Sunday, May 25, 2008

Whine Bar

Lucia's Restaurant and Wine Bar
1432 West 31st Street

It's the kind of place whose web site has a flash page intro called "atmosphere". It's the kind of place whose menu only has six breakfast items. It's the kind of place where they carry a tray of fresh pastries to your table right before your food arrives. The kind of place where they'll garnish your scrambled eggs with a tortilla chip "haystack", and they'll arrange your "French-style" omelet so lovingly around its brie cheese and mushroom filling that you'll almost miss the fact that there was nothing really special about the omelet to warrant such care.

We arrived on the verge of death with hunger. Why we allow this to happen to ourselves week after week is beyond me. Judy had an excuse: She was working all night, on call, delivering the babies. I, on the other hand, got up at 6:30, ran for 40 minutes, and then sat around all morning waiting for the club to convene. Did I eat? No, I just drank a cup of coffee. This means that the full effect of the caffeine hit me hours before food arrived to ameliorate it, and so my hunger turned manic and urgent. It also means that our first attempt at finding breakfast at a new spot (Duplex now serves breakfast on weekends), which failed (check that: Dupex now serves breakfast on Sundays), almost made me weep with frustration. Lucia's was open. Jimmy's objections were not strong enough to qualify as a veto, but he did threaten to order two entrées because he's eaten at Lucia's before and he knows the artful arrangements sometimes act as camouflage for small portion size. All of which is to say that our mood upon entering the restaurant was grim, with a side of slap-happy. This was hungry, ornery crew of breakfasters.

Judy's first complaint was about the coffee (skim milk latte). "I hope it's not cold," she said before she even sipped it. Take note: She's obsessive about coffee temperature. Beau just wants a constant refill stream with plenty of cream. Judy wants her coffee to scald her tongue and warm her chronically cold hands through the mug. Perhaps her words were prophetic. By Judy's definition the coffee was cold. Pronounce the word "cold" with a scowl, and you'll know exactly how she felt about this turn of events.

Fern's beef was with the menu. She as you may recall, doesn't really like breakfast. The menu was the typical high-end brunch menu, but with none of the lunch-y kind of options. There were fancy pancakes and egg dishes, but no sandwiches. In fact, the menu was so limited, that she was forced to go against type and order something that sounded a little bit like a breakfast burrito (scrambled eggs with guac and black beans and a haystack of chips). She declared the haystack "annoying", probably because moving it off to the side slowed her intake of food slightly. Did I mention that we were hungry?

I ordered the brie and mushroom omelet, because I like brie. I was thinking that such an upscale place would put some fancy 'shrooms in there to go with the brie and I'd be all kinds of satisfied. I should not have assumed that the mushrooms would be anything but butter-sauteed buttons. If I hadn't maybe my disappointment wouldn't have surfaced at grading time. I'm not really sure what made the omelet "French-style", but the egg part was thick and puffy around the cheese and mushrooms.

The potatoes divided our family. Judy thought they were good. They did have real potato flavor and lots of good seasoning. I just thought they were typically under-done. Come on, people, everybody likes their potatoes crispy. So crisp them up, already. How hard can it be?

Eventually, as enough of the food entered my system, I was able to look around with a less jaded and unhappy eye. Food is good that way. It makes me less crazy, especially when I'm just crazy with hunger. Still, and here's the real summary of Lucia's, everything we ordered was unloved. Nothing made us say, "Oh, wow, this is good." No one looked at anyone else's plate and said, "Ooo, I wish I'd gotten that." I expect the high-end breakfast to wow me a little bit. I want to fall in love with some part of it. Otherwise, I can just go to a dinner, and eat cheap food that tastes fine, and I don't have to move the garnish aside so I can eat it.

Fern ~ C-, mostly because she didn't really want anything on the menu.
Judy ~ B-, heavily influenced by other peoples' grades and cold coffee
Jimmy ~ C+, and he got enough to eat because he ate the rest of Judy's omelet
Alex ~ B, fancier mushrooms and crispier potatoes would have raised it to an A

Thursday, May 22, 2008

You Picked A Fine Time To Feed Me Lucile

2124 14th Street
Boulder, CO 80302

Ask almost anyone in the Denver area about breakfast and the name Lucile's will come up. When I polled some carpool buddies recently and talked about my blog I was greeted with incredulous stares when I said that I hadn't been to Lucile's yet. Once people stop raving about the food, they mention the wait. Waiting at Lucile's seems to be a given and part of the Lucile's experience. Rachael and I decided to brave Lucile's wait on a little day trip to Boulder a few weeks ago. Lucile's lived up to their reputation on all counts.

If you look at the picture on the right, you can predict that loved Lucile's. What is it about restaurants in houses that is so awesome? I don't know, but it is undeniable. House restaurants rock. Period. End of sentence.

Let's talk about the waiting. This is the type of restaurant that would incite a riot under any normal TC breakfast club conditions. Waiting is a given. It will happen. It is part of the Lucile's experience. So much so, that they utilize the second floor as a waiting area with tiny chairs and random collection of books and toys. It is like breakfast purgatory. One of their books consisted of newspaper clippings singing the praises of Lucile's food. Great information that doubled as torture for a hungry individual. With that being said we had to wait about 25 minutes. They turned tables over fairly quickly. A larger group would have been there for a looooooooong time though.

Lucile's is a New Orleans inspired cafe. Given that, we felt it was our civic duty to sample their beignets, in a purely academic endeavor. What arrived was a plate of delicious fried dough with a pile of powdered sugar that more resembled Tony Montana's desk than actual food. It had so much powdered sugar, eating the beignet became risky. If you inhaled ever so slightly as brought your beignet to your mouth, powdered sugar would fly in your mouth, up your nose and maybe even through your eyes causing a severe coughing fit. I swear I was tasting powdered sugar for the rest of the day. Sugar inhalation (as a confessed sugar addict, this was no big deal for me) nonwithstanding the beignets were fantastic.

The rest of the food was fantastic. I had the egg benny, which was great including the six pounds of shaved ham on each English muffin. Great for a meat lover. Rachael had the eggs sardu which was a concoction of poached eggs, Gulf shrimp, creamed spinach, and hollandaise. She gave it high marks, but it was so large she never got a chance to try the homemade biscuit, but it LOOKED good.

The potatoes were as good as non-crispy potatoes can possibly be. That's not saying much, but given the number of people they serve I think crispy potatoes aren't feasible. Too busy, too many people to spend the necessary time to properly crisp the taters. You can't have everything.

Lucile's has some nice touches as well. They have a fantastic homemade jam on every table that was a very nice addition to the beignets. They spice up their ketchup with Cajun offerings. I am normally a ketchup purist, but their spiced ketchup was very good. Lucile's even offers chicory coffee for people that prefer their coffee to taste like ass.

All in all, the meal at Lucile's was great. It was the perfect meal to sustain us for a long day of hiking and sightseeing. If you are in Boulder in the morning, there is no better way to start the day than Lucile's. The grades:

Amadeus-Eggs Benny-B+
Rachael-Eggs Sardu-A-