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Las Tortas

December 27th, 2011

 

 

 

If you follow me on twitter, you've come to realize one thing about me. I love strip mall Mexican food joints. Something about the banquet chairs, corona signs, and table tents that state the same three deserts that every other Mexican restaurant has tend to call my name. While I thought that my experience at Las Tortas was going to be similar, I was wrong.

Las Tortas is tucked behind the ritzy part of Denver, across Colorado Boulevard on Leetsdale. It sits in a shopping center that was part of new construction some time in the 60's, and still carries the same curb appeal. Most people would pass by it and not think twice to stop in, and that is a huge mistake. What lies inside is a restaurant dedicated to the Torta. A simple Mexican sandwich with some kind of tasty slow cooked meat, avocado, lettuce, chipotle sauce, mayo, and cheese all tucked neatly into a bun.

I had the Carnitas Torta, and Mrs. Indie Eats had the Pollo Torta. Both were huge portions, both were wonderful especially with the added extra hot sauce. We coupled our sammies with a couple of La Victorias, which is our favorite Mexican brew. It was a perfect meal, and all for under $20.

So, next time you're shopping in Cherry Creek, and you don't feel like going for the $70 lunch, or the plethora of chain restaurants, drive a few minutes east on Leetsdale and hit up Las Tortas.

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La Sandia – Mole Festival

November 25th, 2011

Before you say it, I know. My blog is called Indie Eats, and I focus on independently owned restaurants. While La Sandia is owned by the legendary Richard Sandoval and his restaurant group, which has restaurants all over the nation, it still maintains an extremely high standard of food and also does great things for the food community of Denver. Case in point: the Mole Festival, which has been going on for the past month or so.

The Mole Festival is designed to introduce people into flavors that they're not aware of, which is something that I try to do everyday. I have to admit, I really didn't know much about Mole to begin with. I didn't know that it was Mexico's national dish, and I also didn't know that there were so many different types of Mole. To be able to sit down with the Chef who engineered this menu, Ana Luisa Almazan, and enjoy course after course of completely different Moles, was a truly enlightening experience.

The experience had a perfect ambiance for an authentic Mexican experience, sitting at a long table on Dia De Los Muertos. Each course was paired with a beer, or wine and the food, conversations and experience as a whole was incredible. Check out the dishes below. Once again, I need to apologize for the level of photography. Believe me, these shots don't do this meal justice. Maybe it's time to step up my food blog game with a nice camera.

Mole Almendrado – Grilled Shrimp, Green Olives, Capers, and Chile Guero salsa. – This mole was made with almonds, and no chocolate (which most people expect from a Mole), and it was paired with La Victoria beer. A beer which I had never known, but am now very familiar with. :)

Mole Negro – Red Snapper Filet with a Sweet Corn Tamal – Pan seared goodness served with a Rose. This particular kind of Mole was the only one that I had before. Rich, warm, and complex flavors worked well with the Snapper and sweet tamal.

 

Mole Rojo – Chicken Enchliadas with Shaved Yellow Onions – Served with Pinot Noir, and was probably my favorite dish. Beautifully simple and amazing.

Mole Pipian – Pork Tenderloin Medallions with Refried Beans – Perfectly cooked tenderloin served with Tempranillo. This mole was made with fresh chiles, and was served with some of the best refried beans I've ever had.

Shared Dessert Tasting – As most of you know, I'm not a dessert person. My guest on the other hand, was, and pretty much took down a shared platter to himself. His tasting notes? "I just ate that entire thing of flan. It was soooooo good."

I've always been a fan of Richard Sandoval's restuarants. I love Zengo, and eat there on a regular basis. I had never been down to La Sandia before, but I assure you, I will be down there again. The atmosphere and decor of the actual building is breathtaking. They have an amazing view of the front range, as well as a killer menu, and top-notch libations.

The Mole Festival itself is really incredible. Not only for the eye-opening flavors, but also for the history involved. I highly recommend that you get down there and check it out.

If you took a survey of my kitchen, there's going to be a few things that I always have. I tend to always keep some staples around that are versitile ingredients. This way I'm always prepared for that last minute light bulb that goes off. And that ligh tbulb often goes off after a few glasses of wine, so it's important to keep these things close. Because if not, I'm hoofing it to the store.

