Denver Food + Wine 2019 Grand Tasting

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.”

With multiple covered tents full of food & booze, taking a moment in the sun to soak it all in.

With multiple covered tents full of food & booze, taking a moment in the sun to soak it all in.

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.

Hanks Texas Barbecue

Hanks Texas Barbecue

The Team at Kachina

The Team at Kachina

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!

Jet Tila with wife Ali and a few Colorado ProStart students

Jet Tila with wife Ali and a few Colorado ProStart students

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

Cochon555's Heritage Fire Culinary Experience

Heritage Fire is a live-fire, open-air culinary experience crafted by Cochon555 and visits 15 major cities across North America annually since 2009. The Cochon555 Tour executes a yearly host of authentic, hyper-local food events focused on raising awareness for heritage breed pigs through an innovative nose-to-tail pig cook-off.

Smoked Tomahawk Ribeye from Chef Will Nolan

Heritage Fire graced Colorado back in June during the acclaimed Aspen Food + Wine Classic and this past Sunday Denverites had their chance to indulge in this meat-based feast at Stem Cider’s Acreage Farms in Lafayette which is perched against a beautiful backdrop of Longs Peak. The whole event was wonderful with various creations and dishes highlighting the farm raised meats in a beautiful setting with limited tickets which meant quick lines and plenty of food and wine.

Heritage Fire always features an all-star cast of chefs and butchers who specialize in whole animal cookery and spend the afternoon grilling heritage-breed animals and serving them up to guests. Guests are able to see the chefs cooking and the animal in its entirety, so there is no doubt they are getting farm fresh food. The list of heritage and heirloom foods includes dry-aged beef, whole pigs, lamb, goat, squab, rabbit, duck, fish, chicken, artisan cheese and heirloom vegetables.

The meats are cookin’

The meats are cookin’


Our favorite dishes were a Buffalo Empanada with Chimichurri from Chef Padillo at Social Fare in Cherry Creek. Shrimp & Grits and a smoked Tomahawk Ribeye by Chef Will Nolan. The charcuterie board by Cured Boulder, a gourmet grocery store & cafe with upscale decor offers hand-picked cheese, charcuterie, & wine. Speaking of wine, Blanchard Wines and Tenuta from Italy were pouring along with Stem Ciders, Wheatley Vodka, El Tosoro Tequila, and premium whiskeys and bourbons and LaCroix Sparkling Waters.

Charcuterie by Cured Boulder

Charcuterie by Cured Boulder

Whiskey & Bourbon tastings

Whiskey & Bourbon tastings

There was one booth dedicated to dessert, an unlikely restaurant to be at this meat-focused event. Uchi is Denver’s hottest sushi restaurant serving incredible Japanese delicacies from James Beard Award-winning chef Tyson Cole. Japanese tradition and culinary innovation fuse at this RiNo restaurant, read our full review here. Uchi’s head pastry chef prepared donut puffs filled with smoked vanilla cream and topped with bacon bits that were irresistible.

Creme filled donuts with bacon bits and raspberry puree from Uchi

Creme filled donuts with bacon bits and raspberry puree from Uchi

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The event’s ultimate aim is to provide education to consumers and provide guests with honest food from real farmers. Every event is a fundraiser for Cochon555's sister charity, Piggy Bank — a start-up farm in Missouri that serves as a kickstarter for new family farms and a safety net for those in the wake of a disaster.

For more information, visit or follow @cochon555 on Twitter and Instagram.

Article by Tiffany Candelaria @TCdoesFnB

Westword Feast Hit the Spot

Last Sunday, September 30, Westword Magazine's annual foodie "Feast" event returned to downtown Denver’s McNichols Building for a few hours of food and booze-infused fun! Over 45 of Westword’s food writers and readers favorite restaurants were there sampling from their menu alongside local and national booze brands.

