Michael Pollan -- journalist, advocate and patron saint of sustainability in our food system -- was in Denver this week to speak to a crowd at the Paramount about the importance of understanding where our food comes from. After his talk, he headed to Fuel Cafe, where he had a low-key, private dinner with fourteen guests and Fuel's staff, a benefit for Ekar Farms, a local urban Jewish farm and communal garden that donates large quantities of fresh, organic produce to families that couldn't otherwise afford it.
Fuel owner Bob Blair is also fervent on the topic of sustainability, which made his restaurant a perfect stop for Pollan's post-show sustenance needs. And Blair called in Daniel Asher, chef at Root Down and Linger, as well as Robin Baron, chef-owner of Udi's, to help him put together a menu fit for the occasion.
Blair couldn't have been happier with his cooking cohorts. "Daniel Asher is an inspiration," Blair says. "He was absolutely giddy when I asked him to cook for Michael. He is truly passionate, even over-the-top when it comes to sourcing local and organic. I love that I get to call him a friend. Robin helped remind us that even though it is important to cook organically, it is even more important to pay attention to eating healthy. Not so much butter or fat. Like Michael says, 'Eat food, not too much, mostly plants.'"
And the trio really pulled out all of the stops. "Daniel did a play on Michael Pollan's The Botany of Desire," Blair says. "He emphasized apples, tulips, potatoes and cannabis. We wish we could have served cannabis, but Daniel used a close relative -- hops -- instead."
Pollan had a few words for the chefs, too. "Michael was really cool," Blair says. "He talked about how chefs have turned into the next voices that have almost more creatively taken things to the next level. He gave chefs credit for helping put small local farms back on the map. He said that chefs are the ones who get to talk face-to-face with diners, and show how important it is to eat better food."
Pollan also weighed in on the local versus organic debate, a common discussion topic at Fuel. "My wife, Catherine, said he talked about the importance of finding and supporting small local farmers who are not necessarily certified organic but practice organic farming," Blair explains.
Fuel's crew was there late, polishing off every last crumb of the feast and soaking in the experience. "It was mostly a cool relaxing night of cooking and eating with people who care about healthy food," Blair concludes.
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Here's a taste of the menu, provided by Blair:
Daniel Asher plates his Michael Pollan-inspired courses.courtesy of Bob Blair
"Deconstructed Potato Gratin" -- Kettle chip, cheese curd, apple fennel quinoa slaw, microchard
"Devils on Horseback" -- Tulip-wrapped dates stuffed with herbed goat cheese, wrapped with chives, with sambal cider gastrique
"Raspberry Lambic Bean Curd" -- Smoked and candied hops, silken tofu, beet pesto, freeze-dried raspberries, roasted mushroom and citrus ponzu
Robin Baron made a vegan smoked eggplant salad with pickled gold and red beets, watercress, fennel, grilled Udi's filone and miso butter.
Fuel served Alamosa striped bass on cauliflower risotto with raisin, tamarind and jalapeno puree, almond pangrattato, chive oil and pomegranate seeds.
Fuel's new pastry chef, Charlie Murphy, made a hazelnut meringue with chocolate zabaglione buttercream, aka Duchess of Parma Torta. It was served alongside a vegan beet chocolate cake with chocolate walnut frosting.