Eggs. Milk. Flour. Butter. Cheese of some kind. Soy sauce. Worchestershire sauce. Mustard. Hot sauce. The list goes on, but there's one that's always there. I promise you, that I am never without this one ingredient – especially growing up in an Italian family. Yep. It's olive oil.

Now a few weeks ago I was asked to attend an olive oil tasting and dinner put on by Star Fine Foods. You may recognize the name – because they're in most grocers. And if you appreciate a martini every now and then, you've most assuredly purchased some of their olives.

For this particular occasion we were at Ototo, which is part of the Sushi Den/Izakayi Den family. Their head chef prepared a five course meal that really showed the versatility of this beautiful ingredient. To spare you my inane banter, I'll cut to the chase. Here's the dishes with descriptions and photos. I apologize in advance for the quality of the photos. It was dark in the restaurant, and I was simply equipped with a mere iPhone camera.

Grilled Zucchini, Tomato Jam, Anchovies, Capers and Star Olive Oil – Beautiful, simple, and delicately Mediterranean. The olive oil added a depth of flavor to the grilled zucchini.

Olive Oil Cured Ahi, Orange Segments, Olive Olive Oil Confit Tomatoes, and Tagliatelle Pasta – I was unsure about this dish when I read it on the menu, but it was phenomenal. Once again the olive oil provided a nice rich complexity, but the dish finished beautifully with the citrus from the orange segments.

EVOO Poached Alaskan Halibut, Saffron Braised Fennel, Fennel Puree, Fennel Olive Oil – Perfectly prepared piece of Halibut and the fennel was used in a way that was complementary, and not overwhelming.

Colorado Lamb Chop, Olive Pistachio Crust, EVOO Poached Fingerling Potatoes – The best lamb chop I've ever had. Not kidding – not in the slightest. The olive and pistachio crust provided a salty nutty crust that was just spot on.

Olive Oil and Salted Caramel Ice Cream, Hazelnut Souffle, and Honey Olive Oil Tuille – Normally not much of a desert guy, but this was pretty tasty. The flavor of the olive oil definitely came through, and didn't dominate the dish, which was impressive.

For a dinner based around an ingredient, this was fantastic. I felt like I was a judge on Iron Chef. The Executive Chef at Ototo masterfully prepared and plated each course, which of course highlighted the olive oills that were presented by Star.

The food, wine and ambieance were incredible, thanks to the staff at Ototo. But also, a big thank you is necessary for Star Fine Foods for putting this event on, and for Creative Culinary for organizing everything. It was a great evening, and a great showcase of how diverse this beautiful ingredient can be.

 

 

 

 

Two weeks ago, Denver lost a really great chef, and person. My cousin, Dustin Rupoli, unfortunately passed away at the far too young age of 31. My fondest memories of Dustin are from when we were kids, and he was already showing his culinary flair. Let's be honest here, there's not too many nine year olds making breakfast for the kids at their sleep over. But Dustin was that kid. We all knew that Dustin was going to be a great Chef. When he left to go to the Culinary Institute of America in New York, we were all beaming as he was taking his first steps into a promising career. Dustin would come home for Christmas, and make incredible meals with my mom for Christmas Eve. I remember him teaching me cooking techniques, and introducing me to dishes that I had never experienced.

When he finished school, and his internships, he moved back to Denver. Here in Denver, Dustin worked at some great restaurants, including Rizo, NoRTH, and Bloom.  One of my proudest moments was when he and my mom cooked a spaghetti dinner for 2000 people at the Festival Italiano in Bel Mar. It gained so much attention that he and my mom had their red sauce recipe published in the Rocky Mountain News.

After some time, he decided that it was time for some new surroundings. He moved to Nashville, Tennessee with his wife and worked at restaurants such as Radius 10, The Merchant, Barefoot Charlies, and Americo. I was able to share his success out there vicariously through what my Uncle sent via email. Our family missed having him close, but we always knew he was following his passion out in Tennessee.

