Denver’s annual food and wine week just wrapped up and we were part of the fun at Saturday’s Grand Tasting event. This six-day culinary takeover is courtesy of Food & Wine Magazine and brings Denverites various opportunities to eat and drink, meet celebrity and local chefs, and enjoy exclusive experiences. The festivities begin each year on a Wednesday in mid-September with a curated “Dinner Under the Stars”, continue Thursday with the “Bartender’s Bash” cocktail competition and sampling, Friday you’ll find a fun happy hour at a top restaurant, and Saturday afternoon we recommend attending, “The Grand Tasting.”
The main event of DF+WF weekend is Saturday’s Grand Tasting where over 40 top restaurants showcase their best bites and Southern Glazer’s Wine & Spirits provide over 700 wines and spirits to sample! Every type of wine is available to taste at the Grand Tasting, from high end reserves, rare wine regions, French Champagnes, to affordable favorites. DF+WF is the most comprehensive “wine tasting” in the state (aside from the prestigious annual Aspen Food + Wine Classic). For the true oenophiles, Denver Food and Wine created a Tasting App to help one navigate and take notes on all the fine wines. There are also QR Codes placed next to each wine for guests to learn more and take screenshots for later, and of course the educated Reps are there ready to tell you all about their products too.
If that weren’t enough to keep you entertained and buzzed all day, the Grand Tasting also features over 200 different spirits ranging from straight samples, liqueurs, and cocktails. We saw the following brands showcase their products with full footprints complete with a branded bar, tables, and decor: Aperol, Atlos Tequila, Chloe Wine, Five Farms Irish Cream, Grey Goose Vodka, Jagermeister, and TX Whiskey.
The food is of course the complimentary component to the copious beverages and one will find bites for all palettes created by Denver’s best chefs. This year’s favorite bites included Avelina’s truffle anglonotti, Kachina’s Fry Bread Taco & guacamole shooters, Hank’s Texas Barbecue Brisket, and the bruschetta from the high school students enrolled in the Colorado ProStart Program. These kids get involved every year manning their bites booths or assisting the celebrity chefs at the Culinary Stage. The Colorado ProStart Program is a two-year foodservice and hospitality management, culinary arts, and business entrepreneurship curriculum offered to high school juniors and seniors in Colorado.
Another big draw to the Grand Tasting is the opportunity to watch and learn from the masters; celebrity chefs and master sommeliers and mixologists hold seminars throughout the day. This year’s Wolf Sub Zero/Specialty Appliance Culinary Stage favorite was Jet Tila, a Culinary Ambassador of Thai Cuisine and Food Network star. Recently, Jet partnered with the Wynn Resorts to open Wazuzu, a groundbreaking take on Pan-Asian dining, at the Encore Casino and Resort on the Las Vegas Strip. Jet has also inspired and cultivated multiple concepts in partnership with the largest foodservice company in the world, Compass Group. Jet, along with his wife Ali, showed their captive audience how to make fried chicken and waffles complete with room temp butter, maple syrup and Sriracha!
Proceeds from the event always benefit various charities and this year’s recipients are Kroenke Sports Charities, Denver Post Community Foundation and Colorado Restaurant Foundation as chosen by Southern Glazer’s because, “… they are an integral part of our community and reflect our core values while supporting the people that live, work and enjoy our Colorado lifestyle.”
DF+WF events are so much fun and generally more enjoyable than the other food & booze events that have taken over Denver. Everything is top notch, from the food and drink offerings, to the Riedel wine glasses everyone gets, to the layout, the quality interactions with vendors and attendees, and minimal lines (even for the restrooms!)
If you do it right, you’ll end up in bed early after the Grand Tasting. If you’re up for it, the final event is a Sunday Rise + Dine Brunch the next morning with bottomless Mimosas and Bloody Mary’s and tasty breakfast bites to wrap up the week.
Written by Tiffany Candelaria @TCdoesFnB & Photographed by Josh Stephens @freezerfilmfoto