A VIP ticket offered perks such as early entrance, two private lounge areas (one indoors one outdoors) with an open bar, restrooms, goodie bags, and special food tasting from the Cherry Creek sushi spot Matsuhisa. All the perks were great, but for all those in GA things weren't bad at all! The lines stayed moderate all day, if one table had a long line, you could try back in 30 minutes and it'd be gone. People seemed to congregate together creating hype, and amazingly (as we see this happen all the time at foodie events) none of the restaurants ran out of food until the end! So VIP or not, everyone got the unlimited food and booze samples they were promised, even food samples to go from RxBar, Duke's Smoked Meats & Naked. Another plus, there were plenty of tables, water stations and restrooms for all.

Our favorite bites included the following: Roaming Buffalo BBQ had these (pictured above) tasty tamales with BBQ beef and pork inside. Sugar Fire Smoke House had not only pork belly, but also the most succulent béarnaise beef. Gypsy Q served their Brisket Banh Mi Sandwich and Kimchi Mac & Cheese. Frijoles Colorado served their Cuban Lechon Moro y Maduros (roasted pork with black beans, rice & sweet plantain). Jackdaw, an Irish restaurant we've never heard of showcased superb Corned Beef on homemade sweet soda bread. Milk & Cake and Little Man Ice Cream treated us to scrumptious cupcakes and ice cream.

Photos by Robert Castro Words by Tiffany Candelaria

The Big Eat 2018 Delivers Just That

The Big Eat is Denver's signature food-and-drink showcase that brings together more than 60 of Denver chefs/restaurants to show off their best bites. Unlike many of Denver’s other food and booze events, the Big Eat is one of our favorites because it brings the restaurant scene together in camaraderie rather than competition and provides a comprehensive scope of eats and drinks in a fun, laid-back environment.

This year’s Big Eat was last Thursday and kicked off Denver’s second year hosting Slow Food Nations festival. Click here to read our coverage of that festival. For the past eight years, Eat Denver, a non-profit network of independent restaurants, has organized this event to highlight the hard work and delicious dishes of our local eateries. The event provides Denver diners the opportunity to sample small plates from the big names such as Root Down, Vesta, Jax Fish House, Snooze and Racines, while introducing them to the lesser known gems.

As always, this year’s event was full of fabulous food, craft cocktails and beer, and short lines! Take a look at our photo gallery below for the full picture and let us tell you what our favorite eats were this year, in no particular order. The “Batman & Ruben” from Vine Street Tavern was a scrumptious smoked beef pastrami brisket with Brussel sprout kraut, mustard and Russian aioli. Fish & Beer was serving two types of oysters (garlic or spicy) fresh off the grill which were wonderful. The best sweet and savory combo was found at Cap City Tavern in their Pork Belly Donut Hole with bacon fat caramel!

There were a few fantastic tacos at the Big Eat and our favorites were the Smoked Salmon Tostada (above) with jalapeno goat cheese from blueAgave and the Carne Asada tacos with fresh guacamole from Borracho Taco.

Aside from all the heavy, protein laden dishes, this year the event aimed for one-third of the dishes to be meat-free. So we saw pastas, salads, a soup and a couple vegetarian dishes along with a few desserts such as cupcakes, cookies, ice cream and fancy pancakes!

The water stations and of course cocktail kept us going, with neighborhood-themed spirits from Colorado distilleries such as the Family Jones Spirit House and Woody Creek Distillers and beers from The Post, Ratio, Vine Street, LowDown and Prost Breweries. The Big Eat lives up to its name and is a foodie fest not to be missed!

Words by Tiffany Candelaria     Photos by Samantha Bliss

Westword Delivered a Fabulous Feast (on the cheap!)

Denver dining has evolved over the past twenty years — and so has Westword's celebration of the remarkable culinary scene we have here in Denver. Over the years the names and venues for this culinary food and booze frenzy have changed and this year’s newly named, Feast, was a success! Held Sunday 15th at the McNichols Building in Civic Park, the event offered guests a spectrum of dishes from over forty favorite restaurants selected by Westword food writers and readers. There were also plenty of boozy beverages from 90+ Cellar, Tito's Vodka, Silvercoin & Exotico Tequila, Stranahan's Whiskey, Stella Artois and many others.