Dustin returned to Denver just seven months ago, and started working at the Timberline Steakhouse. And unfortunately for him, our family, and the city of Denver, his time was too short on this earth. I'm not writing this as a tearful memorial, but as a celebration of the gifts he gave us. So if you've ever eaten at NoRTH or Bloom, or enjoyed my blog and love for food, then you've enjoyed a little bit of Dustin's passion. Please keep that with you, and keep his family in your thoughts and prayers, as you enjoy your next meal.

Buon Appetito

As you may have come to know, my mantra is pretty easy to understand. What you may not know is I became this way from how I was raised. And as I grew up and experienced new flavors and cuisines, I started to associate with more people that did the same.

Just recently I was having a non-alcholic (yeah right) beverage with a fellow Denver blogger who has the same views and had a similar upbringing. After about eight or nine non-alcoholic beverages, we started a "Who Knows Ethnic Food Better" pissing contest.

And the winner of that pissing contest? Well, we forgot. But who ever won, Indie and I (yes, this is a servant. Do try to keep up, good reader) came up with a list that we both feel is a pretty comprehensive look at ethnic food in the Denver area. We decided to go ahead and put that list into your hands, so that you might share something of our childlike joy for adventurous eaters.

So before you read on, you have to ask yourself: does the question "what is your favorite type of food" almost bring you to tears of frustration as you try to decide which flavors you prefer? Do you live in the Denver Metro area and detest generic, chain-food-TGI-McChili's type restaurants? Do you roll your eyes when your friends try to be "adventurous" at a restaurant by ordering Shrimp Scampi? Then we've got just the list for you.

Well stated, a servant. Let me just chime in and mention that we tried to stick to places somewhat off the beaten path. Everyone knows Frank Bonanno is awesome, but we like to give praise to the little guys as well. With that in mind, here's our picks. Bon Appetito

Indie Eats and a servant

Asian
Pho: Pho 79 in Aurora/Pho Duy – We hit a stalemate on this one. Either way you go though, you're looking at hot noodle goodness.

Vietnamese: New Saigon – Supposedly there's a secret "Vietnamese" menu, but you’ve got to be Vietnamese to access it. We’re not, by the way. But if you are, well, we guess you know how to ask.

Banh Mi Sandwich Shop:Ba Le – $5 dollars actually did make us holla.

Japanese: Sushi Yoshi in Superior – Say whaaaaaa? Yep. It's that good.

Thai: US Thai – For the love of god, don't order the "Thai Hot".

Chinese: Heaven Dragon/Tea Garden – Sometimes what you were raised on is what's best. Tea Garden hails from Arvada and has been in business for 25 years, Heaven Dragon has locations in Arvada and Thornton.

 

Middle Eastern/Indian
Indian: Jewel of India in Westminster/Little India – Why does food that smells like cab drivers taste so delicious? We don't know, but it does.

Middle Eastern: Jerusalem's – Open late means great food post-party food, but it's also good on quiet nights as well.

 

African
Ethiopian: Aradas in Denver – Who doesn't like to eat with their hands? Oh you? Ok, well we suggest you don't try this one then.

 

South of the Border
Colorado Style Mexican Food: Los Arcos — Just the basics – but with chips and salsa to die for! Try not to get creeped out by life sized portraits of the owners staring at you while you eat.

Authentic Mexican Food/Tacos: Tacos Y Salsas – Careful what you order – it might be organ meat, and will definitely be delicious.

Venezuelan: Empanada Express — Ten dollars never bought you so much fried beauty! Seriously, one appetizer and a full plate will feed you for 3-5 days.

Cuban: Buchi's — Out of this world Cuban sammies and the best damn cup of servant’s had outside of Paris, France.

Brazilian/Latin: Cafe Brazil — extremely delicious, very authentic! Enjoy the Brazilian artwork (some of it bizarre) and staff.

 

European
Italian: Parisi and Firenze A Tavola — Parisi is a must before strolling the Tennyson artwalk. The deli is a fun way to blow fifty bucks (if you cook like Indie and servant do), but make sure to head downstairs for Firenze A Tavola. It's more upscale, and the Osso Bucco is top notch.

French Bakery: La Patisserie Francaise – Oddly placed next to a Target and Planned Parenthood, but down right tasty. Grab some coffee and a pastry and you're good to go.

