A last, short, Christmas Eve post this week: after my shopping travails, I needed nourishment. I thought of the House of Commons, a tea shop near Common Era, and of Sushi Sasa around the corner on Platte, where I haven’t been for years, but the House of Commons looked too crowded with cheery groups that sometimes make me feel even-more-singleton than I am. Sushi Sasa, by contrast, was empty, and I was planning to have sushi on Christmas Eve anyway.
So I trudged across the 15th Street bridge over I-25 to Lower Highlands, which I suppose is elevated enough above the South Platte River to deserve its own moniker (though it’s still quite a ways from 32nd and Lowell, the heart of the Highlands neighborhood) and found Forest Room 5 to be just right.
You can’t tell from the picture of the exterior above, but it was quite dark inside, so dim that the helpful bartender gave me this big candle so I could read the menu (that blurry thing in the foreground). The blue patch on the right is part of a movie that was showing above the bar. I had to rest my camera on the bar itself in order to get any semblance of focus, and that was at ISO 1600.
The 5 or 6 other patrons at the bar (the tables along the wall were empty) looked askance at my gyrations, but they didn’t say anything.
The ostensible reason for the lack of light on the winter solstice: Forest Room 5 is renovating its back room (where Lighthouse Writers often held readings) to be a “venue”: in other words, a real stage. Somehow that affects the amount of light in the long front room, which was never very well lit on my previous visits.
After the bartender figured out that I wanted to order food instead of sit at the bar and eat my own food as some patrons have requested, he took my order for the risotto with eggplant and butternut squash and a Woodchuck cider. Unlike the risotto-soup I had at Brio Tuscan Grille in Kansas City, Forest Room 5’s dish was the real thing: thick with a cheesiness to some of the bites that couldn’t be explained simply by the parmesan shavings on top.
Having not had that many risottos in my life, I did wonder, are they all so pale? Is that traditional?
I was certain that the squash was zucchini, not butternut, and the chef confirmed it. (No doubt you’re thinking, “Of course that’s zucchini there in the lower left-hand corner,” but please keep in mind that I used a flash for this picture. I really couldn’t see what was in the food.) Where the eggplant was, I’ll never know. I could have eaten one-quarter of the dish and had enough, but I didn’t stop until all the rice pearls were gone.
Forest Room 5 is one of my favorite places in Denver, partly because I associate it with poetry (Lighthouse) and activism (I’ve been to meetings there) and partly because I once ordered the hot chocolate, which involved a massive mug of cocoa and peppermint schnapps and a selection of cookies. That is no longer on the menu, but the memory of it keeps drawing me back for more good things.