This event did not leave its guests thirsty or sober, and definitely provided plenty of food! We were actually very impressed by how much food each restaurant provided, because with many of these events they tend to gradually close down as they run out of samples. This event stayed strong to the very end and even saw some of the restaurants and local brand booths giving away handfuls of samples to happy guests! We walked away with a bunch of cupcakes from Milk & Cake and jerky from Duke’s, along with a whole bagful of coupons and swag we’d acquired.


What made this event one of the best food & booze events we’ve been to all year was the fact that general admission tickets were only $25 and really did get you as much as you could eat and drink. You left super full and happy because you weren’t wasting your time standing in long lines or being told they’ve ran out! Guests could truly try everything in the three-hour, or four-hour if you had a VIP ticket, time frame and even enjoy their food while sitting at a table outside. Another factor was the event was spread among three levels of the McNichols building so people weren’t cramped and stayed moving and exploring. It was a much more enjoyable and relaxing experience than most of the food festivals we’ve been to in our tenure.

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Our best bites range from BBQ, to salad, to tacos and sweets; here are the top eight greats:      Pig Out Smokehouse pulled pork & coleslaw, Roaming Buffalo’s pork belly burnt ends & coleslaw, Good Trip’s super smooth coffee, Taste of Thailand’s Northern Thai Garden Salad, Brider’s rotisserie Lamb Leg with couscous, Frijoles Colorado’s plantain with roasted pork, beans and rice, Chuey Fu’s tacos, and La Fillette with a huge selection of French pastries.

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We really hope Westword Feast can repeat this success again next year with its winning combination of great food/restaurants, adequate amounts and variety of food and booze, an enjoyable environment, and affordable (cheap even), ticket prices!

Written by Tiffany Candelaria   Photos by Jared Cody

Denver Food + Wine Festival Returns with Even More to Explore!

Denver Food + Wine Festival (DF+WF) returns next week for its thirteenth consecutive year September 5-10! This event has gradually expanded from one attracting epicureans and oenophiles into a multi-day extravaganza attracting all types of foodies and wine and spirit drinkers. The Grand Tasting event not only has a huge selection of wines and eats, but also has entertainment, themed lounge areas,cocktails, sake, even beer, I hear. It is a really fun event and is offers the largest, most diverse selection of wine than any other festival or tasting in the Denver area. In addition the the Grand Tasting, there are various other DF+WF events that week to explore with varying price points.

VIP 6.jpg

To kick the week off the Dinner Under the Stars event, Sept. 6, celebrates the best that Denver’s culinary and beverage scene has to offer with a unique alfresco pairing dinners on the Coohills pedestrian bridge. This curated, six-course meal features a wine pairing with each course, hand-selected by Southern Glazer’s Wine & Spirits’ Master Sommeliers. Each course is prepared by a lauded Denver chef, representing some of the hottest restaurants in the Mile High City. The menu can be found on the website.


On Thursday 7, local celebrity bartenders from the Colorado Bartenders Guild will compete for Denver’s “best cocktail” at the ShakeDown. Guests are invited to mingle from 6:30-9:30 while trying as many food bites and cocktails as possible and voting for their favorites of each! Live music from a special acoustic Dragondeer set, featuring members of Dragondeer, will accompany the evening’s festivities. This was a boozy blast last year, but come prepared to drink or you may miss out on the best cocktail!

On Friday 8, join Riedel and the DF+WF for an educational and entertaining program that will change how each guest enjoys wine. In a unique wine glass tasting, Riedel ambassador Doug Reed will demonstrate the relationship between the shape of a glass and the taster’s perception and enjoyment of various varietals. After the seminar, guests can take home a four-glass Riedel kit, valued at $120, containing one glass for each varietal explored in the seminar.


DF+WF’s Grand Tasting takes place outdoors on Saturday 9 and unites the region’s culinary leaders, award winning chefs, mixologists and wine professionals, for a day of exploring and celebrating Colorado’s food and beverage traditions. The all-inclusive layout allows guests to explore creations from more than 40 top restaurants, and more than 700 different pours from wine and spirit professionals. In addition, the 5280 Home VIP Lounge, will pair specialty wines selected by Southern Glazer’s Wine & Spirits Master Sommeliers with 12 upscale restaurants for an exclusive experience. Celebrity, award-winning chefs will offer demonstrations on the Wolf Specialty Appliance Culinary Stage and guests can participate in a silent auction.


