Hush Dinner in Denver is a Big Hit

No-longer-underground supper club firmly entrenched in the Mile High food scene

I’d heard about by-invitation-only supper clubs in other cities: Mysterious and movable, jumping from venue to venue every few weeks. One-night stands by different chefs each time. I read about such a club in Denver last December, when Jason Sheehan, then Westword’s restaurant critic, wrote a piece called “Hush: This New Dinner Club is a Secret.” It described this movable feast with different chefs, mostly new or upcoming, chefs cooking in different places once a month.

Phil Armstrong and Chance Humphrey, two partners with vast restaurant experience between them, brought the concept to Denver and launched Hush last December largely to showcase the talents of chefs who will most likely be the next local stars on the culinary horizon. Interesting sites. New tastes. Local food and wine. What a great holiday gift for local foodies. It’s taken me nearly half a year to get to a Hush dinner. My maiden voyage was the late May feast at the Infinite Monkey Theorem Urban Winery just off South Santa Fe. Kate Horton (back to the camera, in flowery chef’s pants) of Denver’s Black Pearl Restaurant, where I’ve long wanted to eat, cooked in a challenging open-air kitchen.

The evening began with wine and passed hors d’oeuvre in the courtyard with plastic grape containers as standup cocktail tables and the big blue dome overhead. Had the organizers known how pleasant the weather would remain, dinner could have been set up al fresco, but in Colorado, that’s risky. Caution is rarely misplaced. We captured the last rays of th evening sun enjoying the appetite-whetter of melted Brie on crostini and on squares of baked puff pastry, accompanied by IMT’s divine 2009 Rosé (an inspired blend of 33% Malbec, 29% Cabernet Franc, 20% Petit Verdot and 18% Syrah).

The date was Sunday, May 30, and while not every seat was occupied at the long tables that stretched down the length of the winery’s climate-controlled, barrel-line Quonset hut, most were. That was simply remarkable, considering that was the middle evening of a holiday weekend. The industrial space was made atmospheric with black table linens, candles and gleaming glasses. The food and wine were individually excellent and immaculately paired. The one problem was the noise. Quonset huts were not designed for conversation, even with racked wooden barrels absorbing some of the noise. You might say that this Hush dinner was hardly hushed.

The first course was a thick and flavorful Chilled Curry Soup topped with chopped shrimp. It did not have a stereotypical curry flavor but was rather demonstrated by a peppery kick that diminished soon after eating — or perhaps it was the remainder of the rosé that calmed it down.
 
The second course was lemon-dressed arugula with a crisp squash blossom stuffed with a fabulous goat cheese risotto — so enticing that would happily have a portion of that and that alone. The wine was a crisp 2009 IMT Sauvignon/Semillon blend.

A thick piece of perfect pan-roasted halibut with leeks braised in tomato jam leeks and a dollop of basil pesto comprised the third course. The accompanying wine was a robust and aggressive 2009 IMT Chardonnay.

Course number 4 was a very spring-like dish of three generous slices of beautifully grilled lamb tenderloin with topped with morels, fresh peas and andcippolini onions, beside a pool of lamb jus. Like all preparations, it was simple and neat. Winemaker Ben Parsons cracked his 2009 Syrah and poured barrel samples for Hush guests.

For dessert, the fifth and final course, the Black Pearl team presented cardamom doughnuts with cinnamon ice cream and caramel sauce — a beguiling combination with neither chocolate nor fruit. The tank sample of 2009 IMT Black Muscat was one of those wonderful nectar-of-the-gods dessert wines.

Price check: There is no set price, but upon arrival, guests are given envelopes and are asked for a “suggested donation,” $85 in this case. I consider it to be an excellent value for an innovative six-course meal (counting the passed hors d’oeuvre), including gratuity. In order to be invited to upcoming Hush events, you must register on the website.

Coming up: June 10, Speakeasy-style cocktail event with mixologist Kevin Burke of Colt & Gray, and a new TAG mixologist; ticketed event ($30) for three cocktails and passed hors d’oeuvres from Colt and Gray. June 13, “Dinner and a Show” with Jeff Osaka of Twelve Restaurant, event at Cassleman’s at 2620 Walnut Street, Denver. June 20, Tim Payne, Terroir Restaurant, Longmont, fundraiser for Slow Food Boulder at Colorado’s Best Beef Ranch, 4791 Jay Road, Boulder. June 27, “Celebration of Denver Street Food” featuring the Gastro Cart, Biker Jim’s Dogs and Brava! Pizzeria Della Strada, Paris Hotel/Paris Lofts courtyard, 2193 Arapahoe Street, Denver, $25 per person for great street food, local beer and wine, street performers, and street musicians. July 11, “Gastro Gone Wild @ Great Divide,” Argyll Gastropub of Cherry Creek, event at the Great Divide Brewery, 2201 Arapahoe Street, Denver.