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Side Dish

Culinary crumbs and gastronomic gossip



Green fairy returns!
Last year, after 85 years, the federal government decided to allow the term "absinthe" on alcohol that met certain standards. New York importer Viridian Spirits notes that use of wormwood the bitter, aromatic plant that gives absinthe its uniqueness, and supposedly its psychedelic properties is no longer illegal as long as it meets those standards.

Jeovanny Pardo, manager at Rendezvous Lounge (128 N. Tejon St.), says he read about Viridian's lucid a few months back in a trade magazine and should have the 124-proof liqueur in stock soon for a steep $10 to $12 a shot. (Bottles of 750 ml will cost upward of $70.) The lounge currently serves a knock-off called Absente still a potent drink made from Southern wormwood, or "petite absinthe."

Rendezvous bartender Ryan Anthony says the customers who order Absente drink it because they like the sweet, earthy, herbal licorice flavor. They "savor" it, as you should anything costing $9 a shot.

For those new to the European phenomena: Absinthe is traditionally served by pouring 1.5 ounces of the alcohol into a larger glass, then using 3 to 5 ounces of ice cold water to dissolve a sugar cube set atop a perforated spoon above it. What you get is cloudy, green and floral. Call 632-1381 for more.

Dine for liberty
Colorado Citizens for Health Freedom are holding a sunset dinner and silent auction to support the Colorado Health Freedom Act (HB08-1158) from 4:30 to 6 p.m., Sunday, March 2, at the Sunbird Restaurant (230 Point of the Pines Drive). The bill is aimed at preserving consumer choice for unlicensed health care such as traditional, alternative, herbal and homeopathic care. The dinner will raise funds to help put an initiative on the state ballot; a similar bill has already become law in six other states.

A $25 ticket, which includes tax and tip, buys a choice of soup or salad, entre and dessert (with vegan options). Tickets are available at Wild Rice Nutrition (1900 E. Pikes Peak Ave., #8) and at the door ($30). Call 216-2663 for more.

Take note
Pikes Peak Environmental Forum at the Antlers Grille (4 S. Cascade Ave.), noon to 2 p.m., Friday, Feb. 29, $12-$16. "Our Food System and the Loss of Choice," presented by Larga Vista Ranch's Doug Wiley. Call 633-4421 for info.

A murder mystery dinner at Briarhurst Manor Estate (404 Manitou Ave., Manitou Springs), 7 p.m., Friday, Feb. 29. $60 plus tax and gratuity. For more, call 685-1864.

Second annual Glass Slipper Ball at the Crowne Plaza Hotel (2886 S. Circle Drive), 7 p.m., Saturday, March 1. $75 buys samples from 20 area chefs and benefits TESSA. Call 264-9087 if you want to learn more.

Chefs' Gala, deconstructed
Indy food critic David Torres-Rouff and I had the honor of attending Sunday's always-awesome Chefs' Gala at The Broadmoor in support of The Colorado Springs Chorale. The event raised a total of $41,000 through ticket sales and silent auction income.

More than 20 local restaurants and catering outfits, led by many notable local chefs, participated in the appetizer, entre and dessert competitions, judged in part by celebrity French chef Bruno Vrignon from Walt Disney World's Epcot.

Diners are encouraged to keep their own dining notes in the back of the program to see how they fare against the judges. The program also doubles as a recipe book from the event.

Except in the case of The Margarita at PineCreek, that is.

Instead of turning over its recipe for a 48-hour "Red" Braised Sous Vide Pork Belly with apples, white cheddar and mustard, it simply printed a playful warning: "These are professionals. Please do not try this at home."

The subterfuge paid off in the form of the much-coveted People's Choice award; the Margarita also placed third in the judges' appetizer selections. Atop that batch were the uniquely Cajun take on New England clam chowder by English Dockside must be something in the "secret seafood seasoning" it uses and a creative "Deconstructed Nacho" plate of buffalo over a fried, tortilla-crusted wedge of Manchego cheese and mango pico from Cheyenne Mountain Resort.

David and I agreed with the judges only on their second-place vote in the entre category yes, we were the loud jerks in the back threatening to streak if our picks didn't win for The Warehouse's orange-chipotle pork shanks. They gave a first place nod to The Cliff House's buffalo chop with lobster raviolis in Madeira sauce (which also won Best of Show), while we lamented that The Tavern at The Broadmoor's spice-rubbed lamb loin failed not only to win, but to place. Served in a pomegranate sauce with sweet potatoes and glazed beets, the protein was masterfully prepared. Garden of the Gods Gourmet took third in the category for its Colorado lamb loin over Yukon golds with a Hawaiian honey pink pepper jus.

Blue Star/Nosh took gold in desserts with its Chocolate Truffle Hazelnut Torte with Mini Cannoli and Espresso Crme Anglaise. My favorite, Metropolitain's chocolate torte with panko crust (a bread crumb usually used to crust Japanese fried foods) placed second. David's favorite, the Antlers Hilton's Tropical Snowflake, "an edible pia colada" (David's words) of pineapple and coconut flavors, placed third.

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