And to wrap up this incredible week of DF+WF is a fun brunch festival featuring what will be the world’s largest Bloody Mary bar, with over 65 toppings! Rise + Dine will also feature delicious breakfast bites, bottomless mimosas, and encourage guests to wear their pajamas if they’d like!

Slow Food Nations Recap!

         Taste Marketplace

         Taste Marketplace

Colorado’s first ever taste of the Slow Food Nations took over Larimer Square last weekend with a plethora of events, interactive workshops, tastings, educational talks, and many exhibitors, companies, and producers of foods from around the nation and globe. The Taste Marketplace at Larimer Square was the main focal point with over 100 exhibitors of good, clean, fair food, and was free and open to the public Saturday morning through Sunday evening. Various renowned chefs, leaders in the Slow Food Movement and in sustainability, curated dinners, and hands on workshops made this event truly unique and marked Denver as increasingly relevant in terms of a foodie city that values various cultures, sustainability and accessibility.

                 Taste Marketplace

                Taste Marketplace

The event drew people from all over the state, as well as from different parts of the globe as their involvement with the Slow Food Movement encouraged their members to attend either as guests or as participants. The movement is focused on peoples’ access to grow and share good, clean and fair food throughout the world.

             CO-Made Block Party

             CO-Made Block Party

To kick off Slow Food Nations, they held an all-inclusive Colorado-Made Block Party on Larimer Square to celebrate Colorado farmers, ranchers, producers and chefs. Unfortunately, we were disappointed by their poor start to the festival as it was the low point of the weekend and hopefully didn’t discourage people from attending the other offerings or the Taste Marketplace that took place over the next two days. There was a line by 6p.m. and when you entered at 6:30 you were struck with the thought, “is this it?!” Yep, not even an entire street block was designated for the CO-Made Block Party and only about 4 tents, with two restaurants each made up the event. There was certainly no demonstrations or hardly even conversations between the chefs/restaurants and guests as the lines were so outrageous and the chefs were busy trying to keep up.

              CO-Made Block Party

              CO-Made Block Party

It was shocking almost and I heard nothing but complaints from the other guests, even the restaurants participating were upset because they were told to provide bites for 250 and ended up running out or having to serve even smaller bites in order to last the two hours. I feel bad for the 250 people squeezed in that little square who shelled out $70 to experience a “taste of Colorado” and only got about 10 bites if they showed up when it opened and waited in every line. For a two hour event on Larimer Square and touted as the kickoff party to the Slow Food Nations Festival, we all had much higher hopes, but instead were left squeezing through crowds, waiting in lines, and needing to buy dinner after.

Luckily the Big Bad Breakfast on Sunday was a much better experience. It featured Southern dishes from John Currence, a James Beard Award winner and Top Chef Masters contestant, along with notable chefs from select Southern cities. The ten or so booths served up a wide variety of tasty, hearty Southern cuisine.

                   Big Bad Breakfast

                   Big Bad Breakfast

             CO-Made Block Party

             CO-Made Block Party

This event was also held in the same small square as Friday’s Party, and cost $70, yet there were far fewer lines and seemly less people. One big factor I can attribute to this was every place served a full size portion, not just a few bites, and the dishes themselves were hearty and took time to eat. This meant people would get a dish or two and then sit down to eat and socialize for a while. It also helped that there were plenty of Bloody Mary’s ready to take from the team at Snooze & The Real Dill, they even had servers walking around with trays-full! The event finally provided cups next to the water jugs today and had jugs of tea too, which was a life saver as it was a hot morning full of spicy food and Tabasco products!

The free Taste Marketplace at Larimer Square was also really enjoyable and offered a really great selection of booths with products from around the US. It was designed much like a farmers market, where you have all your great food and health products with the growers/makers right there to talk with you about their items. However, unlike the local farmers markets we regularly frequent, every vendor was new! There were about 20 different cheese makers from around the US, various honey and chocolate booths from around the world, healthy snack companies, lots of charcuterie, coffee, lotions, and even crickets! Turns out kids are much more willing to try a cricket than the adults.

