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Still alive after the first Denver Five

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Last night I attended the first of a quintet of dinners coming from the Denver Five, the merry band of chefs who've represented Denver so ably by cooking at the renowned James Beard House in New York City the last two years. The group consists of Tyler Wiard (Elway's), Jamey Fader (Lola), Matt Selby (Vesta and Steuben's), Troy Guard (TAG) and Keegan Gerhard (D Bar Desserts), and I'm convinced that these chefs could take table scraps and make them taste like the best meal you've ever eaten -- so to say that all five courses were delicious would be an immense understatement.

But for me, the addition of cocktail pairings by Sean Kenyon (Steuben's) and Jimmy Zanon (Lola) bumped the meal over the top. While creating successful food and wine pairings requires a certain skill, matching food and cocktails requires real genius -- which Kenyon and Zanon definitely displayed. Kenyon's pairing of the long-forgotten classic cocktail Vieux Carre (Rye 1 Rye, ten-year-old Cognac, Antico Carpano, vermouth, bitters) with Matt Selby's lobster la plancha, a lobster and pork belly dish, was my favorite -- perhaps because it was the first pairing, and my tastebuds (and memory) were still clear. Still, subsequent pairings continued to wow the crowd.

While we heard that other tables were overwhelmed by the copious amounts of food and cocktails, our table finished everything with glee. But then, we didn't want to offend the chefs or the mixologists.

Gerhard will host the next Denver Five dinner at D Bar in August; call 303-861-4710 to make a reservation. For more on the Denver Five, go to www.denverfive.com.

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