering it.

The last of the wine disappeared as we worked our way through a plate of braised duck sauced with demi glace. A half of a duck, breast and thigh, was accompanied by potatoes, vegetables and a generous amount of the thick, brown almost purple demi. The smell alone was enough to make you want to throw aside your fork and barbarically inhale the duck with your bare hands. Accompanied handsomely by the wine this was the type of dish you could eat time and time again.         Three wonderful courses with a fantastic bottle of Cornas, Barolo Grill absolutely nailed the experience. For three hours the rest of the world ceased to exist and we were enveloped into wine, food and conversation. The service was fantastic. Never too close and never too far away, our bartender was friendly, graceful and knowledgeable. It was a perfect setting for one of my favorite things, sharing a bottle, and an extensive wine list promises many more return visits and adventures. Not everyone is into wine but if you are, this is the place to drink it!

Half Pops, A little random fun on Monday Night

It’s late in the evening and you feel like watching a movie. You decide on a title and set it up on your TV. You turn down the lights. Heading to the kitchen you throw a bag of popcorn in microwave and grab a Coke. With a big bowl of fresh popped corn you make your way to the couch and flip on the movie. As images flash by on the screen you sift through the popcorn, popping a kernel in your mouth here and there. Subconsciously your hand picks through the corn sorting it, picking selective kernels and skipping over others. There are big fluffy pieces, completely white with rolling round edges. There are smaller broken up pieces. The unpopped pieces, for the most part, are sunk to the bottom.

Your favorites however, are the half pops. They are small crunchy gems that exist halfway between kernel and popped corn. You crunch down on them breaking through the husk that remains as a result of its half popped nature. The crunchiness is juxtaposed by the softness of the rest of the piece in a way that never gets old. They’re one of the funny frivolous things that you have always loved. As long as you can remember you have been eating your popcorn the same way. Steadily picking through always on the hunt for half pops.

Popcorn is made from a special varietal of corn that has a starchy interior encased in a hard husk or shell.  When a significant amount of heat is applied to the corn the moisture inside of the shell begins to boil causing rapid expansion. As the interior of the kernel expands against the hard outer layer pressure begins to build until it inevitably explodes or pops. The starch expands rapidly as the husk breaks away creating the soft yet crunchy popcorn that we know and love.

Half pops are created when the pressure within the kernel is insufficient to completely break away the husk and cause the starch to fully expand. This can be caused by one of two things. The first possibility is that the integrity of the husk has been compromised. It may have a hole or a crack in it, which allows steam to escape keeping the internal pressure from developing fully. The second possibility is that the moisture content of the popcorn is too high. Your average popcorn available for purchase has internal moisture content of 12%-14%. It is specifically raised this way, to ensure the best possible pop. However if the internal moisture is greater than 14% percent the moisture will not boil at the same temperature, again causing insufficient pressure.

This is one of those great instances where understanding the science of your food can be extremely beneficial. Combining what you know about popcorn moisture content with salt and water can create an ideal bowl of popcorn, nothing but half pops. Begin by taking popcorn kernels and placing in an airtight container. Make a solution of salt water at a 1:4 ratio. Fill container with the salt water ensuring that all kernels are submerged. Cover and place in a cool place (do not refrigerate). Stir occasionally and allow to sit. Strain but do not dry the kernels after 4 days. The kernels are now ready to pop. You can cook them in a popcorn popper or a sauce pot in the normal way although, you may need to you 3-4x the normal amount of oil. The salt water will have ideally, due to osmosis, raised the moisture content of the popcorn kernel resulting in an entire bowl of half pops. Fare warning, you may be disappointed when given a whole bowl you discover that hunting for those special little kernels was half of the fun.

Dedicated to… Well you know who you are.

Scenes of Paris


On Saturday the 17th of January a piece of my life closed its doors for the last time. Serving its last few cups of coffee in loving Paris manner it announced Friday “tonight we have wine, tomorrow we have coffee, and then we say goodbye”. After opening 1986, Paris on the Platte, coffee shop and wine bar, spent the next twenty years stealing the heart and habits of anyone within reach. Its final night and day the place was jammed, packed with friends and family who had come to pay their respects.

