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|May 7-13, 2009
• Conditioned hypereaters
Ex-FDA chief serves up answers on U.S. appetite for overeating
by Monica Eng
• The Dessert Diva
A local chef shares her sweet secrets
by Danette Randall
Filling the Continental shelf
Full Belly excels with Euro delights at cheap prices
by Clay Fong
I once dreamt Boulder had transformed itself into a quaint European city, divided into municipal arrondisements. Nouvelle Boulder’s narrow streets brimmed with gingerbread architecture, compact cathedrals and canals mirroring those of Venice. It was a most pleasant image, and as much as one enjoys our town as it is, one also sometimes wonders if a few European flourishes could help elevate our quality of life.
Happily, the arrival of Chef Radek Cerny’s Full Belly, a self-described American French bistro (as opposed to Franco-American, lest someone suspect Spaghetti-Os are on the menu), goes a long ways towards adding a Continental influence to the local scene. The younger sibling of Pearl Street’s L’Atelier, Full Belly distinguishes itself from its predecessor by offering lower prices in a more informal atmosphere. Perhaps most important, it offers breakfast, lunch and dinner.
My first visit here consisted of a remarkable dinner of $10 steak tartare followed by $12 mussels in pilsner broth with frites. From the savory raw beef to the earlobe-soft shellfish, everything was expertly prepared. My only small complaint was the frites could have been crisper. Otherwise, I thoroughly enjoyed this classic bistro meal down to the last bite of guiltily decadent profiteroles.
While a large breakfast isn’t necessarily part of the European dining ethos, I decided to investigate the morning fare here with my writer friend Lisa. Like me, she isn’t much of an early riser. As a consequence, we were doubly appreciative of how our cheerful but unobtrusive server quickly filled our coffee mugs, giving us the necessary caffeine jolt to peruse the menu.
Breakfast choices range from the simple to the reasonably elaborate. Three-dollar choices include croissants and bagels with cream cheese. Two eggs with toast and potatoes costs $5.50, and those with a sweet tooth should sample the nutty $7 Bananas Foster waffle. Lisa was tempted by the $10 Long’s Farm pork Benedict, but expressed fear she “would go home and have a stroke afterwards.”
Lisa’s more prudent choice was a generous plate of $12 Louisiana shrimp accompanied by two scrambled eggs, house potatoes and toast. The good-sized shrimp were firmly fresh, and the delicate flavor was enhanced by an exquisite Creole-inspired sauce of cream, butter, shallots and Louisiana spices. The sophisticated taste of these crustaceans was closer to a high-end dinner than a morning eye-opener.
My $12 steak and eggs was also of dinner quality. Typically, breakfast steaks possess the taste and texture of a butcher’s unwanted castoffs. Mine, though, was cooked rare as I requested, with pleasant mouthfeel and full-bodied beef taste. But the sides nearly stole the show. The home-fry potatoes struck the right balance between soft and crisp with understated, not at all salty seasoning. It’s rare that one can wax rhapsodic about something as prosaic as toast, yet the accompanying grilled multigrain bread was a textural revelation. A dollop of homemade strawberry jam elevated the bread to heady perfection.
Full Belly not only brings a European sensibility to dining, it also provides one of the best dinners in town for the money as well as top-shelf breakfast. While Boulder may be far removed from the alleys of Paris or Venetian gondolas, Full Belly’s sophistication and attention to detail bring our town a touch closer to a Continental dream.
Photo: Charles Loughlin
Clay’s obscurity corner
The European breakfast
Most European breakfasts are lighter and sweeter than American ones. Breakfast in France and Italy often consists of a sweet pastry, like a chocolate croissant, or a roll with jam washed down with a bowl-like mug of coffee. Sweet flavors also dominate the traditional Spanish breakfast of doughnut-like churros chased by a mug of viscous hot chocolate. A German morning repast may tend more towards the savory, with soft-boiled eggs, sausages and the occasional cold cuts. The United Kingdom is the home of the breakfast that most closely resembles its American cousin, with eggs, sausage and bacon taking center stage.
2779 Iris Ave., Boulder 720-242-6266
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