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Hoofin’ It!

This is a post about how just one walk can change your perspective, teach you something you thought you already knew, and make you fall in love with your city all over again. Oh yeah, and the food. So much wonderful food!

The folks at Heroes Like Us, along with the Mile High Business Alliance and Imbibe Denver joined forces for Hoofin’ It. What’s that? It’s a four night series of food experiences dedicated to one hoofed animal and one Denver neighborhood each night. The event benefits the local food system work at the Mile High Business Alliance. Participants, broken into three waves each night, visit four local food & drink establishments to enjoy specially prepared snacks paired with beer or a unique cocktail. They walk from place to place (get it? we were hoofin‘ it!), giving them a chance to not only see the neighborhood, but also engage in a conversation that has been getting louder and louder in this country by the day. The topic is a big one, and tries to answer some pretty important questions:

– Where does our food come from?
– How is it being produced?
– Who is producing it?
– Will they be able to keep doing it 100, 200, 300 years from now?

Like I said, it’s a lot.

Before I go any further, let me clarify that there were no serious faces on these little culinary tours. This was fun! We ate some amazing food, had some incredibly interesting drinks, and enjoyed a whole lot of silliness, from hole in one contests to hula hooping.

But in between, the organizers managed to do something Heroes Like Us and their many community partners are becoming quite adept at doing– they taught us something. Not with long lectures, or boring PowerPoint decks, or even shocking pictures of animals being raised in awful conditions. They did it with the food. They did it by introducing us to the people, local ranchers who donated the bison, sheep, pork, and beef for each evening’s dishes, and who every day wake up and work hard, and at much greater time and financial expense than you could imagine, to raise their animals with respect: humanely, and responsibly.

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What they ask in return is that we respect the food, support them in their efforts, and share the message that we can change the food system in a way that makes sure the land, the animals, and the farms and ranches that steward them can continue to feed us, our children, and grandchildren well into the future.

Yes, I’m going to show you the food. I promise! But give me just a few more minutes to tell you which sponsor surprised me most. In fact, they were the main sponsor– The Humane Society of the United States. I had honestly never made the connection between the Humane Society’s mission and food production before. After having the chance to speak with Angela Huffman who does Rural Development and Outreach for the Humane Society, I learned that the HSUS has been working for a long time to improve the conditions on farms, and expose the mistreatment many animals receive on their way to your dinner table.  They are also working with farmers and ranchers who are raising their stock responsibly, so they can further educate those of us who eat meat but want to do so in a way that respects the well-being of the animals we use for food. She, and the organization, took some heat during all four nights of Hoofin’ It from protesters who didn’t think the Humane Society should be there (well, they really didn’t think anyone should be there). I don’t want to get all political on ya, so I’ll just say that I think they might have missed the point. 🙂

And now… on to the yummy part!

The schedule went like this:

Night One: Bison in Uptown (Bison donated by Prairie Ridge Buffalo Ranch)
Night Two: Sheep in Downtown (Lamb donated by Boulder Lamb)
Night Three: Pork in LoHi (Lower Highlands)
Night Four: Beef in the Ballpark neighborhood.

I attended Night Three as a guest, and Night Four as a volunteer. I had never really spent much time in either of those neighborhoods, so I was pretty excited to find out how great they are! I will definitely be visiting them again.

I’m not going to take you stop by stop because, well, I might go off on another some tangent and this blog post might not ever end. So, the highlights…

The pork for night three was donated by Heritage Belle Farms. I tried hard to think of a favorite for the night, but I was really impressed with everything!

From the root beer pulled pork sliders at Highland Tap & Burger
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To the BBQ pulled pork corn dog from American Grind and the giant mug of Dunkel Bier from Prost Brewing.

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For night four, we were in the Ballpark neighborhood enjoying beef from Callicrate Beef.

We started the night at Trillium, where guests were served beef tartare and a yummy champagne cocktail.

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As we moved through the next three stops, I felt like we hit the slider trifecta!

Wagyu sliders at the Curtis Club

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Bourbon braised chuck roast sliders at The Lobby

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and last, but most definitely not least, barbecue pulled beef sliders at Ignite! Denver with one of my favourite things on this planet– melty, delicious queso!

