This week is all about hearty, stick-to-your-ribs fall food, so tuck your napkin into your collar and belly up to the table for everything from classic casseroles to spaghetti and meatballs to whole pig faces to root veggies of all types. Save room for seven of the best events on the culinary calendar from Monday, October 23, through Friday, October 27.
Monday, October 23
Think meal prep is the newest thing in home cooking? Think again, padawan. Your grandmother had meal prep down before your dad was in short pants. She just called it dinner — casserole, to be specific. And while Grandma's chicken-noodle casserole may have given hot dish a bad name, Stir Cooking School, 3215 Zuni Street, is reviving the form with its Cozy Casseroles class on Monday, October 23, at 6:30 p.m. For $75, you'll learn how to make five tasty dishes: mac and cheese with mushrooms and Boursin; King Ranch casserole; shrimp gumbo casserole topped with cornbread; zucchini and sausage casserole; and wild rice, squash, leek and corn casserole. Check out stirtolearn.com to sign up. There won't be a can of condensed cream of mushroom soup in sight.
Tuesday, October 24
Fall harvest dinners are a dime a dozen this time of year, but Boulder's Arugula, 2785 Iris Avenue, is hosting a seasonal event that stands out. The Wagner Family and Caymus Wine Dinner is happening Tuesday, October 24, at 6:30 p.m., and both the menu and wine pairings will leave you salivating. Diners can look forward to lamb T-bone with carrot and sweet-potato purée and mole; filet mignon with duck-fat potatoes; and apple and pumpkin bread pudding doused in chai crème anglaise. Wines from the producer include the crowd-pleasing Conundrum as well as Caymus Cabernet. Don't miss out on this dinner for just $79 ($50 if you're the sad soul designated to be the driver). Call 303-443-1365 for your reservation.
Wednesday, October 25
Denver's old-school red sauce joints are slowly but surely going the way of the dodo. But on Wednesday, October 25, you can enjoy a wealth of Italian-American goodness — eggplant parmesan, spaghetti and meatballs, chicken piccata and cannoli — at Firenze a Tavola's Gangster Community Dinner. Four courses will run you just $33 (wine out of a jug costs extra), and since Halloween is rapidly approaching, costumes are encouraged. Call 303-561-0234 for reservations, and don't be late to the table at 4401 Tennyson Street, because Mamma starts dinner at 6:30 p.m. sharp.
Thursday, October 26
Project Angel Heart's venerable gala, A Taste for Life, is scheduled for Thursday, October 26. Not only do the funds raised from the tasting and silent auction go to a great cause, but guests will enjoy one of the best food festivals in town: Troy Guard's soon-to-be-opened FNG will be cooking up a storm, as will Hop Alley, Panzano, Osteria Marco, Old Major and plenty of other Denver faves — and it will all take place at the gloriously roomy Hyatt Regency Denver, 650 15th Street, where the lines are short, the seating is plentiful and the drinks are flowing. The fun starts at 6 p.m.; get your tickets ($150) and more details at projectangelheart.org.
Mile High Spirits is known for mixing up mules, but not much else in the way of recipes. That will change on Thursday, October 26, when the distillery at 2201 Lawrence Street hosts chef Connie Ruel for Spirits and Dinner, a five-course meal paired with its own libations. Think butternut-squash flan paired with peach bourbon, or lamb chops and polenta with chocolate doughnut bourbon (yes, there will be a whole a lot of bourbon). The evening begins at 6 p.m. with a tour of the distillery before dinner is served in the atmospheric barrel room. Tickets are $90 and on sale now at drinkmhs.com.
Illegal Pete's is supporting the fight against breast cancer. Go to any illegal Pete's location on October 26, and 20 percent of your tab will go to the American Cancer Society. Find out more at illegalpetes.com.