We have all had places that we associate with certain parts of our lives. They fill a void, serving a purpose (or several), for a period of time. I for one will never forget Nick and Willies, a take-n-bake pizza place that my mom stopped at every Friday (along with a rental movie) when I was a kid. I eventually made a career out of Italian food with an emphasis on pizza. It has been so long since I’ve had a Nick and Willies Pizza that I could not tell you with any certainty whether or not it was a quality pizza. I can however, tell you with total certainty that in my memory they were some of the most fantastic slices I have ever eaten.  These restaurants and shops engrain themselves into our lives. Their memory stays vivid even as they drift out of our lives. We look back fondly on the dive bar down the street when we first became of age, or of the all night coffee shop we spent those late sleepless nights while in school. These spots serve a vital purpose in the fabric of our lives.

Paris on the Platte was such a place for me. I first discovered Paris when I was seventeen or eighteen years old. I was a freshman at University of Colorado Boulder, an endeavor I never completed. At nights you could find me, however, in the back room of the coffee shop. It was a small room with hard wood floors and exposed brick walls. Raised a few feet above the main dining room it was consumed by one single enormous square table. Paris was spelled in white on a large black barn door. At least that’s what we figured it was, in truth I never really had any idea. The air was constantly hazy as smoking was allowed and the room was always filled with an odd assortment of artists, punks, hipsters and nerds. It was an atmosphere that greatly validated the self indulgent, angsty, bohiemian  mind set of my adolescence. I spent many nights back there, doing homework or huddled in a corner talking rapidly to my friends as we consumed pot after pot of Paris’s five dollar pots of coffee.

Many years later, after being a part of a failed Italian, wine driven concept, I moved to Denver, joining the Platte St neighborhood with my tail planted firmly between my legs. Over years the neighborhood had grown and changed so much that I didn’t recognize it as I unloaded my Uhaul in total exhaustion. The cross streets never accuring to me, I was almost floored when a day or two later I ventured across the street in search of a local libation only to stumble into the favorite coffee shop of my angsty years. It had, at this point, expanded to include a wine bar. A re-kindled love was imminent. An icon of my adolescence had, during the years I poured my heart into a wine centric restaurant, added a wine bar and with perfect timing and grace reappeared at the exact time that I slipped back into angst.

Many of my nights were spent sitting in the Paris bar, surrounded by neighbors and friends. Quirky local art filled the walls that surrounded the small, long bar. Rickety chairs and tables provided odd shadows in the dark bar. The bartender seemed to know every face and bounced around from group to group providing drinks as well as bent ear.  Faye the owner (if I got of work early enough) would be lingering between the coffee side and the bar, always with a kind, almost parental word.

Summer nights would find us on Paris’s patio. Although it was little more than a fenced enclosure in a parking lot (bordering the highway, no less) it somehow never felt that way. Two small warn out metal tables supported coffee cans full of sand and cigarette butts (smoking was no longer permitted inside). A Russian Olive tree full of Christmas lights hunched over almost vertically adding to the glow of the highway and the street lights. Entire nights would disappear arguing with a Ukrainian regular. The Ukrainian, a middle aged owner of an eyeglass store in Cherry Creek, we would talk late into the night, pausing to mutter natstrovia under our breath as vodka after vodka disappeared.

Paris was always there for the good nights and the bad nights. I’ll never forget the night I met someone who would turn out to be, despite my best efforts, one of my closest friends. I had just received news that one of my former roommates had taken his own life and had spent several hours at a pub with old friends turning money into whiskey. The streetlights of Platte glowed as we stumbled in the direction of my apartment. Not willing to be left with our thoughts we stumbled into Paris. The bar was empty as it was fairly late for Monday night, save for a woman sitting alone in the corning.

Wandering in I took a seat next to her. She had striking grey blue eyes and a smile that seemed somehow amused by your existence. When she smiled it was as if she was complimenting you and mocking you simultaneously. I ordered a shot of Makers Mark Bourbon stating with the kind of boldness that only severe alcohol consumption can muster that I would take two if she’d have one with me. She laughed saying that she wasn’t so much wanting bourbon but that she would do a Fernet with me. Fernet is an extremely bitter, extremely abrasive Italian amaro that ninety percent of pallets loathe but that my years in Italian dining had left me hopelessly in love with. A bottle and a pair of shot glasses appeared at the same time that my roommate, taking my cue, disappeared with our friends. Although I struck out royally, to the best of my recollection, that bottle never again saw the light of day.

