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Sensi Magazine

Colorado Cultural Calendar

Mar 01, 2019 06:48PM ● By Stephanie Wilson
Let me paint a picture for you: it’s the third week in February. The temperatures in Colorado are precarious, jumping between the teens and the fifties on any given day. The rest of the country is in the midst of a polar vortex. Temps are so low, to even get a car key into the lock requires a bottle of hot water squirted at the hole. Even then, you’ve got to move fast or that water will freeze before you can get the key to turn.

But you? You’re on the sand in Miami Beach, where the temperatures are a balmy 75. The light this time of year is golden; everything around you seems to glow. The faces of the people surrounding you are glowing, that’s for certain. They’re there for the same reason you are: the Grand Tasting during the annual South Beach Wine and Food Festival, brought to the world by the Food Network and the Cooking Channel.

The educational tradition has been running every February for almost two decades, bringing the best restaurants and the best wine and spirit companies and food-loving travelers from across the country together to toast to the good life during a lineup of events taking place over the course of five days. That lineup began in the early 2000's with a dozen or so happenings; it’s grown to encompass hundreds of brunches, tastings, seminars, and parties that bring thousands of people to town for an epic celebration that should be on any wine-and-food-loving human’s bucket list.

There’s the Rosé Pool Party hosted by Geoffrey Zakarian. Sunset Stone Crab by Emeril Lagasse. Taste of Puerto Rico hosted by José Andrés. Wine & Cheese Happy Hour with Martha Stewart. Barilla Bites on the Beach with Giada De Laurentiis. Heineken Light Burger Bash hosted by David Burtka and Neil Patrick Harris. Beachside BBQ hosted by Guy Fieri. Southern Kitchen Brunch hosted by Trisha Yearwood. Brunch by Jean-George Vongerichten. And so. much. more.

The festival, benefitting Florida International University’s culinary program, takes place this year from FEBRUARY 21–24. If you can make it, go. If you can’t, don’t fret too much: there’s plenty of delicious ways to keep yourself busy in and around the Mile High all month long.

The centerpiece of the offerings is, of course, the 14th annual Denver Restaurant Week. It runs this year from February 22 to March 3. The 10-day celebration of the Mile High dining scene features multi-course meals at some of the area’s must-taste establishments for a highly reduced rate of $25, $35, or $45 per person, depending on the spot.

As of press time, this year’s participants haven’t been announced yet, but if tradition holds true, we’re looking at hundreds of those restaurants you’ve been dying to get into on the lineup. It’s brought to the world by Visit Denver, the area tourism board that’s really on top of its game, promoting the bejesus out of all the things there are to love in the Mile High.

The team offers these five tips to help you make the most of the offerings. To paraphrase:

1) BROWSE THE MENUS. Once the list of participants is released, the Denver Restaurant Week website (DENVERRESTAURANTWEEK.COM) becomes your one-stop-shop for all the delicious menus you can get a taste of for the promotional prices.

2) MAKE RESERVATIONS. Tables fill up fast during the 10-day limited run.

3) DINE EARLY AND OFTEN. That’s self-explanatory.

4) SPLURGE. Lots of restaurants offer affordable wines, add-ons, and special desserts. Take advantage of the once a year offering and go to town.

5) PAY IT FORWARD. Tip well. Just because the dinner is cheap doesn’t mean you should be.

Throughout the month, there’s a whole lot more for your tastebuds to do although most of those happenings happen during the first few weeks. Then comes Valentine’s Day, which keeps kitchens pumping out flurries of food to love-struck tables, then by the time the waitstaff recovers, it’s time for the Restaurant Week rush. So get out there early and take advantage of the well-rested staff. Here are some of the highlights to get you started:

Sip & Sing
Nocturne Jazz & Supper Club

OFFICIAL DESCRIPTION: For the third year running, Opera Colorado is taking over the “beloved hotspot” for a French-themed evening featuring a four-course dinner, wine pairings, and the Artists in Residence performing favorites from musical theater, cabaret, and opera.

New for this season: stay after dinner for the Nightcap of mingling and complimentary dessert, accompanied by live Parisian-style jazz from accordion-and-bass duo Alicia Baker and Alex Heffron. Plus a few more musical surprises from the Artists in Residence. If you’re not hungry for dinner, tickets to just the Nightcap are available for just $25 per person. Dinner and Nightcap runs for $100 but move quickly. These are expected to sell out. They do every year.

Ales, Apps, and Barrels of Fun
Children’s Museum of Denver at Marisco Campus

OFFICIAL DESCRIPTION: Release your inner child at the Children’s Museum during the adults only extravaganza. Taste beers from local breweries, snack on light bites, listen to great tunes, and best of all enjoy an evening of play in the world-class exhibits. Come be a kid again…without the kids.

Tickets are just $40 and they will sell out. The craft beer samples alone are worth the ticket price. Some of the local hotspots pouring that evening include: Briar Common, Prost Brewing, Renegade Brewing Company, Wynkoop Brewing Company, and more, with light bites provided by a host of local catering companies.

Denver Mac & Cheese Fest
Number 38

OFFICIAL DESCRIPTION: From the creators of BrunchFest, Mile High Grilled Cheese Festival, Whiskey & Doughnuts, and many more events comes the most delicious of basic food group festivals yet: The Mac & Cheese Fest.

Thought this dish was just for kids? Think again. This is about gourmet, chef-inspired twists on your childhood favorite. Local chefs and restaurants are cooking up a big variety of mac & cheese while competing for the title of the best mac in town. Sample everything for yourself and cast a vote.
Tickets run from $55 to $105.

Den Corner’s Progressive Dinner Series
Sushi Den, Izakaya Den, Ototo Den

OFFICIAL DESCRIPTION: The Kizaki brothers, owners and operators of nationally applauded Sushi Den, Izakaya Den, and Ototo, offer the first dates of the 2019 Den Corner’s Progressive Dinner series. Guests will travel through the intricacies of Japanese cuisine and traditions, all on historic S. Pearl Street.

Beginning at Sushi Den, Yasu Kizaki will be the evening’s master of ceremonies. Dinner guests join master chef Toshi Kizaki as he elevates the palate with two courses of sashimi and Edomae-Zushi, paired with Toshi’s personal selections of sake. Walking next door to Ototo, guests will enjoy sizzling robata fare and ramen prepared by head chef Kenta Kamo and his team, while sipping on craft beer. Sweet stop number three is next door at Izakaya Den where the guests will complete the meal with desserts prepared by pastry chef Michiko Kizaki, finishing with a dessert wine. It’s a fancy evening, and it’s pricey but worth it if you’re having major South Beach Wine and Food Fest FOMO.