Greek: Melita's —a charming staff and wonderful gyros. Servant’s favorite is the lemon soup! Don’t hesitate to pick up some amazing hummus and inspired olive oil.

Jewish: The Bagel Deli I was eating here before Guy Fieri thought it was cool. If you think Einstein has good bagels, please slap yourself, then head down here.

So that about wraps it up! Feel free to visit these websites, print out this list, stick it on your refrigerator with a magnet, and salivate while looking at it daily! Enjoy our recommendations and feel free to add your own on our pages. Whatever the case, enjoy eating! No really, just in general, enjoy eating!

Also, don't be scared to show us some love on your favorite social network. We're on both, and occaisionally one of our jokes is mildly amusing.

Ciao!

Indie Eats                            A Servant Writing

Facebook                            Facebook

Twitter                                 Twitter

 

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Manneken Frites

October 24th, 2011

There’s a little slice of heaven up in Old Town Arvada, and it’s name is Manneken Frites. This Belgium-inspired fry and beer shop is the perfect answer to, “where should we have a snack right now?”

I accidentally stopped by this place while meeting a friend in Old Town. I walked by and saw the fries on their logo, and knew I had to swing by and at least check out the menu. And by check out the menu, I mean have a beer and an order of fries.

With hot, crunchy, fresh french fries, 16 different house-made sauces, and a stellar list of Belgian brews, this place is a no-brainer. I honestly don’t really think I need to write much more. But I did take this fancy picture for you. And you say I never do anything nice for you.

I also had a chance to catch up with the GM and ask him a few questions. Check out what he said below.

IE: Where’s your favorite spot to grab Indie Eats?

MF: Highland Tavern

IE: One of my personal favorites as well. Ok, other question is, what’s one tip for the at-home fry cook?

MF: You have to fry your fries twice. The first time you fry it you will get the inside to a baked potato consistency. The second fry is in a hotter temperature, and is meant only to crisp the outside.

Manneken Frites was pretty much awesome. The entire staff was warm, friendly, and inviting, and the fries and brew were top notch. Take a trip up to Old Town Arvada, and check it out.

If you’ve been following me on twitter, or here on my blog for longer than a week, you know that I love pizza. As sophomoric of a favorite food as it may be, I still love it. I think part of my love came from my childhood, where my pops would make some killer pizza dough about once a month.

Now, for this post, we’re just gonna get down and dirty. No cutesy banter – let’s just get down to cooking. The only thing I will preface about this recipe, is that I like my pizza crunchy, which is why I use the semolina flour. If you like your pizza a little softer, please don’t use semolina – instead just use all-purpose. Keep in mind, that your cooking times may change if you make changes. So don’t blame me for a burned pie.

Ingredients

- 1 Package of fast rising yeast
- 7/8 cup of 105 degree water
- 1 tsp sugar
- 1 tsp salt
- sprinkle of pepper
- 1 tbsp EVOO
- 1 tbsp milk
- 1 1/2 Cups all purpose flour
- 1 cup Semolina flour

Instructions
- Put 1 package of fast rising yeast into 7/8 cup of very warm (105 degrees) water. Add 1 teaspoon of sugar and stir. Let sit for 10 minutes or until very foamy.
- Put 2 1/2 cups all purpose flour into Cuisinart with 1 teaspoon salt and sprinkle of pepper. Start mixing flour and pour yeast/water mixture into the flour.
- Add 1 tablespoon of EVOO and 1 of milk while mixing.
- Mix for about 40 seconds. The dough should form into a ball and be somewhat sticky but not wet. You may need to add water if it is not forming into a ball or add flour if it is too sticky.
- Preheat oven to 500 degrees, and place your pizza stone in.
- Pull the dough out of the cuisinart and put it into a oiled bowl turning it over in the bowl to coat all sides of the dough. Clover with plastic and let rise until double in size (about half an hour).
- Pull dough out dust with flour so it isn’t sticky. Divide in half and roll each half out for pizzas.
- I put my rolled out dough into the oven for about 5 minutes before putting toppings on, so the pizza keeps its shape better.
- Total cooking time should be about 10 to 12 minutes but just keep checking it.

