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.

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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.

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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 | 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

Wine & Dine for a Very Fine Cause

The Denver Food + Wine Festival (DF+WF) celebrates its twelfth consecutive year September 6-11. A multi-day extravaganza showcasing talented chefs from across the state and their creative culinary creations served alongside hundreds of wines and spirits.

Photo credit Nick Adorni

Photo credit Nick Adorni

The weeklong festival will feature an array of events ranging from $40 up to $250 for a VIP experience. DF+WF is co-sponsored by the Colorado Restaurant Association and Southern Wine and Spirits and is the only food and wine festival of which all proceeds directly benefit charities. Beneficiaries this year are Kroenke Sports Charities, MSU Denver, Denver Post Community Foundation, and The Colorado Restaurant Assc. Education Foundation. You know how we like to wine and dine for a good cause!

Photo credit Nick Adorni

Photo credit Nick Adorni

The Festival’s Grand Tasting hallmark event is Saturday, September 10, 2016 held on the grounds of The Pepsi Center (7th Avenue and Auraria Parkway), opening at noon for those who bought a “First Tasting” ticket, 1pm for GA until 4pm. The Grand Tasting unites Colorado’s culinary leaders – award winning chefs, mixologists and wine professionals – and leads guests on a culinary journey through the state’s acclaimed, and expanding, dining scene. The open layout allows guests to eat, drink and explore the creations of more than 40 top restaurants and more than 700 wines and spirits from the region’s most lauded wine professionals. In addition to wine there will be heavy hitting libations such as an array of Devotion and Hanson Vodka flavors, Dulce Vida organic tequilas, Leopold Bros. many spirits, Old Smoky Distillery’s Moonshine, and locals Spring 44. For guests interested in additional unique experiences, the VIP Lounge at DF+WF will feature specialty wines selected by Southern Wine & Spirits Master Sommeliers, paired with tastes from 12 upscale restaurants, Viking Culinary Stage demonstrations by celebrity award-winning Chefs, and a silent auction.

Photo credit Nick Adorni

Photo credit Nick Adorni

Favorites returning from past Grand Tastings include Patrón Spirits Bar & Café; Woody Creek Lounge; Campari Tiki Lounge; Deutsch Redemption tent; Treasury Wine Estates; Trinchero Family Estates; and an Absolute Vodka tent. Sounds like we should prepare for some serious day drinking!

New Attractions to this year’s Grand Tasting event include the Elijah Craig and Heaven Hill Bourbon + Bluegrass Lounge. Local bluegrass band, Lonesome Days will be playing while Elijah Craig bourbon will be pouring. Guest can also chat with Lynn House, Heaven Hill Brands’ national brand educator and master mixologist. If you’re a regular pizza eat/maker, you’ll enjoy the Weber Mobile Grill Academy with specialists providing interactive “best techniques” to grill pizza. For those food fanatics who love the entertainment and celebrity side of things, you’ll want to periodically stop by the Wolf Specialty Appliance Culinary Stage featuring Chef/Owner Giorgio Rapicavoli, Eating House, Bravo’s Chopped winner, Forbes’s “30 Under 30” for food, and James Beard Rising Star Semifinalist!

Photo credit Juliette Coughlin

Photo credit Juliette Coughlin

The night before the big Grand Tasting is a fun Friday night cocktail party and contest on Pepsi Center property! Celebrity bartenders from the Colorado Bartenders’ Guild will compete for the title of Denver’s “Best Cocktail” Friday Sept. 9th during SHAKE DOWN. This will be a Southern-inspired evening of soulful bites and cocktails, paired with live music while eleven local celebrity bartenders compete for guest votes for the “Best Cocktail in Denver.”

For those who love to brunch, and with all of Denver’s amazing breakfast spots it’s hard not to, Sunday, September 11 is the first annual festival dedicated to brunch, Rise + Dine. It will showcase the city’s favorite morning eateries such as Lou’s Food Bar, Corner Office, McLoughlin’s, Rosenberg’s Bagels, Sarto’s, Snooze, Syrup, and The Squeaky Bean. Attendees are encouraged to wear pajamas while noshing on food, enjoying mimosas and striving to make the most impressive Bloody Mary. In fact, you could be a part of Bloody Mary history! The DF+WF Bloody Mary bar will be competing for the world record of “Largest Bloody Mary Bar,” by featuring more than 57 accouterments this year. Truly a once in a lifetime brunch opportunity!

