From July 13 through 15, 20,000 foodies, 300 chefs, 100-plus vendors, and scores of environmentalists and academics will flood the Mile High City for Slow Food Nations, Denver’s biggest and best culinary event of the year.
Slow Food USA, the organizer of Slow Food Nations, will bring the same high-quality culinary exhibitions, educational summits, and intimate workshops that characterized the inaugural Denver event last year. The goal? To promote relationships between producers and consumers, raise awareness about issues facing our food system, and ensure access to “food that is good, clean, and fair for all.” But this year’s festival has a new theme: climate change, and how food production can be both an instigator and victim of the phenomenon.
With so many opportunities—many are free!—to eat, drink, and learn, it’s tricky to know where to start. To help, we created this guide to 15 can’t-miss happenings over the course of the weekend, from chef-driven dinners to wine panels to farmers’ market parties. Here’s how to leave the celebration satisfied and with a deeper appreciation for the food, and systems, that nourish us.
Via Alba, a private catering endeavor led by a pair of former Barolo Grill chefs, will cook with produce grown on the Longmont property hosting the dinner, as well as with pork from nearby SkyPilot Farm. Most of the picnic-style meal will be cooked over an open fire, and attendees can also enjoy the farm’s fishing pond, row boat, canoe, and playground. July 12, 6 to 9 p.m., Community Table Farm, $50
Join top Centennial State chefs such as Chris Starkus (Urban Farmer) and Emil David (Aspen Kitchen) for a supper that pays tribute to Colorado’s agricultural bounty. Revel in locally-sourced dishes, cocktails, and wines as you chat with the Colorado ranchers, butchers, farmers, and bakers that produced the products on your plate. July 13, 6 to 9 p.m., Larimer Square, $65
This free small-bite spectacular at Larimer Square is the largest food event at Slow Food Nations. Commune with over 80 restaurants and food producers from around the nation as they offer samples of their products and share their stories. Keep your eyes peeled for local favorites such as Björn’s Colorado honey. July 14, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Larimer Square, FREE
If you’re hungry for more than free samples, stop by this new-to-Slow Food Nations pop-up eatery and bar to recharge with craft beers, cocktails, and delicious bites from the Edible Beats team (Linger, Root Down, Ophelia’s, Vital Root, and El Five) in a comfortable outdoor lounge setting. July 14 & 15, 10 a.m. to 9 p.m., Larimer Square, prices vary
Collaboration is key at this community-centered party where local chefs—including Jennifer Jasinski (Crafted Concepts) and Paul Reilly (Beast & Bottle and Coperta)—will have partnered with Colorado farmers to design one-of-a-kind small bites using produce from the Union Station Farmers Market. Bistro Vendôme’s garden patio is a gorgeous setting for such snacks, and drinks will come from the geniuses behind the RiNo Yacht Club. July 14, 3 to 5 p.m., Bistro Vendôme, $25
Form a deeper connection to the land as you dine on the open pasture of the Savory Institute’s 8,000-acre West Bijou Bison Ranch in Strasburg. After touring the ranch, attendees will savor a meal prepared by chef Daniel Asher (River & Woods, Acreage) featuring Bijou’s own bison, beef from nearby Flying B Bar Ranch, and local produce. Following dinner, Daniela Ibarra-Howell, CEO of the Savory Institute, will lead a discussion on the importance of regenerative agriculture, a farming approach that aims to strengthen ecosystems. July 14, 6 to 9 p.m., West Bijou Bison Ranch, $150
Leftovers take a lavish turn at this eco-friendly dining experience, which caps off the weekend. Luminaries such as Massimo Bottura (whose Osteria Francescana in Modena, Italy, was recently named the best restaurant in the world), Michelin-starred California chef Drew Deckman, and locals including Daniel Asher, Jamey Fader, Eric Lee, and Paul C. Reilly will wow diners as they transform would-be food waste from the weekends’ events into fresh culinary masterpieces. July 15, 5 to 8 p.m., Larimer Square, $40
Diners will settle into a five-course meal that’s all about celebrating foods grown in the Centennial State, prepared with meticulous care. Departure’s culinary director Gregory Gourdet will partner with Colorado chefs such as Caroline Glover (Annette) and James Beard Award-winner Alex Seidel (Mercantile Dining & Provision, Fruition) to present a sure-to-be-incredible meal highlighting veggies from local farms including Cure Organic Farm and the GrowHaus. July 15, 6 to 9 p.m., Departure, $110
If you are interested in the topic of food waste, don’t miss this talk. Industry experts, including chefs Paul C. Reilly and Michael Hurwitz (GrowNYC), will discuss the sources of food waste and present tasty solutions that will benefit your wallet, our local community, and the entire global ecosystem. July 14, 12 to 12:45 p.m., Larimer Square, FREE
Over the past year, allegations against restaurant moguls such as Mario Batali, Ken Friedman, and John Besh have made workplace sexual harassment an on-going topic of conversation for the food industry. In this timely seminar, speakers Maddie Oatman (Mother Jones) and Mitchell Davis (the James Beard Foundation) will address dangerous power dynamics in the kitchen and the pressing need for gender equality. Join the discussion and learn how to encourage change. July 15, 10 to 11:30 a.m., Larimer Square, FREE
You’ll transform into a vino connoisseur as Colorado Master of Wine Ashley Vaughters guides you through a tasting of six hand-selected wines from Colorado, California, and Italy. She’ll focus on natural winemaking, environmental preservation, and grape selection. Sips include Jack Rabbit Hill Mitzi’s 2016 Riesling from Colorado’s North Fork Valley and the citrusy 2017 Matthiasson Rosé from Dunnigan Hills in California. July 15, 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m., TAG Restaurant, $50
Discover a deeper appreciation for Colorado’s ample sunshine, open spaces, and independent family farms as you discuss the sustainable grazing practices that make Colorado cured meats so delicious. Taste your way through salumi selections from Colorado Springs’ Corner Post Meats, Denver’s Il Porcellino Salumi, and New York-based Casella’s Salumi. July 14, 2 to 3:30 p.m., TAG Restaurant, $50
Watch Michoacán cook Benedicta Alejo Vargas mix and press her way to tortilla perfection using a mix of red, blue, and yellow corn varieties native to Mexico. As she cooks, Vargas will relay legends (in Spanish with English translation) about corn as told by the Purépecha, a community indigenous to Mexico and the Michoacán region. After the tutorial, Puebla chef Alfonso Rocha Robles will use the fresh tortillas as a foundation for tacos and other traditional Mexican bites for attendees to sample. July 14, 2 to 3:30 p.m., Larimer Social, $50
If you’re still bugged out by eating, well, bugs, consider attending this informational tasting event led by Wendy Lu McGill, founder of Rocky Mountain Micro Ranch. Diners will learn about the nutritional and environmental benefits of eating insects, and chef Jaqueline Perez (Comida at the Source) will create an dish using McGill’s crunchy crickets and an agave cocktail to wash it down. July 14, 4:30 to 6 p.m., Larimer Social, $50
Savor a selection of Colorado cured meats, hand-crafted cheeses, and local craft brews in an intimate group setting with Jeff Roberts, author of Salted and Cured: Savoring the Culture, Heritage and Flavors of America’s Preserved Meats, as you explore the mysterious, funky chemistry that makes this harmonious trio so damn good. July 15, 2 to 3:30 p.m, Larimer Social, $50
For more information on these events and more, go to slowfoodnations.org.