This recipe will make 2 12 inch pizzas (roughly). How you choose to top it, is completely up to you. For this particular occasion, I chose to top it with my red sauce, Mozzarella and Parmesan, Fresh Tomatoes, Prosciutto, and Fresh Basil.

With pizza, you really can’t mess up the topping situation. I’m more of a purist myself, but you can choose to dress it up however you like it.

Enjoy!

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Row 14 Bistro and Wine Bar

September 26th, 2011

If there’s one thing you need to know about Executive Chef Jensen Cummings, it’s that he has a really unique view on what the food scene in Denver should be like. More informed. More communal. More playful. Be willing to try new things, say hi to an unknown neighbor, and enjoy some of the best products this great city has to offer.

This philosophy is close to my heart. My personal goal is to introduce people to new flavors, and products that are near and dear to the Front Range. So when Jensen bumped into me at the Denver Burger Battle, and asked if I’d like to come hang out in the kitchen for a night, I was more than pleased to accept.

So on this evening, I was not actually dining at Row 14. But I have since been in to have dinner with Mrs. Indie Eats. While this isn’t a normal restaurant review, it’s close enough. So instead of scrambling to come up with an more accurate title, I will leave it at what it is. Because Indie Eats Stages at Row 14 doesn’t sound right, and Fireside Chats with Chef Jensen Cummings is a little long winded.

Anyways, I came in to Row 14′s kitchen for a Colorado Wino night. This particular night was a blind tasting of Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc from Colorado. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to participate in the wine tasting, but from the looks of it, everyone was really enjoying the offerings. The great thing about this event was it was free. Free wine from Colorado Winos and free snacks from Row 14′s kitchen. All of this ties back into what I was talking about with Chef Cummings. Free events like this are going to attract more people, and continue to make Denver a better epicurean society.

So Chef Cummings prepared some great snacks, some of which are featured in the slide show below, but he also let me hang out and see the full menu. I even got to plate some dishes on my own. That’s right Denver, if you had the House Salad that night, it was made by yours truly. Sadly, I didn’t take a picture of my greatness, but here are some shots of what the professionals put together.

Achiote Pork Wonton with Mango Chimichurri

Picture 1 of 10

The plates that went out were amazing. They all have a global flare to them, and playfully incorporate different tastes, and cooking methods. One of my favorite things about this menu is it’s easy to understand. It’s not intimidating, and this execution makes it easy to experience different flavors from across the globe.

As usual, I had to ask Jensen my closing Indie Eats’ questions. Here’s what he had to say.

IE: What’s your favorite spot to grab local grub?

JC: I am a big fan of Moe’s BBQ. You can get great bbq and bowl all in one spot. Can’t beat that. Its also within walking distance of my place, which is nice.

IE: What’s one tip you have for the at-home cook?

JC: Seasoning! Always take the time to season your product precisely. Don’t just throw salt and pepper at the ingredient. Make sure that you get the right amount of seasoning on each bite. Use one hand to season and the other to handle the product, that way no moisture gets onto your seasoning hand and clumps up the salt or pepper. It is something that is really important for the home cook and the professional cook!

Make sure to like Row 14 on Facebook. They consistently have new events, as well as late night stoner dish specials. Yep, I wrote that out correctly. Those dishes are for the inner fat kid in all of us.

All of these pieces come together in one cohesive conclusion. Row 14 is a great addition to Denver. It’s not overpriced, it’s not too fancy, and the food is really well thought out, and executed. Chef Jensen Cummings is a very bright Chef, and I love what he’s trying to do for the Denver food scene.

Do yourself favor, head down and grab a bite. You won’t be disappointed.

If there was ever a food event in Denver that makes me jump up and scream like an 8 year old girl going into the Hello Kitty factory, it’s this one. Twelve of Denver’s best-burger-boasting hot spots serving up what they hope will be crowned as the best in Denver. Couple that with free brews from the Great Divide Brewing Company and Avery Brewery, and wines from Infinite Monkey Theorem and you have a full fledged flailing-on-the-ground joy-fest on your hands.

I can honestly say that the emotions above were pretty much what I was feeling for days. Sitting at my desk at work, ingesting very light servings of raw veggies (gotta take care of the ol’ ticker), I went over my gameplan.

