Tony’s Market to Close One Location

Saturday, February 17, will be the last day for Tony’s on Broadway (150 West Mineral Avenue at Broadway, Denver). This location is one of the family-owned, family-run fine-foods Tony’s Meats & Specialty Foods Markets in south metro Denver. They sell meats, produce, deli meats and cheeses, baked goods, prepared foods, pasta and more. It’s not that business is bad. It’s just that Safeway is expanding and upgrading in the same shopping center, and there is a sense in the Rosacci family that it’s financially wise to close now and seek another location.

Remaining retail locations are Tony’s Original Dry Creek Market, 4991 East Dry Creek Road, Denver, 303-770-7024; Tony’s Bowles Village Market, 7421 West Bowles Avenue, Littleton, 720-377-3680; and Tony’s Castle Pines Market, 874 West Happy Canyon Road, Castle Rock, 303-814-3888.

Michael “Chef Mick” Rosacci’s cooking segments air Sunday mornings at 7:00 a.m. and 9:00 a.m. ABC 7 News. Click on the Tony’s Market website for some of his recipes.

NY Times on Restaurant Blogs

In a feature called “Sharp Bites” in today’s New York Times, reporter Allen Salkin noted that fast-drawing, quick-trigger restaurant blogs are changing the New York restaurant landscape. “There is a new food game in the city that never stops grazing, “Salkin wrote. “A proliferation of blogs treating every menu revision, construction permit, clash of egos and suspiciously easy-to-get reservation as high drama is changing the rules of the restaurant world and forcing everyone from owners to chefs to publicists to get used to the added scrutiny.

“Diners hungry for the next, the newest, the best, and with no patience to wait for the annual Zagat Guide, are benefiting.

“Unlike an earlier wave of food blogs focused on home cooking, recipes and basic restaurant recommendations, the new breed is gossipy and competitive; it trafficks in pointed restaurant criticism and tidbits of news — Craftsteak has installed a new stove! Emmerite beans have been added to the menu at Tasting Room! — and is unsettling the ground of the restaurant industry.

“’Food blogs have reached a critical mass with readers in the last six months,’” said Phillip Baltz, owner of the restaurant public relations firm Baltz & Company.”

Salkin cites several New York restaurant blogs: Grub Street affiliated with New York Magazine (itself an edgy weekly), Restaurant Girl, Midtown Lunch, Diner’s Journal by Times restaurant critic Frank Bruni, Augieland and Serious Eats. Dnver + Boulder + occasional out-of-town excursions do not equal New York in terms of foodiness, and this blog, even in conjunction with the “Dining Diary” on my website, doesn’t purport to reach the influence of level of those Big Apple blogs. But I hope it’s useful — and I welcome comments.

Fondue? Fon-don’t

If you go to Tamarack, Idaho, you’ll love the skiing (I did, which you can read on my travel blog) or the golf, rafting, fishing and other activities on the Lake Cascade. But don’t sign up for fondue night. Set in the high-ceilinged Grange function room, the atmosphere is meeting-and-convention, not fondue-and-raclette. But I’ve had really good fondue in a sparsely decorated, modern restaurant in a shopping and dining mall in St. Mortiz-Bad, Switzerland, so it’s not the atmosphere that’s a problem.

Rather than sitting around a table chatting while waiting for a burbling fondue pot to be set in front of guests, this dinner was set up bufffet-style — odd because the Grange’s round tables really lend themselves to traditional fondue. Everyone got in line, cafeteria-style, picked up a large dinner plate, and moved slowly along the table.

First you come to an assortment of very cold vegetables — steamed and then refrigerated broccoli, cauliflower, mushrooms and more. Next, you get to three baskets of bread cubes. Then, you reach three catering-service-style stainless steel chafing dishes with a trio of fondue flavors: plain cheese, garlic cheese and pepper cheese. Next is a bowl filled with unappealing chunks of pre-cooked meat (!!!!), with yet another chafing dish of au jus, a bowl of horseradish sauce and some other condiment.

As you slowly work your way through this dispiriting buffet, you load up your plate with veggies, bread and meat and then top it with the hot sauces. I wouldn’t swear to it, but I think the cheese fondue might have come from a mix, and I wouldn’t hazard a guess as to the provenance of those meat knots. In any case, the formerly hot components are cool by the time you return to the table, which does nothing to warm up the cold vegetables or meat. I don’t know what to call it, but it’s not fondue.

You return to the buffet for dessert, an assortment of fruit (slices of apple, pear, banana; orange segments and strawberries). Take some fruit and ladle out a puddle of hot chocolate sauce onto your plate. Again, I won’t swear to it, but it tasted like warmed-up Hershey’s chocolate syrup. With this comes one (1) glass of wine (Cabernet or Chardonnay).

Bottom line is that none of the “fondue” selections included congenial dipping and sipping, and there wasn’t a fondue pot or a fondue fork in sight.

At present, Tamarack charges $45 for a monthly full-moon ski or snowshoe guided excursion, use of equipment, pre-hike wine and appetizers and a “special” dinner afterwards. It would be a good value if the food is good. Last night’s offering was fond-don’t. I was told that other theme nights are Mexican, Thai and sushi. I don’t know what they are like, but I’d be wary and ask for details.

