Cherry Creek North Food & Wine
Author: Certified Sommelier - August 19, 2013 - Updated: August 19, 2013
Colorado Proud In Cherry Creek North
Cherry Creek North Business Improvement District
299 Milwaukee Street, Suite 201
Denver, CO 80206
Tel: (303) 394-2904
Fax: (303) 394-2139
While I’m always on the lookout for delicious Colorado foodstuffs such as lamb, peaches, sweet corn, and potatoes, August is Colorado Proud Month, specifically featuring local food and beverage. Thankfully, such offerings were readily available at the Cherry Creek North Food & Wine festival (CCNF&W) held the evening of on August 10 at Fillmore Plaza.
This year’s CCNF&W allowed guests to sample wines from around the world, including Colorado, as well as a variety of food from a diverse mix of local restaurants. A 15-minute drizzle midway through the party simply cooled things off and encouraged guests, who took shelter under the provided tents, to talk less and eat and drink more. At the halfway point, Retro, a 1980s tribute band, brought their show to the small stage. They rocked the house and allowed the crowd ample opportunity to shake a leg.
Culinary partners included Enstrom Candies, represented by retail nanager Jeri Langolf, who brought chocolate truffles and the company’s signature toffee in both milk and dark chocolate versions. “The best thing about being part of something like this is the exposure we get, it’s so well attended this year — really fantastic. And the area improvements that the district has made keep it a really desirable one in which to spend time,” Langolf said.
Other partners that caught my eye were Patxi’s Pizza (the deep dish pie is to die for), and Second Home Kitchen & Bar Executive Sous Chef Denis “Daddy D” Zvekic, who shared that catching up with friends “at the dive-iest bars I can find” was the inspiration for his mini cornbread biscuit with barbecued pork and slaw, a casual yet detailed morsel that was one of my favorites.
Another top-notch district eatery, and winner of the judges’ award for Best Culinary Presentation, is NoRTH Italian Farmhouse, from which Chef Rick Thillemann brought two excellent tastes. A seasonal vegetable salad with roasted corn, English peas, shaved radish, kale, farm greens, farro, dates, fresh mint, ricotta salata, and red wine vinaigrette sidled up expertly to a braised beef short rib that was served with roasted root vegetables and white polenta.
“We’ve recently launched a new menu that is full of freshness,” said Thillemann, “and it’s great to be able to share this with the crowd.” NoRTH crafts pastas and pizzas by hand on a daily basis and has also freshened up their salads, including the use of seasonal vegetables. The short rib is always a favorite — succulently moist and, when paired with root vegetables and polenta, a signature combination. Chef Thillemann recommended Three Rivers Cabernet, another Colorado product, as the perfect wine match. “It is big enough to stand up to the meat but balanced so that it does not overpower the rest of the dish,” he said.
An Ulterior Motive?
In reality, all of the participants ably showcased the natural affinity between soulful food and great beverage. But, much like Enstroms’ Langolf, Denver Councilwoman Jeanne Robb felt that the location was the best part. “The setting and lighting on the Plaza in the evening was gorgeous,” she volunteered. Robb obviously needs to know what’s going on in the community and, for her, festivals are a fun and easy way to accomplish this. “It’s a great way to connect with the good people of District 10.” She most enjoyed the Cherry Creek Grill’s ribs and paired them with Starmont Merryvale Chardonnay. “But then, I think Chardonnay goes well with just about everything.”
For Leslie Horna, director of marketing & communications for the Cherry Creek North Business Improvement District (CCNBID), CCNF&W is first-and-foremost an opportunity to feature the district’s fabulous restaurants. “Everyone has a favorite but it’s easy to get into the habit of going to the same place each time. I also like reminding people about our incredible boutique wine store, The Vineyard Wine Shop.”
