Slow Food Nations is coming to Denver July 14 through July 16; the goals of the international organization are to "prevent the disappearance of local food cultures and traditions, counteract the rise of fast life, and combat people’s dwindling interest in the food they eat, where it comes from and how our food choices affect the world around us." But even before the Slow Food gathering arrives in Denver, there are plenty of ways to pay homage to culinary culture and support good food all over the city. You may run into slow-food products without even trying; producers like Grateful Bread, a leader in the artisan food movement, are found in many of the city's best restaurants. If you're in town for Slow Food Nations or are just looking for thoughtful, well-made food, pay a visit to these ten eateries.
Beast + Bottle
719 East 17th Avenue
Since opening in March 2013, chef Paul Reilly and his sister Aileen have pushed to make their restaurant as sustainable as possible. This means you can expect nose-to-tail dining and whole-animal butchery; locally sourced and seasonal fruits and vegetables; eggs from a dedicated chicken flock at a nearby farm; and a cocktail program that specializes in Colorado spirits. Visit the Uptown restaurant any time, or head there for a special evening featuring award-winning chef John Currence cooking with Reilly on July 12.
1606 Conestoga Street, Boulder
At Hosea Rosenberg's Boulder restaurant, all the food served has been thoughtfully vetted through the lens of whether it's local, seasonal and/or organic. The beer, as well as many of the liquor and cocktail ingredients, comes from Colorado. Produce gets sourced from nearby farms and gets served depending on the harvest. And, as if that wasn't enough, the restaurant acts as a whole-animal butcher shop and is licensed to make cured meats, which it does happily with protein from nearby ranches.
Black Cat Bistro
1964 13th Street
Chef Eric Skokan is dedicated to making sure the cooking practices at his two Boulder restaurants remain sustainable and local, and he goes a step further by growing most of his own produce and raising a good portion of the meat that appears on his menu. Skokan started the 130-acre Black Cat Farm in conjunction with his first restaurant, which opened in 2006. Over the years he has grown the farm into an enterprise large enough to support two eateries and a farmers' market stand. From Mulefoot hogs to dozens of kinds of tomatoes to heirloom corn, guests will see these fantastic ingredients gracing dishes such as root-vegetable curry, roasted pork two ways, and flavorful salads bursting with fresh goodies. You can dine here or check out Skokan's sister restaurant, Bramble & Hare, right next door.
Comal Heritage Food Incubator
3455 Ringsby Court
One of the ideas behind Slow Food stems from staying true to traditional recipes and methods of cooking. At this small shop in the TAXI development in RiNo, you can expect to taste Salvadoran, Mexican and Peruvian cuisine made from traditional recipes by a group of women from the Globeville and Elyria-Swansea neighborhoods. The restaurant aims not only to showcase these foods, but also to support female entrepreneurs, which it does in tandem with Focus Points Family Resource Center. Comal is normally only open for lunch on weekdays, but also look for the venue as part of this week's Slow Food events, where it will be host to a special endangered-foods dinner and cooking demonstration featuring celebrity chef Rick Bayless.
2413 West 32nd Avenue
Cure Organic Farm, Morning Fresh Dairy, Tender Belly, Oxford Gardens, Bhakti Chai, the Real Dill and Novo Coffee are just a handful of the local farms and purveyors that owners Keith Arnold and Stephanie Bonin work with at their Highland restaurant. The pair push to keep this restaurant, and its sister establishment in Vermont, filled with local and fresh ingredients, something that shows in the quality of the food. Taste this dedication in dishes such as bison tartare with smoked rockfish aioli; pork chops with green-garlic polenta fries, mustard creamed spinach and rhubarb chow chow; and the daily frittata, which comes with whatever vegetables taste the best.
Keep reading for more Denver restaurants perfect for Slow Food Nations week...
530 East 19th Avenue
Most people don't think of ice cream as a slow food, but owners Geraldine Kim and Josh Gertzen have perfected the process. To start with, they operate their own miniature dairy plant in the shop, an aspect that helps them create a unique ice cream base using only organic products. "We believe that the Slow Food movement represents the essence of what we are about," says Kim. "In fact, quite literally so. Some of our ice cream flavors take up to four days to make." The list of small-batch ice creams changes all the time, but you can bet on getting a scoop of the delectable milk and cookies, milk chocolate nitro stout (made with Left Hand Brewing's Nitro Milk Stout) and good ol' strawberry. As a bonus, this year, National Ice Cream Day falls on the last day of Slow Food, so in case you were looking for an excuse to indulge, Frozen Matter is waiting for you in Uptown.
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1313 East 6th Avenue
Helping to pioneer the Denver slow-food scene, Fruition chef/owner Alex Seidel opened this Uptown restaurant in February 2007. Two years after he started the small, seasonal eatery, he bought a ten-acre farm in Larkspur that soon grew into the state's first artisan sheep’s-milk creamery. Dubbed Fruition Farms, the venture helps provide fruits and vegetables to Seidel's two restaurants as well as delicious cheese made on site. While not all of the restaurant's ingredients come straight from the farm, the mantra of Fruition is to provide as much local and seasonal fare as possible, which it does brilliantly.
4334 West 41st Avenue
Yes, links of hard sausages, thin slices of prosciutto and slices of Canadian bacon can easily fit into the Slow Food ideal, especially if you get said products from this Berkeley venue that won a national Good Food Award this year. Keep in mind that you'll find far more of the classic Italian salumi you might be used to. Colorado cured and preserved meats comes straight from owners Brian Albano and Bill Miner's whole-animal butcher program. That means you will see goodies such as bison pastrami, pork rillettes, wagyu beef braseola, fermented summer sausage and lamb prosciutto gracing the menu, along with many other changing selections. Take it to go or get a prepared sandwich and hang out in the salumeria's tiny dining room.
1109 Ogden Street
Chef Teri Rippeto opened her garden restaurant in 1997, and for the past twenty years, the farm-to-table philosophy has remained the same. She sources meat, cheese and produce from Cottonwood Creek Farm, Ugly Goat Dairy, Aspen Moon Farm, Sea 2 Table and Red Wagon Farm, to name a few. Some of the dishes coming out of this seasonal kitchen include chilled Munson Farm corn and miso soup with zucchini; Cure Farm zucchini fritters; twice-baked Haystack Mountain chèvre souffle with stewed apricots; and Corner Post Farm pork dumplings with peaches and fried onions. There's no mystery here about the source of Rippeto's ingredients, making Potager fit in perfectly with the Slow Food movement.
Rosenberg’s Bagels and Delicatessen
725 East 26th Avenue
Though bagels aren't the first thing to come to mind when one thinks about Slow Food, the process owner Joshua Pollack has developed does. Instead of boring old Colorado water, Pollack found a way to replicate New York City's water, a component that many believe makes the Big Apple's bagels stand out. His idea worked, and Rosenberg's serves some of the best bagels around. Lucky for us, though, Pollack didn't stop at the bagels; he also cures his own fish, a practice that dates back centuries to a time and culture when preserving fish (and other meats) was a way to store food for colder months. Bagel fans should definitely check out the downtown delicatessen, and if you're looking for more information about Pollack's process, consider the course on salmon curing that he's hosting during Slow Food Nations on July 15.