This weekend almost, almost seems normal, with boozy festivals stacking up like a particularly intoxicating game of Jenga. There's a seltzer festival on a golf course, a wine festival in a botanic garden, and an Oktoberfest...at home.
Oh, well, keep reading anyway: Our culinary calendar also has info on getting out the vote at your restaurant or bar, an extra-exclusive dinner and an organic-tomato you-pick-’em.
Friday, September 18
Wine festivals have a bit of an advantage over beer festivals in the age of COVID: Harvest season falls in autumn, so a handful of mountain wine fests are still on. One of those is the Wine Classic at Vail, which is offering four — count ’em, four — grand tastings on Friday, September 18, and Saturday, September 19. More than thirty beverage producers from around the globe will be pouring samples for guests to enjoy on the lawn of Ford Park (adjacent to the Betty Ford Alpine Gardens, 522 South Frontage Road East). Each ninety-minute tasting session is limited to 175 people to encourage social distancing. Find out more on the fest's website and nab tickets, $69, on Eventbrite; tastings start at 2 and 4:30 p.m. on Friday and noon, 2:30 and 4:30 p.m. on Saturday.
Tickets to an Inventing Room Gobblefunk dinner might even be rarer than one of Willy Wonka's golden tickets, but as of this writing, there are still five seats left for the wild ride through pop culture and chef Ian Kleinman's creative process on Friday, September 18. With only ten seats available for the entire meal, it's an ultra-exclusive opportunity to feast on food inspired by...Bill Murray? Correct! The deadpan actor is the jumping-off point for four courses; the first is garlic mashed potatoes with a smoked cheddar-and-horseradish golf ball, based on 1980's Caddyshack. Need we say more? Dinner at the sweet shop, 4433 West 29th Avenue, begins at 6:30 p.m., costs $100 for food and nitro cocktails, and can only be booked by phone. Call 303-885-2802 and be ready to put down a $50 non-refundable deposit. The full menu can be found on the Inventing Room website.
Saturday, September 19
As event producers cautiously dip their toes back into the murky waters of large-scale gatherings, they're forced to get creative about how to ensure that safety, social distancing and summer fun are all on tap in a single afternoon. Seltzerland, a traveling hard-seltzer fest that's landing in Denver on Saturday, September 19, is taking an approach as intriguing as any: Vendors and guests will tee off on Erie's Colorado National Golf Club, 2700 Vista Parkway, for nine holes of drinks. Leave your clubs at home (long metal sticks are generally frowned upon at any gathering where booze is the main attraction) for your walk along the fairway with a cohort of up to fourteen other attendees. Entry is timed in ten-minute intervals, and social distancing is required between groups as well as between vendors. While we're not sure how you'll get your seltzer samples if you're maintaining six feet from the seltzertender (is that the right word?), you're promised more than fifty different beverages and ninety minutes of fresh air and drinking with friends. Tickets are $39 for general admission, which runs from 1 to 4:30 p.m. (participants are given an entry time during that window), or $79 for VIP, which goes from 11 a.m. to 12:50 p.m. and includes one cocktail, a full can of seltzer, free parking and bites in addition to samples. Visit the event website for details and to purchase tickets.
April 21 — the day government officials from Bavaria and Munich announced the cancellation of Munich's iconic Oktoberfest celebrations — was a sad day for beer drinkers around the globe. Denver's Oktoberfest was not so quick to follow, but finally put the kibosh on the Mile High City's annual dunkel drinking and dachshund racing festivities on July 31. So while large-scale gatherings have been given das Boot this year, you can still enter Breckenridge Brewery's drawing for a mini-Oktoberfest through September 12. Visit the brewery's website to throw your name in the hat to receive a private performance by the Rhinelanders (okay, as private as a Jeep hauling a three-piece band on a trailer and parking in your driveway can be), steins, brats and pretzels — all free. The beer, sadly, is not free (due to legal restrictions), but that means you can furnish whatever brews you prefer. Seven mini-bashes will be provided in Denver and Colorado Springs on Saturday, September 19, and Sunday, September 20.
