Don't dawdle, Denver diners

Column by Penny Parker

Posted

Hoping for a 7 p.m. reservation at Barolo Grill, Elway's Cherry Creek or Ocean Prime during Denver Restaurant Week(s)? Prime time seats at those foodie favorites are filled.

The menus for the 9th Annual Denver Restaurant Week(s) (Feb. 23 to March 8) last week went live at www.denverrestaurantweek.com, and many of the most popular spots were “fully committed” (restaurant speak for “you're out of luck, pal”) before the end of the work day with the exception of early (5 p.m.) or late (after 9) reservation slots.

But with more than 300 restaurants already participating in the event that charges $52.80 per couple ($26.40 for one) for a three-course meal, there are plenty of eateries to go around. But, if you snooze, you lose. One way to check reservation availabilities is to go to www.opentable.com.

“The great fun of restaurant week is gathering together friends, exploring the hundreds of menus on the website, and then experimenting and trying new restaurants or revisiting old favorites,” said Richard Scharf, president & CEO of Visit Denver, the owner and organizer of the event.

More than 300 restaurants have already signed up to participate in 2013 with more coming on board every day. “We will continue to post menus on the site as we get them from the restaurants, so it pays to check the site frequently,” Scharf said.

While the event continues to grow — with 339 restaurants participating last year, Denver broke all records for restaurant weeks across the country — some beloved fine dining spots opted out this year.

Perhaps most notably, was the decision by Bonanno Concepts, the restaurant company owned by chef Frank Bonanno, to “86” its two white tablecloth spots, Mizuna and Luca d'Italia, from the Denver Restaurant Week(s) menu.

Other lower priced Bonanno Concepts restaurants — Osteria Marco, Russell's Smokehouse, Lou's Food Bar and Bones (which are all wonderful) — are still part of the program.

“Frank gives his chefs freedom when it comes to menu creation and events, and the chef teams at Mizuna and Luca d'Italia have decided to decline participation in this year's Denver Restaurant Week because they simply prefer to run business as usual,” said Lauren Hendrick, PR and marketing coordinator for Bonanno Concepts. “It's really as simple as that.”

A new feature on the www.denverrestaurantweek.com website allows diners to share their “Must-Dine” lists with their friends on Facebook, giving them yet another way to make their plans.

Based on surveys, a record 404,400 meals were served during DRW 2012, up 12 percent over the 360,480 total meals served in 2011. Website traffic at the DRW site saw 7 million page views in 2012.

Scharf encouraged diners to make reservations early, but sent a word of warning to “no shows.”

“Please honor your reservations,” he said. “One of the most frustrating things about the event is when people make a reservation, and don't show up, denying other diners that time slot. Don't be a no-show! Please notify the restaurant if your plans change so they can fill that table.”

And, on another note, please remember to tip your server on the real bill's total, not just on the discounted $52.80 price tag. Mangia!

No bull

It's always an event worth stampeding to when the 2013 Grand Champion Steer visits The Brown Palace Hotel & Spa from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Jan. 25.

The Grand Champion Steer will trot down a red carpet in the iconic property and make an appearance in the lobby, spending the afternoon grazing amongst guests enjoying the hotel's afternoon tea service. The tradition, which began in 1945, is open to the public and will include opportunities to have pictures taken with the Grand Champion Steer as well as with the 2013 Rodeo Queens.

For more information, go to www.brownpalace.com.

Comedy Works makes list

Stand-up comic Amy Schumer included the Denver Comedy Works club in a lauded list of her top 10 top-flight comedy clubs in the country, which she shared with USA Today in its Friday edition.

Longtime Comedy Works owner Wende Curtis, who has locations on 15th near Larimer and in the Landmark development in Greenwood Village, has created a national reputation for her clubs among stand-out stand-up comedians.

Schumer, whose Comedy Central series “Inside Amy Schumer” premieres April 30, told USA Today that “the layout, the staff and the type of crowd all help make for a memorable show.”

The story says that “Schumer recorded an album at this downtown Larimer Square club, and particularly likes the crowds.”

“They're smart and they're excited … and the staff knows how to produce a show,” she said.

Curtis said she was thankful that her club was included in such a list of luminaries. “I think I speak for all of us who know we have created something really special in Comedy Works,” she said.

“The comics, the staff, the management, the crowds and the spaces themselves … well, they speak for themselves. And we know how comics feel about Comedy Works. They tell us week after week.

“And now more of the nation knows.”

Check out coming shows at both locations at www.comedyworks.com. See the rest of Schumer's picks at http://www.usatoday.com/story/travel/destinations/10greatplaces/2013/01/10/10-great-places-where-comedy-is-king/1824839/.

Eatin' of the green

Finding the best green chili in Denver is a tough job, but somebody's got to do it — and one of those people may as well be me.

Join me along with other judges Jon Emanuel (executive chef, Project Angel Heart), Lori Midson (Westword), Lisa Hidalgo (Denver's 7), Mark McIntosh (Mile High Sports Radio 1510-AM, 93.7-FM), Joan Brewster (American Culinary Foundation) and local celebrity Artie Guerrero at Steve's Snappin' Dogs, Colfax and Monroe, for the “Best Tasting Green Chili Contest” from 1 to 3 p.m. Jan. 26.

Pat “Gabby Gourmet” Miller will be covering the “heated debate” live on her Gabby Gourmet radio show on KHOW 630-AM. Steve's Snappin' Dogs will donate 10 percent of all hot dog sales on the day of the event to Project Angel Heart. Perhaps a little green chili on your dog? Samples will be passed around to audience members.

There will be plenty of green to share from more than 20 entries. (Yikes, what have I gotten myself into?)

For more information, contact Gina Dickerson at 720-435-9241 or via e-mail at info@chowdownforcharity.com, or visit the event's website at www.chowdownforcharity.com.

All aboard!

The NightShine Gala, a celebration of the Denver Health Foundation, has snagged the hip hit-making band Train for the April 27 event at the National Western Events Center, 1515 E. 47th Ave.

The event begins with a cocktail reception at 6, dinner at 7:30, live auction and program at 8:30 and Train's performance at 9:30.

This year's event chair is Oakwood Homes owner Pat Hamill; 2013 honorees are James and Pamela Crowe.

For more details and tickets, go to www.denverhealthfoundation.org or contact Candice Jones at 303-602-2978 or Candice.jones@dhha.org.

Penny Parker's “Mile High Life” column gives insights into the best events, restaurants, businesses, parties and people throughout the metro area. Parker also writes for Blacktie-Colorado.com. She can be reached at penny@blacktie-llc.com or at 303-619-5209.

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