Foodie Fest Delivered Big Eats with Small Lines

Ultra5280’s Lifestyle staff along with many other devout epicureans (it sold out) got their fill at EatDenver’s foodie fiesta, The Big Eat. It returned for its sixth year to the Denver Center Performing Arts Complex last Thursday with over 50 of Denver’s best restaurants, along with brews, wines, spirits and entertainment.

There were many tasty meat dishes, as one would expect in the Colorado culinary scene, but there was also a surprisingly large assortment of seafood as well. We saw ceviche, sushi, salted cod, a baguette and Lox topped with not capers, but caviar from Rosenberg's Bagels & Delicatessen, and Jax Fish House and Blue Island Oyster Bar were hot stops with their fresh oyster bar. In fact, it seemed about 40 percent of the entrées offered were seafood based, while the other 40 percent were red meat, 5 percent chicken, and 5 percent veggie. We eat all foods, so we enjoyed it all, but there was one vegetarian dish that I thought was as good as any of the other entrees. Vital Root, the newest addition to Cucci’s Edible Beats restaurants, showcased their sunflower seed risotto which was hearty yet fresh and crisp with snap peas, sautéed mushrooms, carrots, chive pesto and pecorino cheese. The texture, taste, and nutrition were all top notch in this dish.

There were a couple surprising standout dishes as well, mainly because of the restaurants who served them. For “most pleasantly surprising” was Appaloosa Grill, you know the place you walk by on the 16th street mall, sometimes stopping in for a cheap happy hour drinks? Well it turns out they make a mean lamb chop, and I mean it came perfectly cooked, topped with toasted nuts and a cherry, peppadew custard, Dijon mustard, all atop a bed of dressed greens. Looking at their website, it appears Appaloosa has a bunch of potentially delectable dishes and makes most with locally sourced ingredients on site! Next time we’ll have to go for cheap drinks and dinner.

Sweet treats were scattered throughout the event, but we’ll finish up this article with them as if that’s what we really did on Thursday. . . Snooze was there with a peach pancake, DBar with a berry and custard trifle, French toast with salted tequila caramel from El Camino, cherry shortcake from Sugarmill, La Loma with churros, and sticky bread from The Lobby. Happy Bakeshop had a full display of sweet treats for every palette and even allergy, such as gluten-free carrot (cup)cakes, French macarons, and Scotcheroos which are peanut butter rice crispy treats with chocolate butterscotch topping. Between the two of us we tried (aka devoured) them all.

The beverage and entertainment categories of the event did not disappoint either and were likewise scattered throughout. We saw La Pompe Jazz playing and some legit swing dancers and on the far end of the event we watched an amazing group of break dancers called Block 1750. We drank local brews such as Great Divide and Call to Arms, sampled wine from The Winery at Holy Cross Abbey, and drank some refreshing craft cocktails from Golden Moon Distillery and Woody Creek Distillers.

What made the event even better was how easy it was to navigate and the lack of lines! Most food/booze events we’ve attended are often so full of lines you don’t get a chance to try everything or even really enjoy what you are sampling because you’re standing in the next line or walking and talking while trying to chew. The Big Eat managed to keep waits to a minimum, even at the hottest restaurant stops and craft cocktail bars. Tables and seating were scarce, which made eating hard to do while juggling your glass and plate(s), but the overall vibe was relaxed and allowed guests to take their time without fear of missing any of the offerings. We feel that The Big Eat was very much worth the ticket price ($50) and was a fun and efficient way to say you’ve eaten at 50 of Denver’s best restaurants! We like to brag.

 Words by Tiffany Candelaria photos by McClain Morris