FNG Launches Lunch, Eventually Brunch

Troy Guard’s rock n’ roll restaurant FNG is now opening at 11:30am Tuesday through Saturday to serve up your favorites during lunch hours. A great midday escape from your corporate job! The space is hip, edgy and full of music memorabilia and vinyl. According to their team, “FNG is the reminder of all that is genuine, pure and just f’n good. Our food is Rock n’ Roll and our drinks are Punk Rock. The staff is an over-educated, tattooed, eclectic band of experience-creating, hospitality rock stars.” 

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We sampled a few lunch favorites selected by the staff as well as a few of their cool cocktails. To start we had the Tater Tots & Salmon Salad which is just what it sounds like atop arugula with green and white aioli. This salad is apparently a guest favorite, which surprised both the staff and us, but we do give it points for originality.

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Another guest favorite is their Bologna Slider with Swiss, 1000 Island dressing, and potato chips on a King’s Hawaiian Roll (one of the only items not made in house because sometimes you can't beat a classic). A traditional burger, Mediterranean lamb, fried and rotisserie chicken sliders are also popular lunch options. We had the full size version of their buttermilk brined chicken slider which won this summer's Chicken Fight event! Each day there will be an added sandwich feature during lunch to test out chefs’ favorites and the FNG team will mold their lunch menu based on diners' favorites.  

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FNG's all-day menu features ten craft cocktails that drift from the mainstream in their unique ingredients and booze-y bite. We loved the Almost Famous that pairs ruby red flavored vodka with coconut milk and the smoky mezcal meets blackberry cocktail Bramble On. Also tasty is the "secret" dessert menu with nostalgic favorites like Banana Cream Pie and the Dirt Cup as known from childhood. 

FNG served Happy Hour weekdays 3-6pm and if you order from their special Live Nation section of the menu you'll be entered to win tickets to an upcoming Live Nation concert! And winners also receive a $50 FNG dining credit so you can come party/eat before the show!

3940 West 32nd Avenue in the Highlands. https://www.fngrestaurant.com/

Written by Tiffany Candelaria @TCDoesFnB     Photos by Samantha Bliss @RedCapturesHerBliss

Hedge Row Brunch

Cherry Creek has been known for its ritzy stores and high-end chain restaurants, however these days its restaurant scene is catching up with the rest of Denver's unique restaurants and bars, and offers more parking then you'll find in RiNo or Broadway. Hedge Row is different for a number of reasons; it's not a steakhouse, the prices are reasonable, they offer brunch, lunch, dinner and drinks, and most of the menu is locally sourced.

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Hedge Row opened in the latter half of last year and sits on the corner of Cherry Creek Blvd. across from the mall. They describe themselves as a relaxed American Bistro featuring rustic dishes from a wood-fired oven. This shone through in everything from the decor, to the open kitchen, to the menu, down to the clothes the servers wear. The restaurant is very bright and open, and has colorful touches aside wood accents. It is somewhat reminiscent of The Kitchen and that's because it is part of the same restaurant group that is dedicated to serving delicious, real food sourced from responsible and local farmers and purveyors. Not only do diners get to experience the local freshness and quality of the food, but the staff also gets to try everything and takes field trips to the farms and ranches used at their restaurant.

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We started with the Gulf Shrimp Hush puppies with hot pepper honey that were recommended. They were crispy little balls with warm, soft cornmeal and shrimp inside, atop a dollop of jalapeno infused honey that made for a scrumptious Southern starter. For our entrees we ordered the Slow Roasted BBQ Pork Spoonbread and the Char-Grilled Piri Piri Chicken Sandwich. Both were excellent and just the right size after our hush puppies and a Bloody Mary.

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The Piri Piri Chicken Sandwich comes on a local Grateful Bread ciabatta and is similar to a Vietnamese  Bahn Mi. The chicken was juicy and came with some crunchy slaw veggies and savory spices. The BBQ Pork Spoonbread features a perfectly fried Wisdom Farm egg atop house slow roasted pork and a thick, grilled price of cornbread. There wasn't any kick to the BBQ, but it was flavorful and they have an awesome hot sauce with dates, cumin and fresh carrots by Seed Ranch. Sounds kind of strange, but it tasted similar to any regular hot sauce, but better. Other brunch favorites are their Smoked Salmon Flatbread, Yogurt Panna Cotta and Wild Mushroom Toast.

