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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.

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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

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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.

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Basic Kneads Pizza

July 16th, 2011

If you need to know one thing about me, it’s that I absolutely love pizza. Sometimes I think I have the culinary needs of a four year old. If anyone ever asks the question, “what do you feel like for dinner tonight”, there’s about a 90% chance I’ll give in to those childish needs to eat cheesy goodness.

Pizza is comforting, filling, and can be incredibly delicious. It can also be shit. Pure shit. There is a lot of pizza places in Denver that I think are pretty good, a few that are wonderful, and plenty that have no business serving food. It my eyes, the simpler the better. The less the ingredients are processed, the better tasting the pie will be.

I recently was down at the First Friday Artwalk on Tennyson, when I had that sweet siren call of charred dough hit my nostrils. Not being overly interested in the art that we were looking at, I politely excused myself from the group, and followed that smoky trail. Is that wood they’re burning? Why yes it is. I walked about a half block, before I saw what I was looking for. The Basic Kneads Pizza Truck.

Three people, an 800-900 degree wood-burning oven, and a slew of simple, fresh ingredients were all packed into this beautiful mobile package. Remember how I told you that I have the culinary needs of a four year old sometimes? Well don’t laugh when I tell you what I ordered. Like any little kid, I had to go for the pepperoni pizza.

The crust was thin, and expertly charred. It carried that natural, wood fired feel that ads another flavor dimension to the experience. The sauce was really simple – crushed tomatoes, and fresh oregano. I really enjoyed this style of sauce because you still get nice big chunks of tomatoes, which give that nice bright, fresh flavor. And last but not least, the cheese. Oh, the cheese. A blend of shredded mozzarella and fresh mozzarella. The perfect balance between flavor and meltiness.

What ensued was me figuring out that I had found one of the better pizzas in Denver. In fact, I loved it so much, that I recently drove into downtown during rush hour, just to bring a pie home for dinner. For my second encounter, I opted for the Margherita, which is pictured below.

 

After I had the pleasure of enjoying Basic Kneads pizza a few times, I decided it was time to write it up. I called the owner, and asked him a few questions.

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

BK: You can buy tiles from home depot, and use those instead of a pizza stone. They’re cheaper, and essentially do the same thing. Also, don’t be afraid to crank up your oven, and cook the pizza at a really high heat.

IE: What are some of your favorite spots around town to grab local grub?

BK: I’ll take a food truck over a restaurant any day. But, I also like Bones, and Tacos y Salsas.

Basic Kneads is something that you should really make a special trip to check out. I promise you, you will be extremely satisfied. You can find them at the Civic Center during lunch on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and at Great Divide Brewery on Wednesdays and Fridays for Happy Hour and Dinner.

So before you pick up the phone to call Papa Johns. For the love of christ, hang up, and drive down to wherever Basic Kneads truck is

I know that most of you read my blog to find great dishes from around the Denver Metro area, but I also know this; food and traveling go together. So this post is a little combination of the two. Don’t worry, I won’t have you come over and look at pictures of the Statue of Liberty or Times Square, but I will share with you some of the dishes that I enjoyed while in NY.

The only thing I disliked about eating in NY was I didn’t have enough time to eat everywhere I want. This city is a culinary mecca. Every food from every different culture can be found on the stunning island of Manhattan. That being said, these are the ones that I did get to try, and that I would recommend you try, when you get to go to the Big Apple.

My favorite NY tradition/Non-fancy-schmancy meal: Katz Deli – The Corned Beef

If you go to Katz, keep these two things in mind. DO NOT LOSE YOUR TICKET. They will give you a ticket, which is how they keep track of what you eat. If you lose it, it’s $50 charge to leave the door. And also, bring cash. They do not take credit card.

The sandwich below is simply put, the best corned beef sandwich I’ve ever had. Ever. And there was nothing fancy about it. Bread. Thousand Island. Corned Beef. That’s it. Served with some pickles, and a Brooklyn Brewery Lager.

My favorite restaurant in Little Italy: Da Nico

It’s hard to choose what restaurant to go to in Little Italy. Each one has a salesman outside walking the streets, trying to get you to come in. “We have beautiful fish justa for you, only 10.99 served witha the pasta”. And no, I’m not ramping up the stereotypical Italian accent. That’s really how they talk. But even if I was, I can, because I’m Italian. So there. Wow, I really get off track sometimes. Oh well, I gotta keep you guessing!

