You can't get away from carbs and candy this week, as handmade pasta and chocolate tastings dominate the food and drink calendar, but there are other delights as well, including an elevated cooking class, a sparkling wine dinner and an entire weekend of events kicking off Carnival. Keep reading for six of the best culinary activities, as well as more worthy happenings in the weeks to come.
Monday, February 3
If you've already aced Cooking 101 and can wow your friends by not lopping off your fingers while mincing an onion, can fry an egg without it sticking to the pan at least 50 percent of the time and have a spice cabinet that consists of more than salt, black pepper and Mrs. Dash, the Seasoned Chef's class on Monday, February 3, might be for you. From 6:30 to 9:30 p.m., Toby Prout (chef de cuisine at 12@Madison) will be at the front of the classroom at 999 Jasmine Street, teaching you how to craft cuisine a step above pan-fried pork chops. The menu includes karaage (Japanese fried chicken) with nori waffles and togarashi syrup; seared scallops with tangy coconut-citrus broth and red curry potato cake; and crab and asparagus topped with silky grapefruit Hollandaise. Tuition is $85 (a small price to pay for tips from one of the best kitchens in town); enroll on the school's website.
Tuesday, February 4
DiFranco's, 955 Lincoln Street, is criminally underrated in our books; the cozy Italian joint was making its own pasta for years before RiNo was a viable restaurant destination, and — even more amazingly — it offers free parking just off one of the busiest streets in town. If you haven't taken a seat at this casual joint, jump on Eventbrite and snag a ticket for a Tuesday, February 4, tasting dinner. The four-course menu is a steal for just $30 (which includes a glass of wine or beer and tip, but not tax) and promises luscious fare like a braised beef shoulder sandwich with jus, perfectly al dente fettuccine Alfredo, and ricotta cookies for dessert. The meal starts at 7:30 p.m. and makes battling the crowds along Larimer Street a moot point.
Wednesday, February 5
Pre-Valentine's Day, you can still treat your sweetie (even if — especially if — your sweetie is yourself!) to something explosive at Bistro Vendôme, 1420 Larimer Street. Throw off the shackles of the Gregorian calendar and pricy prix fixe menus and book a table on Wednesday, February 5, for a sparkling wine dinner. The five courses include delights like a progressive oyster trio with quince-guajillo jelly, spicy cranberry mustard and gooseberry mignonette; fried chicken served with cucumber and caviar crème fraîche; and banana cheesecake in a peanut-panko crust. Five pink and white sparklers accompany the $125 meal; the corks come out at 6:30 p.m. Take a look at the complete menu on Bistro's Facebook page, then call 303-825-3232 for reservations and be prepared to win(e) Valentine's Day a week in advance.
Thursday, February 6
If you must buy sweets for your sweetie come VD, at least make sure you're not giving a box of chalky chocolates you purchased from some rando selling half-wilted roses, giant pink teddy bears and cut-rate truffles on the street corner. Although that's one way of buying local, we recommend Finkel & Garf Brewing Co.'s free beer and chocolate pairing on Thursday, February 6, instead. The taproom, 5455 Spine Road in Boulder, is welcoming Gunbarrel confectioner Lift Chocolate from 4 to 8 p.m., when you'll be able to partake in sweet and sudsy combos and even purchase some chocolate truffles or candy if you're so inclined. Single (or just don't have a sweet tooth)? Even better: Take home a six pack. Visit the brewery's Facebook page for more info.
Friday, February 7
Just in time for Valentine's Day, Westwood's Re:Vision, 3800 Morrison Road, is debuting an art exhibit that's sweet not only for lovebirds, but also the entire neighborhood. The launch party for All You Need Is Love and Chocolate runs from 5 to 9 p.m. on Friday, February 7; guests will get a sneak peek of goodies from the Cultura Chocolate Factoría & Café that will soon be opening on site, as well as appetizers from chef Edwin Sandoval's Xatrucho and Mayan street-food truck, X'tabai Yucateco. Tickets are just $10 on the community development organization's website. While you're there, dive even deeper into the flavors of the season by signing up for one of Cultura's cooking classes over the next two weeks: a chocolate mousse kids' class at 2 p.m. on Saturday, February 8 ($5); mole class from 6 to 8 p.m. on Wednesday, February 12 ($25); and chocoflan class from 10 to 11 a.m. on Saturday, February 15 ($25). There are still spaces available for all classes, but they're going quickly (as chocolate tends to do).