Last, although we were full, we still had to try their pastries and ordered all four ($12) to go. Their cinnamon rolls are quite popular and are finger lickin good, yes, you'll be tempted to drop the utensils and pull it's sticky goodness apart with your fingers. However, it's not sticky from frosting like other places sticky rolls, but rather coated with a sugar and bourbon glaze and topped with glazed pecans for a delightfully satisfying treat. Their other pastries are also tasty and flavorful opposed to overly sugary. They offer a Pear-Cardamom Coffee Cake, the Bourbon Pecan and Sticky Bun, Spiced Carrot Muffin, and the Maple Old Fashioned Doughnut, which was sweet but in a nice way that reminds you of childhood.

Hedge Row will be participating in Denver Restaurant Week (happening now), with a three-course wood-roasted dinner menu for $35. Go try their dinner or brunch for yourself, and don't forget dessert!

https://www.hedgerowbistros.com/event/denver-restaurant-week-223-34/

Words by Tiffany Candelaria       Photos by Josh Stephens

Colorado Takes Spotlight in this Season's "Top Chef"

Colorado is preparing to take center stage as a top culinary destination in the upcoming Season 15 of Bravo’s “Top Chef" airing tonight. Throughout Season 15, the Emmy and James Beard award-winning series will feature Colorado settings, ingredients and food personalities, as cheftestants from across the nation battle it out in a variety of picturesque Colorado locations for the coveted title of “Top Chef.” Two of the cheftestants are from Colorado -- Denver-based Carrie Baird, executive chef of Bar Dough, and Colorado Springs’ Brother Luck, owner of Four by Brother Luck in Colorado Springs. The Season Premier airs tonight, Dec. 7 (check your local listings), on Bravo.

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The first episode will kick off with a food festival on Larimer Square, we're guessing it's Slow Food Nations that we covered back in July. Denver show highlights will include Chef Alex Seidel’s Fruition Farms and Mercantile dining & provision and Sage Restaurant Group’s Chef Gregory Gourdet (“Top Chef” Season 12 Finalist) and his Departure Restaurant + Lounge. Denver stops will also include Rhein Haus, Elitch Gardens, Mile High Station, the Colorado State Capitol building and tailgating with the Denver Broncos at Mile High Stadium. The competitors also head to Estes Park for a Quickfire Challenge at The Stanley Hotel, Boulder, Telluride, and concludes with a two-part finale at the FOOD & WINE Classic in Aspen with challenges at T Lazy 7 Ranch and the top of Aspen Mountain.

The Top Chef judges on Larimer Square

The Top Chef judges on Larimer Square

Get ready for even more people to flock to our beautifully diverse state after watching this "Top Chef" season, as many will be watching because it is the top food show on cable! Soon, everyone will know Colorado is home to 35,000 farms and ranches, 100 farmers markets, more than 300 licensed breweries, 130 wineries and more than 70 craft distilleries. Three-quarters of Colorado’s restaurants are independently owned, and the state is gaining a reputation as a sustainability-focused and unpretentious food destination where chefs have the freedom to explore, create and try new things.

For episode recaps, chef interviews and more info on "Top Chef" in Colorado as the season progresses, visit http://www.colorado.com/top-chef-comes-colorado. More information can also be found at Bravotv.com/top-chef & a preview at https://youtu.be/6VNiYsEMO1s

Bremen’s Wine & Tap Brings Seasonal Fine Dining to LoHi

The Ultra5280 crew had the opportunity to dine at the new LoHi restaurant Bremen’s Wine & Tap in anticipation of their new Fall/Winter menu that debuted Monday, October 23. We were very impressed with the variety of dishes, the quality of food and flavors, and the overall presentation, complete with drink pairings. While savoring, we got to know new Executive Chef Isabel Ranney, Bremen’s eco-friendly practices, and learned the restaurant is entirely woman-owned!  Bremen’s Wine & Tap features handcrafted, seasonal, American cuisine, craft cocktails, local beers, and an extensive wine list.

“The inspiration behind the menu is based on the seasonality of the produce and of the herbs and spices that are beneficial to our bodies at this time of year,” said Chef Isabel. “Also, I cook food that I like to eat. The fall menu includes soul-warming dishes that are perfect for the cool weather. The new items are a play on comfort foods that people crave when the weather is cold, but they are refined.”  The new menu includes a Seasonal Butcher Board, Kale and Beet Salad, a Farro Bowl, Duck Breast, and a Prime Rib Sandwich. Especially fun for the season are their Pumpkin Coconut Chai Martini and the Earl Grey Old Fashion.