Anyways, Da Nico’s is my favorite there. The dishes are traditional, staff is friendly, and the restaurant looks like something out of an Italian Piazza.

If you go to Da Nico, keep this in mind, the servings are huge. You can easily split a dish, and have a cheaper meal. And a cheaper meal is always a nice thing, especially when you’re in NY.

The pizza below is simple, fresh, and authentic. Anything you get there is top notch, so don’t be scared to order anything that strikes your fancy.

My favorite non-ridiculously-expensive-with-great-food-spot in Times Square: Schnippers

Times Square, while absolutely astounding, is a tourist trap. There are some great spots around there, but they are pricey. And all the other restaurants in Times Square know they can serve less-than-desirable plates of expensive garbage, and they will still have drove after drove of tourist stopping by. But you can easily cruise around the corner to Schnippers. It was featured on Throwdown with Bobby Flay for their Sloppy Joes. This place is affordable, simple, good for the family, and downright tasty. We had a Cheesy Joe, Mac and Cheese, and a couple of beers, and escaped at just under $30 (trust me, that’s cheap for Times Square).

If you go to Schnippers, opt for the Sloppy Joe. It’s a little taste of Americana in one of the greatest cities in America.

The picture below is of our food, served simply on a plastic tray. :)

My first Mario Batali Restaurant: Otto

I’m a huge fan of Food Network, and I love Molto Mario. The guy is genius when it comes to Italian cuisine, and so it was a must that we try one of his spots. We chose Otto so we could have something a little less fancy, but still really delicious. The place is modeled to resemble an Italian train station. It’s pretty awesome. Instead of your name for a reservation, you get a ticket with an Italian city on it. When your city appears on the board above the host stand, your table is ready.

If you go to Otto, keep this in mind: The pizzas are cracker thin. If you have an appetite, bring your wallet. Not that it’s pricey, but I know a lot of people equate pizza to a cheap dining option. Just be prepared to spend more than you expect.

I highly suggest the house made prosciutto. The freshness is apparent in the texture. You know that dry edge of the prosciutto you get when you buy it at the grocery store? That’s not the case here. Not even close.

We then moved on to an array of salads and pizzas. The salads were simple. Fresh greens. Bright Vinaigrettes. And the pizzas were incredible. We went with the Garlic, Olive Oil and Fresh Chilies Pizza, The Vongole (which is pictured below), and the Margherita. The difference between these pizza and others, was the quality of ingredients. The cheeses were to die for, and that translated into each and every delicious bite.

There were a few other things that we had while we were there, that you have to try. Bagels in NY are a cheap breakfast option, and they’re made the correct way. Boiled, then baked. Hot dogs are also a staple to any New Yorker, and can be found just about anywhere. If you really want to save some money, check out any “Papaya Dog”, i.e, Gray’s Papaya, Chelsea Papaya, etc. These places are dirt cheap. Lastly, swing by any pizza-by-the-slice place. My wife and I would have them cut a slice in two, for a quick cheap snack.

We also had the amazing opportunity of dining at Per Se, but that experience was a blog post all on its own. So that will be coming shortly. I hope you all get to go to NY at some point soon. The city is alive and vibrant with every culture imaginable. There’s history, sightseeing, shopping, Broadway shows, but best yet – some of the best food in the world.

It’s difficult to write a blog post on every restaurant I go to. Sometimes I don’t feel it’s a good fit for my format, sometimes I have a bad experience, and sometimes restaurants go into radio silence when I try to email them a few questions. The last one never ceases to amaze me. Anyways, I was sitting on my couch the other night – casually ignoring my wife’s choice in television – and I started looking through all the pictures on my phone. Having a meal with my wife, family, or friends is my favorite thing to do. Especially when the wine is flowing, and the food is tasty. So I end up having a library full of food pictures.

I got to thinking – there’s a lot of dishes and events in the past few months that are noteworthy. So, in somewhat of a montage of the past 5 months – here are some great things to check out. While they may not have received an actual blog post – they’re getting the attention they deserve here.

Enjoy.

Above is probably the best egg drop soup I’ve ever had. The guys at LeeReedy/Xylem introduced me to Wokano on 11th and Ogden – and by introduced I mean they had what some might call an addiction. Anyways, I finally decided to give it a shot. This was definitely the highlight of my meal. Some egg drop soups seem to be chicken stock with eggs and maybe a few veggies tossed in. This was not the case here. This soup boasted a rich, earthy broth, bamboo, and delicately cooked eggs. It is absolutely worth heading down for.