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I heard rumours that there would be another Hoofin’ It in October. I certainly hope so, and I am looking forward to being a part of it again. It’s not just the food (ok, it’s a lot about the food) that draws me in. It’s the conversation. It’s the genuine interest shared by everyone involved to create a world where we all have a direct connection to the farmers and ranchers who feed us. It’s those “A-ha!” moments so many of us had each night. And it’s my city, my lovely Denver, that never ceases to amaze me.

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And we all float on…

I love summer. Well, let me back up, I know it’s not officially summer yet, but it feels like summer (June 21st, if you want to mark your calendar) so I’m going to clarify that I am  loving this summer. I’ve had so much fun already this month, so I’m absolutely giddy that there’s still really a whole summer left. My last week of classes is this week–one more written final and a kitchen practical–and then I have three glorious weeks off to really revel in this wonderful sense of freedom that comes with warmer weather and sitting on porches and balconies and decks and patios just whiling the time away with a cold beer and some delicious snacks. Oh, and the parties!

I was lucky enough to kick off my summer party season with an invite to the Great Divide Brewing Company’s 20th anniversary party.

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I had a blast! So much great beer… It was impossible to try them all, but as evidenced by all the slightly blurry photos, I sure did give it my best effort! It’s BeerGoggle-vision!

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But it didn’t stop with the beer. Oh, no! There were food trucks as far as the eye could see, all serving up some really yummy munchables. Each ticket came with the opportunity to sample from one of the trucks, and on my friend Dan’s recommendation I made a beeline for the Burger Radio truck for one of their EBS burgers. That stands for Emergency Bacon System, if you were curious.

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Let’s not forget some great music (bands outside and a DJ spinning some seriously fun Motown inside), and cute babies!

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Even when the weather went all wonky on us… no one seemed to really mind.

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Breweries really do throw some kick ass parties! The folks at Great Divide did such a wonderful job with this one. It was held at the site of what will be their 2nd location, in a growing part of Denver called River North. If you’re a Denver person, you probably already know what’s going on up there, but if you’re ever in town from somewhere else, definitely look up what’s happening in the RiNo area. It’s kind of becoming food/beer heaven up there. Speaking of food heaven, let me show you something that I believe should be on everyone’s summertime menu at some point this year– beer floats!

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Stop making that “yuck!” face!!! If you’ve never experienced this treat, I know it might sound a little weird. But, when I say beer float, I’m not talking about throwing some store brand, fake vanilla wanna-be ice cream into your Bud Light. Don’t you dare! For this dessert, it’s only the good stuff. If you’re not going to make your own vanilla (or chocolate) ice cream, get some really good quality product. If you have a local ice cream shop that makes their own, that will work. If not, just make sure you’re getting something that is made from real ingredients. No fakers here!

Now, as for the beer– there are two ways to go here. The first, and most popular, would be a dark beer like a stout or a porter. Guinness would work quite well, but if you want to expand your horizons, there are lots of other ones to choose from. At the Great Divide party, they made theirs with Yeti Classic Imperial Stout and White Whale vanilla bean ice cream. There’s also a Yeti Chocolate that would work well with this. A couple of other good options from Left Hand Brewing would be the Lugene’s Chocolate Milk Stout, or the regular Milk Stout. Kona Brewing makes a Pipeline Porter brewed with Kona coffee that would be absolutely delightful in a float. Anyway, you get the idea. Something dark, with chocolate, vanilla, or coffee flavors combined with a rich, good quality chocolate or vanilla ice cream.

A second, and equally wonderful option would be to float your vanilla ice cream in something fruity. The best one I’ve tried so far was made with vanilla bean ice cream and Lindeman’s Framboise Lambic. Lots of lush, ripe, raspberry flavour that could be punched up even more by adding some fresh raspberries on top. Twisted Pine’s Raspberry Wheat Ale, or a Cuvée René Gueuze Lambic would also pair well.

Seriously, do this. You won’t regret it. In fact, I suspect it will become one of your favorite grown-up summertime treats.

Happy Summer, ya’ll!

This is my kind of shopping spree.

food52:

Yesterday, the world lost a culinary great; Marcella Hazan — the teacher, the author of six cookbooks, and the woman who changed the way Americans cook Italian food — passed away. To honor her, the Food52 staff is sharing all that we’ve learned from her.

Read more: Marcella Hazan’s Legacy on Food52.

Go Orange for No Kid Hungry!

I just supported Go Orange for No Kid Hungry! on @ThunderclapIt // @nokidhungry

Go Orange for No Kid Hungry!