We haven't even put Lunar New Year celebrations or Valentine's Day behind us, but Denver Central Market and Il Posto are already looking forward to Carnival. Countries around the world revel in that debauchery in February and early March, before the deprivation of Lent; RiNo's version runs Friday, February 7, through Sunday, February 9, with a trio of events. Il Posto, 2601 Larimer Street, is serving a Carnival tasting menu on Friday for $60 that includes items like beet risotto with gorgonzola and balsamic vinegar; duck, ricotta and spinach inside flaky puff pastry; and tuna crudo with green cabbage and dill. Reserve your seat on OpenTable. Saturday brings the DCM After Dark at the Market, 2669 Larimer Street, with exclusive bites and cocktails, DJs and dancing from 10 p.m. to 1 a.m.; your entry is $15 on Eventbrite and includes one drink and a festive feathered mask. Finally, Sunday is family day with an all-ages party from noon to 2 p.m. that boasts jugglers, face painters and more off-the-menu food items. The best part? In addition to $5 from the ticket price for DCM After Dark, all profits from the weekend will be donated to the World Wildlife Fund Australia.
Keep reading for future food events to fill up your calendar....
Saturday, February 8
Rats aren't all bad — especially if they're talented and adorable (Remy from Ratatouille), meme-able (Pizza Rat) or the first animal of the zodiac, bringing rebirth and renewal (Lunar New Year). And on Saturday, February 8, you can celebrate the Year of the Rat (which admittedly begins a couple of weeks earlier, on January 25) at the Chinese New Year party put on by the Nathan Yip Foundation. From 5:30 to 11 p.m., ballrooms at the Grand Hyatt Denver, 1750 Welton Street, will be transformed into an expansive night market, with food stations, games, palm readers, calligraphers and traditional clothing; this year, there will also be a formal Chinese banquet where guests can enjoy traditions such as yu sheng, a salad composed of auspicious ingredients that are mixed at the table by diners to ensure a prosperous new year. Tickets ($250, or $150 for young professionals under 36), along with details and colorful pictures of the event, are available now on the foundation's website.
There are an infinite number of ways to construct a martini; the flashy versions that most catch our attention (and ire!) are the ones that combine random liquors — not gin or vodka — with an off-the-wall flavor and then tack "tini" onto the end (popcorn-tini, anyone?). For the discerning, though, a martini is gin and vermouth; vodka is acceptable, but only in a pinch. On Saturday, February 8, see how Denver bars build their drinks at the Shaken, Not Stirred Martini Party. The annual fundraiser for Boys Hope Girls Hope — a nonprofit organization that provides mentoring, tutoring and scholarships to academically motivated kids from disadvantaged backgrounds — takes over the History Colorado Center, 1200 Broadway, from 7 to 10 p.m., with appetizers and dancing to accompany bartenders' creations. Tickets are $75 or $125 on the Boys Hope Girls Hope website.
Sunday, February 9
Accio pint glass! On Sunday, February 9, all you have to do is swish your wand about to summon good times and cheer at the generically named Wizard's Beer Festival (the wizarding world has become significantly more litigious, it seems). Diebolt Brewing Co., 3855 Mariposa Street, is the site of the shenanigans, with four two-hour sessions throughout the day, beginning at 11 a.m. and 1:30, 4 and 6:30 p.m. There will be tarot card readers, DJs and wand-making classes; your $45 ticket will get you a welcome beer and tickets for five further potions. Just remember: You can't evanesco your hangover the next day. Pick up your tickets at Eventbrite before those sneaky Slytherins find a way to steal them all.
