James Mazzio’s new Studio F hosts star chef Charles Dale & winemaker John Sutcliffe in short-run “restaurant”
James Mazzio, an award-winning chef of considerable local renown, recently launched a multi-faceted, multi-layered food venue in LoDo’s landmark Ice House. At the entrance, the Red Star Deli is a weekday operation serving perhaps the best and most imaginative sandwiches in the city. Pass through a set of doors to Studio F whose appearance reflects its origins as the classy Mise en Place Cooking School. Studio F now accommodates pop-up dinners (the first has been this week) and Chef Series cooking classes with top local and visiting chefs, and is suitable for team-building or a great private party.
Star chef Charles Dale orchestrated the first of these pop-up dinners, two per evening Thursday and Friday, paired with really nice wines from Sutcliffe Vineyards in Cortez. Mazzio and Dale have a long history. Charles Dale, then owner/chef of Renaissance in Aspen. gave Mazzio his first restaurant job. When Dale initially asked Mazzio about his butchering ability, he claimed to have the skill. He now laughs about the lie that helped launch a stellar career — and Dale laughs too. Dale was named one of Food & Wine magazine’s Best New Chefs of 1995 when he ran Renaissance, a dazzling fine-dining restaurant, and James Mazzio was one of the 1999 honorees when he was executive chef at 1515 in Boulder. Both restaurants are long gone, but those of us who dined at either or both still remember them well.
I have concluded that too many cooks don’t always spoil the stew. As I watched these two chefs deftly plating some of the dishes on the expansive granite counters, I mused that rarely is so much culinary talent performing such a routine task in public. Because the tasks are routine, it’s possible for guests to walk over and chat for a few minutes — something that is not possible in a restaurant setting, even with an open kitchen. Just an observation about one of aspects of close encounters with gifted chefs that I enjoy the most. For the menu, click
Charles Dale’s Denver Dinner Menu
Dale has had a number of gigs in a number of places since selling Renaissance, and he’s now in Santa Fe, which draws major chefs who simply don’t want to be in major cities. He is currently executive chef at Ecantado Resort, New Mexico’s only AAA Five Diamond resort, where he helms Terra at Encantado. His cuisine there is called “modern rustic,” which implies top-quality ingredients woven into a refined menu with regional influences but not confined by a Southwestern straight-jacket. He divides his menu into “Sense of Balance,” “Sense of Taste” and “Sense of Comfort Items,” and he built his Studio F pop-up dinner menu using some of his Encantado dishes.
Price check: The five-course dinner with paired wines is $100. Guests are gently asked to place a gratuity into the envelope at each place. Just for comparison’s sake, at Terra at Encantado, the nightly soup is $12; the tuna tartare/blue corn blini appetizer alone (sans the pappadew relleños) is $18; the scallop and pork belly entree is also $18; the short ribs and mac ‘n mushrooms entree is $29 (with asparagus rather than salad); dessert prices are not given on the website. And that quintet of wines is, of course, additional. The pop-up dinner seems priced comparably to an evening meal at Encantado itself.
Studio F and the Red Star Deli are at 1801 Wynkoop Street, Denver; 303-226-9460.