Everything in the marketplace was available to sample and to purchase and there were lots of great eats. Slow Food Italy, Mexico, and Turtle Island were featured in international pavilions on Larimer Square itself and offered full meals to purchase and information. We were surprised how easily two and a half hours passed in the Taste Marketplace and were happy the main event was a success for Slow Food Nations Fest! I heard rumors it will be back again if you missed it!

Review & Photos by Tiffany Candelaria

                 Big Bad Breakfast

                 Big Bad Breakfast

                   Big Bad Breakfast

                   Big Bad Breakfast

Slow Food Nations Festival | Coming to CO for the First Time

Have you heard, Denver is gearing up for Slow Food Nations, a unique food festival coming to Colorado for the first time! Their movement focuses on peoples’ access to grow and share good, clean and fair food throughout the world. The weekend will combine the energy of a street food festival, the rigor of an academic conference, and the inspiration of a cultural exchange allowing guests to pick and choose their experience. Enjoy dozens of interactive workshops, delicious tastings, local tours, educational talks, and many meals and parties around town. Slow Food Nations connects farmers and families, leaders and eaters to share our stories and shape the future of food. The main festival is free and open to the public, with select-ticketed workshops, talks, dinners and tastings.


The free festivities include an array of culinary demonstrations, guest appearances, tastings, and other entertainment. The Taste Marketplace at Larimer Square will feature international pavilions, local producers, and a variety of concessions. Slow Food Italy, Mexico, and Turtle Island will be featured in international pavilions and over 100 exhibitors of good, clean, fair food will be featured in the Taste Marketplace to tell their stories and let you sample and buy their delicious products. The exhibitor space will be open from 10 a.m. – 6 p.m. on Saturday, July 15th and 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. on Sunday, July 16th. Also ongoing, The Food Underground, is a series of discussions, workshops, talks and panels located in the gallery rooms in the basement of Union Station. These free talks will be held from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday, focusing on topics like food justice and access, agricultural policy, the science and history of food, sustainable seafood, and more. Outside you’ll find The Denver Union Station Farmers Market on the plaza from 9 a.m. – 2 p.m. on both Saturday and Sunday featuring over 40 local Colorado producers and live music.

To kick off Slow Food Nations Friday night, they’ll be throwing an all-inclusive Colorado-Made Block Party on Larimer Square to celebrate Colorado farmers, ranchers, producers and chefs. Featuring Colorado food through demonstrations and tastings and drinks at the Colorado-Made bar showcasing the best spirits, beer and wine Colorado has to offer. Tickets are $69

Saturday, July 15, Chef Sheila Lucero from Jax Fish House & Oyster Bar will host an Oyster 101 Workshop with celebrated Baja Chef Drew Deckman as well as Chef Renee Erickson from Seattle. As part of Slow Food Nations’ educational curriculum, guests at this special event will get to learn about oysters from 3 different regions—Baja, the Pacific Northwest, and Virginia—and taste a signature dish from each chef, showcasing the unique qualities of each oyster. “We are so excited for Slow Food Nations,” Chef Lucero, “some of the country’s most talented, informed, and influential chefs and purveyors are coming to our city to share ideas and celebrate our country’s incredible culinary traditions.” Tickets $40

If you’re still craving more on Sunday, you should get tickets to Big Bad Breakfast Block Party with John Currence, James Beard Award winner and Top Chef Masters contestant. John gathers his big bad friends to cook up the ultimate southern brunch and Bloody Mary bar. Recipes from his best-selling book, Big Bad Breakfast, will be highlighted in this all-inclusive brunch party 11 a.m. – 1 p.m. Tickets $69

Slow Food is a global, grassroots organization, founded in 1989 to prevent the disappearance of local food cultures and traditions, counteract the rise of fast life and combat people’s dwindling interest in the food they eat and how it affects the world around us. Since its beginnings, Slow Food has grown into a global movement involving millions of people in over 160 countries working to ensure everyone has access to good, clean and fair food.

