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Alpaca sweater, and Denver breweries will bring the booze to Denver Beer Festivus.
Alpaca sweater, and Denver breweries will bring the booze to Denver Beer Festivus.
Danielle Lirette

The Five Best Events on the Culinary Calendar This Weekend

Bivalves, beer, benefits and booze are on the menu this weekend, but if you don't care for any of those, we've also rounded up whimsical events that celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, and the defeat of You-Know-Who through the end of December.

Work from artist Scott Young, whose studio is the site of December 13's Knockout Cancer dinner.EXPAND
Work from artist Scott Young, whose studio is the site of December 13's Knockout Cancer dinner.
Jordan Spencer

Friday, December 13
In partnership with the Knockout art exhibit that opened at the Dairy Block on December 1, chef Kelly Whitaker (Basta, Wolf's Tailor, Bruto) is cooking a Knockout Cancer dinner on Friday, December 13, that benefits First Descents, a nonprofit organization that provides free outdoor experiences for people impacted by cancer and other serious illnesses. Billed as an "experiential" and "immersive" dinner produced by Thrice, the evening begins at 6 p.m. at Bruto, 1801 Blake Street, with cocktails and oysters before moving to neon artist Scott Young's studio at 1821 Blake Street, where dinner and drinks from Blanchard Family Wines and Run for the Roses will be followed by an art auction. Tickets, $165, are on sale now at Eventbrite.

From now through December 31, Panzano and Hotel Monaco (at 909 17th Street) are partnering with the Denver Zoo for a Zoo Lights-themed pop-up in Panzano’s lounge. Zoo fans already know that each winter the Denver Zoo is decorated with beautiful lights and sculptures, and the theme will carry through to Panzano with twinkling lights, lanterns, palms and animal sculptures. But the restaurant has something you won't find anywhere else: a  Zoo Lights cocktail menu with specialty drinks named after the Panzano team’s favorite animals. Drink up, animal-style; a portion of proceeds will go to the Denver Zoo.

Give a shuck at Morin on December 14.EXPAND
Give a shuck at Morin on December 14.
Danielle Lirette

Saturday, December 14
Nothing is better on New Year's Eve than champagne, and nothing goes better with champagne than oysters. And while the new year is a mere two weeks away, that's still enough time to get some bottles of bubbly and learn how to shuck some of the fiddly little sea creatures, thanks to Morin's oyster-shucking and tasting class on Saturday, December 14. From 2 to 3:30 p.m., Ben Wolven, the French eatery's oyster and raw bar manager (not to mention winner of oyster-shucking championships in two states and top-ten finisher at the World Oyster Invitational) will teach the class, where you'll learn about differences in East and West Coast bivalves, how to source the critters and how to pry them open without removing a finger or two. Tuition, $125, includes tasting (of both oysters and wine), hands-on lessons, and all the gear you need to continue practicing at home; email info@morindenver.com to reserve your spot in the intimate class.

Of all the reasons to get rip-roaring drunk, the holidays are high on the list. Between awkward, mandatory office parties, gift-giving expenses and anxiety, fraught family dynamics and endless repetitions of Last Christmas (though the Wham! music video is a legit classic that should be viewed once and only once each December — sound is optional), it's no surprise that many of us want to shut down our brain cells with some tasty ethanol. For those who don't even celebrate the holiday, the endless hoopla surrounding snow and Santa is even more painful. Enter Festivus, the holiday anyone can celebrate, with traditions that appeal to our universal human nature. Add beer, and you get the Denver Beer Festivus, where the Feats of Strength are fueled by Denver breweries' favorite beers. This year, the aluminum pole is being set up on Saturday, December 14, at Major Studios, 3881 Steele Street; come ready to air your grievances from 3 to 6 p.m. Tickets, $45 or $60, are for sale on the event's website.

The Block Distilling Co. is releasing its first whiskey on December 15.EXPAND
The Block Distilling Co. is releasing its first whiskey on December 15.
Maria Levitov Photography

Sunday, December 15
The Block Distilling Co., our Best New Distillery of last year, is adding whiskey to its lineup of vodka, gins and coffee liqueur on Sunday, December 15. On the anniversary of the outfit's second year in business, the beverage that's been residing in barrels for the past two years is finally being brought into the world at a whiskey release party running from noon to 10 p.m. at the tasting room, 2990 Larimer Street. Each guest will be able to purchase two of the 700 bottles that were produced (the first hundred customers get a swanky canvas and leather gift bag), plus cocktails, neat pours and grub from the Pasty Republic food truck. And while entry to the distillery is free, you're requested to RSVP to the party on the Block's website, where you can also find all the afternoon's details.

And if you're planning ahead...

Wednesday, December 18
Sarto's Wednesday, December 18, dinner isn't technically a Feast of the Seven Fishes (it's not happening on Christmas Eve), but if you're not a purist, it'll be close enough — and by "close enough," we mean "delicious." The Jefferson Park kitchen, 2900 West 25th Avenue, is turning out six courses plus a briny appetizer (okay, it's seven fishes if you squint), including salt cod gnocchi tater tots with lemon aioli, lobster bisque and spaghetti with a spicy shrimp puttanesca sauce. Even dessert includes the fruits of the ocean with a bottarga (cured fish roe) crumble over vanilla gelato. Make your reservations for the 6:30 p.m. dinner by calling 303-455-1400; the cost is $75, plus optional wine pairings for $35.

