Food Lover's Guide to Denver
“Local first, sustainable second, organic third.” Celebrity chef Hugh Acheson’s simple food philosophy can, and should, be a guiding light for all of us. Here in Denver, we’re lucky to have a devoted group of people dedicated to local, sustainable, organic—and just plain good—food. Dig into the stories on the following pages, then get out there and taste the difference community makes.
It’s a Scorcher
The makings of a hot sauce empire.
A decade after Danny Cash whipped up a fiery hot sauce, funneled it into an empty Tabasco bottle, and delivered it to one of his favorite restaurants, Davie’s Chuck Wagon Diner on Colfax Avenue, he’s still making the blistering concoction. “People love it,” says Cash, who has always had a knack for tinkering in the kitchen. “It has a quick serrano bite, followed by a wave of garlic, ending with a strong, red habanero back-burn. In other words, it’s freaking awesome.” At the time, making hot sauce was a welcome respite from Cash’s day job, selling knives and pepper spray out of Southwest Plaza. “One day I woke up, and I decided I needed something new in my life,” Cash says.
Bottled Up Anger, as Cash’s signature serrano-garlic mixture is now called, has led this 32-year-old on a sauce-making odyssey he never really expected. After Davie’s Chuck Wagon called in its first order, he launched Danny Cash Hot Sauce with $1,000 in start-up money. Today, the company has a small commercial kitchen, a store, employs 15 people, and boasts a lineup of 27 sauces and condiments, which are sold as far away as Berlin.
Although Cash says he expects to do $1 million in sales this year, Danny Cash Hot Sauce is still a small Colorado company with a modest kitchen and a tough-guy persona gleaned directly from Cash’s image as a Mohawk-wearing, motorcycle-loving biker dude. Smokin’ Tailpipe, Mean Streak, and Radical Heat hot sauces sport labels with fire-engulfed motorcycles and the words “Danny Cash” set in a typeface only a Hells Angel could love.
But the bad-boy aura belies Cash’s gentle, generous nature. Although Cash is proud of his company’s success, he delights in helping other entrepreneurs. More than 50 companies retail out of Cash’s location in Englewood. He’ll even admit that one of the lines on his shelves—Rob Holdaway’s Sticky Brand BBQ Sauce—makes his favorite barbecue sauce. “My own hot sauces taste like work,” he says with a laugh. “I eat other people’s way more than my own.”
As Cash’s line expands (he just released Chidawgo, a condiment inspired by the Chicago dog), it’s fair to say that while hot sauce changed the course of Cash’s life, he’s repaying the favor by leaving a smoking-hot imprint on the industry itself. —Pete Prokesch
Making a business of leftovers.
if you take a moment to look around on your next walk through the city, you may be surprised by the number of fruit trees and berry bushes growing. Come harvest time, Kathy Lee of Modern Gingham Preserves turns this abundance of local food into marmalades and jams. Not only does she forage for public surplus, but Lee’s Congress Park home is also a pickup location for Grant Family Farms’ CSA program—which often means her kitchen houses vast amounts of leftover produce. Adhering to the “waste not, want not” mentality, Lee repurposes the bounty into savory jams such as sweet red onion and a dynamic carrot-ginger-vanilla. Spread these on a sandwich, dab on a pizza (recipe below), or add to a cheese plate, and delight in Colorado’s excess. moderngingham.com —Rachel Nobrega
Goat Cheese and Red Onion Pizza
- 1 package premade organic pizza dough (such as Whole Foods’ brand)
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 6 ounces shredded mozzarella
- 2 ounces goat cheese
- 4 tablespoons Modern Gingham Red Onion Jam
Spread the pizza dough on a parchment paper–lined baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and evenly spread the cheeses. Top with the jam and bake for 20 minutes at 400°.