When my wife and I decided to buy our home in Denver, we thought we should experience everything up north before we moved. The dish above is from Empire in Louisville, Colorado. This swanky spot has great contemporary American cuisine, and a brash owner to back it up. The Calamari Salad we had was one of the best I’ve ever had, and the Braised Colorado Lamb Shank above continued the trend. The caveman-esque bone provided a beautiful backdrop to the deliciousness that followed. It might have been a special that night, but – everything we had there was wonderful. And downtown Louisville was bustling, colorful, and way more fun than we had expected.

Aye Conyo! You almost want to exclaim it when eating this tasty Cuban Sandwich from Buchi on 38th. They have a small delightful Cuban menu, with sensational coffee. Sitting inside Buchi gives you a complete authentic feel. I love it when a restaurant can not only nail the food and drinks, but also gives off an authentic atmosphere. The sandwiches are worth a drive from any corner of the metro area. Seriously. They’re that good.

Big Papa’s BBQ. A lot of you have already read about my experience there for lunch, but I recently went to one of their Super Secret Supper Society events. A 4-Course BBQ Meal paired with Grand Lakes Beers – and all for free. Yes, it sounds way too good to be true, but it’s not – just like ‘em on Facebook for details. Anyways, what ensued was a beer and slow-cooked meat induced coma that lasted until after lunch the next day. If you get a chance, opt for the Catfish Nuggets to share at the table. Simple, fresh, and wildly addicting.

Omakase – (お任せ?) is a Japanese phrase that means “It’s up to you” (from Japanese 任す, entrust). When at TAG, Omakase means, “It’s up to TAG”. This means that when you go in for this culinary splendor, you have no idea what you’ll be eating that night. You are putting your trust in their kitchen staff. They will bring you out four courses of epicurean delight. When we went we took my parents, and it was one of the most enjoyable dining events we’ve all ever been to. The mystery kept you engaged with the service staff, and the creativity that came out of the kitchen was phenomenal. But let’s face it, coming from Troy Guard – would you expect anything less? This is something I highly recommend everyone do. It’s a “Food Event” that isn’t by invite only, and it’s worth every penny.

I lived in Northern California when I was a kid, and the one thing that I miss most is In-n-Out. Anytime I go to a state that has them, I start to have mini-panic attacks when I see that big golden arrow directing me to flavor country. The recently revamped Madison Street offers a close 2nd with their Double Double Animal Style. Thank you Chef Cummings for developing a burger that includes two patties, two slices of cheese, grilled chopped onions, and oh-so-tasty spread. If you’re familiar with this burger, but can’t get to an In-n-Out soon, this will calm those insatiable cravings.

So if you’re looking for a couple of new spots to check out this summer – any of these will do. There’s a few nice lunch spots on the list, as well as something that would be great for a birthday or anniversary celebration. I’ll have more reviews, recipes, and chef interviews coming soon – so stay tuned!

 

The Chefs Up Front Denver event is one of those things that you hear about and say, “Oh man, I wish I could go to one of those.” 29 of Denver’s best and brightest chefs cooking tableside for you and 7 other people – all for a really good cause – Cooking Matters Colorado.  Well I’m here to tell you that next year, quit wishing, and go buy a ticket. It’s worth every penny.

On Saturday night, I received a tweet asking if I’d like to attend the event. I can assure you that I danced around my living room in a manner that mimics how a small child would act after hearing about going to Disneyland. I, of course, answered with an emphatic yes. My wife’s answer to being my guest, was also an emphatic yes.

On Sunday night we got all dolled up. I threw on a suit, and she sported a cute spring dress. We arrived to the Convention Center in style – well, not really. We arrived in a mini-van taxi – but hey, at least I didn’t have to drive. We were very early, which was actually nice, because we were able to take our time exploring the spread.

Mixologists from Root Down, TAG, and Steubens were strategically placed in two different areas. Each of the four mixologists had created a custom cocktail for the event. Each one was tasty. Too tasty in fact. We explored the Korbel ballroom; passing silent auction donations from local businesses which peppered long white-table-clothed tables. It was impressive to see how much support was put forth by the community. After perusing things that I can’t really afford to bid on, we found the Il Mondo Vecchio table, where they were slicing up spicy cured meats coned together in white paper cups with some beautiful cheeses. This happened to be one of the highlights for me. But I’m easily swayed by cured meats.

