Friday marks the first day of summer, and Denver restaurants and bars are turning up the heat to get you out of the house and through their doors. From high-end Mexican menu takeovers to bees and barbecues to the just plain weird, there's something for everyone this weekend. Here are nine great food and drink events from Friday, June 21, through Sunday, June 23, plus more for the rest of the summer.
Friday, June 21
Boulder's Arcana, 909 Walnut Street, is importing alumni from Noma Mexico and Arca Tulum to Colorado as it prepares to head south of the border on Friday, June 21, and Saturday, June 22, for La Arcana. The kitchen will serve a modern, four-course Mexican menu from 4 to 11 p.m., with dishes like avocado salad with hoja santa and masa mayonnaise, barbecued lamb with pomegranate salsa and housemade tortillas (courtesy of restaurateur/chef Kelly Whitaker and Noble Grain Alliance's heirloom corn) and watermelon paletas flavored with lime, chile, salt and mezcal. Mexican wine and a special cocktail menu will also be available. Dinner will run you $65; book your table on Arcana's website before tables vanish like your resolve not to fill up on bread when faced with freshly made tortillas.
Saturday, June 22
If you've ever thought a brewery run — minus the running — sounded like fun, the hi-dive and Illegal Pete's have the event for you. On Saturday, June 22, the two establishments are teaming up for the inaugural .5K (yes, that's a half-kilometer) Bar Run. That's right: Don a pair of short shorts and show up at the hi-dive (7 South Broadway) for a pre-race brew at 10 a.m., take off for Illegal Pete's (270 South Broadway) at 11:30 a.m., and quench your post-race thirst with another beer at 11:34 p.m. The shorts and both beers are included in the $35 race registration, though you can snag just the shorts for $20 or — if you're choosing from your own selection of Daisy Dukes — just the beers for $15; all packages include a donation to Youth on Record, which works with at-risk youth to achieve their academic and artistic potential. Visit Illegal Pete's Facebook page for details and prepare to show off your athletic ability, altruism and ass cheeks.
Quiznos, the sandwich chain that got its start in Denver, is going back to its roots on Saturday, June 22, with a promotion intended to celebrate the fact that the city of its birth is the first in the country to decriminalize psilocybin. And you might have to be tripping to enjoy the shop's Magic Mushroom Melt, which will be available for just one day at the first-ever Quiznos, 1275 Grant Street, While the sub aims for groovy psychedelia, the end result has the same iridescent quality as a New York City pigeon, with the "tie-dyed" Swiss cheese and bread looking like a penicillin culture (with greens and purples standing out). Add a few dollops of more green and purple — this time in colorful Ranch dressing — and this sandwich is the fuel for a thousand bad trips. But Instagram opportunities are endless (especially since this is the only Quiznos in the country willing to unleash this horror on its customers), so show up as early as 10 a.m.; the goods will be available while supplies last, and the first fifty in line will get an MMM T-shirt — to commemorate the day that will live in infamy — and a gift card by way of apology.
Vegans can stock up for the summer months at the Summertime Vegan Pop-Up Market on Saturday, June 22. LFX Filmworks, 1701 31st Street, is hosting the parade of plant-based retailers from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Food vendors include Sugar Bakeshop & Coffee House, Colorado Custom Cookies, Peaceful Rebel Vegan Cheese, the Veggie Whisperer and SOS Catering; there will also be vegan beauty products from Katari, crafts from Blackheart Creation and snacks for your furry friend from Treat Envy. Admission is free; find the full list of vendors on the event's Facebook page.
With the official arrival of summer comes the urge to bask in the sun. And while we'd love to spend all day, every day in a beer garden swilling the best craft beverages Colorado has to offer, it gets to be a little hard on the wallet (not to mention the liver). One solution? Take up gardening; even if you have just a tiny balcony, a few pots and herbs will get you started. And on Saturday, June 22, you can learn all about one of those plants, lavender, at Four Seasons Farmers & Artisans Market's Lavender High Tea. For $25, you'll enjoy calming lavender tea with four courses of sweet and savory nibbles along with a presentation about the properties and care of the herb. The tea runs from noon to 2 p.m. at the market, 7043 West 38th Avenue in Wheat Ridge. Sign up on Eventbrite and your fragrant garden will be up and running in no time.