There are so many amazing events, demonstrations and tastings to choose from it can be hard to coordinate them all, so the site provides some curated sample schedules to help you find the best events to match your interests:

Free Taste Marketplace: 10 a.m. – 6 p.m. on Saturday, July 15th & 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. on Sunday, July 16th.


Westword Dish Served Up Another Great Food Event

This weekend’s Westword Dish marked its 22nd year of bringing bites and booze from across the Denver area to foodie fans. The Dish was again sponsored by Stella Artois in the Performing Arts Center’s Sculpture Park on Speer Blvd. Westword’s Dish publication explains how much has changed on the food front since its first Dish back in 1995, “Denver has witnessed a restaurant boom in recent years that has presented diners with more options than ever before. The rich dining tradition and burgeoning new scene bolstered by recent transplants have helped this list grow.”

We had a couple of tickets to the event we also got to attend last year and were excited to see who would be serving up tasty bites and libations. Most of the time events where there are multiple restaurants vying to sample to patrons attract newer restaurants hoping to market and introduce themselves to the foodie scene. What makes the Dish a bit different however, is the eateries invited are comprised of Westword staff and reader’s favorites from the year. Thus, every year there’s a great selection of restaurants to try, many of which are newer, which gives guests the unique experience to try out different places they've likely heard of and probably planned to go, but just haven’t had the opportunity yet.

The newbies ranged from good, ole' American BBQ, which was the “special section” this year serving up brisket, pork, lamb and sausages, to Thai, Sushi, comfort food, and tacos, which we feel is the ultimate comfort food. As for those we saw at last year’s Dish, (we’re not sure if they are favorites of the staff because of their food/booze or more for their business partnerships) but they included Alamo Drafthouse Cinema, The Nickle, Golden Moon Speakeasy, Stranahan's Whiskey, Little Man Ice Cream, and Milk & Cake.         

Angelo's Oysters: Before & After

Angelo's Oysters: Before & After

We made the rounds, starting at the beginning with the special BBQ booths which were all hearty, saucy goodness. From there the restaurants seemed to be randomly lined up, with palettes and offerings all across the board, with booze booths thoughtfully placed every 5 or so booths, until the end where the desserts were grouped together. Some of the more memorable dishes we tried were the Tuna poke bowl from Ohana Island Kitchen, a Croque Monsieur from the equally fancy Art Hotel’s Fire restaurant, Gorgonzola topped oysters from Angelo’s Taverna, deep dish at Patxi’s Pizza, beef brisket tacos with BBQ and chimichurri sauce from R Tacos and pulled chicken tacos with red chilies from Degree Metropolitan Food+Drink. And all of the desserts were delicious but seemed to run out first, funny how that works.

R Tacos & Degree

R Tacos & Degree

These food events are always fun and flavorful, but they can also be tough and not always worth the price if you don’t know how to play it right. For example, first timers will find if they skip or miss a booth and try to go back later, the booth will be empty except for business cards in place of delicious food. The ultimate disappointment after spending a pretty penny to rush around. Many guests choose to divide and conquer or forgo sitting down or setting up at a table until they know they’ve tried it all. It is common to see friends separated, standing in lines alone, or ending conversations early in order to get the goods before they run out. However, this event lasted a bit longer than some of the other ones we recently attended and we were grateful.

Azucar Bakery cookie, Bignets from Syrup & Little Man Ice Cream

Azucar Bakery cookie, Bignets from Syrup & Little Man Ice Cream

Because of these common food festival snags, there is always an incentive to go the VIP route. VIP tickets generally offer early entry, additional alcoholic options and booths, and at the Dish, Stella Artois passes out the beautiful glass goblets as seen in Stella’s advertisements to drink your full size VIP beers in. VIP guests are also able to relax in their own shaded area with lots of tables and seating. One improvement I noticed this year was even the GA area had many more high-tops and picnic tables, some with umbrella coverings so guests weren’t forced to stand in the sun while juggling their drink and samples. Another great thing was water coolers and a couple of soda booths so GA guests could keep hydrated and sober if they chose. Oh and Mile High Soul Club played the perfect mix of sunny, Sunday afternoon tunes!

