June 19, 2011
One of the most enjoyable things about food, is discovering other people who have the same fascination as you. For the past couple of years my husband and I have gone to dinners put on by a ‘hush-hush’ dinner group in Denver. We’ve also gone to a couple farm dinners. Until we started doing this, I can’t say I’d ever had a conversation for more than a few minutes with anyone else in which past food experiences were shared – recommended local restaurants, food experiences while travelling domestically as well as internationally, cooking experiences with unusual foods that you don’t see every day in your standard supermarket. It has been so much fun to discover that other people are into food as much as we are, and like to try new and interesting things. We have met chefs, restaurant managers, as well as others who are just into good food.
I also discovered the woman who will probably always remain my favorite pastry chef in the world, Ginger Reynolds. The dessert she made for one particular dinner was truly a phenomenal, unparalleled creation. The description of the dessert, ‘cioccolato nocciola torta & crema espresso’ is almost insulting in it’s failure to encompass how wonderful it was. I was so full I almost felt sick, but told my fellow diners that I was determined to just ‘push through and finish’, because there was no way that I was not going to finish every single bit of that dessert.
HUSH is a mobile restaurant concept, formed to give chefs that aren’t currently the star at their places of employment a chance to show off. After subscribing to the mailing list, you receive emails announcing upcoming events. We have eaten dinners in a mod interior design gallery, a motorsports gallery, and on the roof of a luxury condo complex. The most interesting and enjoyable dinners we have experienced with the group featured chef Ian Kleinman, formerly of O’s in Westminster, but now with The Inventing Room. Chef Kleinman is a molecular gastronomist, which basically means he uses science to do weird things with food. Like making exploding whipped cream with liquid nitrogen. And Sriracha cubes – little gelatin like cubes of flavor. And charcoal oil, which imparted a smoky grill taste to shrimp without requiring a grill. And one of the best tasting items of the evening – coconut milk sorbet that took only 2 minutes to make with liquid nitrogen. The menu follows, with pictures when we remembered to take them as opposed to just digging in.
Fried chicken consomme, buttermilk dippin dots, peeled and compressed celery, cornbread foam
Flexible white chocolate with nutella powder, liquid nitrogen malted ice cream, exploding whipped cream and peanut butter pop rocks
And then the farm dinners. These are put on by Meadowlark Farm Dinners, which is a group that brings in their bus and huge grill, and prepares a multi-course dinner on the farm, using produce picked fresh from that particular farm. For items that the hosting farm doesn’t supply, they work with other farms or ranches nearby. We have gone to two of these dinners. The first dinner we attended was at Cure Organic Farm at Valmont and 75th, and included a wonderful tour of their farm. One of the highlights for me was the unique chicken enclosure, which was a pretty huge enclosure that included trees and grassy areas that the chickens could run around in when they were being kept out of the fields during fox breeding season. Normally they are moved around in a mobile chicken coop for a variety of feeding areas. I’ve never really seen chickens out running laps before, but these looked like some healthy, energetic chickens. We also got to see the greenhouse, the re-purposed washing machine they use for washing greens, the quonset huts that the interns working the farm live in, and of course the pigs and piglets, newly added to the farm that year.
The next dinner we went to was at Red Wagon Organic Farm, also on Valmont. The table was quite a hike from the parking area, but was set up in the middle of fields and truly gave you a unique experience. The farm tour was quite interesting as well. Aside from the fact that they have so many varieties of vegetables (I got very excited listening to all of the heirloom tomatoes they had planted), they are doing some interesting work with row covers and ‘plasticulture’ in order to speed up the growing season and increase the health of the plants. Row covers are basically a somewhat translucent cover that keeps the plants from having to fight the wind, and lets them enjoy some warmer temperatures. They have some research information on their website about this, should you care to read more. The food at the farm dinners is always quite good, but perhaps not the most creative or absolutely top-notch food we have eaten. But given the fact that they are cooking on a grill and in a bus in the middle of a field, it’s pretty impressive. And you simply cannot beat produce that was picked that recently, in that close proximity to the table at which you are eating. My only complaint is that sometimes the bug spray just doesn’t fend off all of the mosquitoes that join the table after the sun goes down.
We have had some great conversations with people at these dinners, and have met nutritionists, farmers, and people who are just local food-loving, farmers’ market-attending foodies. The picture below is the view right across from me at the table while the fellow diner across from me was out of his seat.