There's no doubt about it: February (not April, Mr. Eliot!) is the cruelest month. It's frigid. It's dark. It's icy. There's Valentine's Day. Football is over (unless you want to root for the upstart Rams or the loathsome Patriots). At least this month's food and drink calendar gets off to a strong start, with a trio of month-long specials followed by colorful and tasty celebrations. Here are seven great food and drink events this weekend, plus more in the upcoming weeks.
Friday, February 1
It's an early-February tradition that rivals Groundhog Day in importance and is definitely more satisfying. Because no matter what a buck-toothed rodent from back east says, Front Range beer lovers know that Friday, February 1, heralds the return of Stout Month. For the next 28 days, all five Mountain Sun locations (Longs Peak Pub and Taphouse, Mountain Sun Pub and Brewery, Southern Sun Pub and Brewery, Under the Sun Eatery and Pizzeria, and Vine Street Pub and Brewery) will be pouring nearly seventy different inky ales; 35 of Mountain Sun's own brews will rotate through the taps, as well as 33 other offerings, mostly from Colorado outfits. Take a look at mountainsunpub.com for a (mostly) complete list of stouts, some of which have names almost as long as this entire write-up (we're looking at you, Bourbon Barrel-Aged Oatimus Prime Imperial Oatmeal Stout).
Boulder's Blackbelly Butcher, 1606 Conestoga Street, is teaming up with Chicago's Publican Quality Meats for a swap meat. The Windy City deli is partnering with joints all around the country to swap sandwiches for a month, and for the entire month of February, Blackbelly will be offering Publican's Piri Piri Pavo, a turkey sandwich with a punchy piri piri sauce packed with garlic and chiles, avocado, sprouts and sunflower aillade (a French condiment generally made up of ground nuts and herbs). And if you're in Chicago any time during the month, make a visit to Publican, where you can snatch up Blackbelly's Pork Belly PB&J, which makes only occasional appearances on the Boulder sandwich board.
While Denver isn't in the grip of a polar vortex, we're still in the depths of winter — and that means short days, icy roads and a long, long slog until spring returns. All of that adds up to the need for some stiff drinks, which is why Breckenridge Brewery and Lyft are teaming up for Free Ride February. Starting February 1, discount codes up to $10 will be released every Friday at breckbrew.com; you'll be able to use the codes on any Lyft to select bars across the metro area, including the British Bulldog, Icehouse Tavern, the Midwestern Saloon, Don's Club Tavern and the College Inn. The promotion is capped at 1,000 codes per week, so be sure to claim yours early.
Diners in the western suburbs — and anyone who loves a good deal — will want to take advantage of Golden's Winter Lights, Winter Nights promotion that runs from Friday, February 1, through Sunday, February 10. During the smaller, more charming and much less cutthroat version of Denver Restaurant Week, more than fifteen bars and eateries are offering food and drink specials with mention of the event. Get half off any flight at Colorado Plus Cidery & Pub before heading to Abejas for a braised-short rib entree and glass of red wine for $30; the next night, get two-for-one cocktails all evening at State 38 Distilling. In addition, theaters and museums around town are offering discounts and free admission as well; find all the details on Visit Golden's website.
Root Down: the gas station-turned-restaurant that launched a thousand Denver hot spots. It's hard to believe it's been around for ten years; we remember the deafening buzz about the food, the decor and the views like it was yesterday. But a decade on, Justin Cucci's first restaurant, at 1600 West 33rd Avenue, is still going strong, and from Friday, February 1, through Sunday, February 3, the joint is offering a three-course, prix fixe menu of its greatest hits for just $35. Beet flan with fennel and watercress; Moroccan chicken with preserved lemon, coriander, olives and tangerines; croissant bread pudding sided with sour cream ice cream and whiskey butter; and the famed (some would say infamous) winter veggie and tofu pot pie will all be making appearances. Visit the restaurant's Facebook page for the full menu, then make your reservation at rootdowndenver.com — because even after all these years, it can be tough to snag a table.
Saturday, February 2
Chinese (or lunar) New Year falls on February 5 this year, when the Year of the Pig will be ushered in. And while we're sad to see the Year of the Dog go (who can resist twelve months devoted to a wagging tail?), tradition has it that porkers' chubby faces and big ears are signs of wealth. And on Saturday, February 2, you can retain some of your hard-earned wealth while you celebrate the ascendancy of swine at the free Colorado Chinese New Year Celebration. From 10:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., a cultural fair, market and food stalls will take over Citypoint Church at 200 South University Boulevard; visitors will experience traditional Chinese music, art, costumes and calligraphy as well as nosh on New Year snacks; we're hoping for malt candy, dumplings and rice cakes to ring in the Year of the Pig. Those willing to part with some of their cash can stick around for the Celebration Show from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m.; acrobats, dancers (folk, modern and lion), musicians and martial artists will perform. Visit denverchineseschool.org to purchase tickets ($25 or $50) and to see some truly spectacular pictures from previous celebrations.