Maple Duck Breast

Prior to becoming executive chef, Chef Isabel was the sous chef at Bremen’s and previously at the Magnolia Hotel. She has held a number of positions across Colorado and in Washington since starting in the restaurant industry when she was 15-years-old. Aside from her spectacular, seasonal dishes, we love her commitment to the environment, ensuring good practices in both the front and back of the house. She has spearheaded the restaurant’s composting program, aims to use every ingredient in three different ways, and always works to improve their carbon footprint. Chef Isabel is a certified herbalist and uses this knowledge to incorporate ingredients that are beneficial to our health and energy per the season, “The lamb shank uses elderberries and rosehips which are packed with antioxidants and are antiviral, so they help people’s immune systems without them even realizing because of how delicious it tastes.” She also focuses on growing relationships with farmers and vendors to bring the best ingredients into the restaurant and its guests. What a woman, and what a chef!

Butcher Board

Both Chef Isabel and owner Dina Castillo have truly taken the time to make their dining experience as environmentally friendly and Colorado based as possible. Chef Isabel serves her Butcher Board on a rustic wood board from Colorado beetle-killed trees, and picks fresh produce and herbs for a farm called Rebel Farms located right here in Denver. They have a strong passion for supporting local businesses, so at Bremen’s you will see local beers and wines from all around the state, including right here in Denver. While digging into the dishes, we also learned the name Bremen’s was created from a favored children’s book that was written about the city of Bremen, Germany.

Whether you’re in the neighborhood, live on the other side of town, or are just visiting Denver, Bremen’s is a must visit within the thriving culinary scene here in Denver. With their wide variety of dishes and drinks, there is something for everyone. Bremen’s is open for dinner Monday - Saturday, happy hour daily from 4 to 6 p.m. with lady’s wine night on Wednesdays, and brunch on Saturday and Sunday beginning at 11 a.m. Read on for a detailed description of the dishes we devoured and photographed.  http://www.bremenswinetap.com/

Asparagus Tartare

Asparagus Pear Tartare: This dish is a play off traditional tartare, featuring raw asparagus finely diced, mixed with red onion, scallions, avocados, pears, pear-herb vinaigrette, and surrounded by heirloom grape tomatoes, tangerine oil and topped with crispy asparagus ribbons. Served with house made lavash rubbed with jalapeno agave syrup.

Butcher Board: Chef’s choice (changes bi weekly) of charcuterie and cheese, house made grain mustard and pickled vegetables. We tasted Prosciutto di Parma – aged 18 months, High West Whiskey Salami, Ossau-Iraty (French sheep’s milk cheese, dates back to one of the first cheese ever made), and the aged English Cheddar. Also served on this beautiful beetle kill board from Colorado, are house-pickled, seasonal vegetables. Boards come with toasted sourdough bread from local bakery, Hinman’s, “34 Degrees” crackers and salted almond crackers.

Maple Leaf Duck Breast: House made potato gnocchi that are seared to create a crispy outer glaze. The gnocchi get tossed with a wild mushroom and leek mixture deglazed with white wine and finished with butter and fried sage.

Sea Scallops with Risotto

Fresh Catch of the Day: Three pan-seared sea scallops served atop a bacon and corn risotto, topped with a red wine vinegar reduction and fried mint. (This was divine!)

Isabel’s Seasonal Crumble: Tequila-soaked pears topped with Bremen’s secret pecan crumble, served with a scoop of cinnamon ice cream.

Words by Tiffany Candelaria        Photos by Samantha Bliss

Sunday Funday @ Punch Bowl Social

While Punch Bowl Social, the giant bar, game venue, diner, lounge, whatever you know it as, is nothing new, it’s food and beverage menu is always changing. If you have yet to go, you really should as it offers so much in every category: food, drinks, games, fun.  This large, two-story venue greets guests with a diner-style restaurant, then a 360 degree bar area and bowling lanes, then a back room featuring a “holiday lodge” lounge, two more bowling lanes, and a long line of bocce ball, shuffle board, foosball and corn hole. Upstairs you’ll find vintage arcade games, private karaoke rooms, pool and ping pong tables, another bar and mixed seating.  PBS is a destination where you can spend the whole day and offers food and fun for every mood.

We went for a super Sunday Funday to sample the new Brunch menu and Bloody Mary bar and play some games. Brunch is served Saturday & Sunday until 3 p.m. most of the menu is made in-house, including drinks, desserts and condiments. The brunch menu offers a variety of fresh juice creations, an amazing build your own Bloody Mary bar we were blown away by, and a host of other breakfast drinks and concoctions. PBS is continually changing their menu to reflect the seasons, the trends, and the talents of their chefs. This summer brings a renewed brunch menu that launched July 15th showcasing culinary partner and celebrity chef Hugh Acheson’s Southern spirit.

