The last time Anthony Bourdain passed through Denver, on a 2002 loop hyping A Cook's Tour, he found nothing in this town to recommend a return trip -- and said so, loudly.

Still, he got a warm welcome when he returned yesterday for "An Evening with Anthony Bourdain" at the Buell Theatre, which turned into a real cooks' night out with restaurateurs using the event as an excuse to celebrate their profession, if not Bourdain's earlier opinion of Denver.

And Mayor John Hickenlooper took care of that. "Denver is the only major city with a former restaurateur owner as mayor," he said, as he took the stage to introduce Bourdain.

And running a city has a lot in common with running a restaurant, he noted: "The public is also pissed off about something."

Fork you: John Hickenlooper serves up Anthony Bourdain

Hickenlooper went on to tout Denver's 2253 restaurants, which account for almost 50 percent of the city's sales tax; the eighteen elementary-school gardens putting food on the table; the fact that "Colorado is the beer capital of the country" -- a pronouncement that inspired hoops and hollers.

And then he introduced Bourdain, offering him a sterling silver Fork to the City.

Bourdain had already been presented with a collection of local microbrews, and he put one to good use as he took a swig and started his Denver talk with this: "An apology is in order."

But by the end of Bourdain's generous talk, which accommodated dozens of questions from fans both wacky and wise, he had nothing to apologize for. And neither did Denver.

Come back here later today for Lori Midson's account of Bourdain's day in Denver.

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