Photo credit Nick Adorni

Photo credit Nick Adorni

Tickets are still available for all of the events https://denverfoodandwine.com/event-schedule/ and they can be purchased here: https://nightout.com/festivals/3612/events/tickets#.V8XsCixTHct

Saturday’s Grand Tasting Restaurants:
Ameristar Resort & Casino
Bistro Colorado
Carbon Café & Bar
Colorado ProStart
Colorado Western University
Degree Restaurant
Del Friscos Grille
Froozer
Grimaldi’s Pizzeria
Jill’s Restaurant
Jim N’ Nicks BBQ
La Patisserie Francaise
Lavazza/Italco Foods
Luke’s A Steak Place
Maggianos
Nature Nate’s Honey
The Oceanaire Seafood Room
Postinos
Range Restaurant
Rhein Haus Denver
River & Woods-Open Blue Cobia
Simms Steakhouse
Skinny Pop
Solitaire Restaurant- Woody Creek
Texas de Brazil
The Fort
The Noshery
Uno Mas

-Tiffany Candelaria

 

 

Lifestyle | "Island of Awesome" New F&B

Along with our growing population, Denver's food and beverage scene is really exploding, not only in quantity but in quality too. It's no longer a matter of driving across town for a great restaurant or heading downtown for a day of on-foot, food and booze hopping. Now, nearly every neighborhood in Denver has its own collection of distinct and delicious options. For example, the Highlands have become known for having an organic, progressive, on-trend restaurant scene. Unsurprisingly enough, this neighborhood, and its reputation, continue to spread its roots. Follow me to the "Island of Awesome" as described by co-owner Lauren Bailey of Postino Lo-Hi. This "Island of Awesome" is one triangle-shaped block at roughly 17th Street, Erie, and 32nd Avenue where three brand new restaurants sprouted this September: Postino Wine Bar, Recess Beer Garden, and the Occidental.   

Postino

Postino

Postino, a Phoenix, AZ favorite, branched out to Denver this month re-opening the former Denver BookBinding Company built in 1962. The craftily reconstructed space tells the story of the building's history with a warm, cozy interior, a book wall and colored glass light fixtures. And for those Denver view snobs- a big, bright outdoor deck takes advantage of the never disappointing downtown Denver skyline.

Lounge around with some fine wine.

Lounge around with some fine wine.

All of their locations feature an eclectic yet approachable wine list alongside simply satisfying food sources paired with local ingredients. In addition to the extensive wine list, Postino has become known in Arizona for their supped up bruschetta's, with 11 different versions to choose from; including one seasonal selection and one with gluten free bread upon request. The "choose 4 bruschetta" dish is an adventurous  and delicious way to try new flavors and share your thoughts (and food) with friends. The menu also has a variety of starters, including: salads, paninis, desserts and rotating wine and beer. Looking for a bargain? On Monday's and Tuesday's after 8pm Postino's puts on a special pairing of bruschetta and a bottle of wine for only $20! And for the earlier eaters, they have $5 pitchers of beer or glasses of wine before 5pm.

Recess Beer Garden Outdoor Area

Recess Beer Garden Outdoor Area

Recess Beer Garden opens up right as school lets out on weekdays at 3pm and at 10am Saturday & Sunday's. They feature both a large indoor space with booth seating and a wrap around bar stretching the entire length of the inside as well as a spacious outdoor beer garden as their name alludes to. The beer garden's design of scattered tables, gravel underfoot, fire pits, and games such as corn hole, hula hoops and hopscotch encourage us adults to enjoy our own version of recess. One equipped with strong drinks and nostalgic memories of playgrounds past. We visited a couple weeks ago for some night time fun and as one could have expected, the bar was packed with tons of patrons who had the same idea. People were unleashing their competitive spirit while playing a various assortment of schoolyard games (obviously not without a drink in hand!).  We would have liked to dueled it out on the playground as well, but there were only two sets of corn hole boards, two chalked on hopscotch drawings and a few free hula hoops . . . which only entertained the people standing around us. Just more incentive to get there early!

Chili tots, beef sliders, and green chili artichoke dip.

Chili tots, beef sliders, and green chili artichoke dip.