R.I.P., Sharon Tylor Herbst

When I need to check food terminology, spellings (including accent marks in other languages), definitions or ingredients or cooking and baking techniques (no matter how exotic), I turn to my little bible: The Food Lover’s Companion. Its creator, Sharon Taylor Herbst, passed away on January 26 after battling ovarian cancer for three years. Sadly, the cancer won. I never met her, and yet I mourn her.

The first edition of the Food Lovers Companion took her three years to research and write, and was published in 1990. The three editions printed thus far have sold more than a million copies. I bought two of them for myself and others for foodie friends. The current edition contains nearly 6,000 entries, organized alphabetically, like a dictionary or encyclopedia. Several on-line food sites use The Companion for their definition of terms sections. The fourth edition is due out in September.

Tara Duggan, the reporter who wrote Sharon’s obituary in the San Francisco Chronicle, noted, “Part dictionary, part encyclopedia, the current edition of the book defines almost 6,000 food and wine terms. Many publications use it as a reference, including The Chronicle, for answering such questions as whether to capitalize Caesar salad or what goes into devils on horseback, for which the book provides two definitions. One is ‘wine-poached prunes stuffed with a whole almond and mango chutney, then wrapped in bacon and broiled.'” I sense that Duggan wrote that both with awe and admiration.

Her husband, Ron, wrote The New Wine Lover’s Companion. Individually and together, the Herbsts wrote 16 books on food and drink. They lived in Bodega Bay, CA, in the northern reaches of Marin County, but Sharon was born in Chicago, grew up in Denver and met her husband when they both worked at Denver hotel restaurant. She attended Colorado State University.

Valentine’s Day Alert: Terrific Truffles

Over the holidays, we became the fat and happy recipients of several boxes of candy from several sources. Belvedere, See’s, Godiva all landed under our tree or in our mailbox. Thanks (I think) to Santa and everyone else. Rationing ourselves to just one or two sweet treats each per day, we are just finishing the last of the lucious loot. It has been a great run.

Of all the wonderful candies we ate, the truffles from Joseph Schmidt Confections of San Francisco stood out. Their thick chocolate mantle (milk, to-die-for dark, two-tone) encase a silky smooth ganache. And did I mention that they are generously sized? It is said that a picture is worth a thousand words, but trust me, this picture doesn’t do justice to the taste of these award-winning treats.

These fabulous truffles are made in the European tradition of fine confections, so it surprised me to learn that although Joseph Schmidt, the man (seen left, relaxing at his desk), was born in 1939, Joseph Smith Confections, the store, has only been around since 1993. In addition to the original retail location at 3489 16th Street in San Francisco, there’s now a second store in San Jose at 356 Santana Row. If I lived within striking distance of either, I’d be the size of a Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade balloon. But I don’t, but luckily for the rest of us, Joseph Schmidt does ship.

Valentine’s Day is coming right up, and with it, the opportunity to treat someone special to candy and flowers and a romantic champagne dinner, the trio of classic Valentine’s Day indulgences. If you love someone enough to get the very best candy you can, consider Joseph Schmidt’s.

Honolulu Dining Writer Seconds My Rumbi Comment

Back on October 11 — long ago in this blog’s lifetime — I posted my observations on Boulder’s newly opened Rumbi Island Grill, part of a Salt Lake City-based chain, and contrasted it with Rhumba, locally owned and very distinctive. Let’s just say I wasn’t enchanted by the Rumbi “concept” — neither the non-Hawaiian food nor the stereotypical decor.

It was truly gratifying to receive an E-mail from Erika Engle who covers restaurants for the Honolulu Star-Bulletin. “Inspired” by a less-than-accurate press release about the newest Rumbi down the road from here in Westminster, she devoted today’s column, “TheBuzz,” to everything she finds wrong with the place. In that column, titled ‘Hawaiian, schmawaiian,she took umbrage at the chain’s gratuitous confusion of Hawaiian, other Polynesian and even Caribbean foods and traditions, as did I. She was particularly irked by Hawaii “stereotypes [that] are usually exploited by outsiders with little to no understanding of the cultural and often spiritual origins of Hawaii icons. In other words, they know not what they do.”

Engle quoted some of the observations from my blog in her column and in letting me about it, she E-mailed that “a news release Rumbi sent out ‘raised eyebrows’ in the Honolulu Star-Bulletin newsroom,” adding that she came across my blog entry while researching Rumbi. There’s satisfaction in learning that she agreed. She certainly should know.

Denver Restaurant Week Coming Up

Coming up a mere month from now is the second annual Denver Restaurant Week, from February 24 to March 2, 2007. This year, 150 restaurants are offering multi-course dinners for two for the mile-high price of $52.80 ($26.80 for one), plus tax and tip. That’s 59 restaurants more than in 2006. Each restaurant decides what it wishes to include in the offer. Many make up a special menu for the week, and 30 are including a glass or even a bottle of wine for that set-menu price.

Restaurant-goers use it to get a good deal at a pricey place they might not usually try. Some like to have a value dinner at a favorite eatery. Others just feel it’s a way of stretching the dining-out budget.

You can now check out menus of participating restaurants at the website. The Denver Metro Convention & Visitors Bureau has counted and discovered that participating eateries include 21 Italian restaurants, 10 Mexican and Latin restaurants, eight seafood houses, 16 steakhouses, six Asian fusion places, four brewpubs and three Indian restaurants.

Claire Walter's Colorado-oriented but not Colorado-exclusive blog about restaurants, food and wine events, recipes and related news. For address of any restaurant, click on the Zomato icon at the end of the post.