Such was the nature of Paris, that seemed to always be there, a cog that my life rotated around. Morning after morning I would stop by for a cup of coffee and breakfast. Exchanging pleasantries, small talk and hang over remorse with the baristas until familiarity over came us. They knew all of my work woes, weekend projects and my dating disasters just as I greeted their boyfriends warmly by name and new the status of that latest paper (you know, the one that’s a total pain in the ass). As I swung in an out on those early mornings Faye (the owner) was always there to laugh, shake her head at me, and tell me to put on a jacket.

We never know when something unexpected will come into our lives and stick. Running congruently into the fabric of our lives, these things connect our memories even if we don’t necessarily realize it right away. As time passes they become a part of our experience and begin to serve a purpose. It may be a purpose we realize or it may be a purpose we don’t. Paris will always be a part of my memories and my stories. Just as that take-n-bake pizza brought my family together on Friday nights in my youth, so Paris was to my transition from adolescence to adult hood. Always there, providing a safe backdrop to my journey, I will forever remember the warmth of its walls, the cheer of its bar and the familiarity of its coffee counter. And I will certainly always remember to wear my jacket.

Pour Ma Gueule

Everybody, every place and everything has its ups and downs. Everything can be beautiful in its perfection. True love comes from the love of imperfections. It’s easy to love the climate of your home when the sun is shining, but when you truly love where you live you find yourself endeared to the days in-between. As a Colorado native I have grown to love the type of cold dry nights that one only finds during winters in the great plains.

It was on a night such as this that I ventured to Boulder to meet up with Riley and explore PMG. The lights of Pearl Street shown brightly as we parked downtown and began our bitter cold walk. Decked out for the holidays with Christmas lights Pearl Street hummed in its beautiful and unique way. The streets were dry and covered in a dusting of salt and sand from a pervious snow that had melted and refrozen several times leaving small patches of ice scattered about. The windows of restaurants glowed warmly and irresistibly as the cold stillness of the night left us craving warm food and warm company.

Located on 8th and Pearl, PMG is tucked just out of sight of the main drag. We hurried in and bee-lined straight to the bar. I was immediately struck by the décor of this new restaurant. Warm hard wood floors and exposed brick immediately made me forget about the cold stillness of the outside world. The most striking feature however was a large art piece that hung behind the bar. A massive shape made almost entirely of wine corks covered most of the wall.

A casual and friendly bartender came by after a minute or two pouring us water and offering drinks and menus. He had an air about him made you feel as though you were instant friends the moment he noticed you. A comprehensive by the glass wine list gave us several options. Nebbiolo, with its light body and strong tannins seemed like the perfect choice and we settled on a Sottimano Langhe to start with.

Very hungry and still a bit cold we were eager to jump straight into some appetizers and asked our bartender for suggestions. He launched into a description how the menu was designed and the best way to order. He explained that although the menu was very small it was changed on an almost daily basis. The menu was a creative and yet predictable representation of classic wine bar fair. Heavy on cheeses and meats it also contained pasta and two meat dishes.

We began with a plate of prosciutto. While I normally expect to see prosciutto on the menu at a wine centric restaurant the presentation on this particular plate was the far from the expected. Served with apple butter and delicatessen squash we were delighted by the flavors presented. The apple butter provided a wonderful and creamy sweetness that sharply juxtaposed the salt and texture of the meat while accentuating the richness of the squash. Interesting and balanced it left us fighting over the last bite before the next plate arrived.

Two other appetizers followed the prosciutto and squash. The first of which was burratta cheese with roasted rose turnips and grilled bread. Mozzarella with additional cream folded in the cheese was just as rich as promised and beautifully complimented by the sweet and earthy turnips. The last appetizer was a dish of baby octopus. It was served with the most fantastically cooked fingerling potatoes and accompanied by aioli and fresh red onions that added spice and texture. Although underprepared and slightly tough the octopus had a wonderful char to them.

We finished the meal with a plate of lamb ragu. Fresh, house made tagliatelle created the foundation of the entrée. Firm and structured without being chewy it was extremely well made. The addition of cream to the ragu sauce made it rich and filling, perfect for a cold winters night. The part of this dish however that made it stand out was the ragu itself. Bold and gamey the flavor of the lamb was rich, expressive and hearty. It stood in the forefront of the flavors with an aggressive heartiness.

PMG stands for pour ma gueule, which is a French expression used to describe a private or personal stash of wine reserved for friends and family. Simple, friendly and boldly confident in its identity, PMG lives up to the implications of its name. Wine bars can be a tough sell in todays modern restaurant world but after a wonderful meal there I am hoping this one sticks around. With creative and simple food paired, with reasonably priced wine, PMG is the perfect place to keep away the winter chills.


