Birthdays and brunch are perennial occasions to celebrate, but so are barbacoa and birria — and you can get all of the above this weekend, along with some lucha libre action, at Westword's annual Tacolandia event on August 17. Keep reading for the best food and drink events this weekend, as well as more to plan for in the month ahead.
Friday, August 16
Who knew perennially sunny singer-songwriter Jewel had waded into the ever-more-crowded waters of professional "wellness?" Not us, but the guitar-toting waif who ruled the airwaves for a few years in the mid-'90s founded the Wellness Your Way festival in 2018, and this year it's coming to Colorado. From Friday, August 16, to Sunday, August 18, the Colorado Convention Center will host an expo that includes cooking demos, fitness sessions, meet-and-greets and performances, including a Saturday night concert from Jewel herself. The lineup stars the usual nutrition and fitness speakers, including Jillian Michaels and, inexplicably, blogger Perez Hilton. We'd love to know how many calories the prickly TV trainer and modern-day gossip columnist would burn sniping at each other; you may be able to find out when doors open Friday at 11 a.m. Tickets range from $10 for single-day admission to $75 for all-inclusive weekend passes on the festival's website.
Smashburger entered the world as a beautiful, bouncing baby burger twelve years ago right here in Denver. Now entering tween-hood, the multi-national brand is celebrating its twelfth birthday by selling a Double Classic Smash for just twelve cents when you buy one double cheeseburger at the regular price of $6.99 on Friday, August 16. So upend your couch cushions and dig around under your car seats, because you're finally going to get some use out of those pennies you've been squirreling away before the U.S. Mint comes to its senses and stops making them. Visit Smashburger's website to find a location.
Back in 1985, Pat McGaughran was such a fan of Mexico's black beans that after opening the first Rio Grande in Fort Collins, he gave some beans to a Longmont farmer to grow for his restaurant. The six Rio Grande locations now operating are still dedicated to Colorado produce, and this Friday, August 16, the cantinas are proving it with the launch of Harvest Days, featuring a menu from chef Erich Whisenhunt, the Rio's director of food and beverage, that will run through September 15. Colorado-grown fruits and vegetables will make appearances in watermelon margaritas, Olathe sweet corn esquite fundido, barbecue ribs with housemade tortillas, and Palisade peaches-and-cream sopaipillas. For a complete menu with prices, visit the Rio Grande website. Harvest Days will run at all Rio locations except the Frisco outpost.
Saturday, August 17
Tacolandia returns to Civic Center Park, Broadway and Colfax Avenue, for a fourth year on Saturday, August 17, from 4 to 7 p.m., 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 (Adelitas Cocina y Cantina, Kachina Cantina), taquerias (El Aguila Azteca, Antojitos la Poblanita, El Coco Pirata) food trucks (El Moreno, Taco Block, Pico Arepa), and even the odd grocery store and sandwich shop (Carniceria Aaliyah, Torta Grill). Tickets, $25 for general admission or $55 for VIP, are on sale at westwordtacolandia.com (get them today, though, because the price goes up after midnight). Other attractions include a car show, Latino art, lucha libre wrestlers and a DJ.
Love the idea of hitting a farmers' market and nabbing seasonal produce, but are lost when it comes to how to combine all the fruits and veggies to build an actual meal? Get some tips from the pros on Saturday, August 17, with Panzano's Bike and Brunch. Show up at the Italian restaurant, 1717 Champa Street, at 10 a.m., where you'll be outfitted with a bike and helmet, and make the short ride to Union Station Farmers' Market with Panzano's executive chef; you'll learn how to select produce before returning to the restaurant for an intimate brunch demo using ingredients that you bought from producers just an hour ago. The exercise, cooking lesson and meal will run you $75 (including bike rental!); for more details, read our coverage of last month's event, then call the restaurant at 303-296-3525 to secure your spot.
Chef Bill Espiricueta's baby, Smok, is having a birthday this weekend, its first. So the barbecue joint inside the Source Market Hall at 3300 Brighton Boulevard is celebrating all weekend. On Saturday, August 17, and Sunday, August 18, the spot is serving up a Best of Smok Birthday Platter: perfectly smoked hot wings, brisket, pulled pork, burnt ends (our favorite!), turkey. and jalapeño-cheddar sausage, plus tangy pickles and squishy white bread for $30. The overloaded sheet pan serves two to four, and you can pair it with the bar's excellent cocktails or even a Bartles & Jaymes wine cooler (which, at 38 years of age, is old enough to be Smok's real dad). Doors open at 11 a.m.
If you're a masochist, you won't want to miss this year's Parade of Homes. Torture yourself by touring houses you'll never, ever be able to afford — and this year, you can get fed while doing it. While the Parade runs Thursday to Sunday through August 25, chefs will take over the stainless-steel appliances and gas ranges of the gorgeous homes on Saturday, August 17, and Sunday, August 18. Select houses along the Front Range will host chefs from restaurants like Luca and French 75 cooking up a storm, and you'll be able to sample the goods before moving on to the next showroom-quality mansion. The best part: It's all free — it has to be, since the cost of a nice dinner at many of Denver's tony restaurants is approaching the monthly mortgage on a 500-square-foot condo. Find out more at the Parade of Homes website, where you can also create your customized tour of over seventy houses.
