Earlier this year, Phil Armstrong, a veteran restaurant industry guy who has more ambition than the entire graduating class of Harvard, unleashed Hush, an underground supper club that hosts intimate dinners at various venues around Denver and Boulder, many of them in unusual places -- fields, warehouses and atop parking structures, among them -- and now he's planning for his next big thing. And big thing after that.
On Saturday, October 23, Armstrong is hosting Hush's first Adventures in Dining getaway, a twenty-four hour food orgy that will take place in an off the beaten path hideaway in a small town whose whereabouts are only revealed to the twelve guests who sign up for the $600 rendezvous, which includes a chef reception, five-course dinner, paired with wines, a blow-out breakfast, cooking demo, light lunch and a tricked out room in which to slumber, complete with a jacuzzi tub.
The first escape, one of four between next week and the end of December, touts the kitchen flair of Matthew Jansen, the exec chef/owner of Mateo in Boulder. And Armstrong has nailed down chefs Alex Schuler (Arugula, Boulder), James Mazzio (Olive Oil) and Daniel Asher (Root Down) for the future wine and dine excursions.
While the Adventures in Dining getaways will treat lucky sojourners to gluttony and revelry, Armstrong isn't stopping there. Next on his agenda? Roving pop-up restaurants -- dining emporiums that "pop up" in the location of another restaurant (or licensed venue) for a temporary amount of time. It's a growing trend that's already taken off in London, New York, Los Angeles and Chicago, and while Basic Kneads pizza is the first to erect a pop-up restaurant in Denver, which you can see firsthand tonight and tomorrow night at 2460 Eliot Street, Armstrong is bound and determined to make pop-ups a permanent part of Denver's culinary landscape.
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"I've been chasing the dream of opening my own restaurant for fucking forever, but trying to open a restaurant is such a nightmare, not to mention exhausting," says Armstrong, "so instead, I'm going to do pop-up restaurants in different restaurants throughout the city in underutilized kitchens." Or, in "potentially great breakfast spots," adds Armstrong, coyly.
The concept, which Armstrong is calling "NOMAD," is a joint venture between Hush Concepts and Dining Out magazine, and the plan, says Armstrong, is to give chefs, both local and national, the opportunity to introduce new dishes, new menu releases or new restaurant concepts to an intimate group of diners who want to be the first to know when something's afoot on the culinary front. "A chef who's opening a new restaurant in Denver contacted me and wanted a place for people to taste his food before he opens, and that was what sort of put this into motion," says Armstrong. "If a chef is new to Denver, or contemplating opening a restaurant in Denver, this is an excellent way to do a test run, and it's great for diners who want to try new things ahead of the curve."
NOMAD, which will launch in November in a yet-to-be-determined location, will operate just like a regular restaurant, notes Armstrong, with an a la carte menu, a front- and back-of-the-house staff, wine and cocktails and a reservation system. "A menu with prices will be on our website and we'll accept reservations, just like at a regular restaurant," he says. The initial pilot run, explains Armstrong, will take place over three nights. "If it all goes well, then well do these as often as we can."