Saturday, February 15
The folks that brought you November's mac and cheese festival are doubling down on dairy with a grilled cheese and beer festival on Saturday, February 15. Yes, after stuffing yourself on ooey, gooey, creamy mac, you can now get your cheese and carb combo in the form of crispy, crunchy sandwiches washed down by craft beer. Show up for unlimited bites from Blake Street Tavern, Maine Shack, Cheese Love Grill and the Brutal Poodle, among others; bottomless brews are courtesy of Horse and Dragon, Mockery, Spice Trade and Zuni Street. Tickets are currently on sale on Eventbrite or Facebook for $54 or $89 (the Big Cheese option gets you early entry and full-sized beers instead of samples), though prices are set to increase as the event approaches. Choose from the afternoon (12:30 to 3:30 p.m.) or evening (5 to 8 p.m.) session at Runway 35 Park, 8863 East 47th Avenue.
Friday, February 21, through Sunday, March 1
For ten days in late February, Denver eateries are going to be crammed with diners seeking great deals. Yes, Denver Restaurant Week returns on Friday, February 21, and runs through Sunday, March 1; both longstanding institutions and trendy hot spots will be serving multi-course prix fixe menus offered at just $25, $35 or $45. Visit the event website, where you'll find scrumptious pics of some of last year's most delectable dishes, as well as over 200 participating restaurants and their 2020 menus (some of our favorites include AJ's Pit Bar-B-Q, Il Posto, Vesta and Denver Milk Market). The race for reservations is on! It's you vs. the rest of Denver scrambling to book the best tables in town.
Friday, February 21
An offshoot of the Slow Food movement, the first Slow Wine Guide was published in 2010 and covered only Italian wines; a decade later, it's expanded into California and Oregon. And on Friday, February 21, the Slow Wine Tour lands in Denver. The free tasting is open only to industry folks (business cards and work credentials are required for entry), highlights products from nearly 65 vineyards, and takes place at Asterisk, 1075 Park Avenue West, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Visit the Slow Wine website for more details and a list of producers that will be in attendance, then hit up Eventbrite to RSVP.
Tuesday, February 25
Three cheers for restaurateur Troy Guard, whose calendrical skills rival his kitchen chops. The man is hosting a Fat Tuesday event on the day itself: Tuesday, February 25, not the weekend before or (abomination of all abominations) the weekend after, when Lent is already in full swing. From 6 to 8:30 p.m., Commissary (the former Mister Tuna at 3033 Brighton Boulevard), hosts the bacchanal with bites, beverages and a brass band. Guard is bringing in reinforcements in the form of Louisiana boy and Houston chef Drake Leonards of Eunice, and the evening's menu boasts instant classics like shrimp po' boy sliders, crawfish hand pies and Cajun duck poppers. Entry ($45 or $65 on Night Out) includes a drink, unlimited apps and a chef demo for VIP ticketholders.
Thursday, March 5
The annual kickoff to the Boulder International Film Festival, CineChef, returns on Thursday, March 5, with a literal battle of the sexes (there are knives involved, after all). It's the men versus the women as the chefs go head to head at Boulder's Rembrandt Yard, 1301 Spruce Street; each team will turn out film-inspired fare, with guests voting on the most scrumptious cinematic bites. Participating chefs include Linda Hampsten Fox (the Bindery), Becca Henry (ChoLon) and John Platt (Riffs Urban Fare). Further details and tickets for the 5:30 p.m. event ($100 or $145) are up now on the festival's website.
Thursday, March 12
A wealth of Denver's A-list restaurants are uniting under one roof on Thursday, March 12, to raise money for the National Kidney Foundation at its annual feast, Great Chefs of the West. Starting at 6 p.m., Exdo Event Center, 1399 35th Street, will play host to talent from Death & Co., Mercantile, the Bindery, American Elm, El Five, Woodie Fisher and over fifteen other restaurants and bars serving their most extravagant bites and beverages. And while tickets aren't cheap ($200, though you can save $20 by purchasing before January 6), you'd spend that much on Lyft rides alone trying to navigate from one end of town to another to hit up each and every eatery. Find out more about the event on the NKF website.
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