Sunday, August 18
Denver's red-sauce joints are dropping like the Corleones, but there are a few still-standing Italian traditions to be found on Denver's Northside. On Sunday, August 18, the Potenza Lodge, 1900 West 38th Avenue, is putting on its 126th St. Rocco's Italian Festival. That means the neighborhood fair has been going strong for four generations — long before the ’hood was dubbed Highland, Sunnyside, LoHi or any other nickname that draws the ire of longtime locals. The festival closes out its three-day run from 4 to 9 p.m. on Sunday (though it's open from 5 to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday) with Italian sausages, meatball sandwiches, pizzelle (elaborately decorated waffle cookies), pizza fritta (deep fried pizza!) and spiked Italian sodas. Visit the Lodge's Facebook page for details on the free event and take part in one of Denver's oldest traditions before it disappears in the midst of poorly constructed apartment buildings and rampant gentrification.
Keep reading for future food and drink events.
Monday, August 19
Mondays are lousy, but yours could be worse. One: You're not one of the whole Maine lobsters being boiled for Stoic & Genuine's patio seafood boil. Two: You can indulge in that lobster — plus mussels, clams, prawns, potatoes and Olathe sweet corn — on Monday, August 19, through Wednesday, August 21. The table on the seafood shack's patio at 1701 Wynkoop Street will be covered in newspaper and oilcloth so the feast can be spread out before you — and then you can get your hands dirty as you peel, crack, shuck and slurp your way to shellfish bliss. Call the restaurant at 303-640-3474 to reserve your spot (there are just 25 available each night) for $95 each.
Sunday, August 25
More than 200 restaurants opened in Denver last year — and it seems all of them started serving brunch within a few months of opening their doors. For brunchophiles trying to work their way through all the restaurants in town serving the meal, that's a tall order. But on Sunday, August 25, you can make a significant dent in your to-brunch list at BrunchFest 2019. The McNichols Building, 144 West Colfax Avenue, is the site of the boozy shenanigans, with more than twenty restaurants serving brunch dishes, plus unlimited Bloodys and mimosas, from noon to 3 p.m. Tickets run $59 to $109, and you can pick them up, as well as see participating restaurants, on the event website.
Tuesday, August 27, and Wednesday, August 28
Den Corner knows how to throw a party, and its annual rooftop party and fundraiser only gets better with age. What started out in 2016 with a handful of chefs flown in from Japan has morphed into even more festivities, with twenty Japanese chefs hopping the pond to raise funds for Colorado's We Don't Waste and southern Japan's Kumamoto Castle Earthquake Relief Fund. This year, local chefs Carrie Baird, Ian Wortham, Caroline Glover, Dana Rodriguez, Elise Wiggins, Alex Seidel, Paul Reilly, Alon Shaya and more will join the shindig on August 27 and 28; beer, wine, cocktails and sake will be flowing, while ramen, hand rolls and Japanese street food will be plentiful. Tickets for the party, which runs from 7 to 10 p.m. both nights on the roof of the Den Corner parking garage at East Florida Avenue and Pearl Street, are $90 (includes three drink tickets), $110 (includes five drink tickets), or $135 (VIP early admission at 5 p.m., plus five drink tickets), and can be purchased on Sushi Den's website, along with a complete list of participating chefs and menu details. As with everything manned by Toshi and Yasu Kizaki, the party generally sells out, so don't delay in guaranteeing your entry.
Wednesday, August 28
Brace yourself: Come Wednesday, August 28, you're going to need all your fortitude — intestinal and liver — to make it through the evening. That's because Chef & Brew, the sprawling summer bazaar of bites and booze, is returning to town. Starting at 7 p.m., the Exdo Event Center, 1399 15th Street, will host a wonderland of sweet and savory bites and local craft beers. Forty dishes (two from each eatery) will be paired with forty different brews, so it's statistically impossible for you to leave without finding something to tickle your tastebuds. And more than honor is on the line here: Cash prizes will be handed out, so chefs and brewers will be on their A game. Tickets are $49 or $69 on the event website, where you can also find a complete list of participants.
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Wednesday, September 4, through Sunday, September 8
September brings cooler temps (we hope!), as well as the return of the annual Denver Food and Wine Festival. From Wednesday, September 4, through Sunday, September 8, restaurants around town will be turning out immaculately plated food, and the wine will be flowing freely. There are annual events (the Riedel wineglass seminar, good for those who want to appear über-sophisticated while sipping — or just those who've broken the majority of their glassware, since you'll be going home with a set of four glasses); bougie events (Dinner Under the Stars, this year taking place at our favorite Italian restaurant in a brewery, Liberati); crowd-pleasers (a patio party at Cattivella and the Bartender's Bash cocktail competition); the marquee event (the Grand Tasting, with over 700 wines and spirits, chef demos and food from forty top Denver restaurants); and a Sunday brunch (again at Liberati) that's sure to pave your way smoothly from hangover to Sunday Funday. Tickets run from $45 to $150 and are available on the festival's website.
Thursday, October 24
Feast, Westword's annual celebration of the Denver restaurant scene, will make its delicious return to the McNichols Building on a new day and time: 7 to 10 p.m. Thursday evening. As always, though, Feast will be a true feast for the senses, with music, beverage samplings and dishes from more than forty favorite restaurants. Among those already signed on to sample their food are Uchi, Jackdaw, Milk & Cake, The Veggie Whisperer, Roaming Buffalo Bar-B-Q and more. This year, VIP ticket holders will again be treated to a special menu, this year courtesy of the world-renowned Matsuhisa. Bites from Matsuhisa will include spicy tuna crispy rice, chicken gyoza, black cod miso in limestone lettuce, and more, as well as special VIP cocktails to complement the menu. VIP tickets also include early entry into the event at 6 p.m. and a VIP gift bag. Tickets are now on sale for $30 general admission, $55 VIP at westwordfeast.com.
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