2011 | Frank Bonanno

Yearly Archives: 2011

To Manny, on the First Day of Christmas

12.02.11

Five afternoons a week, Manuel Macias comes through the door at Mizuna, quietly, nearly invisibly, and begins to wash the lobster pots. When the servers and cooks gather around the bar for family meal, sharing food articles and restaurant gossip, Manny takes his meal outside, enjoying a brief moment of peace before the evening’s service.

The sun sets; the dining room fills; Manny attends to the handling of Reidel stemware and laguiole knives (which have to be tended to by hand), an extensive variety of plates in every shape and size, miniature and dessert molds. He will do so with such silent finesse, such precision, such speed–that even working alone in a dish-pit the size of a small utility closet on a weekend night (when Mizuna will serve over a hundred people within her tiny walls), Manny will not break a single crystal stem. He will move stealth-like among the cooks, [ Read More ]

My Favorite Kitchen Tools

12.01.11

[In the top picture, from left to right: Taylor, Zach, me, Stephen, Preacher, Johnny Buerre Blanc. The next picture was taken during service: Taylor, Me, and Stephen check the ticket coming in; Preacher's a blur in the background, and Johnny Buerre Blanc is in the exact same work pose--staid.]

It’s not quite summer and the thermometer in the Mizuna kitchen reads 110 °. I am hot and I feel old—old because I am surrounded by youth. Because although we share the common language of classic movies and bad ‘80’s music, cookbooks and food writing—the banter fizzles when I start joking around about Agent P or SpongeBob. Because while they’re getting a second wind and heading out after work, I am going home to kiss my sons good night. Because I am nearly their fathers’ age.

For the past two weeks, I’ve been working on the Mizuna line—not as the proprietor or fill-in [ Read More ]

A Little Change for Mizuna’s Tenth

09.03.11

I can’t believe it’s been ten years.

When Mizuna opened, we took reservations by telephone and scrawled them in pencil, barely legible in a gothic black leather bound reservation book. The servers—there were three—wrote the orders out by hand. Our wine book listed 62 labels, though we had no bar to speak of or place to store them– so they were shelved in the office, a the sub basement beneath a series of dripping pipework. Wooden benches provided Mizuna’s primary seating; they pressed against buttery yellow and deeply textured walls. Office carpeting floored the restaurant, and the cash register we inherited, already at least a dozen years old, sat propped on the line right next to the plates and serviettes and calculators the servers used to add up the guest checks. We all brought music from home to be piped into the dining room from our bulky cd player, and someone’s [ Read More ]

Why 5280 is Great and I Sometimes Suck

09.03.11

This month, Shari Caudron wrote a review of Lou’s FoodBar for 5280. Essentially, she concluded that she doesn’t get it. I ranted. What’s to get? Why didn’t she call to ask about the concept? How can she posit on a philosophy when she didn’t even take the time to discuss that philosophy with me–or Jacqueline, or anyone else??! Jacqueline raged with me. She wrote a letter to 5280 publisher Dan Brogan, who staunchly defended Ms. Caudron, said she’d talked to both of us.

Bull.
Lies!

I telephoned Mr. Brogan, and in our conversation he got rather specific. Said she’d spoken with both of us on our cell phones when we were on a road trip with our children.

What? . . . Oh. . .

In June, (I emphasize June, three months ago, not because it excuses our complete memory lapse, but because it demonstrates just how thorough Ms. Caudron is in her writing)our family [ Read More ]

Lou’s: My Kinda Roadhouse

09.02.11

During my first visit to Germany, we pulled off the autobahn into what I can best describe as “all-white 1960’s mall structure” to eat what, according to Jacqueline’s cousin, was the best schnitzel in the country. That raststätte menu had everything from intricate French pastries to German staples like spätzle—and, in truth, the schnitzel was amazing.

Later, when we were researching roadside places to eat in France, an article in The Guardian claimed that the “most revered” chicken in the country was not found in a lauded bistro or village eatery—but in a rest station, Le Poulet de Bresse. Damn good chicken.

Italian rest stops: pastas rolled by hand and gardens out back. Czech: local beers and goulash. Spanish: bins of fresh oranges and freshly muddled sangria.

All along the roadways these places exist, no table cloths or elaborate decor—but smiling service, great cooking, and menus that cover an oddly wide geographic and [ Read More ]

Perfecting an Ice-to-Spirits Ratio

06.23.11

The philosophy in this generation of bartending may seem new, but the verbiage–fresh, crafted, seasonal, local, paired–well, that’s familiar territory. It’s an honorable tribute to generations old techniques and recipes in both cooking and drink-making.

I knew Adam Hodak was serious about his cocktail programs when our tool bags were sitting side by side. Interestingly, a lot of his tools are for shaping ice–add those to thousands of dollars’ worth of equipment that rolls out perfect spheres and giant blocks, and, well–that’s a whole other deal. . .

