Denver is one of ten cities hosting the James Beard Foundation’s Taste America dinner series—virtually, of course—and we enthusiastically approve of the organization’s choice of chef to represent the Mile High City: Spuntino chef and co-owner Cindhura Reddy. She and her mighty team will create a three-course takeout meal ($95 per person or $175 for two) for the Sunday, March 21 event, which will also feature special wines, cocktails, one of co-owner Elliot Strathmann’s house amari, and a national Zoom broadcast with all of the participating chefs, from Boston to Seattle.
“It’s flattering, and a little intimidating, but we’re excited,” Reddy says. “This will be really fun, to show people what we’re doing in our funny restaurant world.” That world, of course, features a menu that is a beautiful mix of the South Indian flavors and techniques linked to Reddy’s heritage and the simple Italian fare Spuntino is known for, all while showing off Colorado’s best ingredients.
The first course for the Taste America dinner will be one of Reddy’s favorite dishes: elk tartare with toasted masala aïoli, ginger, garlic, and cilantro with ajwain seed crisps. It will be packed up pretty much ready to eat, but the following entrée of confit rabbit leg with house-made saffron cavatelli will require a little cooking from diners at home. Reddy filmed an instructional video detailing what to do, though, and diners can watch and finish the dish either before the 6 p.m. live event begins, or during the Taste America programming. And don’t worry if your kitchen skills aren’t quite Spuntino-worthy. (Whose are?) “Cavatelli is a little more forgiving to cook at home,” Strathmann says. “You don’t have to nail al dente perfectly with cavatelli.” Dessert will be jars of budino, with layers of vanilla and mango custards topped with a cardamom-pistachio crumble.
“The dishes we’re doing capture exactly who we are these days. So much of what’s helped us through the past 11 months now is just staying true to what we are and sticking to our guns, food-wise,” Strathmann says.
“Just last year, half our menu wasn’t South Indian,” Reddy adds. “We’ve changed a lot in the last year, but we’re still trying to make people happy in the same ways.”
Between 60 and 100 dinner kits will be available for the Taste America event, with a staggered, contactless meal pickup at Spuntino’s dining tent on March 21. Tickets go on sale today, February 10, with 70 percent portion of the $95 ticket price ($175 for two) going to Spuntino and the other 30 percent going to the James Beard Foundation’s Open for Good campaign, which is helping independent restaurants survive the COVID-19 crisis through advocacy, training, and grants.