Sunday, February 3
February 3 is Super Bowl Sunday, and while the prospect of watching the big game barely elicits any emotion other than ennui from us (New England rides again — snooze), there are more watch parties around town than there are NFL team owners colluding against Colin Kaepernick. Two that caught our eye? The Tavern Downtown, 1949 Market Street, is offering a proposition both enticing and frankly terrifying from 3:30 p.m. until a half-hour after the game ends: Settle in to watch on one of sixty TVs with all-you-can-eat sliders, chili, wings, wieners, pizza and pasta, plus bottomless Bud and Bud Light for $35. Get your tickets at the TicketFly website. Meanwhile, Aurora's favorite biker bar/wing house/Chinese restaurant, the Piper Inn, 2251 South Parker Road, is offering an endless wing and egg roll buffet for just $18 from 4 to 8 p.m. with the purchase of any drink (including non-alcoholic ones); find the details on the bar's Facebook page. And finally, if you just can't bear to participate in pigskin this year, visit Spangalang Brewery, 2736 Welton Street, from 3 to 8 p.m. The taproom is sans television, but there will be super bowls of Cajun food, thanks to customers' potluck contributions. So rustle up a gumbo recipe and break out the hot sauce; more info is up on the brewery's Facebook page.
Keep reading for future food and drink events.
Tuesday, February 5, and Wednesday, February 6
Get ready for some Big Easy eating at Jax Fish House in February. Founder Dave Query and culinary director Sheila Lucero are bringing in New Orleans chef Ryan Prewitt for two five-course dinners, one at Jax in Boulder (928 Pearl Street) on February 5, and the second in LoDo (1539 17th Street) on February 6. Prewitt, director of operations for the Donald Link Restaurant Group, won a James Beard Foundation award for Best Chef South in 2014, and one of his restaurants, Pêche, won Best New Restaurant in America from the JBF the same year. These mark the first in a series of guest dinners with New Orleans friends of Query and Lucero's coming to Jax to cook. The five-course dinners are $85 each ($125 with wine pairings); reservations can be made by calling the Boulder Jax at 303-444-1811 or the LoDo Jax at 303-292-5767.
Friday, February 8
Whether you use macaroni, rigatoni, penne, farfalle, fusilli, orecchiette, cavatappi or cavatelli — or cheddar, Gouda, provolone, mascarpone, Monterey Jack, muenster or mozzarella — there's really no wrong way to construct mac and cheese. On Friday, February 8, you can sample more than fifteen creamy, crusty and cheesy creations from local restaurants at the Denver Mac & Cheese Festival, which runs from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. at 3560 Chestnut Place. Tickets start at $59 (which includes unlimited mac and wine, beer and spirit samples) and top out at $109 (5:30 p.m. entry, a T-shirt, unlimited mac and an open bar). The most intriguing part of this fest? The commemorative spork that comes with each ticket purchase. We're a fan of commemorative flatware: It takes up less space than beer glasses, and if you're resourceful enough, you can scrounge up a full set for next Thanksgiving. Ensure your entry to the extravaganza by snagging tickets on Eventbrite.
Thursday, February 14, through Sunday, February 17
Fans of Ian Kleinman's doughnut pop-up shops have been waiting a long, long time to get their hands on the confectioner's breakfast creations; the last time the pastries made an appearance was over two years ago. But from Thursday, February 14, through Sunday, February 17, the Molecular Donut Shop returns to the Inventing Room Dessert Shop, 4431 West 29th Avenue, from 6 to 11 a.m. Ten flavors will be on the menu, ranging from $5 to $8; we're most excited for the Buttermilk Fried Chicken, a take on chicken and waffles that includes fried bird, coffee gravy and hot sauce caviar. Think you can do better? Submit your own flavor combo at tirdenver.com (where you can also drool over all the varieties and place a pre-order); Kleinman will pick his favorite to add to the menu and announce the winner on February 4.
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Friday, February 22, through Sunday, March 3
Denver Restaurant Week is coming, so clear your calendar from February 22 through March 3; you'll want to visit a different eatery every day. Hundreds of Denver’s top restaurants will offer multi-course dinners for three tasty prices ($25, $35 or $45) during the fifteenth year of the wildly popular week. Participating restaurants and menus are up on the Visit Denver site; be sure you book your first choices right away, before someone else nabs your table. Find out more here.
Sunday, May 19, and Monday, May 20
Chefs and aspiring charcutiers will want to plan ahead for a Denver visit from the maestro of meat, Brian Polcyn, who will lead a butchery course next spring at Stir Cooking School, 3215 Zuni Street. Polcyn and author Michael Ruhlman will spend two days teaching students how to break down hogs using both USDA and European seam butchery techniques; how to work charcuterie into menus; and how to properly dry-cure and smoke cured meats. Recipes for pâté, fresh sausage and offal will be provided, as well as a copy of one of the duo's books (their third title, Pâté, Confit, Rillette, will be released May 19), a private cocktail hour and dinner with the pair. Tickets are $800 and are on sale now at Eventbrite.
If you know of a date that should be on this calendar, send information to firstname.lastname@example.org.