Looks like a tribute to generations old techniques.

Somewhat.

The chainsaw runs on vegetable oil to keep the equipment food-safe and prevent the ice from being tainted by fumes.

It’s stabbed further into submission to attain roughly the size and shape of a salt brick for service.

Or a prehistoric diamond, which gets smacked with this disc-on-a-stick tool until the sound waves gently crack the ice into the [ Read More ]

Old Executive Chef Returns to Mizuna

06.08.11

[In the top picture, from left to right: Taylor, Zach, me, Stephen, Preacher, Johnny Buerre Blanc. The next picture was taken during service: Taylor, Me, and Stephen check the ticket coming in; Preacher's a blur in the background, and Johnny Buerre Blanc is in the exact same work pose--staid.]

It’s not quite summer and the thermometer in the Mizuna kitchen reads 110 °. I am hot and I feel old—old because I am surrounded by youth. Because although we share the common language of classic movies and bad ‘80’s music, cookbooks and food writing—the banter fizzles when I start joking around about Agent P or SpongeBob. Because while they’re getting a second wind and heading out after work, I am going home to kiss my sons good night. Because I am nearly their fathers’ age.

For the past two weeks, I’ve been working on the Mizuna line—not as the proprietor or fill-in [ Read More ]

Sardines Don’t Stink.

05.11.11

So Tony Mantuano comes to Luca d’Italia, and we cook up a storm, and everyone loves the food and we get compliments all around. The cooks celebrate in the kitchen after, drinking wine and eating sardines, and what struck me—what struck us all really, was the great flavor of these little fish. In truth, sardines alone have very little flavor–they’re all texture and preparation. These were bigger, thumb-sized and moist, and Tony had only slightly pickled and marinated them in really good extra virgin olive oil, so they carried a slightly sweet acidity and a nice, fleshy bite. Truly simple and beautiful. I wanted something like this on my own menu.

I set about finding a sardine source. Turns out local purveyors don’t carry them, because nobody uses them–and nobody uses them because guests won’t eat them. I’d known this about sardines, that they’ve been an unpopular fish with a stinking [ Read More ]

Try the Pink Chicken. Please.

02.17.11

(Lou’s chicken photo courtesy Duke Blend & Thrillist Denver)

Sometimes you have to compromise even when you know you’re right.

At Green Russell, we celebrate our industry with Fried Chicken Sundays. Ten dollars for Red Bird Farms organic birds and a big helping of mashed potatoes. The country fried recipe is pretty straightforward: legs and thighs brined in buttermilk, salt, and pepper for 24 hours, dredged in seasoned flour, dipped in fresh buttermilk, dredged a second time, and fried in 325° oil until crispy golden brown—about 18 minutes. So simple—crunchy, tender, flavorful. We’ve served over 100 of those specials without a single complaint. Not one. Nearly every plate returns to the dish pit with only a few bones left behind.

So we bring the same recipe to Lou’s. It’s a natural for that concept—totally family-friendly comfort food. I am so confident of the success of the Country Fried Chicken that those words [ Read More ]

Support Denver, Eat Well

01.22.11

I don’t believe in offering coupons, or nightly specials; none of our restaurants advertise. Those somehow seem like cheap tricks to me—a way to lure diners and get them in over their heads, or get rid of food that’s suspect or doesn’t sell; a way to buy recognition.

But there is an honest to God deal I believe in and support wholeheartedly. Denver Restaurant Week. Three courses, two diners, $52.80: Screaming deal. Every major culinary city in the United States has embraced restaurant weeks. Chefs like Danielle Boulud, Rick Bayless and Danny Meyer churn out $20 deals so that diners can come out, sample, partake. It’s just so great: food writing all over the internet; a city buzzing with who’s been where and what was good; people actually out supporting the independent restaurateurs in their cities, eating and spending in what is normally the worst season to do so. Great food, [ Read More ]

Nothing Fancy, Just Lou’s

01.06.11

Simple. Comfort.

I walk to the coffee shop in the mornings with my sons. I walk to Mondo Vino Sunday nights to pick up wine for dinner. I walk around the corner for cupcakes, for bicycle repair, for flowers even. Although I’m within walking distance of lots of good restaurants, I really, really wanted another one nearby–one with a good, solid wine list and well-made comfort food. Nothing fancy, but nothing generic—just really flavorful, simple food.

Which brings me to Lou’s Food Bar.

The whole concept of Lou’s is centered on simple comfort food made the old fashioned, time consuming. flavor producing way. I wanted to showcase rich, tasty pates to spread on crunchy baguettes; sausages not just with pork or chicken, but with venison, rabbit, lamb. I wanted a plate of fried chicken on the menu and spaghetti with big fat meatballs. I wanted French onion soup. I wanted enchiladas.

I’ve got to [ Read More ]