Editor’s note: This event has been cancelled. We will update this post should that status change.
Allan Benton is a legend in the ham world, which is the best world we can think of in which to be a legend. In fact, his Benton’s Smoky Mountain Country Ham products are so celebrated they earned him a spot in the James Beard Foundation Awards’ Who’s Who Hall of Fame in 2015. They’ve also earned him the adoration of Southern chefs, like William Dissen of North Carolina’s the Market Place, Haymaker, and Billy D’s Fried Chicken, and Appalachian-born Ian Palazzola, executive chef at Denver’s Acorn. The two chefs will collaborate, along with Tennessee-bred Bryan Dayton, on drinks and good old-fashioned Southern hospitality at A Taste of the South, a weekend of events (March 21–22) to celebrate Benton and his amazing work.
“I’m from the Appalachian area and I’ve known Allan Benton’s products for a long time,” Palazzola says. “I’m excited to bring southern food to Colorado that isn’t just fried chicken, but the lighter side. I want to showcase the South, but not just the standard things that everyone around here automatically assumes.”
That means sock sausage cornmeal fritters (yes, sock sausage, which is made from cooked ground pork that ages briefly in a muslin bag, shaped like a sock, before being smoked); pickled shrimp with country ham cracklings; bacon-wrapped trout with chow chow; and peach vinegar pie (made with a bacon-fat cornmeal crust, naturally) at Acorn’s Tribute Dinner on March 21. There are two seatings—at 6 and 7 p.m.—and tickets cost $100, with optional drink pairings for an additional $45.
Sunday’s country-ham-and-caviar-themed meet (meat?)-and-greet with Benton should be extra lively. Like, ham luge-level lively. Yes, in addition to a caviar bump station, charcuterie from Acorn, bacon-washed old fashioneds, shaved prosciutto, and other Southern-style action stations, you’ll get the chance to take shots of whiskey and bourbon out of a frozen ham. That event will take place around Isabel bar inside the Source, from 2–4 p.m., and tickets are $65. “I’m really excited to have someone like Allan here. For me, it’s about highlighting someone who spent their whole life working so hard to make such an awesome product,” Palazzola says.