Boulder's West End Tavern, 926 Pearl Street, is also providing an Oktoberfest bash in your own home (though you'll have to pick this one up at the taproom). Pre-order the grub on Tock no later than 2 p.m. on Friday, September 18, for pick-up between 11:30 a.m. and 5 p.m. on Saturday, September 19, or Sunday, September 20. You'll get a spread of smoked and candied nuts; pretzel bites with beer mustard; brats, buns and onions; smoked chicken; cheddar spaetzle; sauerkraut; potato salad; and apple strudel for $55 (serves two) or $110 (serves four), plus you can add 25-ounce Crowlers from local breweries 4 Noses, Left Hand, Bootstrap, Great Divide and the Post for $10 each.
Sunday, September 20
It's just 46 days until election day — so we all have a little more than six weeks of repetitive, nasty attack ads popping up on our computer and TV screens. You're forgiven if you've tuned them out, but this year, Restaurants Rally the Vote, an organization headed by Denver restaurants Chook, Snooze, Lola Coastal Mexican, Jax Fish House, the Post Brewing Co. and others, wants restaurant employees to make sure they're registered to vote. With the hospitality industry in chaos and federal assistance dollars in demand from every industry, it's more important than ever for restaurant and bar employees to ensure their voices are heard at their polling places. Owners and GMs can visit the group's website to sign the pledge; individuals — even if you're not employed by a restaurant — can utilize resources such as a calendar of deadlines, links to see if you're registered and to register if you're not, and lists of ballot drop-off locations and places to register (and vote!) in person on November 3. Even better, info is provided in both English and Spanish. Does registering mean you'll be inundated with phone calls and text messages from campaign workers asking if they can count on your vote? Unfortunately, yes — but it also means we might exit our long national nightmare four years earlier than we would otherwise.
Earlier this month, farmers of large and small spreads alike, as well as home gardeners and pretty much anyone with a potted plant on the patio, rushed to protect their flora from the spectacularly weird freeze coming on the heels of 100-plus-degree temps. For most of us, that included bringing in a succulent or throwing an old sheet over a squash plant; for farmers, the stakes were higher. Longmont's Black Cat Farm, 6054 Oxford Road, held a quickly organized public-tomato picking party to ensure that as much of its crop as possible went to good homes, and on Sunday, September 20, they're doing it again (though without the threat of an impending weather apocalypse). A significant portion of the farm's tomato crop survived the snow, and from 7:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., you can show up at the farm (bags, baskets and boxes in tow) and pick as many farm-fresh, certified organic tomatoes as you can carry (or stomach!) for just $1.50 per pound. Take that, Whole Foods.
And mark your calendars....
Monday, September 21
Start your week off really, really, right at Bettola Bistro, 10253 East Iliff Avenue. The sweet Italian dining room is launching the first of its monthly dinner series themed around a wide-ranging list of inspirations: friends, colleagues, ingredients, geography. On Monday, September 21, Bettola is teaming up with one of the original meat men in Denver: OG charcuterie expert Mark DeNittis, whose Il Mondo Vecchio was way ahead of its time. DeNittis will be turning out a four-course feast focusing on Duroc pork; the evening will also include a short butchering and coppa-making demo. Seatings are available at 6 and 8 p.m. and will run you $125 plus tip (tax is included). Email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 303-750-1580 to reserve your spot, and follow Bettola's Instagram page for mouthwatering pics and details on upcoming installments.
Tuesday, September 22
Until this year, you had to go to Boulder County to chase down the excellent Asian street food served by the Ginger Pig food truck. The outfit had a brief stint at Boulder's Rosetta Hall, but now — in a shocking turn of events — something great is happening in 2020 (at least for Denverites): Chef/owner Natascha Hess is opening a brick-and-mortar restaurant in Denver's Berkeley neighborhood, so Queen City residents will be able to get their hands on her grub. In advance of the restaurant's opening, the truck will be doing a pop-up on Tuesday, September 22, at Pony Up, 1808 Blake Street, from 4 to 11 p.m. RSVP on the Ginger Pig Facebook page, then show up for Bangkok balls (Thai red curry rice croquettes), char siu pork, spicy-sweet chile-vanilla ice cream and more.