While we and most of our readers are patrons, we don’t often think about the other side of the event, the vendor’s experience. In a sea of new concepts, restaurants, and fusions, it is one of the few ways for vendors/restaurants to set themselves apart and literally introduce themselves to Denver diners. That being said, we notice some do it better than others. Sometimes you go to booths that hire a promotional team and their lack of knowledge or care seeps its way out to the guests through experience or even the food. Other booths know this is their opportunity to convince us to make our way to suburbia for bomb BBQ or book that expensive reservation for our next date night. These booths are full of enthusiasm, offer out their menus, dish out details, offer coupons, and invite guests to happy hour.

Churn & Burn BBQ

Churn & Burn BBQ

So where can you expect to catch us in the near future? GQUE BBQ won us with their BBQ sauce and smothered beans and Piggin’ Out Smoke House with their selection of meats with Kale citrus salad and a buy one, get one coupon. Churn & Burn BBQ Truck was also a top pick because they offered beef brisket with jalapeno chimichurri atop baked mac & cheese and a corn bread waffle chip. Now that was a great way to be greeted upon entering the Dish! Beyond BBQ, we mentioned Ohana Island Kitchen satisfied our sushi cravings and gave us a coupon to use on delivery. Angelo's, a classic Italian Denver staple, offers oysters for $1 on happy hour along with other apps and cheap drinks. The two tacos we had were not only satisfying but substantial in size. And lastly, Little Man Ice Cream sampled their Mexican Chocolate and a Blueberry Marshmallow ice cream, that surprised us, but yet didn’t as they are always coming up with magical mixtures. After we had come full crescent (that was the layout) we were back at the beginning and ready for a Stella and a seat in the shade.

Denver Food+Wine | Too Much to Try, Too Little Time

Our weekend was overflowing with cocktails, fine wines, spirit samplings, and countless Colorado-based culinary creations. We only attended two of the five days' worth of the Denver Food + Wine events, and I am thankful we didn't commit to more as we were sauced by the 4pm close of Saturday's Grand Tasting. Before you accuse us of a low tolerance, let us explain the series of events.

Photo by Nick Adorni

Photo by Nick Adorni

Friday night was a cocktail competition where eleven local celebrity bartenders competed for guest's votes for the “Best Cocktail" in Denver. While the cocktails were sample-sized, they were unlimited until they ran out, which each bar/tender eventually did, and each one contained a different spirit, usually along with various liquors. So by the end of the night you had pretty much consumed everything on the market except beer. If you granted a bartender your "best cocktail" token, then you were rewarded with a full size beverage. It was a tough call for us between about three of the cocktails.

Friday's Shakedown event

Friday's Shakedown event

There were also restaurants in attendance showcasing Southern-inspired bites vying for guest's tokens. It was a clear standout for us, and most others as it won the competition, with a bone-in short rib atop mashed potatoes and fried onions from Ted's Montana Grill. Between all of the cocktails and food samplings there was hardly time to rest or even walk to the restrooms across the way. There was also live music and tables available outside of the event tent, but no one really made it over there, too caught up in all the excitement (and body heat) inside. The night ended with all of the cocktails having ran dry and the announcement of the winners. "Best Cocktail" for the night was awarded to Shawn Williams of Bar Dough and his tequila+prosecco concoction.

A night's sleep and a needed lazy morning later it was our job to get back out there and drink more . . . over 700 wines and spirits to be exact, and also find room for food from forty Colorado restaurants. We weren't sure we were ready for all this and wanted to start slow and take it easy. But when we walked in there was an Absolute Vodka Bar with various full size cocktails, a Woody Creek Distillers tent with more handcrafted drinks, a Campari Tiki & Rum lounge, St. Germain's bar, AND a Patron Tequila lounge all luring us in with festive drinks, comfy couches and fun flair. It was seriously impossible to start slow.