Beginning his career at Rattlesnake in 1995 Chef Frank Bonanno quickly began his assent to the top with Mizuna (opening in 2001). He now stands at the head of an empire of 11 unique restaurants in the mile high city. Bonanno Concepts consists of some of my favorite restaurants including Osteria de Marco and Russell’s Smoke House. The most striking trait of Bonanno restaurants, in the humble opinion of this mashuguna, is their commitment to basics. Each outpost of this empire has a very unique and specific concept which they fervently stick to. There is no better representation of this than Bones, the asian outpost. Located at 7th Ave and Grant St Bones is true to its name. While still creative and refined, Bones avoids all pretense and distraction. With a simple dining room and a small menu this restaurant focuses only on serving delicious food, stripping the dining experience down to just the Bones.

Located on the corner of an old quaint two story building Bones struck my eye as soon as I drove up. A bright orange door and warm lights glinting out the window called warmly to me as I searched for street parking. I found a spot after a quick search and proceeded towards dinner. Walking through the signature orange doors I found a small warm and simple dining room. A small open kitchen was surrounded by a counter where patrons could sit and eat while watching the action. The rest of the room was filled with small simply set wooden tables. After being greeted warmly I was lead to a table to join my party.

Not long after being seated we were visited by a waitress with a smile that could have knocked me flat on my back. Menus were provided and drinks were offered. Glancing at a menu of simple Asian comfort food I decided to go for a beer. Trumer, a California pilsner with slight but not overpowering hops, has always been one of my favorite go-to beers and was perfect for this occasion.

Brussels Sprouts were the obvious first step for our meal and we quickly placed an order. The arrived crispy and enticing. A highly trending food item, particularly in Denver, brussels sprouts are often served dressed as sweet and salty. This was no exception but with a delightful twist. A sour note derived from a type of vinegar was a new and beautiful addition to something familiar. Octopus followed the brussels sprouts. Tender as octopus goes and boldly served as full tentacles the octopus was accompanied by what the menu described as “sun-choke textures”. A dichotomous combination of crispy sun-choke chips and sun-choke puree the “textures” were a playful and earthy addition to the seafood.


With the foreplay coming to an end we moved to the main show. Having decided to share entrees we ordered two bowls of noodle soup with an order of pork belly steam buns for good measure. The buns were exquisite, everything you want from a steam bun. Chewy yet immediately forgiving the buns themselves gave the slightest resistance as we bit into them before dissolving, sweat and yeasty. Filled with a flavorful and savory slow cooked pork belly they were topped with sweet and wonderfully thick sauce. As for the bowls the first bowl was udon and braised pork shoulder. The bowl was enormous filled with a rich sweet plum-soy broth. Thick chewy udon noodles swam along side large chunks of pork. The broth was slightly thick and brown, its richness drastically exemplified by a single floating poached egg. Like all good things this soup needed a ying to its yang, supplied by an ample amount of raw scallions, finishing the dish with a sharp bite. The second bowl was the easily the favorite piece of the evening. Sweet lobster meat in a lobster miso broth was fortified by beurre blanc. This bowl was a quick and easy reminder of one of lives sinful pleasures, lobster bisque. The beurre blanc and lobster broth combined to replicate the sensation of bisque exquisitely. The addition of lobster meat and edamame added a solid factor that always seems just out of touch when indulging lobster bisque. With fresh scallions again adding a bite this dish was new and exciting while still being familiar and comforting.


Bonanno delivers another home run with Bones. Warm and comfortable, this restaurant smoothly delivers exciting plays on the familiar. From the moment you enter its orange door you are immediately aware that you have found a new favorite eatery. Its friendly service, simple atmosphere and excitingly familiar food create the perfect draw for snowy days, both real and proverbial.



Stoic and Genuine

There are many beautiful things about Denver but one of the most prominent is the marriage of old and new.  Pot and ranching, fracking and organic farming, however you feel about any particular issue Colorado is the land of old and the land of new. A perfect cultural example of this is Denver’s new Union Station. Located at 17th and Wynkoop, one of Denver’s original landmarks has recently been renovated and reopened in an exciting new project. It has brought out an all-star team of restauranteurs and developers, including the snooze group, the kitchen group, the brains behind Little Man Ice-cream and Jennifer Jasinski. One of Denver’s most prominent and fastest growing stars, Jasinski is the chef and owner of Euclid Hall, Bistro Vendome, Rioja. Having recently (2013) won the James Beard Award for Best Chef of the South West she just opened her fourth project in the recently renovated train station.

