Back in July, I got a phone call from a woman involved with Tremendous! Entertainment for the Travel Channel, the cable network that hosts, among other shows, Bizarre Foods, the fast-paced, food-centric program that showcases Andrew Zimmern, the two-time James Beard Award-winning chef, clamping his jaws down on everything from barbecued armadillo in Florida to lamb's tongue in Los Angeles.
And Zimmern, she told me, was coming to Denver to film an upcoming episode. Where, she asked, should he eat?
Some of the joints he's hitting up are still under wraps (we hear Mongolian and Mexican are part of the itinerary), but on Tuesday, September 11, we know for sure that Zimmern and a motley crew of food geeks who thrive on stuffing their gullets with unconventional tastes -- at least by this country's standards -- will have dinner at Parallel Seventeen, as part of the Denver Adventurous Eaters Club, a group of intrepid gastronauts recruited by Jon Emanuel, the executive chef of Project Angel Heart and an associate professor/chef instructor at Metro.
"A producer contacted me asking for advice on all sorts of things, and they also wanted some information about my club, so Mary Nguyen, the amazing chef of Parallel Seventeen and Street Kitchen Asian Bistro, who's hosted several of our dinners in the past, offered to do a dinner for this, and from what I understand", says Emanuel, "Andrew is super-excited about it. And so am I."
The Denver Adventurous Eaters Club, which Emanuel started in 2005, after having a less than pleasant experience at Domo with another local dining club -- the "people were assholes, not to mention cheap," recalls Emanuel -- began with just two people but has grown, he notes, to more than 500 strong, and there are about twenty adventurous eaters, he says, who come to every dinner. "When I formed this group, I wanted people who understood restaurant etiquette, people who appreciated food and people who were well-traveled and not picky -- and so far, we've done everything from goat roasts to dinners at JJ Chinese."
But the dinner at Parallel Seventeen, he says, will be the "most unforgettable event ever." And if the menu, which Nguyen created, is any indication, then Zimmern and everyone else who snags a seat are in for the meal of their lives.
"I host these dinners for Jon's group once a year, and it's always a great opportunity to do some things that we'd never do in the restaurant," says Nguyen, adding that she plays around with different ingredients at each dinner. "They're presented in a way that's appealing to people's palates, and the items, which are all safe and FDA-approved, are from local Asian farmers and markets, she adds, noting, too, that she's spending some time with Zimmern this weekend journeying through New Saigon Market.
"I'm really excited about this menu, which is on-point with everything I've done before, except that I'm using different ingredients" -- ingredients like pork uterus, fermented soybean and ant larvae, she points out.
The dinner, which is $125 per person, including wine and cocktail pairings, is sold out, but if you want to add your name to the wait list, you can call Parallel Seventeen at 303-399-0988.
And here's a look at the menu and pairings:
• Ant larvae beignets with a kaffir lime sauce o Scharffenberger Cellars Brut Excellence, NV
• Jellyfish salad, Granny Smith apples and sansho buttons o Mui ne nule with Van Gogh blue vodka
• Goat agnolotti, chrysanthemum, ricotta salata, lemon basil oil o Bila Haut Rose, NV
• Tom yum taley with pork uterus, baby octopus, baby water crabs o Nigori sSake cocktail with basil seed caviar
• Fermented soybean spring rolls, hot mustard o Asian Manhattan with Buffalo Trace bourbon and pickled plums
• Confit of duck tongue, corn flan, kasu sake lees o Chateau des Jacques, Moulin- a-Vent
• Coq au vin with silkie chicken, toriashi, puff ball, bailing and king trumpet mushrooms and Chinese red dates o Rocca delle Macie Chianti Classico Reserva
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• Coconut caterpillar torte, pandan ice cream