Last night, Denver's who's who of chefs congregated at the Colorado Convention Center for Chefs Up Front Denver, a fundraiser that benefited Cooking Matters, a nonprofit that fights childhood hunger and malnutrition and teaches healthy food courses to underserved families on a budget.
The multiple-course dinners, prepared tableside by Denver's top toques -- Olav Peterson (Bittersweet), Jorel Pierce (Euclid Hall), Beau Simmons (Jonesy's Eat Bar), Jamey Fader (Lola), Daniel Asher (Root Down), Max MacKissock (Squeaky Bean), Troy Guard (TAG) and Aaron Whitcomb (Yia Yias's) among them -- were remarkably good, and we brought back plenty of lusty food pics to make you wish you were there.
Aaron Whitcomb, executive chef of Yia Yias, served a nine-course menu, including this spring soup with squash blossoms, kalamata olive kataifi and fresh ricotta puddled in a green garlic bisque. Samir Mohammad, exec chef of the Village Cork, turned out, among other dishes, strips of house-cured duck prosciutto with baby arugula and a quail egg. Brandon Biederman of Steuben's wowed his table with baked goat sausage-stuffed calamari pooled in a spicy tomato, olive and onion gravy sprinkled with micro-cilantro. Olav Peterson, the kitchen magician/owner of Bittersweet, dished out a lobster-stuffed tortaloni with a cubed potato and asparagus salad floating in a lemongrass broth. Michael Long, chef/owner of Aria, brought out the sea urhcin, which was one of the most talked-about dishes of the night. Luca D' Italia's Frank Bonanno served a medieval-size veal chop with Fontina fonduta and Roman gnocchi in a veal reduction. That crazy crew from the Squeaky Bean cooked -- and hammed it up while posing for photos. Johnny Ballen, head bean, swore that after last night's party, he was going to retire the Squeaky Bean-stamped polyester leisure suit. I think he should keep it: It suits him. Max MacKissock, our pick for Best Chef in this year's Best of Denver, served a terrific terrine with green garlic, fresh-picked turnip flowers, shaved asparagus, dots of mustard, ramps and a ham gelee. Daniel Asher, chef of Root Down, plated caramelized harissa scallops with a Colorado millet and Turkish spoon salad dusted with shaved Hawaiian red sea salt. Aria's Michael Long was smokin' hot, serving cold "steamed" oysters with a ginger and citrus sake. Jorel Pierce, chef of Euclid Hall, turned out pan-seared lamb chops with braised Merguez sausage plated with spinach, chickpeas, coriander and harissa. For the dessert course, Beau Simmons, head chef of Jonesy's Eat Bar, served a candy apple mochi with Sweet Action ice cream, housemade apple mochi and zigzags of caramel. Most tables had vases of spring tulips. In addition to those, the Squeaky Bean table pimped a pig peep show and religious candles. Natch. Root Down's Daniel Asher plates his sea scallops.
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