Table Talk for May 26, 2008

May 2008

News: The Post's Kristen Browning-Blas Steps Aside

In last Wednesday's Denver Post, food editor Kristen Browning-Blas announced she's stepping down after seven years "Time to pass the oven mitts". As she passes the torch to restaurant critic Tucker Shaw (who has been at the paper since 2005), we realize this is the end of an era--one that brought the Post (and Browning-Blas) a coveted James Beard Award in 2006. While Browning-Blas assures readers that we'll still see her byline from time to time, she indicates that the food section will move to include "more restaurant news and trends." We applaud the shift but think that fewer restaurant reviews ("maybe not every week") is a curious decision since those have long been the strongest part of the section. --Amanda M. Faison

Trend: Horchata, All Dressed Up

We're already big fans of cinnamony horchata, a refreshing drink made of ground rice and sugar, but add booze and we're all over it. We think the horchata cocktail could be one of the finer refreshments out there (right after the margarita, that is), and a look at local menus shows we're not the only ones with this opinion. Sip this patio drink at Rioja, Solera, Mezcal, Tambien, or Lola. At Rioja, sous chef Dana Rodriguez, who used a family recipe to make the horchata, adds cinnamon-infused vodka. The result: Divine, "like rice pudding without the lumps and with a kick," says restaurant consultant and PR guy John Imbergamo. Our favorite of the bunch is at Solera, in which GM and sommelier Ian Maxwell adds a simple syrup made with Tazo's sweet cinnamon spice tea. --AMF

Open: Highland's Asian Grill

Ever since Highland Pacific and Basil Doc's Pizza opened in the building at 32nd Avenue and Perry Street a couple years ago, we've watched to see what would fill the third space. Finally, an answer: Highlands Asian Grill, a casual Thai, Japanese, and Chinese restaurant, opened on May 16. Dishes are of similar quality to that of the (unrelated) Thai Basil family of restaurants. Top picks include greaseless fried rice, golden fried sesame tofu (gooey on the inside, crispy on the outside), and the zippy basil chicken with veggies. We'll think twice, however, before ordering the Vietnamese egg rolls again--what should have been crisp and fresh was limp and tired. Our take: Given the affordable price point (dishes top out at $12.99), the central location, and the family-friendly space, we think Highland Asian Grill will do well--especially for take-out. 3940 W. 32nd Ave., 303-433-3317, www.highlandsasiangrill.com --AMF

Brunch Biz: A New Kind of Date

When the dinner-and-a-movie date combo begins to feel routine, try this: brunch and a matinee. The independent movie house Neighborhood Flix recently added a few breakfast items to its weekend menu. Now, you can await a movie with a mimosa in one hand and a forkful of cinnamon French toast in the other. A recent Saturday morning found us biting through a slightly sweet brioche roll into comforting BLT & E (bacon, lettuce, tomato, and egg). We look forward to watching the menu grow (with only four options, the current menu will tire quickly) and spending rainy weekends here. Bonus: 5280 unveils Neighborhood Flix in "Flix on the Fax" <Link to flix on the fax>. 2510 E. Colfax Ave., 303-777-3887, www.neighborhoodflix.com --Kazia Jankowski

Event: Children's Hospital Benefit Dinner

Take two of the Denver area's best chefs, pair them with three expert sommeliers, and you've got the makings of a dinner you won't want to miss. On Monday night at Luca D'Italia, chefs Frank Bonanno (Luca D'Italia, Mizuna, Osteria Marco) and Lachlan Mackinnon-Patterson (Frasca Food and Wine) dish up five Italian courses, including antipasti and pasta courses, while their restaurant sommeliers pour the wines. All the dinner proceeds benefit Children's Hospital, a place dear to both Bonanno and Mackinnon-Patterson, whose children have undergone brain and heart surgery, respectively, at the hospital. Monday, June 2, 6 p.m., $350. Luca D'Italia, 711 Grant St., 303-832-6600, www.lucadenver.com --KJ