“Ok, I’m going to try and blaze through as many as possible before the crowds get big.”

“No, wait. I’m going to take my time and only eat small bites from each. Because I want to be able to cover each and ever burger for my readers.”

“Oh screw it. I’m going to pre-game at Amato’s to build a hunger, then I’m just going to get after it like it’s nobody’s business.”

So, as you might have guessed, I went with option three. Mrs. Indie Eats and I decided to park by Amato’s so we could have a nice walk from Union Station afterwords. Not that a walk like that would even make a dent in the caloric mecca we were about to embark on – but hey – a guy’s gotta make an effort to feel good about himself. Right?

Anyways, after a quick “warm-up” at Amato’s bar, we walked briskly down to Union Station. Dodging homeless, occasionally jay-walking, and huffing up and down the stairs of the pedestrian bridge we made our way down. Fortunately, we were one of the early ones to get in line. We casually made small talk with people, even though we really could care less about anything they say. No offense to any of them, but we were only trying to busy our minds from being overwhelmed by the insanely delicious smells wafting through the air.

We were finally let in, and we attacked. Not like a “stalk through the jungle of Vietnam” kind of attack, but more like “storming the beaches of Normandy” kind of attack. After grabbing a quick beer, we quickly cruised through the first few burgers. In a melee of meat and suds, we found ourselves through eight of the contestants. Below is what we experienced.



LoHi Steak Bar – Ground chuck slider with red onions, bacon, tomatoes, blue cheese and lettuce. Served with Fries.

Thoughts: This burger had a classic blue-and-bacon combo that was perfectly balanced. It was also extremely easy to eat, and was served with some really tasty fries. I know that shouldn’t matter, but you kind of miss fries while eating all these burgers!



Elways – A quarter of a full burger topped with egg-and-bacon salad, house-pickled relish and hot sauce aioli.


Thoughts: I wasn’t crazy about this burger because it lacked freshness. I know that doesn’t matter to some people, but I do like some veggies on my burger.


Root Down – Half Veggie burger

Thoughts: Ok. This was really good for a veggie burger, but it just doesn’t compare to everything else there. I love Root Down, and I would order this for my meal if I were there. But I wasn’t.


Cherry Cricket – A quarter of their classic burger with jalapeno cream cheese.

Thoughts: The Cricket is a great landmark in Denver, but I felt that this burger didn’t meet the standard that was set by some of the other restaurants. I had hoped that they would have “brought it” a little more.


Euclid Hall – Kobe Short Rib Burger with housemade Kielbasa, kimchi and foie gras mousse all served on a tiny toasted english muffin.

Thoughts: This was one of my favorites. The kielbasa added such a unique flavor, and the minimal encasement of english muffin made a unique, original, and damn delicious burger.


Crave – A burger with roasted duck, ginger garlic cream cheese, red pepper, avocado, lettuce, onion and hoisin sauce.

Thoughts: This was probably my favorite burger. Unique. Bold Flavors. Really inventive. The only downfall was it was an absolute disaster to eat.


H Burger – Burger topped with lettuce, tomato, onion, Hatch green chiles, smoked cheddar, bacon and red-pepper jam.

Thoughts: Richness from the cheddar and bacon flavors, but still had that fresh qualities that balances a burger out.


Park Burger – Harris Ranch beef with fried egg, baby swiss, rosemary ham, and burger sauce

Thoughts: I liked this burger quite a bit. It was juicy, rich, but still had a nice balance with some fresh ingredients as well.

At this point in the night I had hit a full on food wall. Eight different burgers in probably about 20-25 minutes. Add in some beers, the occasional fry, and even a tiny little milkshake, and I was done for. So we started walking around and mingling. I got to rub elbows with some of Colorado’s culinary elite, which was nice, and we met up with some friends of ours.

I kept waiting. Waiting for this full to subside, but it didn’t. I actually became increasingly more full. At this point in time there was about a 50 person line for the places that I needed to still try, so I threw in my paper towel, retired my plastic plate, and shed a tear.

I’m so sorry I let you down. Feel free to make fun of me as much as necessary, via twitter or facebook. Since I didn’t get to give you a full report on all of the competing burgers, I felt that I should at least let you know who won.

