Jabo’s Bar-Be-Q is located in a suburban Denver strip mall. It’s also the namesake of the owner who loves to talk as much as he enjoys serving his pit-smoked barbecue. What he seems to relish most is talking up his cooking.
The first thing Jabo asks is if you’ve been in before; without waiting for a response, he answers suggesting he’d remember if you had. He then gave an extensive explanation on how meats should be cooked, how different parts of the country have diverse definitions of barbecue and how he would match his sauces to our palates. My husband and I sat dumbfounded listening to what could have been perceived as a rant, but evolved into an interesting presentation. Before ordering, Jabo served a small tasting plate of that evening’s six different sauces. They ranged from super tangy to very spicy. He was more than happy to blend sauces or even kick up the heat level, if desired.
I opted for a combination of a maple and mango – yes mango. It was sweet, but not so much so that it was sugary. It complimented the fork-tender brisket served with baked beans and potato salad – the sides I selected from half a dozen.
The meal featured two “Utah Sconuts,” a cross between a sopapilla and beignet, with a dollop of honey butter. These, Jabo explained, were his wife’s contributions. We never saw her, but my guess is Jabo is the one who does most of the talking no matter who’s around.
9682 E. Arapahoe Rd.
Greenwood Village, Colo.
I’ve probably read half of Diane Mott Davidson’s opus of culinary mystery-lites. It’s been some time since I read the last one; I should have stopped when I was more amused by the style and content, and more tantalized by the recipes interwoven with the plot. The Whole Enchilada, the most recent adventure of Goldy Schultz the Colorado caterer, left me hungry for something of more substance.
Once again, Goldy finds herself in the midst of a murder investigation in the small, mountain community where she lives just west of Denver. The number of murders, through the years, in the small, fictional town of Aspen Meadow is impressive – but not in a good way. If I lived there, I’d consider moving. Thank goodness Goldy is there to assist the local sheriff’s department solve the crime(s).
What I’ve found entertaining in the past is Mott Davidson’s humor and the suspense she has been able to create. The who-dunit was always fun to try to name before it was ever revealed in the book, but this time the element of intrigue is absent. Perhaps this is because there are two murders, one attempted murder and several attacks on Goldy herself. It’s too much strain on the suspension of disbelief.
The recipes featured are not ones I am interested in trying myself – again, this is unlike my experience with Mott Davidson’s earlier works. If the food had been more enticing, I might have had a better appetite for what she served here.
The Whole Enchilada
William Morrow, 2013
369 pages, including recipes
Everyone’s been talking turkey for the past week, so MacKenzie’s Chop House is a welcome change. Although there are a few tempting seafood dishes, the real focus is on red meat. The menu features an array of steaks, from New York to Porterhouse, from Filet Mignon to Ribeye. Prime Rib, Buffalo Steak, Rack of Lamb and Pork Chops round out the menu along with several side salads.
Although MacKenzie’s clearly emphasizes beef, and ours was cooked to perfection, there’s also an impressive attention to detail when it comes to service. Without hovering, the staff executed perfect timing knowing just the right moment to answer a question, to refill glasses, to remove plates, to provide a new utensil. Anticipation was personified.
Of course, this might have been for naught had the food been substandard; it wasn’t. The Spinach Salad with roasted red peppers and bacon was dressed with maple-balsamic vinaigrette. Even the House Salad was above average: mixed greens sharing the plate with balsamic-marinated apples and croutons.
Our entrees, the Prime Rib and Filet Mignon, were juicy, pink in the middle and tender. Yes, it’s true that bacon with anything is almost nirvana, but when wrapped around a piece of beef tenderloin the flavors are intensified. A baked potato and a large quantity of broccoli filled out the rest of the plate.
There were two regrettable aspects of the meal: not being informed until we were done that Crème Brulee is a house specialty and being too sated to try it.
