"Look at the light, look at the outdoors," says Rich Grant, pointing to the setting sun. Surrounded by three stories of large glass windows in the Cable Center, it's easy to appreciate one of Colorado's best assets -- the outdoors -- and to get the point he's making: Why not hold restaurant week during the Summer, when the state is full of light and fresh produce is at its peak?
Denver's Restaurant Week, started ten years ago, featured 84 participating restaurants -- a number that has risen to over 200 this year. "When we had it for two weeks," Grant says, "it was the biggest restaurant week in the country. The feedback we were getting from everyone -- from customers and restaurants -- was to scale it back to one week in the winter and then try one week in the summer."
And it makes sense. Many restaurants have patios or rooftops that, when in use, add 50 to 60 percent more seats. But more importantly, it puts Colorado-grown food on the front burner.
"Colorado is now known for locally sourced food, and for our produce," Grant explains, referring to Olathe corn and peaches that are currently being harvested in Western Colorado. "We're going to have some really great things that you can only do in the summer. It's a great showcase for the state."
As communications director for Visit Denver, the organization that created Restaurant Week, Grant has seen this showcase evolve.
"I was in the room when we started Restaurant Week ten years ago. It was like a Continental Congress of restaurateurs -- Frank Bonanno was there, Yasu (Kizaki) from Sushi Den was there. We said, 'Let's try this.'"
Keep reading for more about Restaurant Week, and more photos...