Get to know the farmers' market with Panzano chef Logan Stephenson, who hosts a monthly shopping spree and market tour followed by brunch at the restaurant. The adventure begins on bikes departing from the downtown eatery, headed for the Union Station Farmers' Market.
"Going to the market for me is like [being] a kid in a candy store," says the chef. "I get to walk around and pick the best things, meet farmers and get to know the farms and seasons. And it also helps with planning menus."
Denver couple Anna and Mark Feemster, who learned about the jaunt through Panzano's newsletter, decided to try out this event last month as a way to both get to know the chef at one of their favorite restaurants and learn more about seasonal produce. "Usually we just stroll around the farmers' market but don't buy anything," Mark admits.
"But this time we wanted to," Anna adds. "It's so great to be taken through the market by someone who knows what we should be looking for. I can't wait to find out what he does with those mushrooms."
The mentioned mushrooms were the flat, lacy oyster variety, selected from Mile High Fungi. As Stephenson gently tore them apart to be thrown into a pan of hot oil, he explained why he liked this ingredient and how easy it is to prepare it. Next the chef sliced into beautiful roma tomatoes from Croft Family Farm, and after lightly salting the perfect red coins, he passed them around on a plate.
Stephenson showed guests how to properly cut kernels off an ear of corn using a bright yellow sample from Munson Farms, which just returned to the market in mid-July, when corn season began. As the sweet, firm kernels plunked into the bowl, observers sipped mimosas and Bloody Marys, quietly chatting between pearls of cooking wisdom and helpful produce tips from the chef.
"My mom suggested it as a way to learn what to do with local produce," says Arvada resident Wayne Hoisington, who came to the event with his wife, Kim, and sister Brenda. "We don't usually go to that market because we don't know what to get or how to prep, but we want to extend the palette."
Also in the shopping bag were squash blossoms and carrots from Micro Farms and some fresh eggs and summer squash from Croft. Stephenson notes that the best part about taking guests around the market is being able to get to know the vendors and what's growing in Colorado right now. He just moved to the state from Arizona in January to work at Panzano, and back then it was cold and snowy and not the time to think about locally grown fruits and vegetables.
"Keep in mind," the chef told the group as he handed out the finished egg dish topped with all the glorious vegetables, "there is no wrong way to cook an item if you enjoy it at home."
Join chef Stephenson on the next Bike and Brunch at Panzano starting at 10 a.m. on August 17, September 14 and October 12. The event costs $75 per person and includes bicycle, helmet, brunch and cooking demo. You don't have to be a guest of the Hotel Monaco to sign up; you don't even need to be a hard-core cyclist (since the bikes are cute street cruisers and Union Station is only a couple of blocks from the restaurant).
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Panzano is located inside the Hotel Monaco at 909 17th Street. Call 303-296-3525 or visit the restaurant's website for more details.