As a rule of thumb, recess is normally accompanied by some sort of snack-whether that be lunch or tots-it was always something to look forward to. At Recess Beer Garden there is a nice assortment of American staples like burgers, mac & cheese, ribs, salads and starters. We had the chili tots, beef sliders and green chili artichoke dip with a Breckenridge Brewery Autumn Ale. All of which were tasty but made us wish we had the metabolism of a kid again.

Recess Bar's Beer Menu

Recess Bar's Beer Menu

Their beer selection is substantial, but not as eclectic as we would expect given the word beer is in the name. But, we believe they plan/hope to expand the list of Colorado and "Beyond" beers. For those looking for something a little stronger, or lighter depending on how you look at it, there are a couple wines and a few cocktail staples as well.

Occidental

Occidental

The third stop on this "Island of Awesome" is William & Graham's new offshoot Occidental. This is a much more laid back, punk rock style bar featuring plenty of can, bottle, and draft beers, classic cocktails and a handful of special concoctions that highlight the award-winning bartender Sean Kenyon's creativity and class.

Kenyon himself was in New York when we visitied, but we enjoyed having bearded-bartender Brandon mixing up our cocktails for the evening. We tried three of the House specials and for our last drink we asked Brandon to come up with something semisweet using their homemade Ginger Beer. This resulted in a crushed ice tall glass of Ginger Beer, Vodka, pineapple and lemon syrup and bitters that went down way too fast. Before this we had shared a Paul Collins, Sailin' On, TV Party and Sonic Reducer (had we had a third person, or it been a weekend- we would have tried them all for you). The staff brought out little circus bags of roasted whole peanuts for each group at the bar to enjoy, which helped us imbibers to keep on drinkin' a little bit longer. Every drink was different and exciting. The price was on point given the reputation and quality of the establishment. 

With winter's inevitable arrival almost upon us, our internal clock is telling us to couple down, cozy up and pack on a few pounds for the chillier months ahead. And in our opinion, there is no better place to do this than at Denver's own, "Island Of Awesome". Grab a date and a plate and hunker down, because it's going to be a long winter. 

www.postinowinecafe.com    www.recessbeergarden.com   

-Tiffany Candelaria

Lifestyle | Bonacquisti Wine Company | Denver’s Urban Winery

In the Ultra5280 spirit of experiencing all local activities Colorado has to offer, I’ve been researching local wineries. One of Denver’s urban wineries is Bonacquisti Wine Company, located in the Sunnyside neighborhood at 46th Ave and Pecos. The vineyards used are not located in Denver, but they rely mostly on grapes grown in Palisade, CO, and more recently from California and New Mexico as well.

Bonacquisti Wine Company has been transforming grapes into wine at this location for nine years, a skill that owner Paul Bonacquisti learned from his Italian father. They currently produce 2,200 cases of wine a year and introduce three new wines each quarter. Two years ago they introduced 1 Liter growlers for guests that are refillable from any of their rotating wines on tap. This classic Italian format has caught on as a more economical way to buy wine, with 1,700 growlers sold since their introduction.

Paul keeps the Italian spirit of family, friends and good libations alive with various events, ever-changing wine blends, a tasting taproom and free tours of the winery.  “We want to make this a place the whole family can enjoy" he says as he tells me about their weekly "Fridays Uncorked" event. Each Friday from 6-9pm the winery hosts a live band and a food truck either out on their patio or inside their two-story building. The lineup for each week can be found under their website’s Events tab

They also hold special events, such as the DiFranco's dinner & wine paring event I attended. We were greeted by Paul Bonacquisti and chef Ryan DiFranco, and offered a glass of Bella Risa, a custom white blend wine to accompany a traditional antipasti meat and cheese platter from DiFranco’s restaurant. After a leisurely wine and antipasti sampling, DiFranco presented each person with their first course and an appropriate wine was poured alongside. All of the dishes were delicious and I could really taste the freshness of the ingredients. DiFranco’s Restaurant opened on 9th Ave and Lincoln in Denver in 2012, and won Westword’s “Best Italian Restaurant” its very first year. DiFranco also comes from an Italian family who loves good food. He recalls growing up, “We would be sitting at the table eating dinner, (already) talking about the dinner we would make tomorrow.”

The event was sealed up with a sweet Port style Grenache straight from the barrel and a chocolate cake and cannoli. Despite feeling satiated by the previous courses, I indulged in both desserts and may have asked for seconds on the Grenache. . .

thoughts by Tiffany Candelaria 

Source: http://www.bonacquistiwine.com