`Gabby Gourmet' stays the course

Column by Penny Parker

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Pat “Gabby Gourmet” Miller won't talk trash about restaurants.

In her 27th edition of the Gabby Gourmet Restaurant Guide, which just hit bookstores, select restaurants and cooking stores, Gabs continues that tradition.

“I try to give people an idea of the place, and do not write up negative reviews,” she said.

Instead, she bestows “pig” ratings on restaurants. To die for, the highest rating possible, means, “An absolutely divine experience, and we believe they are Colorado's over-the-top spots for dining.”

Five pigs: “This is the creme de la creme for the very best restaurants in the area.”

Four pigs: “Some deliciously top-notch eating places.”

Three pigs: “Fun places to dine.”

NR or no rating: “Restaurants are too new to rate or are markets.”

And she tosses in a half pig for restaurants that are in between a solid number of pigs.

Making the coveted to-die-for cut this year were: Barolo Grill, D-Bar Desserts (which also serves savory fare), Elway's Cherry Creek, Elway's in The Ritz-Carlton Denver, Frasca Food & Wine, Fruition, L'Atelier, Linger, Mizuna, Rioja, Root Down and Shanahan's.

For the second year, Gabby includes a “Gabalicious” list, “highlights of her favorite selection of dishes from the best and brightest of the area's culinary creators.”

At Solera, for example, she recommends the Thai-style calamari. At Z Cuisine, the duck cassoulet is simply Gabalicious.

What keeps her from putting the pigs out to pasture after all these years?

“Because things change so much, and I think having a book to give you the location, hours, reservations, cross streets, price, etc., is a special thing to have all in one place,” she said. “I hope people like the reviews, but the information is super anyway.”

Eating and events in 'burbs

Speaking of eating, 5280, Denver's magazine, has a supplement in the current issue that includes Best of the 'Burbs, a guide to dining, events and shopping in cities including Littleton, Highlands Ranch, Centennial, Englewood, Parker, Castle Rock, Greenwood Village and Lone Tree.

Pick up the insert that comes inside the November issue of the magazine on newsstands now.

Ousted from Denver Athletic Club

Andre van Hall, the popular CEO and general manager of the Denver Athletic Club who lost most of his eyesight, was dismissed last week by the board of directors.

“It had been long coming,” van Hall told me Thursday. “There is a group wanting to do things very differently, so they pushed me out the door.”

Van Hall, who knew most of the 2,000 club members by name, was hired to run the 128-year-old Denver institution 10 years ago. Nearly four years ago, van Hall was diagnosed with a degenerative disease that took most of the sight in his left eye. Then late last year, the disease attacked the other eye, rendering him legally blind.

I profiled van Hall's journey into near darkness in a February story for The Denver Post. What struck me most at the time was not only his upbeat attitude, but also his agility in getting around the massive building on Glenarm with all its stairs, narrow hallways and tricky turns.

When it was apparent that his eyesight was permanently impaired, the board of directors approved the purchase of special equipment van Hall needed to do his job, including a 32-inch monitor with a machine that enlarges letters to 3-inch type that he can still read.

When I spoke with him recently, van Hall was at the club cleaning out his office. He called the experience “heartbreaking.”

“They're such a great group of people in this club, it's a shame that a smaller group wants to do things their way,” he said. In the end, van Hall and the board of directors couldn't agree on the direction of the club.

“They wanted me to eliminate staff and I didn't think we should. They wanted the club to be more exclusive. I'm told they made some hurtful comments about my disability and ability to run the club. I was being undermined every step of the way.”

David Hague, the acting general manager and comptroller, answered my request for comment by saying, “First, I want to assure you that in no way is Andre's current situation related to his eyesight. The club is dedicated to the principles of equal opportunity employment, and we do not discriminate against anyone on the basis of age, race, sexual orientation, color, religion, creed, ancestry, national origin, disability or any other status protected by state or local law.

“The DAC is making a change because, in the best judgment of the board of directors, it needs to do so in order to ensure its continued viability. In addition, the DAC and Andre are at an impasse regarding his rather onerous contract that was negotiated with Andre long before the current board and board president were involved.”

Start spreading the news

Denver Restaurant Week(s), presented by Visit Denver, is set for Feb. 23-March 8. DRW will once again offer diners a multi-course dinner for two for the “Mile High” fixed price of $52.80, not including tax or tip, or $26.40 for one.

All information can be found at www.denverrestaurantweek.com.

Penny Parker's “Mile High Life” column gives insights into the best events, restaurants, businesses, parties and people throughout the metro area. Parker also writes for Blacktie-Colorado.com. She can be reached at penny@blacktie-llc.com or at 303-619-5209.

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