Notes from the Road – Denver, February 2009
Happy winter and here’s to looking forward to a beautiful spring! I hope that the our country’s current economic troubles haven’t struck you too hard and that you’re finding time to enjoy your friends and family despite all of the negativity floating around in the news. Good luck to each of you and know according to my Crystal Ball, it will get better! I have just returned from a visit to the Mile High city of Denver, conducting a little business and spending time with friends. I was asked to be a founding member of the Executive Advisory Board for the College of Hotel, Restaurant and Tourism Management at the University of Denver, my alma mater. I am quite moved by the invitation and honored that I have been selected to aid in the further development of the program within such a prestigious university.
In between our meetings, tours and events, I did find time to take in the city of Denver, a few culinary stops and classic haunts. I mean, would you expect anything less out of me?
After touching down in Denver I was able to meet up with some good friends before they headed out of town at this new hamburger chain (www.MySmashBurger.com). Basically, what they do is take a ball of ground beef (seasoned) and ‘smash’ it on top of the flat top at the start of cooking and then cook to a medium-well consistency. I think that the concept has some interested elements to it (veggie fries that actually aren’t fried, but cut and sautéed vegetables) but it has a long way to go. The menu is a little complex to navigate during a lunch rush, which we were trying to do and the design of the space isn’t conducive ergonomically. However, I wish them all the best during their upcoming expansion.
Beverage Class at DU
I was able to catch up with my advisor from DU, Dr. Andy Divine and had a chance to attend his class on Wine, Beer and Spirits on Thursday afternoon. Andy is an extremely knowledgeable professor and member of our industry, and it just so happens that beverage is his passion. He led an engaged class of about 25 through the basics of beer, general beverage education and a tasting of 6 wines, all with varietals originally hailing from Bordeaux.
The Q Worldly Barbeque
I was taken to a really cool spot in Cherry Creek (3rd & Detroit – www.TheQBarbeque.com), which is run by a DU alum, featuring damn good BBQ and some great blues and jazz. The restaurant definitely focuses on their sauces, offering an assortment of over 15 flavors to compliment their BBQ. I was able to enjoy the Beef Brisket and Pulled Pork with homemade cole slaw, using both the North & South Carolina sauces to bring out the flavor of the meat. Their beer selection numbers over 40 brews, so I went for a Southern classic, Dixie from New Orleans.
Denver Tour & a Jewish Classic
On Friday morning I was picked up by a good friend and given an outstanding tour of the city to check out the neighborhood growth, new restaurant concepts and overall development. Wow, was I impressed! At the end, we finished the morning over at Zaidy’s – a truly neighborhood Jewish deli in Cherry Creek (www.ZaidysDeli.com). Every time I go there, I get the same thing; Matzo Brie with salami and onions. This dish is absolute comfort food to me – the saltiness of the salami mixing with the soft scrambled eggs and slight crunch of the matzo. Awesome!
DU Advisory Board
The rest of Friday was dedicated to the Executive Advisory Board meeting, held at the new HRTM building on campus. Let me first say, this building is truly amazing. It is the most modern building at DU, built to the tune of $18 million dollars. However, something cool to know is that it is run as a revenue center with a Starbucks-style coffee component, Beans, serving the campus population as well as catering and meeting space which are sold on a level comparable to local hotels and venues. I am very impressed by my program’s dedication to the community and university as a whole.
The group will be a collection of 15 leaders in the Hospitality profession, all-hailing from different backgrounds and destinations. The initial meeting brought us together to get the process rolling and to frame out a plan for our success. It was a great day of meetings, learning about each other, determining our goals, reviewing the process to get them accomplished, touring the school and planning out our future.
We broke the meeting in the late afternoon by gathering for a cocktail reception where we were introduced to the various faculty of the school and having a chance to meet some students in the program. We then continued down to the wine cellar room, where the Classic Cuisine class had organized a dinner for us to participate in. The class was hosting their 2nd dinner of the quarter (mandatory), basically the idea of running a restaurant for the evening, with each member having a specific job responsibility. The theme of the dinner was sustainability, with all products (Food & Beverage) coming from within 250 miles away. The students did a fantastic job executing a 5-course menu paired with alcoholic beverages and should be saluted for their work!
I had a chance to catch up with one of my fraternity advisors, Mike Smith, to meet for brunch and have a tour of our new fraternity house. This was a great chance for me to reconnect with Lambda Chi Alpha and see the work that went into a $2.5 million dollar investment. I was very impressed and blown away by the dedication to the Fraternity, by both alumni and the University.
After my tour, I continued over to the Peter Barton Lacrosse stadium to watch as a proud alum and former member, as the DU lacrosse team took on Sacred Heart University. My Pioneers were able to take advantage of their overmatched opponent, sailing to a 15-8 victory.
To round out the afternoon I was able to visit my good friends, the McGowan’s and meet the newest addition to their family, David Jerome who was just born last week! He’s a precious little guy that I’m sure will continue to grow and eventually play hockey, as his dad is currently hoping! In honor of little DJ’s birth, his dad opened a bottle of Chateau Lafite Rothschild, 1990. The wine was a little tight at first, but definitely had the ‘Bordeaux funk’ with chocolate, gravel and mint undertones. A wonderful way to enjoy a Saturday afternoon in Colorado!
Dinner that night was a group affair at Campo de Fiore, a subterranean Italian spot in Cherry Creek (www.CampoDeFiori.net). It’s important to note that 5280-week was going on while I was in town – basically restaurant week, offering a couple a 3-course meal for $52.80, quite a bargain! So, some of the members of our group enjoyed this program while others chose to order a la carte. I went with a Grilled Romaine Salad with Neuske’s bacon and a light anchovy dressing, then moving onto a Porcini Mushroom Risotto. The experience overall was a good one, primarily due to the company, good wine variety (we started with a very budget friendly 2007 Pio Cesare Dolcetto) and large table. Being that it was restaurant week the server was running around (she tried hard, but it was tough) and the food was missing the mark slightly. I would like to visit the restaurant again another time to give it another shot.
My Denver visit was a great chance for me to breathe the Mile High air, support my university and program and a perfect excuse to see some good friends while reconnecting with some old ones. I look forward to having a chance to return to Colorado in a few months (in warmer weather – haha) to work with the Executive Advisory Board and enjoy it all. More adventures are coming soon, so stay tune and remember, Keep Eating & Drinking!