Linda Hampsten Fox, chef/owner of The Bindery at 1817 Central Street, isn't afraid to take risks with ingredients and platings. This is the woman who had the audacity to serve rabbit pecan pie with mustard gelato and to envision normally lime-green Mexican aguachile as a jet-black sauce that still retains its traditional punch of citrus and heat.
So when kindred spirit (in adventurousness, if not in sophisticated style) Rebel Restaurant closed in RiNo last August, co-founder Bo Porytko applied for a job in Hampsten Fox's kitchen. He's been working there for the past few months, and also sharing his creativity with guests who book the chef's table (located smack in the middle of the kitchen itself) on Wednesday nights.
Hampsten Fox changes up her menu regularly, rotating in new dishes and adjusting others as the seasons bring fresh ingredients. Her menu ideas, written and rewritten in pencil before finding the permanence of the printer, often read as a poet's journal, where concrete ingredients are matched to emotions conjured by aromas, flavors and the weather. Since Porytko joined the team, she's been bouncing ideas off him, especially for Wednesday night specials, and now the two will present a dinner that will combine both of their talents in a series of separate dishes based on the same ingredients.
The dinner, dubbed His & Hers, will take place on Thursday, January 24, in conjunction with The Family Jones. "I started to think about the things we have in common," Hampsten Fox says of Porytko. "We're both from New Jersey and we both have January birthdays." The two also share Slavic heritage; Porytko is Ukrainian and Hampsten Fox is Polish, so the food culture of both countries show up in subtle (and sometimes not so subtle, as Rebel's daily pierogi proved) ways in their cooking.
Bartender Jason Randall, who previously worked at Rebel, is now bar manager at the Family Jones and will be matching cocktails made with Family Jones spirits to the seven-course dinner. Each course will comprise two separate small plates from each chef using the same ingredients. As a bonus, chef Dan Lasiy, the other half of Rebel, will also be in the kitchen.
Hampsten Fox says she also planned the dinner to give Porytko a chance to have his name on the menu before he leaves for other adventures. Porytko plans on working at the Bindery until this spring, when he will take off for a few months of travel, visiting family on the East Coast and touring Mexico before staging at Hartwood in Tulum at the end of the summer. After that, he hopes to open his own Ukrainian deli in Denver, but notes that it could easily be more than a year before that plan comes to fruition.
The Bindery's His & Hers dinner runs $85 ($109 with tax and gratuity) per person, which includes dinner and one welcome cocktail, with additional cocktail pairings and other beverages available for purchase during the dinner. Tickets are available at eventbrite.com.
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