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Table Talk for January 31

JANUARY 30, 2007

A couple months ago our staff embarked on a dining challenge: Design a new pizza for Bene Gourmet Pizza, a small Oregon-based pizza chain that has two Denver outposts. After studying Bene’s extensive list of toppings (which range from fresh spinach and zucchini to roasted chicken and green chiles), and submitting several combos, Bene stopped by the office to conduct a blind taste test. The winner: managing editor Lindsey Koehler‘s combo of wild forest mushrooms, roasted pine nuts, red onion, roasted garlic, Greek olives, chèvre, and herb olive oil sauce (see recipe below). Try it for yourself at the Cherry Creek or Greenwood Village locations starting Feb. 1. 2623 E. Second Ave., 720-941-9222 and 8547 E. Arapahoe Road, Greenwood Village, 720-200-9222,

Pick up a loaf of Great Harvest Bread Company‘s cinnamon-pecan swirl and pop a slice in the toaster. Made from stone-ground whole wheat and sweetened with agave nectar, applesauce, and bit of brown sugar, this tasty treat is healthier than your average breakfast bun. The bread (and its cinnamon swirl counterpart) is so popular it’s baked daily—and sells out fast. 2636 E. Third Ave., 303-242-8136 and 765 S. Colorado Blvd., 303-778-8877

Celeb Chef Richard Sandoval (Tamayo, Zengo, and La Sandía)offers his gourmet take on game day with munchies that can either be individually plated or served on a platter a la upscale nachos.

Tortilla de Atun
Pan-seared tuna with jicama salad and chile de Arbol-sesame seed sauce
(4 servings)

For the tuna:
1 tablespoon canola oil
12 ounces tuna steak, cut into four equal portions
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

4 flour 6-inch tortillas, each cut into five triangles and warmed following package instructions

For the chile de Arbol-sesame seed sauce:
¼ cup white sesame seeds
2 dried chiles de Arbol, stems seeds and membranes removed
1 tomato, chopped
¼ chopped white Spanish onion
1 tablespoon honey, depending on the hotness of the chiles
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

For the jicama salad:
½ small jicama, peeled and cut into thin julienne strips
¼ cup adobo sauce
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tablespoon honey
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

For the tuna:
In a skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Season the tuna with the salt and pepper and add to the skillet. Sear on each side for 2 to 3 minutes, or until desired doneness. Remove from skillet and cut each into five portions.

For the chile de Arbol-sesame seed sauce:
Heat a small, dry skillet over medium heat. Add the sesame seeds and toast, shaking the pan occasionally, until lightly colored, about 1 minute (stand back since some of the seeds will pop). Transfer sesame seeds to a plate.
In the same skillet, toast the chiles until lightly colored, turning over once, 30 to 45 seconds.
In a blender, combine the tomato, onion, lemon juice, honey, salt, pepper, sesame seeds, and chiles. Purée until smooth. (Make ahead, cover tightly, and store in the refrigerator. The sauce will keep for up to three days.)

For the jicama salad:
In a large bowl toss together the jicama, adobo, lemon juice, honey, cilantro, salt and pepper. Set aside.

To Serve
On a platter, place tortilla triangles in spoke-like fashion. Place portion of tuna on each tortilla triangle, and top each with a dollop of the chile de Arbol-sesame seed sauce. In the center of the plate, pile the jicama salad.


Pizza dough for a 16-inch pizza
Olive oil mixed with herbs (basil, oregano, garlic, and onion powder)
8 to 12 ounces whole milk mozzarella, shredded
1 portabello mushroom, cut into cubes
½ cup oyster mushrooms de-stemmed (use caps only)
12 cremini mushrooms quartered
¼ to ½ red onion, sliced thinly
1 small clove garlic, roasted lightly and chopped
1 6-ounce jar kalamata olives
1 ounce chèvre goat cheese
1 ounce roasted pine nuts (to roast, place nuts on a cookie sheet in a 350-degree oven, watch closely as they will roast quickly, stir once or twice)
Parmesan cheese to taste

Cooking Instructions
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Stretch dough to desired thickness and brush olive oil herb blend onto pizza dough, leaving the outer edge dry (otherwise the crust will brown too quickly). Top with mozzarella, garlic, and onions. In a separate bowl, coat the mushrooms with olive oil herb blend and then spread mushrooms over cheese. Cover with kalamata olives and crumble chèvre over top. Bake on a pizza stone until crust is golden brown. Garnish with roasted pine nuts and Parmesan cheese, slice, and serve.

Amanda M. Faison
Amanda M. Faison
Freelance writer Amanda M. Faison spent 20 years at 5280 Magazine, 12 of those as Food Editor.

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Table Talk for January 31

Shape shifters…Last year Sushi Den expanded its dining rooms and removed the back bar to alleviate absurdly long waits (good move). The South Pearl Street hotspot is again reconfiguring space, this time for a small, seven-person private room where no menu will be posted. Instead, Chef Toshi Kizaki will serve diners Omakase-style. “Omakase means ‘leave the matter to the person they trust,'” says owner Yasu Kizaki. “You find this type of restaurant in Japan where regular customers totally trust the chef. They ask the chef to create whatever the he thinks is the best that day.” Don’t look for a set cost (the quality of ingredients will determine price) but we’d expect it to be, ahem, expensive. The reservations-only Omakase room should open in a couple weeks—initially Toshi will serve his creations just two nights a week. But diner demand could change that. 1487 S. Pearl St., 303-777-0826,

Keep on rolling…For food lovers, it was Johnson’s Corner‘s gi-normous cinnamon rolls that put the Johnstown truck stop on the map. Many had already discovered the roadside restaurant on their own, but in 1998 Travel & Leisure magazine named the place one of the world’s best breakfast spots and the secret was out. But now those legendary pastry swirls, and the 52-year-old business as a whole, are in danger of disappearing if the Colorado Department of Transportation decides after a $15 million, multiyear study to close Exit 254 on northbound I-25. “It’s well documented in federal studies that businesses do not flourish along interstates outside of a quarter mile off an interchange. [If 254 were to close] we’d be a mile to the closest interchange,” says Chauncey Taylor, owner of the newly renovated Johnson’s Corner and stepson of founder Joe Johnson. Learn more about the possible closure of Exit 254 on Johnson’s Corner’s website, stop in and a sign the petition (they already have 11,000 signatures), or mail Taylor a letter expressing why keeping the exit open is important to you. “Pile it on. I’m hoping for hundreds of thousands of signatures and thousands of letters—then I’m going to plop it on their [CDOT’s] desk and say ‘This is what the people say.'” 2842 S.E. Frontage Road, 970-667-2069,

By the bottle…Stopping off at Highland’s Mondo Vino over the weekend we stumbled upon a new find—a tasting bar a la Sideways at the back of the shop. The bar is in response to a newly amended law permitting liquor stores to hold tastings so customers can sample the wares. How very smart. We bellied up and sniffed, swirled, and sipped on three bold reds and a crisp white. In between swills, we cleansed our palate on cubes of cheese and crusty bread from St. Killian’s Cheese Shop next door and skimmed a sheet of paper detailing the featured wines. We liked what we tasted and bought a couple bottles of the Remelluri and then walked next door for a hunk of Old Amsterdam Gouda. Get in on a Mondo wine tasting yourself every Friday and Saturday from 2 to 7 p.m. 3601 W. 32nd Ave., 303-458-3858.

Amanda M. Faison
Amanda M. Faison
Freelance writer Amanda M. Faison spent 20 years at 5280 Magazine, 12 of those as Food Editor.