Sober and not-so-sober observations from the Taste of the Nation

Yesterday afternoon, Denver's best chefs rolled out the culinary red carpet and rubbed tongs with smitten admirers and other do-gooders who showed up in droves at Share Our Strength's Taste of the Nation, a charity event that benefits anti-hunger organizations in Colorado and across the nation. The celebration was chef-chaired by Steuben's and Vesta Dipping Grill kitchen magician Matt Selby, who, with a lot of help from a lot of friends, pulled off a fantastic party. A silent auction, live auction, enough Colorado beers to flood, well, the Colorado River and a mixology competition among the city's top cocktail artists ensured that no one left hungry or thirsty -- and that even if you left broke in the wallet, at least you were rich in the give-o-meter. Herewith, my other observations (which you should take with a grain of alcohol):

1. It should be a lot easier to get a bottle of beer, rather an ounce of beer, at the Taste, but because of that limitation, I remained relatively sober until some nice gentleman handed me a tall tumbler of fresh prickly pear juice liquored up with god knows what.

2) Noticeably missing from the cooking action was Frank Bonanno (Bones, Luca D'Italia, Osteria Marco and Mizuna), probably because he was building another restaurant somewhere to add to his empire.

3) Also missing in action was Top Chef winner Hosea Rosenberg, who I definitely expected to see roaming around the room with a cardboard cutout of himself, just like they have on display at the SouthGlenn Whole Foods Market.

4) Most of the food was really, really good, save for a few dishes, but the best of the bunch, at least in my mouth, was the braised lamb shank mini tostadas with whipped goat cheese and tomatillo syrup from Vesta Dipping Grill. Damn, those were good.

5) Sean Kenyon, the mixologist and bar manager at Steuben's, has the most effing amazing pig tattoo in the world --and he didn't even balk when a bunch of hopelessly inebriated girls asked him to take his shirt off...and show it off.

6. The tacos from the Mezcal taco truck, parked outside, were insanely good, as was the Mexican ice cream from the super nice guy who passed out Popsicles from Paleteria Cuauhtemo, which has a standard location at 1550 South Federal Boulevard.

7. If memory serves, the ingredient used most often last night was watermelon, which was used best by Table 6 exec chef Scott Parker, who stacked small blocks of watermelon rind with micro greens, mint, cilantro and pork belly capped with an oyster-caramel sauce.

8. The dessert highlight of the night was the chocolate and wild cherry sugar rush from D Bar Desserts' duo Keegan Gerhard and Lisa Bailey, who sweetened their confection with amaretto cream and crunchy chocolate rice pearls.

9. People were generous last night with their donations, but if you feel like being even more charitable, there are several ways to get involved with Share Our Strength, including purchasing an SOS T-shirt designed by Josh Ford, one of Denver's top tattoo experts, and the guy responsible for stamping "foie gras" across Matt Selby's knuckles.
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Lori Midson
Contact: Lori Midson