Last night I ate at the James Beard House, where five chefs from Denver were cooking in what publicist Leigh Sullivan-Guard hopes to turn into a tradition. Leigh's the wife of Troy Guard, a chef who was involved in his father-in-law’s Denver restaurants until a recent parting-of-the-ways that I decided not to pry into. But he plans to open a restaurant called TAG (his initials — his middle name is Atherton) in Denver’s Larimer Square later this year. Also cooking were Tyler Wiard of Elway's, whom you might remember from the recent Taste of Elegance; Matt Selby of Vesta Dipping Grill, Goose Sorenson of Solera, and minor celebrity chef Keegan Gerhard of D Bar Desserts.
Leigh wants this Denver Five thing to really take off, so Denver chefs consider it a genuine honor to be chosen for the group, part of which involves cooking at the Beard House, which costs thousands of dollars because chefs have to pay their own way to get to New York, stay in hotels, and eat and drink themselves and their staff silly.
But it might work. The chefs last night definitely seemed psyched to be there.
I sat between Leigh and Rebecca Weitzman, a native of the Boston area who was a pretty important chef in Denver, at Cafe Star, before she moved to New York. Now she’s the chef de cuisine at ’Inoteca and she says she loves working for the Dentons, who own the place.
Keegan expressed shock that the diners could actually eat his dessert after everything else that we’d eaten. He was the Denver newbie of the group — I think Tyler, Matt and Goose are all Colorado Natives, and Troy’s been there for quite awhile, although he’s originally from Hawaii. Keegan said he’d been on TV for the past several years, and “It’s awesome to be cooking again.”
Leigh is from the Denver suburb of Wheatridge and is a fourth-generation Italian-Coloradan. I’m a third generation Colorado Jew, and we’re probably within ten years of each other’s age. But Wheatridge is on the West Side, and I’m from the East Side, so we wouldn’t likely know anyone in common. But if she’s descended from West Side Italians, her ancestors were probably in gangs that rumbled with (or is it against?) the West Side Jews that my mother knew (although she herself is an East Side Jew, thank you very much).
I’m not so sure how tough those gangs were, actually; my childhood dentist had been in one of them.
Anyway, here’s what we ate:
Passed hors d’oeuvres:
Truffle salt-cured foie gras with buttermilk biscuit, sottocenere and huckleberry gastrique by Matt Selby
Colorado Buffalo Panini with goat milk brie, green chile and roasted fuyu persimmon jam by Troy Guard.
Wisconsin Monforte Gorgonozola with membrillo and Maldon sea salt by Goose Sorensen
and Prime beef tenderlooin tartare with crispy Colorado potato and golden Iranian caviar by Tyler Wiard
Adriano Adami Garbel 2006 Prosecco “13” and Villa Giada 2006 Barbera d’Asti
by Matt Selby:
Lobster, pit ham and camembert croque monsieur with fennel, Olathe corn and tarragon salad (the sandwiches had been individually wrapped in cellophane before service and looked just like 1970s sandwiches from a machine, but they didn’t taste like that)
Yangarra Estate 2005 Rosé from McLaren Vale, South Australia
by Troy Guard:
Flash-seared seafood salad with Kona kampachi cutthroat troat and otoro, grilled ramps, myoga, crimson watermelon and yuzu vinaigrette
Drylands Estate 2007 Sauvignon Blanc, New Zealand
by Goose Sorensen:
Serrano ham-wrapped Colorado lamb looin with haystack mountain goat cheese and local morel-stuffed piquillo peppers
Pesquera Ribera del Duero, 2003, Spain
by Tyler Wiard:
Grilled USDA Prime Smithfield New York strip with green chile-braised short rib, Navajo fry bread, poached quail egg and smoked red chile jus
Papapietro Perry 2005 Zinfandel, Russian River Valley, Calif.
Colorado Cheese Course:
Windsor Dairy Colona Cow's Milk, Windsor, Colo.
Haysteck Mountain Red Cloud Goat's Milk, Longmont, Colo.
James Ranch, Animas Valley Cow's Milk, Durango, Colo.
34 Degrees Crackers and herbed mallo
Taylor Fladgate 10-year-old Tawny Port (Portugal, obviously)
by Keegan Gerhard:
Chocolate Sur del Lago “Cremeux et Moelleux”
Inniskillin 2006 Cabernet Franc Icewine, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario