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Image courtesy of Tasting Collective

There’s a New Members-Only Dining Club in Denver

Tasting Collective throws dinner parties at local restaurants so you can try off-menu dishes and play critic, too.

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Culinary subscription services and clubs have been popular for years, so why should you care about Tasting Collective, the three-year-old, members-only dinner party service that just launched in Denver? For starters, the company’s first event (on June 24) is a $50 six-course dinner at the Plimoth, one of the best restaurants on the Front Range.

New York City-based Nat Gelb started Tasting Collective for food lovers who were looking for a unique dining experience. The concept is simple: The first 250 people to sign up become members for $99 for the first year (paying $125 annually thereafter), which buys access to Tasting Collective’s bi-weekly dinners in Denver, as well as parties in any of the other seven host cities (New York City, Austin, Philadelphia, Chicago, Nashville, San Francisco/Oakland, and Washington, D.C.). Each six-course, family-style meal costs an additional $50 ($75 for your non-member plus-one), plus tax and tip. Members also receive perks at partner restaurants—think a free drink or appetizer—any time they visit.

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“Tasting Collective events are for people who want a chef-driven experience that’s way more affordable than it normally would be,” says Gelb, referring to the fact that many tasting menus at top restaurants can run from $150 to $200 per person or more.

“Collaborations are key, and just like so many things in this business—and everyday life—relationships are everything,” says the Plimoth’s chef-owner Peter Ryan. “We are constantly meeting new guests, vendors, chefs, sommeliers, and industry peeps; partnering with Tasting Collective is another opportunity to network with diners. It’s an industry game-changer.”

The current Denver venue list also includes Julep and Bistro Barbès. More are in the works, but Gelb doesn’t like to disclose who is hosting and when until a few weeks prior to each event.

Because the dinner parties take place Sunday through Wednesday, the Tasting Collective model brings in business during times when restaurants might be closed or at least a bit slower. (Tasting Collective earns no profits from the dinners, only from annual membership dues.) The Plimoth is open seven days, of course, so Ryan and general manager Adam Knickerbocker have scheduled a buy-out for the Tasting Collective event.

“We put a sign on the door that informs our guests that we are hosting a private event and to try us again soon,” says Knickerbocker. “We love throwing parties and our regular front-of-house and back-of-house crews will be here to show everyone a great time. Honestly, it will be a blast.”

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Diners can expect all sorts of surprises at these events, ranging from never-before-tasted dishes to multiple interactions with the chefs who come out of the kitchen to explain their dishes and chat. There’s also an opportunity to fill out comment cards, letting the chefs know what you liked and what didn’t work. “Think of it as the ‘anti-Yelp,’” says Gelb.

Speaking to the company’s eighth market, Gelb says that Denver was a no-brainer. “It has always been on our map due to the chef-owned, independent restaurants and growing food scene.” That scene now has a new player, and local chefs stand to gain just as much from it as new members.

If you go: Denver’s first Tasting Collective dinner will be at the Plimoth on June 24 at 7 p.m. Sign up here. Once you’re in the club, you can opt into any dinners you choose.

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