We walked the room, schmoozed with some of Denver’s finest, and then were asked to please be seated for dinner. We were at Chef Wayne Conwell’s table from Sushi Sasa. Now, I’m going to post the pictures – but it’s solely to entice you to go next year. Not to make you jealous. Ok…I do secretly hope you get a little jealous. :)

Course 1 – Yellowtail and Salmon New Style Shashimi - Lightly Seared with House Spices

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Course 2 – Diablo Roll - Tuna and Avocado inside, Seared Tuna on top with Ginger, Daikon Radish, Sesame Seeds, and a Spicy Ponzu sauce

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Course 3 – Angus Choice Tenderloin and Tara Saiko Yuan Combo – Angus Choice Tenderloin Grilled then Broiled in Uni Wasabi Butter; Miso and Sweet Soy Grilled Black Cod Broiled to Perfection

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Course 4 – Wasabi Tiramisu, and Chocolate Cake Duo

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Without going into great detail about every dish, I’ll simply let you know that they were all incredible. Chef Wayne personally presented them to the table, after cooking them a few feet from where we were sitting. It was like a really amazing, high end, teppanyaki experience – as far as being that close to the chef.

All of this magic and splendor, while overwhelmingly noteworthy, was for something that is actually quite disturbing – the amount of Coloradoan children who are going hungry. And the amount of families, who feel they can’t provide healthy options for their families because of budget constraints.

This event put on by the Cooking Matters Colorado organization, which is an offshoot of Share Our Strength. Now, I was fortunate enough to have a family that stressed healthy, home cooked meals, but a lot of kids out there don’t. Cooking Matters Colorado is an organization that teaches familes how to eat healthy on a budget. They bring in nutritionists, and local chefs, that volunteer their time to help instill these values into families from our community. So even if you can’t afford to go to this event, or it’s not your kind of an event (although, I don’t know how that could even be possible) please go to the site. Donate your time. Donate your money. Do what you can, even if you think it’s not that much.

As foodies, sometimes we forget how fortunate we are to eat whatever, and whenever we want. Which is why, if you can, do what you can to help. I’ll even make it easy for you. Click here to donate.

Thank you.

 

 

 

My apologies for the extended hiatus. We recently bought a home, had to move and get settled. Indie Eats has returned, and is blogging again like he did back in the good ol’days. Is it strange that I switch from first to third person? It’s my blog; I’ll do what Indie Eats wants. Ha. Take that, grammar. I just switched mid sentence without flinching.

Now that I have that out of the way, there’s a cocktail that I felt needed some recognition. We recently went to TAG RAW BAR to celebrate the purchase of our new home. I won’t go into detail about the food, though it was amazing, because I’m sticking to cocktails for this particular post. We had the pleasure of conversing with TAG RAW BAR’s mixologist, Josh. Let me just say, I was so impressed with him, that I feel a Mixologist Interview coming on. Seriously – he knows his stuff. I told him I love whiskey and bourbon, and he told me that the “Call it a Treuse” was the only way to go.

The cocktail, “Call it a Treuse” is a blend of Phillips Union Whisky, Green Chartreuse (hence the name of the cocktail), Luxardo Triplum, Lemon Juice, Rhubarb Bitters, and some spanked mint. Yes it’s silly sounding, but spanked mint helps bring out the flavor. The end result is a refreshing whiskey cocktail that’s somewhat reminiscent of a mint julep, only with a much more intriguing flavor profile. It’s clean, refreshing, and not too sweet. And the best part is, it retains a light whiskey note that doesn’t overwhelm the drink as a whole.

Happy Drinking – don’t forget to call a cab!

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The Bam Bam, which is appropriately named due to the nice punch of heat you get upon consumption, is a well-balanced cocktail worth your attention. El Camino on 32nd starts by muddling fresh jalapenos in lime juice to start this crafty concoction. Add some tequila, and agave and you have a well balanced, and tasty margarita. It’s a perfect combination of sweet, sour, salt, and heat. While the fresh jalapenos may seem daunting to the faint of stomachs, don’t hesitate on ordering this one. It is on the spicier side for a cocktail, but the jalapenos really just add a nice fresh pepper flavor to the drink.

Head down to El Camino tonight. Order a Bam Bam. Oh, and make sure to watch for “Permit Parking Only” zones. I’m pretty sure the city of Denver paid for the new courthouse on parking tickets from this area.

Happy Drinking – don’t forget to call a cab!