Hugh Acheson's fresh approach has earned him a great deal of recognition including Food & Wine’s Best New Chef, the Atlanta Journal Constitution Restaurant of the Year, a six-time James Beard nomination for Best Chef Southeast (2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012) and the James Beard award in 2012. He has been both a contestant and a judge on Bravo’s Top Chef and now he’s leading the helm of Punch Bowl Social’s culinary creations.

We ordered the Hash Brown Skillet, the Mushroom Biscuits 'N' Gravy, and asked to put their OMFG gluten free fried chicken atop their malted waffle. Our chicken & waffle mash up was delicious with strawberries, crispy basil and this thick chipotle pecan maple syrup (not pictured) that made this dish really delicious. We could eat that thick jam-like syrup on anything. The chicken was close to being as crispy as a flour-fried chicken and juicy on the inside with good flavor. The dish overall was good, but the sauce enhanced it for sure, and ordering it on the side is a smart way to get the right amount with each bite.

The Hash Brown Skillet had layers of hash browns, Tasso Ham, onions, shiitake mushrooms, cheddar cheese and eggs. It was good but didn’t pack the flavor punch we were expecting, some of their special hot sauce helped put some punch in though! The Mushroom Biscuits 'N' Gravy were the standout, looking as good as they lasted. PBS makes a good biscuit in general, and then this dish adds a great gravy, beautiful eggs, perfectly cooked potatoes and a bright side of avocado. Bang for your buck and palette right here!

PBS has locations scattered across the U.S including Portland, Austin, Cleveland and Detroit with another CO location in the works for Stapleton. “at PBS we believe in a ‘dirty modern’ mash up of chandeliers, ‘Gangster’s Paradise,’ food for foodies, PBR tallboys, and craft beverages. We believe in brunch turning into a bowling party and bowling parties turning into all-you-can-sing karaoke. We believe in exploring evenings filled with shuffleboard and made-from-scratch chicken and waffles.”

Go explore Punch Bowl Social for yourself, open everyday with daily happy hour and late night food and fun.

http://www.punchbowlsocial.com/location/denver

Winter Wine Festival Feb 10th

Twenty Colorado wineries will gather for the second annual Winter Wine Festival this February 10th from 6-9pm at The McNichols Civic Center Building. The Festival pairs wine tastings and gourmet bites with local vendors and great music for an approachable and delicious night. Event Company Two Parts has gathered a wide range of Colorado's best wines for the Festival so guests can try everything from big, bold reds to crisp, dry whites and all that's in between! And staff from the wineries will be available to tell you all about their vineyards, grapes, wines, and can even sell you a bottle to take home right then and there.

Tickets are on sale for $50 and includes unlimited pours, small bites, wine tote and commemorative glass. Last year’s event sold out, but this year's location at the McNichols Civic Center Building will provide more room for attendees and vendors, about 700 tickets are available this year! Ticket sales benefit the Colorado Association of Viticulture and Enology (CAVE), Colorado’s only trade non-profit that supports the wine and grape growing industry. This event is also sponsored by the Grand Junction Visitors Bureau, to support wine tourism in Colorado. It's always more rewarding to drink to a good cause, so don't miss out this year on all the great wines, bites, music and fun. 

Fresh Noise, a funky, jazzy collaboration between vocalist/multi-instrumentalist Joseph Lamar and keyboardist/multi-instrumentalist Mikey Smith will be performing during the festival. The local restaurants and vendors will be announced as the event gets closer. The Colorado wine scene is growing and this event is a great way to sample everything that Colorado has to offer and grow your own repertoire on the fancy grape drink. Cheers~

Allis Ranch Winery
Augustina's Winery
Avanti Winery
Balistreri Vineyards
Bijou Creek Winery
Black Arts Cellars
Black Forest Meadery
Bookcliff Vineyards
Byerscellars Wines
C Squared Ciders
Carlson Vineyards
Catriona Cellars
Climb Hard Cider
Colorado Cellars/Rocky Mountain Vineyards
Colorado Cider Company
Cottonwood Cellars/The Olathe Winery
Creekside Cellars
DeBeque Canyon Winery
Decadent Saint Winery

https://www.twoparts.com/event/winter-wine-festival-2017/

BEHIND THE PETE'S: An Exclusive Interview With Illegal Pete's Virgil Dickerson

Illegal Pete's successfully brought an end to the great Burrito deficit of the mid 90's in Colorado. We no longer have to fret about both frosted tips or the absence of good mission style Mexican food. At the forefront of the sustained efforts of Illegal Pete's stands the one, the only: the Virgil. 

