Round two with Jensen Cummings, exec chef of Row 14
This is part two of my interview with Jensen Cummings, exec chef of Row 14 Bistro & Wine Bar. Part one of that interview ran yesterday.
What you'd like to see more of in Denver/Boulder from a culinary standpoint: I'm a Japanese-French-Irish-American boy from SoCal, and more than anything else, I want to see some really great New York-style Jewish delis. I want some pastrami on rye, latkes, a bagel with a shmear, and a couple old dudes in the corner playing chess and smoking European cigarettes.
What you'd like to see less of in Denver/Boulder from a culinary standpoint: Mediocre Mexican food. I was spoiled growing up in San Diego, and it pains me to see so many small Mexican restaurants that I really want to like disappoint me over and over, again and again. It can't be because they don't know how to cook great Mexican food, so maybe the clientele has "gringofied" them into submission. I really don't know.
What's the best food- or kitchen-related gift you've been given? If I ever get around to using it, I have a super-sweet ice cream maker, but that would mean I either have to take it to work or actually cook at home.
Favorite dish to cook at home: If I really have to cook at home, I really like to do the "all-grill meal," with meats, veggies, cheese, lettuce and bread all thrown on the grill; that way, everything can taste like propane. Ha! I'm kidding, but it's all usually really good, and I love just using one piece of equipment.
Favorite dish on your menu: Right now, it's the Philly cheesesteak empanadas. I love that we can take an iconic dish from Philadelphia -- gotta use the Whiz Cheez to be a real Philly -- and an iconic dish of South America and bring them together. People from Philly could close their eyes, eat them and get a sense of their homeland, while people from Argentina, who's been eating empanadas stuffed with beef, onions and cheese their whole lives, can be similarly transported back to their childhood. The connection between food and culture brings people together. Deep, huh?
If you could put any dish on your menu, even though it might not sell, what would it be? I'd love to do a play on turducken with pork belly stuffed with beef tongue stuffed with duck foie gras -- and then make John Madden eat it. Actually, I think that might sell. Hey, that's tonight's special at Row 14.