Coming up a mere month from now is the second annual Denver Restaurant Week, from February 24 to March 2, 2007. This year, 150 restaurants are offering multi-course dinners for two for the mile-high price of $52.80 ($26.80 for one), plus tax and tip. That’s 59 restaurants more than in 2006. Each restaurant decides what it wishes to include in the offer. Many make up a special menu for the week, and 30 are including a glass or even a bottle of wine for that set-menu price.
Restaurant-goers use it to get a good deal at a pricey place they might not usually try. Some like to have a value dinner at a favorite eatery. Others just feel it’s a way of stretching the dining-out budget.
You can now check out menus of participating restaurants at the www.denverrestaurantweek.com website. The Denver Metro Convention & Visitors Bureau has counted and discovered that participating eateries include 21 Italian restaurants, 10 Mexican and Latin restaurants, eight seafood houses, 16 steakhouses, six Asian fusion places, four brewpubs and three Indian restaurants.
On January 10, before Gov. Bill Ritter’s inauguration dinner, I posted what I then knew about the festivities. Denver Post food writer Ellen Sweets hovered around the cavernous kitchens of the Denver Convention Center to tell us more. Her story, “Cooking for 7,000,” appeared in Wednesday’s paper. In addition to the Ritter banquet, meals had been ordered for one group of 2,500 and one of 300 meeting there. The convention center’s catering staff plus hired guns from out of town, culinary schools and the occasional retiree who comes in to help for such “monster events” prepared something like 7,000 meals for the Ritter banquet and for two groups, one of 2,500 and one of 300, who were meeting there.
In my earlier post, I wondered what non-meat-eaters would be served. “We usually figure that in a gathering this large, about 5 percent of the diners will be vegetarians,” executive sous-chef Carmen Callo told Sweets. Vegatable Wellingtons were available for them.
The paper also published recipes for the entree (Governor’s Beef Wellington with Cabernet Sauvignon Demi-Glace Sauce) and for the dessert (White Chocolate Winter Wonderland Parfait of Blackberry Swirl Mousse Topped with Biscotti Crunch). Mercifully, the beef Wellington recipe is broken down to serve six and the parfait serve three.
When I was researching Culinary Colorado, Cook’s Fresh Market was a bright spot in and near the Denver Tech Center. It was all things to all foodies: a gourmet grocer, produce market, cheese shop, butcher and fish purveyor; a place where hungry people could go for house-made soup, good sandwiches and more to eat in or take out; an on-the-way-home stop for high-quality prepared foods; caterer, and even a place for cooking classes. Then, landlord problems caused owners Ed and Kristi Janos to close the doors. The couple said they would reopen elsewhere, and Denver foodies held their collective breath. They can breathe again, though the Tech Center’s loss is downtown Denver’s gain.
Cook’s Fresh Market has reopened at 16th and Glenarm in the heart of downtown. If and when you are in Denver, stop in and take a look — and a taste. I never walked out of their old store empty-heanded, and I’ll bet the same will be true at the new location. Ed and Kristi are both graduates of the legendary Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, NY, he in 1977 and she 15 years later. In 1993, Ed passed the grueling 10-day Certified Master Chef (CMC) exam, becoming one of only 68 such high-level culinarians in the United States.
In another unrelated development on the Denver gourmet retail scene, David and Kate Kaufman have sold The Truffle, a cheese and fine specialty foods shop at 2906 East Sixth Avenue, to Rob and Karin Lawler, well-credentialed on the Denver food scene. Rob is a chef and Karin has been a server and wine buyer. The Lawlers plan to shut down for a couple of weeks after the first of the year and reopen with a slightly broader selection of fine foods. Meanwhile, another local culinary couple, Pete Marczyk and Barbara MacFarlane, are still at the helm of Marczyk’s Fine Foods, their upscale grocery story and more at 770 East 17th Avenue.
Patrons of the Denver Center for the Performing Arts don’t exactly have a vast choice of places to grab a bite before a show. There are full-service restaurants as far afield as the 16th Street Mall and Larimer Square, and I’ve written about a number of them on the “Dining Diary” portion of my website, but quick-bite places right there? There haven’t been too many, but now there are three.
Today, Backstage Coffee opened in street-level space on 14th Street, just beside the steps that go up to the complex’s arcade. It has good pastries, coffee drinks, ice cream, burritos, soft drinks, wines by the glass and more to come. We grabbed to-go fare on the way to a 6:30 curtain — a ham and cheese croissant for my husband and a burrito for me. It’s the first coffee-teria in the complex since funky, spacious Pablo’s closed months ago to make room for a real estate sales office.
In the arcade is the Theatre Deli — hard to find because it’s tucked in behind the parking garage elevators. We’ve only bought stuff there once and were underwhelmed by the sandwiches. A better bet is the Hot Ticket Cafe in the lobby of the Helen Bonfils multi-stage building. It offers a limited menu of quality items, operated by the owner of Jay’s Patio Cafe in the Highlands East neighborhood.
It isn’t always practical to have a full dinner before a show, but I’m grateful when rumbling stomachs don’t compete with the actors.