The Vineyard, one of Cherry Creek North’s longest-running independent businesses (in the district since 1971), provides an eclectic mix of wines through sales, tastings, classes and pairing events. Employee Jordan Garcia told me that the exposure gained at a CCNBID event is always welcome, “but, of course, the main point is to have fun!” For his co-worker Brian C. Wood, the kicker was reconnecting with friends he hadn’t seen in years. “It’s also good for The Vineyard because we’re the oldest wine store in Colorado, but most people still don’t know we exist. Beyond that, we can keep in touch with other CCNBID businesses so that they know about their discount at the store and the services we provide.”
Keeping It Real, Year After Year
The event was sold out at 1,000 attendees and marketing director Horna related that they had to turn some folks away simply because they were at capacity. “We also sold all of our VIP tickets, which were new this year and allowed admission 30 minutes prior to other attendees, well in advance.” Perhaps the best news was that a portion of the proceeds benefitted the Arts Festival’s 501c3 non-profit and its contributions to year-round, statewide education programs.
In coming weeks, Horna and her staff will post-mortem the festival with participating restaurants, sponsors, beverage partners, volunteers, staff and guests. “Selling out five straight years means we constantly strive to enhance and grow the event and make it fun for guests. This is a great way for people who have not spent much time in the district to come and experience the wonderful variety of food and drink, as well as the intimate community that makes us such a premier retail and dining destination.”
It’s difficult, in fact sort of crazy, to plan and execute a flawless wine and food event for more than a thousand people. But the Cherry Creek North Business Improvement District seems to have a method to their madness. Check out the festival’s wine list at cherrycreeknorth.com/pdf/Wine%20list_F.pdf, feel free to pair the bottles with various foods on your own, and don’t forget to talk with the experts at The Vineyard about what you’re sampling.
Next up for CCNBID is “Celebrate Fashion,” benefiting the Denver Health Foundation, Thursday, September 12, on the Fillmore Plaza from 5:00-10:00 p.m.For more information and tickets go to CherryCreekNorth.com.
Upcoming Colorado Wine & Food Event – Boulder Burgundy Festival: October 18 – 20, 2013
As Brett Zimmerman, owner of the Boulder Wine Merchant (BWM), is fond of saying, “the worst tragedy of loving Burgundy wine is not tasting the great ones often enough. We think hosting a Burgundy Festival is the perfect opportunity to celebrate the wines of the region by sharing them with our friends, customers, restaurateurs, suppliers and producers.”
During this three-day extravaganza participants get to drink some of the rarest wines of Burgundy. BWM has also partnered with the Growe Foundation, a local non-profit that provides elementary schools with organic vegetable gardens and a Garden to Table program that teaches children about healthy eating and caring for the environment. Proceeds from the tasting and seminar will support Growe’s efforts to teach children in our community how food choices affect the health of their bodies and the planet.
It’s a great cause, a terrific festival and I will be there on Sunday, October 20, at the Meursault seminar and the Grand Tasting. If you want to join me or attend any of the other events go to www.boulderwine.com/burgundy.
Cherry Creek North Food & Wine 2013 Award Winners
Best Culinary Presentation – NoRTH
(Judges’ selection based on a combination of table presentation (i.e. décor, staff appearance, etc.) and food presentation (how items are plated/presented to guests))
Best in Show – Harman’s Food+Drink:
Olathe Sweet Corn Custard with Tomato Water, Pickled Chili & Candied Bacon
(Judges’ choice for best tasting food or dessert; a single menu item from a participating restaurant)
Tasters’ Choice – Vinue:
Tiger Prawn Ceviche with Spiced Wonton
(Guests’ choice for best tasting food or dessert; a single menu item from a participating restaurant)
Certified sommelier and unfilteredunfined.com editor-in-chief Ben Weinberg, JD, MBA, pens Weinberg’s Wine Tech in Sommelier Journal and has written for the Daily Beast, Worth Magazine, The World of Fine Wine, Wine Enthusiast and The Tasting Panel Magazine, where he is the Rocky Mountain Editor. He also leads luxurious, behind-the-scenes tours of the world’s most famous wine regions via WineOnTheRoad.com. Ben can be reached at BentheWineBerg@coloradostatesman.com