When Samuel Maher moved to Denver two years ago, he thought something was missing from the city’s dining scene. “I was looking for a vegan venue that wasn’t so fast-food based,” Maher says. “One that used the flavor of vegetables as vegetables rather than meat substitutes.”
This inspired him to start hosting plant-based pop-up dinners under the name Scam Likely, inspired by cuisines from around the world.
“We try and keep it as tasty and simple as possible,” Maher explains. Some of the vegan dishes prepared for those dinners include steamed tofu with a black-bean dressing; king brown mushrooms with ponzu dressing and miso eggplant, Szechuan eggplant with Asian coleslaw; a fresh vegan pasta with truffles and cream; and a sandwich with cashew-based ricotta and roasted tomatoes.
Dishes are prepared by chef Spencer Caine, and dinners are often held at La Fillette Bakery, 4416 East Eighth Avenue. The cost for four courses generally runs $35 per person, and the menu is created from various experiences — travel inspiration, what’s in season, what dishes were successful at earlier dinners, and what works best for guests to share, since all menus are designed to be served family-style.
“We strive to make it super-fun,” he says, noting that there's always an entertainment element, such as music or a movie playing.
Diners are usually a mix of plant-based eaters and omnivores. “It’s amazing. We get a lot of people who are just curious and just want to try something new,” Maher says. “We sell out every dinner a week and half in advance.” He estimates that about 50 percent of attendees return for the next dinner.
“I think sometimes the vegan-curious people are wondering about what to cook and how to cook it, and we kind of bridge that gap,” he explains. “It’s a bit healthier than just grabbing a vegan burger or hot dog.”
In addition to helping diners enjoy vegetable-forward dishes in a comfortable environment, Maher and the Scam Likely team are helping the environment. At each event, the goal is to produce as little waste as possible. This is achieved by buying fruits and vegetables without packaging, prepping everything in reusable containers rather than disposable ones, composting in the kitchen, and recycling any bottles or cardboard.
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