Have you been immersed?
We are not talking about baptism, but it can be a sort of religious experience. Immersive experiences are all the buzz now in Colorado, ranging from Van Gogh and Monet exhibits to Disney Animation and Denver’s wacky Meow Wolf.
Colorado is also home to some deeply escapist food experiences including the legendary Casa Bonita, an old-school immersive restaurant/dinner theater/amusement park about to reopen.
Now is the time to escape the culinary doldrums and hit the road for a smorgasbord of food and beverage events this summer.
The following out-of-the-ordinary stops on Colorado’s taste trail are guaranteed to expand your culinary consciousness — or at least produce some memorable meals.
A French-Kissed Fest
As brasseries and patisseries are making a major local comeback, immerse yourself in all things French at the Bastille Day French Fest, July 14-15 in Denver’s Cherry Creek North, with lots of bloomy soft cheese, food, butter, baked goods and wine. Info: rmfacc.org
Afterwards, laisez le bon temps rouler for dinner at Denver’s La Merise, French 75, Bistro Vendome, Chez Maggy, Le French, Le Bilboquet or Bistro LeRoux.
Chow Down On The Farm
Field and barn feasts truly immerse you in the setting and offer a wider taste of the state’s agricultural wonders than just hitting the farmers markets. One of the coolest venues is the Lyons Farmette, which hosts a series of always-sold-out meals featuring local chefs and farms that benefit local nonprofits. Upcoming events include: Rosetta Hall Chefs (July 19), Chef Daniel Asher (Aug. 30), Whistling Boar (Sept. 13), Butcher & The Blonde (Sept. 20), and Marigold (Sept. 26). Info: lyonsfarmette.com
Where the Chile Winds Blow
The 28th Annual Chile & Frijole Festival is Sept. 23-25, featuring clouds of tear-jerking roasted chile perfume, tables of sweat-inducing chile dishes plus music, a chile & salsa “showdown,” the Chihuahua and Friends Parade and a jalapeño eating contest. Info: pueblochilefestival.com
Food with a View
Almost every eatery and bar in Colorado can claim to have a “great view,” but some views far outshine others in the sunset and rainbows department. For a spectacular panoramic urban dining moment, nothing beats Denver’s highest alfresco spot, 54thirty. The patio on the 20th floor of Le Méridien hotel dishes high-end small bites, chilled cocktails and chocolate peanut butter pie with a pretzel crust. Info: 54thirty.com
Expand Your Dining Consciousness
There is no shortage of Colorado food festivals, but some destinations are really worth the drive, the money and the time. The open-air Big Eat lives up to its name with unlimited bites and sips on July 20 at the Denver Performing Arts Complex. The event eschews chains and instead features 60-plus independent eateries including Coperta, Fruition, Mercantile, Pho King Rapidos, Restaurant Olivia, Rewild at Nurture, Rooted Craft Kitchen, Sunday Vinyl and Sushi-Rama. Drinks provided by such local stars as Carboy Winery, Cerveceria Colorado, Stem Ciders and The Family Jones distillery. Tickets: eatdenver.com/the-big-eat
Short Trip to the Southwest’s Best Eats
To visit a bunch of Yelp’s Top 100 Places to Eat in the Southwest in 2023, you don’t have to drive very far. The locals offer an amazing collection of international cuisines including Istanbul Cafe and Bakery and Tokyo Premium Bakery in Denver, Urban Burma and Jasmine Syrian Food in Aurora, Asian Cookery (Malaysian) and Hafa Adai Fiesta Food (Guamanian) in Colorado Springs.
To taste the only Colorado eatery to make Yelp’s Top 100 Places to Eat in the U.S., make a beeline to Denver’s completely vegan Wellness Sushi.
A Day of Artisan Chocolate Immersion
There are local salt spas, honeybee spas and beer spas, but for artisan chocoholics, a total cacao day is in order. Start at Cultura Craft Chocolate, a maker of extraordinary bars, offering a colorful, fragrant cafe and shop in Denver worth a visit just for a cup of stellar drinking chocolate.
Just walking into the Chocolate Therapist in Littleton makes your neuroses feel better relieved as you are immersed in the aroma of a roomful of hand-crafted chocolate candies. The caramels here are quite wonderful. To double your fun, take the shop’s wine and chocolate pairing class.
Then, make reservations for dinner at Denver’s Chocolate Lab, the state’s only chocolate-focused eatery, bar and dessert spot. The menu includes dishes like seared scallops with white chocolate carrot bourbon polenta.
Take Me Out Near the Ballgame
To enjoy a ballpark-like experience without the expense and potential heartache of attending a Rockies game, visit the next-door public McGregor Square complex. Rockies games are shown on a 66-by-20-foot LED screen, and instead of Rocky Dogs, choose from food stalls inside the Milepost Zero food hall. We sampled warm empanadas filled with birria and chorizo and potato alongside Japanese fried chicken and pork belly buns with black bean sauce and spicy roasted cauliflower street tacos. A tap wall allows you to refill beverages as needed. An added plus: You can hear the roar when a home run gets hit at Coors Field about 500 yards away.
Local Food News: Creek Fest Food Fun
The Boulder Creek Festival is back Friday through Monday, May 26 through 29, with food stands offering everything from bratwurst, burgers, tacos, shaved ice, baked goods, barbecue, ice cream, lobster rolls, Cajun food and sushi. The Creekside Beer Festival features unlimited sips from 20-plus breweries for two-hour sessions Saturday and Sunday, May 27 and 28.
Denver International Airport made Food & Wine’s list of top 10 U.S. airports with the best food options. It does have some good local eateries: You have to wonder if most travelers discovered them while stuck in Denver because of Southwest Airlines’ snafus.
Words to Chew On: Barbecue Guilt
“Grilling is like sunbathing. Everyone knows it is bad for you but no one stops doing it.”
— From “Home Cooking” by Laurie Colwin
John Lehndorff hosts Radio Nibbles at 8:20 a.m. Thursdays on KGNU. Today’s guest: Boulder chef Dakota Soifer. Listen to podcasts at: