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Food, Food, Food, Food, Food

I literally could not think of a better title for this blog post. It might be a long one, because I have tons to tell you about.

I hope all of you had an amazing 4th of July weekend! Mine was pretty incredible. I had some amazing company, great food, and an incredible opportunity to work alongside a Denver area chef I really admire. As holiday weekends go, this one is going to be hard to beat. This was pretty much me, all weekend.

Let’s start off with Thursday night. A new place opened near my ‘hood about a month ago– Argyll Whiskey Beer. I’ve been wanting to go check it out, but I really prefer to wait a few weeks after a new restaurant opens to let them get their sea legs, so to speak. I’ve been hearing good things right from opening day, so my expectations for our dinner were pretty high. We were not disappointed.

Our evening started with a delicious gin based drink called The Stuff for me, and a glass of some fancy Scotch I didn’t catch the name of for my dinner companion. It’s been awhile since I’ve had gin due to a weird reaction I had the last time I drank it, but this beverage sounded so yummy I couldn’t resist.  It’s made with Bombay Dry Gin, pimms, lavender, lemon, and saison. Deeelishuzz.

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I’ve been kind of… not homesick exactly.  (I dunno, what do you call it when you’re really missing a place that isn’t your home? Vacation-sick? That doesn’t sound right.) I’ve just really been missing Scotland, and Glasgow in particular. The rest of the meal reminded me so much of some of the dinners I had while on vacation last year that I almost felt like I was back there for a minute or two.

There was the Scotch egg… with a decadently runny yolk that we absolutely loved, a complimentary basket of house made potato chips, silky smooth duck liver mousse and a slice of brawn (headcheese) that were perfectly complemented by little pots of yummy condiments and fresh bread, and a perfect portion of fish and chips with a cute little quenelle of  minted mushy peas.

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Friday, the fourth, we took it very easy for a large portion of the day. However, I’d gotten a cute little jar of white truffle mayonnaise from Empire Mayonnaise in my June Hatchery box, and a grilled burger with that mayo on it was literally all I could think about all week. The burger was seasoned with another Hatchery box goodie, beef spice rub from Stuart & Co., and topped off with a fried egg (i managed to kick out some perfectly runny egg yolks, which seemed to be a theme through the whole weekend). We also made some baked sweet potato fries seasoned with, you guessed it, another Hatchery box find– Paella spice mix from Whole Spice. It kinda feels like I go a couple months brainstorming what to do with the stuff in my Hatchery box, only to have a bunch of them come together for one meal.  If you haven’t tried out Hatchery yet, I really do recommend it. It’s $20 a month, free shipping, and you get five little presents to open every month, plus culinary inspiration for days. Totally worth it!

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Fast forward to Sunday, the last day of a local arts festival in the Cherry Creek area of Denver. I’ve volunteered at this event for the past two years, working at the culinary demo stage, and I was definitely excited to do it again. Not only do I get to spend the whole day geeking out while some of the area’s best chefs demo some of their best dishes, but I also get to try all of them, and learn a ton in the process.

This year, Chef Jensen Cummings, a local chef and restaurateur, was running the show. Not only is he really well respected around Denver for his food, but he’s also doing something I truly admire– focusing his passion to helping others. He’s started an organization called Heroes Like Us, which he describes as, “a nonprofit culinary coalition that works with health- and hunger-based organizations to put on charity events.”  Right up my alley.

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He actually let me help plate food for most of the day, which was really an amazing opportunity to just get in there with people who have a TON more experience than me and work our butts off. SO much fun. I’m hoping I’ll get to help out with a few more events, including two in August.

The morning started off with a demo from Jonathan Mendoza from Bad Apple, a pop up restaurant in the area. He made a hay smoked egg yolk with sherry cream and bourbon maple syrup. You guys… no kidding, this was the highlight of the day for me. The presentation was gorgeous. The yolk was smoked with hay and then cooked sous vide until it reached this luscious custard-like texture. Topped with the sherry cream and just a hint of sweet from the maple syrup, it was probably the most luxurious breakfast I’ve ever had.

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Next up, just in time for lunch, was Kyle Marley from Earl’s Kitchen + Bar. White Cheddar Chipotle Nachos. They were topped with fresh tomatoes, cilantro and avocado, and I will definitely be making these at home. I mean, really. Look at these!

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After lunch, one of the chefs from my school, The Art Institute of Colorado (a long time supporter of the Cherry Creek Arts Festival), stopped by to make Somen. Chef Scott Maxwell was my instructor for American Regional Cuisine last quarter. It was fun to be able to help him out without my grade being on the line!  Somen is a cold noodle dish with a dipping sauce made from soy sauce, bonito flakes, kombu (seaweed), and mirin. I’m so glad all the chefs who cooked on Sunday kept it pretty light, because it was stupid hot outside. This noodle bowl is surprisingly easy and quick to put together, and you can customize it with any variety of condiments and fresh veggies.

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The last chef to present was Robin Baron from Silvi’s Kitchen (right down the street from my apartment, aren’t I lucky?) and Etai’s. She made a light, flavorful gazpacho with an  heirloom tomato salad. The Baron Group is known for its artisanal breads, and she brought a giant loaf of Rustico with her to cook with and to share.

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Her secret for adding a little extra flavor to your gazpacho? Toast the bread before you add it to the soup. It not only adds flavor, but the extra body the soup needs to go from side dish or starter to the main course.

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Yum, right? Of course, the whole point of demoing recipes at an event like this is to show how easily they can be adapted to a home kitchen. If you’re interested in trying out any of these dishes, you can find these recipes, plus all the others from every demo last weekend, right here.

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