What better theme for dessert virtuoso Ian Kleinman to tackle than the wizarding world of Harry Potter? The theme and date of the chef's next Gobblefunk dinner has just been released: Christmas at Hogwarts, on Wednesday, December 18, at 6:30 p.m. As with all of Kleinman's pop-up dinners, this one is sure to sell out well before the menu is finalized — and with the regular offerings at the Inventing Room Dessert Shop, 4433 West 29th Avenue, including exploding whipped cream and ice cream noodles, we're sure the evening will be nothing short of magical. To reserve your spot for the $100 dinner, call 303-885-2802. If you haven't been blown away by Kleinman's creations yet, visit the Shop's website for previous Gobblefunk menus and to sign up for its newsletter, which is the quickest way to learn about upcoming feasts.

Have dinner at Dos Luces on December 19.EXPAND
Have dinner at Dos Luces on December 19.
Fermentable Sugar

Thursday, December 19
Dos Luces Brewery, 1236 South Broadway, has stayed true to its mission of producing pre-Hispanic tipples since it opened last year. And while its commitment to brewing agave and corn-based beverages like pulque and chicha seems like it would limit the outfit's market, it found the perfect partner for its Thursday, December 19, beer dinner: Four Directions Cuisine, which combines ingredients from indigenous cultures in Latin and North America to create a pan-native style of cooking. Courses includes salad with roasted winter squash, popped amaranth and elderberry balsamic, sweet potato hash with duck and juniper berry sauce, and wild rice pudding, all paired with very non-traditional variations of traditional brews like cranberry tepache (traditionally fermented from pineapple peels), passion fruit-orange zest chicha and ponche pulque (or pulque punch). Tickets for the three-course, 6:30 p.m. dinner are just $65 (inclusive of tax and tip) and are on sale now on the Dos Luces website.

Sufganiyot, just like mom used to make; this version is from Ash'Kara.EXPAND
Sufganiyot, just like mom used to make; this version is from Ash'Kara.
Mark Antonation

Sunday, December 22
Hanukkah begins Sunday, December 22, and with its arrival comes celebratory food at our two favorite Israeli restaurants in town. Ash'Kara, 2005 West 33rd Avenue, is serving a menu of rotating Hanukkah specials through Monday, December 30. Show up — more than once! — to see what the kitchen is turning out; preliminary reports call for pastrami short ribs, root-vegetable latkes and sufganiyot, a jelly doughnut traditionally devoured by the dozen for the holiday, and more. Reservations are available on Ash'Kara's website. Meanwhile, Safta's holiday menu includes a latke board with all the accompaniments (tsimmes, a dish of sweetened veggies; matbucha, a red pepper dip; zhoug, a spicy cilantro sauce; and labneh, strained yogurt) and rose sufganiyot with quince filling. You'll be able to get the goods at 3330 Brighton Boulevard through Sunday, December 29; make your reservation on the eatery's website.

Tuesday, December 24
Last Christmas Eve saw disappointed diners (Jewish and otherwise) heaving sighs of dismay as Rosenberg's Bagels & Delicatessen took a hiatus from hosting its annual Jewish Christmas meal. But on Tuesday, December 24, the Chinese-Jewish deli mashup pop-up — inspired by the tradition of Jewish families heading out for a feast of Chinese food on the eve of a Christian holiday — is back at the eatery's Stanley Marketplace location, 2501 Dallas Street in Aurora. From 6 to 9 p.m., people of all faiths are invited to gather for Reuben egg rolls, smoked salmon rangoon, teriyaki kippered salmon and kung pao pastrami, along with beer, wine and spiked cider and cocoa. Proceeds from ticket sales ($70 for early-bird orders placed by Monday, December 8, on Eventbrite, $80 thereafter) will go to benefit Conscious Alliance, a nonprofit organization feeding the hungry via food drives at concerts and the sale of music-themed art and memorabilia.

Saturday, January 11
Is it too early to start planning your New Year's resolutions? Not if yours is to eat more oatmeal. On Saturday, January 11, the City of Lafayette is holding its 24th annual oatmeal festival. That's right: In the realm of quirky agricultural festivals around Colorado, this one celebrates neither peaches nor Pueblo chiles, but porridge. A massive breakfast of 200 gallons of oatmeal with 100 different toppings, 4,000 oatmeal pancakes and 1,200 oatmeal muffins will be served from 7:30 a.m. to noon, At 9:30 a.m., you can take to the streets in a 5K run (and walk, if you're not looking to exceed the speed of an ocean of oatmeal oozing down the course). Breakfast runs $8, or $20 with race registration; find out more on the Lafayette Chamber of Commerce website.

If you know of a date that should be on this calendar, send information to cafe@westword.com.

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