People’s Choice
1st – Highland Tap and Burger
2nd – TAG
3rd – Crave

Judge’s Choice
1st – Park Burger
2nd – TAG
3rd – Highland Tap and Burger

This event is truly up my alley. What I mean by that is it showcases the amazing local talent we have. From each of the participating restaurants, to the guest judges who are local restaurateurs themselves, to the beer and wine sponsors. This event is Colorado. Colorado Burgers. Colorado Beers. Colorado Wines. And it does Colorado proud.

Whether you want to make fun of me or not, one thing remains the same. This event is hands down one of the best in Denver. It’s an amazing experience, and something you should definitely aim for next year. Make sure to buy your tickets early too, because it does sell out.

So as you may have read in earlier posts, I’m not a classically trained chef. I grew up in an Italian family where cooking was a part of everyday life, and that’s where I learned my fundamentals. I’ve always wanted to go to culinary school, but I also really enjoy what I do for a living as well. Either way, I decided that it was time to get some classical training. Without wanting to go into massive debt from student loans, I decided that maybe a class at Cook Street was the answer.

Cook Street is a great institution in Denver. It is an actual cooking school, where students can take accredited courses for their culinary degree. But then they also offer single classes, perfect for the at home cook, or maybe even an intriguing date night. Based on the fact that it’s an accredited cooking school, you know you’re going to be getting top notch instructors. And let me tell you, my experience was nothing less than having a highly trained, and knowledgeable chef guiding us through.

My fellow students and I started working on some snacks that the school had provided, and awkwardly engaging in social interaction. After 10 minutes our so, our Chef, Brian, came out and walked us through what we were going to be preparing for this evening. Chef Brian exuded a professorial quality that assured you of two things. One, this guy really knows his stuff. And two, he is excited to share his knowledge with you.

Now, normally I would walk you through each of the techniques, and cooking instructions that we walked through. That’s usually how I set up my recipe posts on my blog, but to be honest, Cook Street is an experience. And walking you through every detail is not going to do this experience justice. So instead, I’m going to entice you pictures, and my extensive food vocabulary. Well, my vocabulary isn’t that extensive, but I’d like to think that it is. Especially because I’m a food blogger. Wait, did I just discredit myself? I digress.

Anyways, what better way to start off a French Classic meal than with some Mussels and Frites. We steamed the mussels in a simple white wine broth, fried up some tasty french fries, and served them both with a creamy bright aioli. This dish was amazing to learn because as many times as I try making fries at home, they never turn out right. So it was really great to get a tip from a professional. Check out my artsy photo below. I think it turned out nice for being taken with an iphone.

After this course, we went into the main. Pan seared Hangar Steak Au Poivre Vert and a Cous Cous stuffed Tomato. This was one another great part of the class because we got to learn about something that every at home cook has issues with – cooking protein. It was absolutely incredible to be able to sit there and ask question after question to such a knowledgeable chef. This, in and of itself, was worth every penny.

After absolutely demolishing anything that was edible on my plate, we went up and assembled our dessert. We had previously made everything for this dish, so assembly was simple. We had a Chocolate Souffle with Raspberry Coulis and Creme Anglaise. I’m not much of a desert guy, but I will tell you that this extremely decadent and delicious. It was rich and chocolaty, but still had nice freshness to it from the coulis.

Overall, the evening was a blast. I had about 20 questions that had been bothering me for years get answered by a pro, I made delicious dishes and got to enjoy them with unlimited wine. Yes, you read that right. When you take a class at Cook Street they do wine pairings with your meal. And they always made sure your glass is full.

This is something that is truly a unique and entertaining thing to do in Denver. I know you get bored with the same routine. Dinner then a movie. Dinner then a bar. Dinner and a multi-state crime spree. Wait. That last one doesn’t apply. Anyways, this is that thing to change your routine. You have to work with a partner, so this is perfect for your next date. It would also apply to corporate events, parties, and more. And last but not least, if you just want to learn some new skills, or master a few dishes, this is the best possible way.

Classes are affordable, available, and are of every type of culinary variety you can imagine. Go to their site now, sign up, and get yourself some new cooking skills.