Upon arriving at Stoic and Genuine there is very little parking to be found although there is an immediate and friendly valet available. Walking up to Union one cannot help but to be impressed by the beauty of the building. “UNION STATION” is spelled out in large orange letters, above the grand entrance to a white stone, wonderfully formed train station. Stoic and Genuine is located on the south-side of the building just past the main terminal. With a patio that extends into the plaza the Stoic door is marked by a large decal of an octopus.

Today’s restaurant scene has seen some revolutionary changes. Chefs like Wolfgang Puck opened up the walls of the kitchen and made the men in white stars. Bartenders began to act as experts of flavor creating the art of mixology. Modern hosts began to do away with the traditional white table clothes and formal rules of fine dining. Stoic and Genuine is a shining example of these changes being used properly. Although distinctly modern the foundations of service and tradition are still observed in this new seafood centric restaurant. Serve from right and clear from the left, proper wine service and tradition course marking are alive and well here. They have however, done away with table cloths, formal dress and pretense.  Plainly set simple tables are lined in perfect rows through the dining room. Traditional chandeliers are replaced by clusters of Edison bulbs and a raw bar/open kitchen runs all the way down one wall. Full of a rag-tag, but professional, crew of determined chefs, the raw bar/kitchen pops under bright lights – the obvious focal point of the restaurant.

Being sure not to leave Denver’s, ever more thirsty, residents parched, Stoic combines a simple yet elegant wine list with a creative and innovative cocktail list. A balanced list, including many European selections, provides a backbone of tradition while the out there cocktail’s provide a streak of modern rebellion. For example, the “Some Like It Hot” specialty cocktail provides an almost unrecognizable twist on margaritas. Containing tequila, simple syrup, and lime, it is poured over a chili-citrus granite providing a visually stunning glass. The same trick is used in a ginger and bourbon-based cocktail dubbed the “Ginger Cane”.



Fried buffalo mozzarella with fish roe and guancialle vinaigrette becomes a fascinating and provoking start to any meal at this new restaurant. Apply dubbed Swine and Roe this dish is a perfect example of the art of juxtaposition. Fried buffalo mozzarella makes up the primary piece of this dish. Two large pieces sit center stage, providing a foundation of both texture and flavor. The fried shell gives a crunch factor while the melted interior provides soft chewiness. Rich and creamy, the cheese provides the foundation. Fish roe steeply contrasts this rich creaminess with salt and the distinctly  light and playful flavor of the sea.  All of this is capped by guancialle (cured pork jowl) vinaigrette, which is acidic as well as fatty and rich. A brilliant juxtaposition of flavors the roe and cheese are perfectly brought together by this sauce that  simultaneously intensifies the flavors of both.



A whole roast haddock offering creates an entirely different experience as an entree. A full head-to-tail presentation (bone-in), this dish is sure to amaze the second it hits the table. As opposed to the previously mentioned appetizer, this dish is the opposite of clever and playful. It is a simple representation of fine ingredients cooked and presented well. Upon diving into this dish it is immediately evident that the fish is of extremely high quality. The preparation of the haddock however, is what makes it truly special. Crispy skin covers a moist and tender flesh that instantly falls off of the bone. Seasoned with lemon and thyme, the only thing that could possibly improve this dish is a supplement of foie gras (available for $8 and oz). The foie adds a rich and earthy component to this already fabulous plate.


Sticking rigidly to their attention to detail, Stoic and Genuine has several side dishes and desserts that are of stand-alone quality. Baked-to-order corn bread is served with a side of room temperature butter. Perfectly moist as well as slightly crumbly this dish is a necessary addition to any meal here. Chocolate bread pudding with hot buttered rum is another must try at this Denver Restaurant. Served as a slice with ice cream, this dish is not too sweet and not too rich. It is not too alcoholic, and at the same time, is just enough. A nice sipping tequila provides a perfect beverage to accompany this dessert, complimenting the creaminess of the butter as well as the underlying rum flavor.