Wednesday, September 23, through Sunday, October 4
Denver's Harvest Week is a beloved tradition — if you've been fast enough to snag a seat at one of the wildly popular dinners under the roof of the GrowHaus, the nonprofit organization providing food and food education to residents of Denver's Globeville and Elyria-Swansea neighborhoods. This year, things look different, both because of COVID and because the GrowHaus building was shuttered as a result of severe structural issues. The upside? Harvest Week is being revamped as a citywide celebration of Colorado food and drink. More than thirty Denver and Boulder eateries (including Cart-Driver, Ace Eat Serve, Ultreia, Santo, Jax, Blackbelly and Tap & Burger) will be using local ingredients to create uniquely Colorado dishes and cocktails. Visit the event's Facebook page or website for a complete list of participating restaurants, then start making reservations. Meal planning has never been easier.
Everything old is new again: drive-in movies, anti-mask organizations, even progressive dinners. Here's a throwback to the 1960s tradition (albeit with a thoroughly modern price tag). On Wednesday, September 23, $350 will put you and a friend in the thick of things at the Dairy Block, 1800 Wazee Street, for a cocktail crawl that includes bougie bites along with beverages. Expect Gruyère fondue with a boozy punch from Poka Lola Social Club; a quartet of smoked things — salmon, cauliflower, short rib and mac and cheese — alongside a whiskey flight from Seven Grand; Colorado lamb three ways with syrah from Blanchard Family Wines; and passionfruit pavlova served with Run for the Roses' final cocktail of the evening. The event goes from 6 to 9 p.m.; nab your spot (there are only two left!) at the Rebel Experiences website.
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Thursday, September 24
If you want to taste tipples at the Dairy Block, 1800 Wazee Street, but don't have a small fortune to spend on a single evening of drinking (see above), wait just one more night — until Thursday, September 24 — for a Chopped-style cocktail competition that includes bartenders from Seven Grand, Poka Lola Social Club, Denver Milk Market, Run for the Roses and Foraged mixing up bourbon-based cocktails using Angel's Envy and a basket of mystery ingredients. A limited number of guests will be able to taste all five cocktails — for free! — and vote for the people's-choice cocktail. RSVP on Eventbrite, where you'll reserve your entry time (every fifteen minutes from 6 to 7:30 p.m.); you'll have ten minutes to taste and cast your ballot. Don't wait to register; spots will go fast. This event supports Angel's Envy, a reforestation advocacy group.
Saturday, September 26
Everybody loves bubbles (unless they're of the economic variety)! Pour some sparkling wine into a glass and it's an immediate celebration. And on Saturday, September 26, you need to celebrate the fact that you have survived the first 269 days of this year (hey, we need to take our happiness where we can get it in 2020). Enter Spark!, a sparkling wine festival highlighting effervescent wine styles from around the globe. Champagne and prosecco will make appearances, naturally, but you'll also get a chance to sample lesser-known styles like sekt and cremant. More than twenty producers will be pouring at Peak Beverage, 4375 Brighton Boulevard, for three tasting sessions: a VIP session ($100) from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. that includes exclusive tastings from five champagne producers, a cheese and charcuterie box, a tasting book, a branded face mask, a raffle ticket and more; and two GA sessions ($65) from 2 to 4:30 and 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. There are also virtual tastings for anyone who wants to treat themselves but would prefer to do so in the comfort of their own home (and their sweat pants); packages range from $120 to $200 and all include at least three half-bottles of wine or champagne, snacks, and four forty-minute workshops. Visit the Spark! Instagram page for details, then nab your tickets on Night Out.
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