Second Helpings

JW Marriott at Cherry Creek serves up an excellent event

If I were shopping venues for a wedding (or really, just about any party in Denver), I'd likely overlook chain hotels -- not only do most of those settings induce flashbacks of awful corporate events, but I've also had some pretty terrible food from the catering arms of those joints, which are usually all about producing massive quantities of passable entrees for an army of people the chef must figure are just there to booze. (The servers must assume this, too, because whatever hospitality staff is on hand is usually listless and inattentive.)

Fortunately, the couple whose wedding I attended on Saturday night didn't share my snobbery.

The pair got married at JW Marriott, and not only did the ceremony and reception take place in a pleasant courtyard with an outdoor fire pit -- which is about as far from a conference hall as you can get -- but the event featured some of the best wedding food I've had, period.

That was mostly evident in the entree choices, which were designed by Jeff Bolton, the executive chef of the hotel's restaurant, Second Home: supple slices of perfectly cooked halibut crowned a bed of rock shrimp risotto and garlic laced spinach; juicy slices of pork tenderloin topped cippolini onions and a nest of angel hair reminiscent of delicate macaroni and cheese. (Truth be told, I could have eaten a vat of that pasta myself and gone home totally fat and happy.)

Possibly even more impressive than the food? The service. One bartender memorized every guest's drink order (and had each person's drink waiting when he or she reached the front of the line). The team made serving over a hundred three-course dinners at the same time -- plus keeping water glasses full, diving for fallen napkins and refreshing bread baskets -- look like a graceful, choreographed dance. And the event coordinator who oversaw the party was on-hand the entire time to make sure nothing went wrong.

It was a hotel event meal that felt nothing like a hotel event meal -- which, in my book, is a very, very good thing.

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Laura Shunk was Westword's restaurant critic from 2010 to 2012; she's also been food editor at the Village Voice and a dining columnist in Beijing. Her toughest assignment had her drinking ten martinis and eating ten Caesar salads over the course of 48 hours. She still drinks martinis, but remains lukewarm on Caesar salads.
Contact: Laura Shunk