Friday, October 27
If you already know you'll be staying up until the wee hours of Saturday morning binge-watching Stranger Things (and who doesn't?), consider spending Friday night with like-minded folks at Rebel Restaurant's viewing party. The eclectic eatery at 3763 Wynkoop Street will be lowering the lights and screening the first two episodes of the new season from 10 p.m. to 1 a.m. on Friday, October 27. In between episodes, compete in a pumpkin-carving contest (limited to twelve contestants, so sign up quickly) and hydrate with creepy cocktail specials. To really get into the spirit, make sure you show up early for dinner and order the pig's head; it bears no resemblance at all to the demogorgon. Check out Rebel's Facebook page for details, and email firstname.lastname@example.org to reserve your spot.
Keep reading for future food and drink events.
Wednesday, November 1, through Friday, November 3
Denver's traditionally a beer town, but if you're an oenophile instead of a hophead, you'll be happy to know that the Denver International Wine Festival is coming to the Denver from Wednesday, November 1, through Friday, November 3. The three days include a Grand Vintners Dinner with wine by Kovács Nimród and food by Radek Cerny; the Pairsine Chefs Fine Food and Wine Pairing Competition, where you'll enjoy twenty bites paired with gold-medal-winning wines; and the Grand Tasting, the showcase event with more than eighty wineries and distilleries pouring samples of delicious beverages. Tickets to individual events range from $95 to $175 and are available now at denverwinefest.com. Now, that's something to toast to!
Saturday, November 10, through Saturday, November 18
Denver has its Restaurant Week every spring, but Boulder County has its own celebration of restaurants, too, giving customers a chance to dine for a discount for a full week every fall. Now in its twelfth year, First Bite runs from Saturday, November 10, through Saturday, November 18, offering three-course dinners for just $29 per person at more than forty restaurants in Boulder, Longmont, Erie, Niwot, Lyons, Louisville and Lafayette. Make your reservations now, because dining rooms will fill up quickly at this price. See the First Bite website for a complete list of participating restaurants and menus.
Thursday, November 16
It seems Christmas decorations are on the shelves earlier and earlier (we've even seen some for sale before Halloween this year), but what about the National Western Stock Show? This year you don't have to wait until January to start planning your Stock Show experience. The First Annual Meat and Greet benefitting Future Farmers of America will take place at the National Western Complex, 4655 Humboldt Street, on Thursday, November 16, when guests will enjoy twelve courses of Colorado beef, pork, lamb and goat, an open bar, live music and the chance to bid on a behind-the-scenes, one-on-one package with a Stock Show exhibitor. Find tickets ($75) and details at eventbrite.com.
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Saturday, November 25
Saturday, November 25, is almost a month after Halloween, but die-hard fans of dressing up can still scratch that itch at the 100 Men Who Cook's Black Tie Fundraiser, which has a masquerade ball theme this year. The organization's mission is to raise money for grassroots nonprofits, and this year's beneficiaries are Jazz C.A.F.E., a music and leadership program for middle and high school students; Boys' Day, a mentoring program for young African-American boys; and Colorado Beautillion-Cotillion, a multicultural, inclusive academic and social-enrichment program for high school juniors and seniors. The Renaissance Denver Hotel, 3801 Quebec Street, will host the ball, which will include live music, dancing and, of course, food from the aforementioned "Gentlemen Chefs." Tickets range from $50 to $150 and are going fast at eventbrite.com.
Thursday, December 7
It's no secret that Bravo's Top Chef came to Colorado to film its fifteenth season earlier this year. You can finally start planning your watch party, as the show will premiere on Thursday, December 7, at 8 p.m. The contestants traveled from Sports Authority Field to Telluride to Aspen Food + Wine and were tasked with preparing everything from the innocuous Denver omelet to the infamous Rocky Mountain oyster. Tune in to see how they fare — as well as to catch a glimpse of local legends (and a former winner!) Alex Seidel, Hosea Rosenberg, Jennifer Jasinski and Frank Bonanno.