In an exclusive tell all with the man who does all and knows all things Denver, we get the inside scoop about ingredient sourcing, secret menu items, and why Illegal Pete's is so special. 

Photo: Travel Channel

Photo: Travel Channel


U5280: What does the average patron doesn't know about Illegal Pete's?

VIRGIL DICKERSON: Many patrons don't know about our Starving Artist Program (where we feed any out of town band for free when they come through Colorado and Arizona), that we have a record label (with 10 bands and 3 comedians), and that we are partners in festivals (High Plains Comedy Festival and Dusk Music Festival). We also do fundraisers every month at every store where we raise funds for non-profits. We do month long fundraisers for Youth on Record and The Joshua School. And on Colorado Gives Day, we partner with a different, local non-profit at every location. 

U5280: Illegal Pete's has been making itself at home in Colorado since the mid 90's. What were the early days like?

VIRGIL DICKERSON: In those early days, I didn't work for Pete's, but I was a patron. The first store was tiny and at first did not have a bar. The second location on Pearl Street wasn't much bigger, but they opened up with a bar. In those days, when you were in line, you usually knew many of the people in line. There wasn't breakfast then, but we always had late night and late nights on the Hill and on Pearl were always nuts. 

U5280: Illegal Pete's is a company with a lot of heart. What aspects of the company model help create the friendly, personable and relaxed environment? 

VIRGIL DICKERSON: It all starts with Pete. Pete is one of those rare business owners who puts his people above profits. It's not that he doesnt' believe in profits, but he makes decisions based on whether it's the right decision and not necessarily the decision that will make the most money. This is why when I asked Pete to start a Starving Artist program and give bands half off of food, he said why not give bands free food. Pete recently did a wage increase across the entire company last year to ensure that all of  his staff were earning a living wage and recently rolled out a 401K. These is not common for the restaurant industry. 

U5280: What gets older: eating burritos everyday, or hearing burrito jokes every day? 

VIRGIL DICKERSON: Oh man, that's a great question. I don't eat burritos every day (not sure if there is everything I could eat every day) and luckily I don't hear burrito jokes every day. Come to think of it, I'd like to hear more burrito jokes in my life. Have any? 

U5280: What efforts does Illegal Pete's make to source good food? 

VIRGIL DICKERSON: We are always striving to find the very best ingredients. We source our pork and beef from Creekstone. Creekstone never uses hormones or antibiotics. Our tortillas have no artificial flavors and no preservatives. We do our best to recognize the dietary needs of our customers. Recently, we replaced pine nuts with pumpkin seeds as people with nut allergies are able to eat pumpkin seeds.  

U5280: The Starving Artist program feeds touring musicians every day who roll through town. How did the concept come about? 

VIRGIL DICKERSON: In my former life, I ran a record label called Suburban Home. I used to tour with my bands and on one stop in Santa Fe, the promoter told us to check out Fred's Brread because they gave touring bands half off their food. We ate there, it was great, and I never forgot about that restaurant. Fast forward to 2010 when I started working for Illegal Pete's, I asked Pete if we could give touring bands half off food. As I mentioned above, he said why not give bands food for free and we haven't looked back. In 2015, we fed over 400 bands and I thin we will feed over 700 bands this year. 

U5280:  Illegal Pete's has done a lot to support local music. What shows should we put on our calendars for November? 

VIRGIL DICKERSON: I'd say that if you have not yet seen Brent Cowles or the Still Tide, they are two of Greater Than's more recent acts and they are both incredible. You should just go to any local show you can. I could list about a hundred local acts that I adore and still so many more to see. 

U5280: Any secrets to the Pete's menu? 
Well, we have secret menu items. While I'd like to share them with your readers, we prefer our customers to find out about these items by word of mouth or randomly. We can't wait for you to find these items on your own. 

U5280:  Illegal Pete's is a restaurant built on good combos: freshly grilled meat, house-prepped salsas, great guac. Then there's the company: good people, good music, and good food. It seems like the Pete's team has figured life out. Impart the wisdom! Tell us the perfect Pete's burrito we have yet to try.

VIRGIL DICKERSON: I think if you ask anyone at Pete's, you are likely to get a different answer each time. I typically get burrito bowls, but when I do have burritos, they are almost always one of two burritos: a pork carnitas potato burrito or a big fish burrito. 