Pick your poison with a pair of cross-equatorial solstice drinking events on Saturday, June 22. Dos Luces Brewery, 1236 South Broadway, is celebrating Inti Raymi, the Festival of the Sun, which marks Peru's winter solstice. The day includes the bottle release of an imperial bourbon-barrel-aged chicha with sour cherries, a pisco sour tasting, music and dance performances, and food trucks. The brewery's doors open at noon; visit the Dos Luces Facebook page for more info.
Next up: Jax Fish House & Oyster Bar is marking the Northern Hemisphere's summer solstice by hosting the Longest Day to Drink Rosé at all its locations from 2 to 4 p.m. Indulge in a tasting of pink drinks from around the globe for $34, then buy your favorites by the glass. Details about the wines are up on the Jax Fishouse website, but you'll need to phone the location of your choice (Denver, Boulder, Glendale or Fort Collins) to make your reservation.
While we normally highlight fun and frivolous food events (National Soylent Green Day! National Fluffernutter Day!) this week brings attention to something that has wide-ranging effects on our eco and food systems: June 17-23 is National Pollinator Week, and Urban Farmer, 1659 Wazee Street, is serving a bee-centric dinner at 7 p.m. on Saturday, June 22. For $160, diners will be seated in the outdoor chef's garden and will get five indulgent courses (along with honey-based drink pairings): biscuits with smoked honey butter; foie gras with a champagne, bee pollen and honeycomb cocktail; trout with wildflower honey-glazed carrots and a white Negroni prepared with honey gin; and chestnut honey pork chops with spicy creamed corn, crispy mushrooms and an Old Fashioned flavored with burnt honey are a few of the offerings. Find the whole menu and purchase your ticket on Eventbrite.
Sunday, June 23
There's no better way to kick off summer than with a good, old-fashioned barbecue — especially one where you don't have to do the grilling. Boulder's Blackbelly, 1606 Conestoga Street, has your back with its barbecue bash on Sunday, June 23. From 2 to 6 p.m., the restaurant and market patio will be serving up a spread of expertly grilled and smoked meats, veggies, sides and salads, plus beer from Wild Woods Brewery. Expect some unusual cuts of beef, lamb or pork from Blackbelly's top-notch butchery program; tickets, $55 on the shop's website, include all the meat you can eat, plus two drinks (and the option to purchase more for just $5 each).
Keep reading for future food and drink events.
Thursday, June 27
Nobody loves tacos more than we do — but can you eat $135 worth of them? If you can't, it's not for lack of opportunity at this year's Top Taco. The annual competition takes place on Thursday, June 27, at Stanley Marketplace, 2501 Dallas Street in Aurora, when more than fifty restaurants around town will go head-to-head to see who can serve the best iteration of the classic Mexican street food. There will be tacos for all tastes: street-style (Cilantro & Perejil, Adelitas, Las Delicias), crowd-pleasers (Uno Mas, Tacos Tequila Whiskey, Los Chingones) and WTF (Tupelo Honey, Syrup). Not only will tacos fill your tummy, but tequila and margs are also on tap. Still don't think you can stuff over a hundred bucks worth of food in your estómago? Not to worry: GA tickets start at $75 on the event website.
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Friday, July 19, Through Sunday, July 21
Slow Food Nations appeals to everyone (except, perhaps, unrepentant fast-food aficionados). The international food fest kicks off its third year in town on Friday, July 19, and will run nearly forty chef demos, lectures, workshops, parties and dinners — plus the enormous Taste Marketplace, with over 100 vendors hawking their wares and handing out samples — through Sunday, July 21. About half the events taking place around town (but mainly around Larimer Square at Larimer and 14th streets) are free, but the rest require tickets, which start at $20. Visit the Slow Food Nations website to see the whole weekend's schedule and make sure you nab tickets for your can't-miss events.
Saturday, August 17
Tacolandia returns to Civic Center Park, Broadway and Colfax Avenue, for a fourth year on Saturday, August 17, celebrating food, art, music and culture. Join us in honoring that great Mexican invention, the taco, in its many forms as presented by the city's top cantinas, taquerias and food trucks, including Adelitas Cocina y Cantina, Antojitos La Poblanita, Carniceria Aaliyah, El Gallo Blanco, Issai's Catering, Kachina Cantina, La Fiesta, Los Chingones, Lucha Cantina, Mariscos El Rey 2, Los Mesones, Neveria Jedany's, Taco Block, Torta Grill, Yareth's, El Coco Pirata and more. Tickets, $25 for general admission or $55 for VIP, are now on sale at westwordtacolandia.com.
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