Today’s restaurants can be so exciting. They provide a bold venture from tradition. Although this is certainly a good thing that provides much needed progress, it can so often ruin what made eating out  great in the first place. Stoic and Genuine manages to find the prefect middle-ground in this debate. A marriage of old and new, Stoic poses new bold questions. Why not use granite as a cocktail ingredient? Who says you can’t serve exquisite raw and hot sea food in the center of heartland America? Albeit, for a price? Why should one have to chose between great service and casual comfort? It boldly offers both creativity and properly represented ingredients and flavors. In the heart of one of Denver’s most exciting new projects, Jesinski has created a must-try destination.

Angelo’s. A repeatable one night stand.

Tuesday, a rainy and unlikely night for Mashuguna shenanigans found me at Angelo’s Taverna. Located on 6th Ave and Washinton angelo’s presents a front that is unlikely to supply a good time. Outdated signs and a slightly dirty appearance would have hidden this experience from me as just another part of 6th Avenue’s scenery had I not been stopped on my way to one of my favorite Wash Park haunts. As we cruised down 6th Ave with thoughts of LaLa’s (a great little pizzeria on Logan) my partner in crime for the evening stopped me and exclaimed “Hey! Angelo’s, I liked that place once” as if describing a questionable and yet satisfying one night stand from long ago. Having only chosen LaLa’s as a result of lacking inspiration I asked if it was worth checking out.


The parking lot, although designated for Angelo’s, was full but we were able to find ample street parking close by, thus beginning and oyster experience that would leave me feeling as though I had simultaneously attended church and a pagan virgin sacrifice. As we entered the tavern we side stepped the hostess and grabbed the only two open seats at the bar. The plan was to shoot a few oysters, have a drink or two and get some pasta to go. A combination of the charm of my partner in crime and the charm of Angelo’s kept me firmly panted in my bar stool for the better part of the evening and my sobriety.


We were promptly greeted by a server who asked if we would like a drink. Having only one selection for bubbles by the glass I didn’t even bother listening as our server told us what it was. We simply ordered two. As I sipped my bubbles, served in a wine glass rather than a flute, something that I find distinctly preferable (huge points), I let the atmosphere sink in. Dark, dusty, loud and vibrantly energetic Angelo’s gave off the sense of a church basement coupled with a pool hall and a small Italian osteria. Perfecto!


A sampling of oysters arrived on the half shell. Served classically and simply. Including kumomoto’s (one of my favorites), the oysters were accompanied by mignonette, cocktail sauce, lemon and horseradish in a simple tin dish of ice. The oysters were fresh, briny and tantalizing. Exactly the way an oyster should be. My only complain is that the shucker (who stood right in front of us) had his head phones in the entire time while trying to talk to us, a small pet peeve of mine.


Next arrived a round of grilled oysters! Served in shell and hot, the oysters were cooked with gorgonzola, bacon and pesto. They’re are few first times still allowed to a Mashuguna such as myself. This however was one. Although I adore oysters from here to the moon an back I am a purist. I have never had a grilled oyster. This was sublime! It was also served with a large slice of garlic bread with which, like little children, we were delighted to run through the inside of our empty oyster shells soaking up every last bit of greasy goodness.

Grilled oysters were followed by caesar salad. Burnt croutons and lousy caesar dressing made this hardly worth mentioning much less writing about. The next dish, our entree, however was exactly what it was suppose to be. Squash Ravioli with bacon and brown butter was not life altering but was completely apropos. Swimming in a greasy brown butter bacon sauce they were rustically house made and delicious. Although it would have been greatly improved by a splash of pasta water, stock or another alternative to cut the fat, the sauce perfectly fit the atmosphere and situation.


Our oyster adventure was complete in a classic Mashuguna style by two rounds of liquid dessert. The first of which was oyster shooters. Mine was a shot of raw house oyster, jalepeno infused tequila and lime. Spicey and alcoholic as all heck it was perfect. My partner went with a sweeter option. Graham cracker stout, vanilla vodka and house oyster. BRAVO! Our evening was capped by an unexpected and unordered round. In a splendid show of hospitality our server brought us a round of fantastic house made lemon cello.


A fantastic evening, Angelo’s provided exactly what it promised, the good and the bad. Although not a place for fine meals of well balanced Italian food Angelo’s was delightfully satisfying. Like a questionable lover the Taverna seemed to satisfy in a home fashion and yet foreign way. Balancing well made sustenance with the pleasures of greasy sin it was the perfect choice for a rainy Tuesday night.