MacKenzie’s Chop House
128 S. Tejon St.
Colorado Springs, CO
I’m very close to my mother, so I’m usually drawn to novels with strong, happy mother/daughter relationships. Carolyn Wall’s Sweeping Up Glass doesn’t fit this description, at least not the happy part. Nonetheless, this is an engaging, albeit flawed, story about family, community and racism in rural Kentucky.
Narrator Olivia Harker Cross has lived in Pope County all her life. She recounts her seemingly-idyllic childhood where her best friends are Pap, her beloved father, and Love Alice, a child-bride of color. Olivia’s mother is in a mental hospital for much of Olivia’s early life. But, tranquil accounts can get boring, which is why Wall provides conflict just when things seem to be just a little too blissful.
Ida, Olivia’s mother, returns home from the mental institute and life for the young girl loses much of its carefree charm. This single event slowly instigates an avalanche of challenges. Mother and daughter have a hellish relationship that continues into Olivia’s adulthood.
The narrative moves from Olivia’s youth to her life as a grown woman, left to care for the mother she despises and for Will’m, the grandson she cherishes. The poverty Wall describes is tangible, as is the harsh winter weather. Less, this sound completely joyless, be assured there are moments of hope and happiness. There are also vivid images of hatred and bigotry. These play against a long-held secret that once revealed shatters everything Olivia thought she knew about herself and those she loves. The problem is that all the pieces don’t quite fit.
The few missteps raise questions that trip up an otherwise compelling tale.
Sweeping Up Glass
Almost Four Bookmarks
Delta Trade Paperbacks, 2009
A physics background isn’t necessary to appreciate Einstein’s Dreams by Alan Lightman. This terse, yet philosophical, novel offers poetic vignettes, the dreams, based on what Albert Einstein might have wrestled with in his subconscious while developing his theory of relativity.
Each dream examines an altered way of experiencing time. Some are nightmarish, some sweet, others poignant, but all are interesting possibilities that, perhaps, other people have also considered, but never articulated. For example, time standing still, literally; or the opportunity to replay time for different outcomes. A variety of perspectives toward time also fill the dreams: parents who have lost children, lovers who grow apart, a baker who grows weary of extending credit. These are fleeting moments that haunt Einstein in his waking hours.
The dreams are offset by several “interludes” in which Einstein is awake. He meets with a colleague, seemingly his only friend, from the Swiss patent office. Although there’s a sense that Einstein wants to share his dreams, he always holds back. What is most obvious in the conscious interims is Einstein’s unhappiness. He feels a sense of drowning in his job and marriage. His desire to understand time buoys him.
Lightman’s writing is imaginative yet concise. It’s easy to imagine the vivid dreams with specific street names and recurring characters. From the very first dream, which begins “Suppose time is a circle, bending back on itself. The world repeats itself, precisely, endlessly,” it’s clear the author will explore the rhythms, pain and joy that comprise life.
Vintage Contemporaries, 1993
It’s always a good idea to wait (at least) a few weeks after a new restaurant opens to give it some time to iron out any wrinkles. I knew that Gertrude’s in Old Colorado City had closed and was going to be reincarnated as something else, but had no idea of the time frame. It turns out we wandered into Alchemy, formerly known as Gertrude’s, on its first night of business.
All that remains of the former occupant are a few wooden booths and memories. Alchemy represents a new direction: an upscale pub. The interior has been completely redone, literally right down to the brick beneath some lathe. The rumples included a slow kitchen and tentative, although friendly, servers. It was easy enough to respond gracefully; after all, it was opening night.
My husband is a Fish and Chips fan; me not so much. I decided on the Osso Bucco. I just didn’t expect it to take so long to arrive at our table – especially since once it did carrots and celery were al dente while the pork (yes pork not veal) was fork tender. Even with the missteps of crunchy vegies, the depth of flavor was augmented by a basil gremolata. Typically, parsley is the only herb, but the licorice-like hints in the basil were a nice variation. It was all served atop quinoa. The variations demonstrate confident and creative, albeit lengthy, execution by the staff.
The introduction occurred sooner than desired, but overall left a favorable first impression.
2625 W. Colorado Ave.
Colorado Springs, Colo.