U5280: Any thing left to impart on the Pete's fiends? 

VIRGIL DICKERSON: Well, we are looking to grow Illegal Pete's to other cities and possibly other states over the next 4 years. Our first out of state location, in Tucson, Arizona, is going incredibly well. We hope to open locations in Tempe, Flagstaff, and possibly Phoenix. My personal wish list includes Portland, Austin, and Seattle. We have some fun projects in the works that I hope see the light in 2017. It's going to be another fun year! 

 

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

Lifestyle | Dish'n Bout Denver Dish

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This may be a controversial statement to our native readers...but Denver has never been known for its restaurants... Weed? Yes. 14,000 foot peaks? Of course. But a decade ago the only place putting us on the map was Casa Bonita! Not until these past couple of years did Denver begin to rival New York, LA and Las Vegas and start to roar its head into the restaurant scene.

Throughout the past couple of years we've been able to see the Applebee's and Yard Houses of 16th street mall be replaced by the Linger's and Rosenberg's of Denver's thriving eclectic neighborhoods. Westword's Dish is a celebration of how far we've come as a city. We have so many amazing local and creative restaurants; it's definitely a proud time to be a Denverite. 

Happy bagel Bakers from RiNo's famous Rosenberg's.

Happy bagel Bakers from RiNo's famous Rosenberg's.

Prior to the Dish we chose to forgo food as a life source and instead relied solely on ice water and rocky mountain air. Needless to say when we arrived at Discovery Park we were wide eyed and very hangry. Luckily, entry was a breeze and there were food trucks ready with samples waiting as soon as we entered! We hit up most of the food trucks first, starting with a healthy quinoa and mushroom cup at Keenwah, then ordered a GF beef and egg empanada, and a pork belly skewer from Orange Crunch, which were both very satisfying. Now that our stomachs weren't growling, we leisurely embarked into the main food area, looking like the sophisticated foodies that we are. 

The Nickel has a new executive chef (right) and an amazing new and innovative menu!

The Nickel has a new executive chef (right) and an amazing new and innovative menu!

The main event space consisted of five designated "food areas" with beverage companies and exhibitor sponsors mixed in. It was a bit tricky to find a non-alcoholic beverage that we could just quench our thirst with after our warm walk to get in. I really just wanted a cold water or something simple to keep hydrated and for us to cleanse our palettes before the next dish. There was plenty of booze, which we finally worked up to sampling, and kind of couldn't resist given there were some pretty unique vendors. One was Golden Moon Speakeasy in Golden, who sampled an array of spirits such as Gin, Violet Liquor, and Absinthe. Another fun one was Bird Dog Whiskey, sampling a variety of all-natural flavored Kentucky whiskies such as apple, peach, chocolate, and maple. Then there were, of course, the Colorado staples such as Mile High Spirits and Stranahan's Whiskey, both mixing up Mules.

Stranahan's Whiskey charming the long lines. 

Stranahan's Whiskey charming the long lines. 

It's easy to get caught up when surrounded by the likes of OneFold, Deep Eddy Vodka, Alamo Draft House, The Nickel, Rosenberg's, Lola's, Adelita's and Little Man's Ice Cream... So many Denver staples in ONE place! Our inner "big-boned" child was in food heaven! We each found many dishes that appealed to our tastes, and some just out of curiosity. A few of my favorites included the quick, healthy quinoa bowl and the beef empanada I scarfed down when we entered. I went back for seconds at Biju's Little Curry Shop for their coconut curry chicken roll, and Onefold's organic congee bowl of savory rice porridge with chicken confit, poached egg, green onions, soy sauce, ginger, chili oil...shall I go on? Basically, it was good enough to convince me I have to go into their restaurant asap.

Sadly, some of the restaurants I was most excited to try had already run out of samples. This was because those damn VIP ticket holders were allowed in a couple hours earlier and ate up all the best bites! Such places included Los Chingones, Table 6, The Kitchen, Milk and Cake, Fooducopia and Little Man Ice Cream. *tear* Luckily I found some great ice cream to cool the pain at God Save the Cream and some with alcohol infused at Twisted Cream.

On the scene.

On the scene.

We waltzed, we ate, we mingled and in the end we sauntered home with full bellies and even bigger hearts. We're already proud Coloradans but attending an event like Denver Dish is just the cherry on top of an amazing city. Yet another great reminder to support local and try something new! So in love with you Denver!