When the stretch Hummer limo emblazoned with a Hornitos sign -- commandeered by a tequila-loving pal -- pulled up in front of my house, I knew I was in for an unusual evening, one that would take a few twists and turns, not unlike that limo trying to maneuver the winding stretch that led from my house to Lola.
That's where chef/owner Jamey Fader was hosting the first Dos Casas, a benefit for Brent's Place, which is building a new home-away-from-home for young cancer patients and their families, one close by the relocated Children's Hospital.
There may be no more generous group than Denver restaurateurs -- there's certainly no group hit up more often for charitable donations -- and so Fader had cooked up the idea of creating his own event that would not only benefit a very worthy cause, but provide patrons with an extremely memorable evening. To do so, he enlisted the aid of five more energetic, generous chefs (Tyler Wiard was fresh from a celebrity chef cook-off that benefited Concerts for Kids) to come to his kitchen at 1575 Boulder Street and cook up variations on Lola's coastal Mexican fare.
In one of those twists, Fader, who'd planned to address the folks who'd each paid $75 ($150 VIP) for endless margaritas and samplings, never got the chance. The night of April 30 was so nice that people poured onto the patio, enjoying the evening, the music, the food that kept coming, fabulous dish after fabulous dish, and those endless margaritas. And the chefs never got to explain the dishes they'd created. But a good time (a too-good time, in many cases) was had by all.
On my way out, I asked Fader if he could re-create the menu. Here it is, with a few notes of my own attached:
Sheila Lucero of Jax Fish House Denver: VIP: oysters on the half shell with cucumber ice Main event: cold blue crab and avocado salad on crispy potatoes (add this to Jax menu ASAP)
Duy Pham, formerly of Aqua, now unaffiliated VIP: poached lobster and lobster "tamale"-charred tomatillo puree Main event: crispy skin duck with pork belly, toasted chile and butterbean cassoulet (duck and pork! Be still my heart -- and arteries)
Goose Sorenson of Solera VIP: wild mushroom and duck confit pizzetta Main event: seared scallops and spanish chorizo with sriracha aioli (I heard rave reviews, but never saw it. Sigh)
Tyler Wiard of Elway's VIP: oysters with smoked caviar and sweet lacquer Main event: dry rubbed beef with short rib gratin (incredible, and even better than his winning lamb dish at the cook-off)
Matt Selby & Wade Kirwan of Vesta Dipping Grill & Steuben's VIP: achiote foie gras (those lucky geese) and chocolate tamale Main event: smoked pork belly and creamy garbanzos with jamon serrano (more pork belly! If you're eating bacon for a good cause, surely it's good for you)
Jamey Fader of Lola VIP: osetra caviar, lemon crema fresca-egg salad and black bean-huitlacoche pancakes (a must for the Best of Denver brunch bunch) Main event: pineapple bbq'd diver scallop with pickled onion-habanero mojo
Hungry for more? Fader promises that the event will be back next year, with a few twists.
But not too many, I hope. The next night, when my pal showed up at Mezcal for another tequila-fueled charity event (yes, restaurateurs are generous), he could hardly hold his head up off the bar. --- Patricia Calhoun