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NEWS: A TOAST TO MEL MASTER
In the November issue of Conde Nast Traveler, dining critic Alan Richman writes about America’s 20 most influential dishes of all time. And right along with Wolfgang Puck‘s smoked salmon and caviar pizza (at Spago) and Mario Batali‘s beef cheek ravioli (at Babbo) sits Jams‘ chicken and fries. Jams, an ’80s New York hotspot and celeb hangout, was owned by Denver’s Mel Master (Mel’s Bar & Grill) and chef Jonathan Waxman of Chez Panisse fame. The restaurant closed in 1989 but versions of the free-range chicken and fresh-cut fries live on at Mel’s of Greenwood Village and the newly opened Mel’s Bistro & Bar (formerly Montecito) along Sixth Ave. Mel’s of Greenwood Village: 5970 S. Holly St., Greenwood Village, 303-777-8223; Mel’s Bistro & Bar: 1120 Sixth Ave., 303-777-8222; www.melsbarandgrill.com
TREATS: ICEBOX BAKERYWe love the cozy smell and taste of homemade cookies, but these days, finding the time to bake is ever more difficult. Enter Icebox Bakery, a line of all-natural refrigerated cookie doughs from Boulder-based pastry chefs Jennifer Bush and Allison Patterson (who also happens to be married to Frasca executive chef Lachlan Mackinnon-Patterson). These cookies are heaven for the busy cook, and they’re made with real ingredients (read: butter, not strange hydrogenated oils). Of the five flavorsFarmer’s Market Cherry Pie, Old Fashioned Peanut Butter, Classic Sugar Cookie, Deluxe Chocolate Chip, and Chewy Ginger SpiceI’ve taste tested two. While the cherry pie (essentially an oatmeal cookie with dried cherries) was chewy and oaty, it tasted too sweet, but the chocolate chip variety baked up like Mom’s best. Directions on the label say to bake for 14 to 18 minutes, but keep a close watch; in my oven, the cherry pie cookies took 20 minutes but the chocolate chip were perfectly baked at 14 minutes. Look for Icebox Bakery’s dough at select Whole Foods (in the refrigerated section). www.iceboxbakery.com
UPDATE: CAFE STAR’S NEW CHEF
We’ve long loved Cafe Star, a heavy-hitting upscale eatery on Colfax Avenue. But knowing what chef changes can do to a restaurant (former executive chef Rebecca Weitzman headed to New York to work at Bobby Flay‘s Bar Americain), we stopped in for lunch to check on things. Her replacement is Mike Carlin (formerly of Bang!), and while his menu feels comfortable and interesting, we left a little frustrated. Where Weitzman was precise about her flavors, presentation, and staff, the new Cafe Star seems a bit haphazard. A warm spinach salad was overly acidic and clearly plated in a hurry, the BLT was sub par with flavorless avocado aïoli and leathery bacon, and even the staff seemed slapdash and a bit bored. Carlin has been charged with making the menu more cozy and approachable, but we miss Weitzman’s touches like the pizzetta with pancetta, blue cheese, and Black Mission figs. 3201 E. Colfax Ave., 303-320-8635, www.cafestardenver.com