The Grand Tasting was indeed grand in size, volume and variety. We couldn't make it to everything, and hardly had time to even relax in any of those nice lounges, because (and here's our main complaint) the event was only three hours! To give you an idea of its grand scale, there were multiple main tasting tents, two VIP tents, chef demos and seminars, and all the sponsored lounge bars with full cocktails. Another reason we couldn't make it into every tent and bar was you absolutely needed some restraint and a game plan as far as what you would be tasting in order to avoid a digestive disaster. We don’t know what method they used to arrange the participants within the tents, but we think it could have been better. We felt like if you were there to truly “Taste”, it was overwhelming and difficult to do so in a thoughtful manner. First off, there were just so many different varieties of wines to try, and on top of the unbelievable selection of wine, there were all the different types of spirits as well. Thus, you sort of stuck to a category because it was hard to keep switching taste palettes from tequila to sake to whiskey to vodka, then try throwing in a Red Zin and some sushi! It would have been smart and more approachable and enjoyable for guests if the restaurants/dishes were placed next to spirits or wines that would complement and if the wines would have had some added structural arrangement such as region or variety.

Photo by Nick Adorni

Photo by Nick Adorni

Now we're not ones to complain about how there was so much to choose from, we just wish there had been more time to immerse ourselves and soak it all in a bit better! So all that being said, we totally think it was worth the $125 price tag, and knowing it all goes to charity makes it an even easier ticket to purchase. Everyone went home with a new Riedel wine glass, thoroughly wined and dined, educated if that's what you'd aimed for, and not needing to spend any money (or even any more time awake depending on your BAC), once the event ended.

We wish we had taken some Resqwater home with us. . .

Tiffany Candelaria

Tacolandia: The Blueprint For a Perfect Taco Festival.

Let's "taco bout" this amazing event.

Our fair city is slowly becoming a hub for all things considered tacos. With the rise of niche owned restaurants as well as out of town chains (Torchy's and R Tacos), it's pretty easy to find a good taco in Denver nowadays. Now when it comes to taco festivals...well those can be hit or miss. We have attended our fair share of decent festivals (Top Taco) as well as some pretty (Denver Taco Festival) nightmarish ones. At this point our taco expert staff has come up with three essential ingredients to pull of a great festival.

1. Location, location, location.

2. Organization and variety.

3. Other activities (music, car shows, games, dancing, etc.).

The colorful Baile Folklorico dancers on hand.

A perfect venue should include plenty of space, a decent amount of grass, plenty of shade and for fun maybe throw it at the home of the defending Super Bowl champions. Tacolandia had all of the above (could have had a bit more shade, who are we to complain we had VIP treatment and an umbrella table all to ourselves). The layout was set up perfectly along the Noble Energy Sports Legend Mall, typically reserved for an epic tailgate experience during Sundays. A green patch of grass separated two sides of the festival with taco slanging experts stationed on each side. A stage was setup within the middle providing for entertainment the whole day (more on that below).

Peyton Manning is enjoying himself after retirement.

This was hands down one of the most organized taco festivals we have ever attended. Along with great organization was the amount of variety options to choose from. Albeit we got in an hour before everybody else we were able to hit up about 80 percent of the taco tastings before we had to shut it down due to the possibilities of heat stroke and the overdose of tortilla filled morsels of heaven. The people at Westword handled everything pretty well, although lines did build up at various points, they seemed to move quickly from station to station. The VIP section was placed towards the back of the mayhem and could have used an extra station or two for beverages in this case Estrella Jalisco's (name drop). All in all great organization and an abundance of choices to select from.

This Camaro tho!

A good festival always has various different activities to do while enjoying the fest itself. This one had it all from traditional Baile Folklorico dancers, to a car show that would make Jay Leno jealous, to great music to compliment the great cultural event. Music by iZCALI (one of our favorite local groups) provided some good ol' fashion Spanish rock. Cars from every era adorned the back lot of the festival with some awesome customized automobiles that had us drooling like this Camaro above.

Some of our favorite tacos:

Best Fish Taco-Southside Kitchen

Best Al Pastor-EL Aguascalientes and Los Chingones

Best Korean Pork-Ursula's Food Truck

Best BBQ-R Tacos

Best Mexican Street Corn-Lola's

Best Cabrito (Goat) Tacos-Work and Class