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In Good Taste

—Image courtesy of Shutterstock

Imagine a sour cheeseburger, or a dish of tart ice cream. It might sound like edgy experimental cuisine, but it’s a nightmarish reality for many cancer patients, especially those fighting head and neck cancers.

Altered taste buds are a side effect of chemotherapy and radiation. Without the basic sense that makes eating enjoyable, patients become indifferent toward—or revolted by­­—food, which compromises quality of life and, even more seriously, can lead to severe malnutrition. Fortunately, there’s hope: This past May, researchers at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus discovered a key molecular pathway, Wnt/ß-catenin, in the mouth that regulates taste-bud regeneration. Doctors Linda Barlow and Dany Gaillard, along with a small research team, identified the pathway after three years of experimentation. The next step is figuring out how the pathway works in order to reformulate patients’ sense of taste or, better still, prevent loss in the first place.

But because it’s a field with very little existing research­—doctors don’t even fully know how healthy taste buds work­—the team has yet to sort out the underlying biological processes. Still, Barlow says, the implications of finding the pathway are significant. “Most patients recover their abilities to taste, but it’s distorted for the rest of their lives,” she says. “We want to leverage our understanding of the pathway’s role in a way that promotes renewal.” For now, this breakthrough offers just a small taste of what’s to come.

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In Good Taste

Who makes Denver chef Frank Bonanno’s restaurants look so good? His better half, of course.

Photo by Aaron Colussi

Sometimes the sweetest part of dining out is the eye candy, and thanks to the design work of Jacqueline Bonanno—the wife of local celebrity chef Frank Bonanno and the interior designer behind each of his restaurants—there’s a lot to ogle here in the Mile High City. The retro-chic tile entrance to Bones; the cowboy-meets-hipster vibe of Russell’s Smokehouse; the industrial exposed brick of Osteria Marco—they’re all Jacqueline’s doing.

The job fell to her out of necessity: When Frank opened Mizuna, his first restaurant, in 2001, budgets were tight. Although she had no formal training, Jacqueline did have a penchant for design, and she managed to strike a balance with casually sophisticated interiors. Today, she’s just finished work on Salt & Grinder, the Bonannos’ newest restaurant—a neighborhood deli in Highland (and the 11th restaurant from the duo). Design highlights include a library ladder and an oversize-diamond-patterned floor.

Her secret? “The flow and function come first,” she says. “Then we get to play with the details.” She admits to attaching sentiment to the names of paint colors. (Russell’s Smokehouse is painted in mouth-watering hues from Benjamin Moore: Louisiana Hot Sauce, Black Bean Soup, and Margarita.) She’s also prone to scouring the Web at 2 a.m. for found objects, such as the floor-to-ceiling shelving in Salt & Grinder, salvaged from a school in New York. “It’s those unexpected details that add warmth and charm and a feeling of comfort,” she says. It’s also the perfect recipe for good design.

Jacqueline Bonanno’s Three Favorite Finds


Wallpaper in Salt & Grinder’s restroom: Stag Head wallpaper in teal by Lisa Bliss (


Cherry red stove hood at Bones: by Mike Mancarella, a metal artist and owner of JunoWorks


Sliding doors made from stained-glass windows at Russell’s Smokehouse: found in a storage locker under Larimer Square