"This is the kind of experience you only get when you're in the industry," says Jimmy Carbone, one of the co-founders of Bowl of ’Zole, a pozole and agave spirit tasting event that's coming to Denver for the first time on Thursday, March 30.
Carbone was a restaurant owner in New York City for over two decades and now runs Food Karma, a food and media events production company. The idea for Bowl of ’Zole was sparked when chef Danny Mena, author of Made in Mexico, was doing a pozole pop-up in NYC. "Mexico is a big and beautiful landscape, and pozole is a big part of that," adds spirit expert Arik Torren, who, like Mena, is a partner in the project.
"The event business can be lucrative, but we see it more as a passion project and focus on curating something that is exceptional," Carbone notes. The three launched Bowl of ’Zole four years ago in NYC as a celebration of Mexico's rich heritage. Last year they added a Boston event, and now they're bringing the festivities to Denver, with plans to host an annual edition in the Mile High.
"Denver's been on our list," Carbone says, and holding an event here made even more sense after Torren moved to the city fourteen months ago.
The chef lineup for Denver's event is stacked with talent. It includes Jose Avila of La Diabla, who was recently named a James Beard Award semifinalist for the second year in a row; Dana Rodriguez, also a 2023 James Beard semifinalist, who is the owner of Work & Class and Super Mega Bien, as well as the executive chef of the upcoming Casa Bonita reboot; longtime Denver restaurateur Troy Guard; Lorenzo Nunez from El Chingon, which recently reopened in a new location; and more.
While the food itself is a draw, "the event is more about bringing people together and spreading the gospel of good mezcal," Carbone says. Over 100 expressions of agave spirits — including mezcal, tequila, raicilla, bacanora and sotol — will be available for sipping, many of which come from smaller brands that will have the opportunity to share their stories alongside their spirits.
"We get to be a platform," Torren notes. "There are larger brands, too, but that's what's incredible. Having them all under one roof, all of these small producers, small brands, small makers. That doesn't typically happen. Most events price out those smaller brands, but we do it for the love of a sense of community."
The opportunity to connect with the people behind the product is something most consumers don't get, and it adds a far deeper level of appreciation for the history and culture of Mexico. "Mezcal and all these traditional spirits, part of why they're so profound is the totality of it. It's an agricultural product, it's a cultural product, it's a historic product," Torren adds.
Guests will also be able to purchase bottles from the featured brands at a 15 percent discount via the event's retail partner, Baker Wine and Spirits.
Bowl of ’Zole brings on a local nonprofit partner for each event; the details for Denver are still being finalized and will be announced soon.
The event will take place on Thursday, March 30, at Skylight (833 Santa Fe Drive) from 6 to 9 p.m. Tickets are on sale now via Eventbrite. The VIP option for $85 includes early admission at 5 p.m. and an exclusive goody bag; general admission is $55.