You can enjoy this pretty little cake from Chef Jennifer Jasinski at Bistro Vendôme, in Denver, or employ your own baking talents, wherever you are...

Lemon Poppy Seed Cake
2 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 lb butter, softened
2 cups sugar
4 eggs
1 cup buttermilk
3/4 tbl vanilla extract
1/4 cup poppy seeds
1 Combine and sift first 4 ingredients.
2 In mixer with paddle attachment, place butter and sugar, mix until smooth. Slowly add each egg and mix until incorporated.
3 Into mixture, alternate between adding flour mix and buttermilk, mix until smooth. Add vanilla and poppy seed and continue to mix.
4 Take a cake pan and spray with coating. Pour mixture into the pan so it is about 1.5 inches high. Bake at 325ºF for 15 minutes or until cake bounces back to touch,

White Chocolate Mousse Topping
1lb 6 oz white chocolate
1 cup strawberry puree
1cup heavy cream
3 1/2 sheets gelatin, softened
1 quart heavy cream
1 Chop chocolate and place in mixing bowl.
2 Heat puree and cup of cream together, pour over chocolate and mix with a whisk
3 Add gelatin and continue to whisk and cool.
4 Place the quart of heavy cream in a mixer bowl and whip until medium peeks are formed.
5 Slowly fold the chocolate into the cream mixture until fully incorporated, chill until it completely sets up.

To assemble: Cut desired shape out of cake and brush with simple syrup. Pipe mousse mix on top of cake and garnish with fresh strawberries.

Rioja RESTAURANT / Denver

Rioja, Denver, CO The team of Chef Jennifer Jasinski and partner Beth Gruitch are wowing downtown Denver and pulling out all the culinary stops with Rioja. Jennifer makes each dish a work of art with complex pairings that impress and delight. Her experience with opening restaurants for Wolfgang Puck inspired her to design the open kitchen, which is a hotbed of activity and pulls you into the excitement of the prep. Whereas Bistro Vendôme (see OUT+ABOUT), their sister restaurant, offers comforting french fare, the dishes in Rioja are a unique taste experience. For instance, the tartare here was made with tuna accompanied by marinated apple and fennel salad and crispy apple chips. All the homemade pastas are to die for! Try the candied lemon gnocchi with butter poached crab or her signature dish—a duo of artichoke tortelloni which is stuffed with goat cheese and artichoke mousse, sits in an artichoke broth, and even has artichoke chips! Cocktails also offer distinctive flavor combinations. For those who prefer slightly tart drinks, there’s the Pomeginger (see photo), made with vodka, pomegranate juice, ginger, and twist of lemon. I could go on and on, but I insist you try it for yourself. Bring your appetite and your loved ones here for a special celebration, or just make one up!

Denver: BISTRO VENDOME / magnifique!

Bistro Vendôme, Denver, CO For a taste of France via Denver come to Bistro Vendôme. Chef Jennifer Jasinski and partner Beth Gruitch will coddle you with their combination of warm hospitality and great fare for a positively memorable night out. Jennifer, who for 10 years opened restaurants for Wolfgang Puck, has a way with proteins, and as a sworn carnivore, I was thrilled to sample a gorgeous array of charcuterie and pates, followed by a steak tartare topped with quail egg (see photo), and still had room to savor the pepper-seared foie gras served on an onion tart with sauteed peaches. A salad of roasted yellow beets rounded out the meal, whose ingredients were unbelievablly flavorful and came from nearby farms. Speaking of which, Jennifer uses as one of her vendors a cutting-edge aeroponic farm called Grow Anywhere (see photos). Owner Mark Haberer developed the growing techniques, which use no soil or pesticides, and whose greens can be cut and shipped to the restaurant in a matter of hours. His array of greens, sprouts, and mini vegetables were used in many of the dishes at Bistro Vendome, and the team’s other successful restaurant, Rioja (see OUT+ABOUT). And for all you bakers out there, Jennifer shared her recipe for Lemon Poppy Seed Cake. This sumptuous little cake’s poppy seeds add a surprising crunch and has an ultra-light white chocolate mousse topping, which was welcome treat at the end of the meat-fest. See EXPERTISE section for recipe.


MY NIGHT OUT WITH BOB / gramercy park sampler

I am extremely fortunate to have a neighbor, whose company I adore, and whose tastes and desires I share. We have identical apartments and are both in the process of finishing a renovation and decorating the space, which is the subject of endless discussion and debate. This is the first in a series of our meanderings, which I stake out as research for future entertaining venues and inspiration for design. On Thursday, July 31, we began our evening at 8, with a cocktail and snack at Wakiya. The place was pretty packed so we parked ourselves along the banquets at the entrance, giving us a straight view of the center of the restaurant, which was bedecked by long red tassles. It seemed kind of strange to have a row of tables in this area, but people didn’t seem to mind. Our choice of the passion fruit/mango martini was a good one, cool and refreshing, and as it was quite dark, I took a few sips before I noticed that there was a slice of star fruit garnish, which I thought was a nice touch. From the dim sum menu, we ordered the shrimp and chive plus the shrimp and chicken dumplings, the latter was the hands-down winner. The decor was a bit too “wintery” for our taste, the darkness a downer on such a beautiful summer evening, so we made a move to Japonais for part two of our evening. As we entered the crowded bar area, two seats became immediately available, which I always take as a good sign. We continued our sampling with lobster spring rolls with mango relish and blood orange vinaigrette, which is a favorite of mine. A flaky crust surrounds a chunky tube of lobster, which comes to the table piping hot. So delicious and satisfying, we got a second order. Also good was the Spicy Mono, an octopus roll topped with spicy tuna tartare and sweet eel sauce. For our nightcap, we headed over to Veritas, where we winded down with the staff. As usual, we were lovingly hosted and entertained by manager Tim Bellardo. Yoshi Takemura recommended a 2007 Sauvignon Blanc from Napa Valley, Cliff Lede, which ranked highly as the perfect summer wine. We will be back for dinner soon...

Modern FLATWARE by Maarten Baptist / eat joyfully

I have been looking for years for a set of flatware that has a beautiful and unique design and is a pleasure to hold—not too heavy, not too light. On a recent trip to Denver, I finally found my unalloyed dream at Z Modern, in a design by Maarten Baptist of WAT design. This elegant and futuristic-looking set was $40 a place setting, and has the bonus of a great mouth feel when using the spoons and a knife that successfully carves into whatever you put in front of it.