Chef Laura: Appetite for giving
Today, Denver and surrounding ‘burbs celebrate Dining Out for Life, not to be confused with last month’s 5280 Restaurant Week (which, incidentally, now spans a fortnight – but who's counting?).
Across the nation, including a few neighbors to the north – Canada, not Wyoming, eh? – 60 cities celebrate this event, which began in 1991. The goal: Raise money to benefit each participating city’s HIV/AIDS service organizations.
In Denver, that's Project Angel Heart, which ropes in 25 percent of every food bill. Booze it up all you want, but that doesn’t count towards “charity.”
Now that you know the mission of Dining Out for Life, let’s talk about your part. You have just one day: Make it count!
First go to www.diningoutforlife.com/denver. Next, approach your day of dining domination like a game of Risk, and plan your strategic conquests.
For example, I’m flying into DIA this morning, putting me in western Kansas…no wait…let’s just call it “Aurora.” My big fat Greek burrito (smothered in green chili, of course) at participating restaurant Sam’s No. 3 is in order: $7.50 to Sam, $2.50 to Project Angel Heart.
For my techno-savvy readers, you can up the ante of today’s mission by downloading the app “Forkly," a cool tool that allows you to be your very own Anthony Bourdain. If you eat out as much as Tony and I do, and tend to feed off of fermented shark and ego-stroking, you may even develop a fan following on Forkly.
Fire up Forkly to check in, rank it, earn points, Instagram and Tweet. Like Pandora, this app is “intelligent” and can predict your preferences. Just be wary if it suddenly asks you in a robotic voice “Shall…we…play…a…game?” Matthew Broderick learned that lesson the hard way.
While settling my tab at Sam’s, I start planning lunch. The Ale House at Amato’s in LoHi is the quintessential sunny day lunch spot. Obviously, I am hard at work, so no tankard of Breckenridge 471 IPA (9.2% abv!) for me. I compromise with a cup of beer cheese soup and a pita salad with grilled Colorado lamb: $12.75 to The Ale House, $4.25 to Project Angel Heart, just for sitting on a rooftop deck in April…priceless!
While soaking in the rays and city view, my phone chirps with a message inviting me to dinner. I recently taught this guy how to make a James Beard-worthy peanut butter and jelly sandwich, and now he’s returning the favor. Mr. PB&J has no idea today is Dining Out For Life, nor does he realize the restaurant he picked, Luke’s, is one of the 300 participating places in Denver/Boulder.
I refer to my Dining Out For Life pocket guide in an attempt to make a “hipper” suggestion, but this local yokel is adamant that Luke’s is excellent. “It’s Zagat rated,” he says, hoping to impress this chef (poor thing pronounces it “Zag-at,” not “Za-gat”, but still – props for trying). Besides, he’s paying; Wheat Ridge or bust!
Having fulfilled my red meat quota for the day, I opt for seafood at a steakhouse. Yes, I realize this is a gamble, but it pays off. I piece together a tasty meal of F.O.S. topped with bubbly gruyere, steamed mussels and strawberry cobbler. That's $18.75 for Luke, $6.25 for Project Angel Heart. Telling my friend Luke’s was a great choice….painful!
Dining Out for Life is a fun and philanthropic way to eat your way though the Mile High City. Visit your usual stand-bys, explore your old stompin’ grounds to see what’s new since you left, or venture into the unknown (and surprisingly delicious).
After dessert, I fire up Forkly to recap my culinary adventures. Final tally = $39 to the local businesses, $13 to Project Angel Heart. Now multiply that by the thousands of people who will participate to benefit Denver and the other 59 cities – cha-ching for charity!