I have generous friends.
What can I say?
I was invited to attend a special food and wine event preceding the showing of the highly anticipated film, SOMM.
Held at the recently unveiled Hospitality Learning Center [HLC] on the Denver Metro campus, it was a special evening, indeed.
A few of us got the privilege of being toured around the Center personally by Metro’s President, Stephen Jordan.
He told us how this is one of the most state-of-the-art facilities in the country on a college campus.
The Center includes a Sensory Wine Lab, which is one of only five in the world [not just the country – the world].
There are four kitchens – one devoted to just pastries.
There’s a wine cellar stocked with over 3000 bottles.
And something that really got my attention as an art lover – all artwork in the HLC and adjacent hotel – was created by faculty, students and alumni of the college.
With a serious art program and over 1000 art majors, naturally they want to showcase the creative talent of their own immediate community.
The room we dined in was designed in Iron Chef style, with cameras pointing to the main prep counter, TV’s and a stadium-like viewing area.
When we walked in, we were handed a glass of rose, and later, once we sat down, a glass of chardonnay.
Both were good, and in the expected procession of a sophisticated dinner like this one.
Tickets were $225. each, and much of that went to benefit the school.
Passed appetizers included a lump crab salad in red pepper gelee, watermelon squares with ahi tuna, prosciutto and smoked balsamic, as well as foie gras mousse in crunchy brioche, rolled like a pig in a blanket, but the best pig in a blanket you’ve ever had.
The first seated course was a White Asparagus Panna Cotta with Thai basil and hazelnut crumbs.
This was my favorite of the night.
Fresh, mild asparagus flavor in the panna cotta, and inch-long pieces of white asparagus – a luxury – sprinkled around.
Hazelnuts are always welcome on my plate, for their rich flavor, and the crunchy bite added a nice texture to the soft custard.
The main dish featured Colorado lamb – which our state is known for – and it made sense they wanted to highlight it at this dinner.
It was tender and sweet and lovely.
Jay paired this with a stunning Bordeaux – which spent 18 months in French oak barrels – and one of the best red wines I’ve ever had.
The dessert course was a White Chocolate Carrot Cake with drops of geranium curd – as though carrot cake alone isn’t delicious enough – yes, please, go ahead and add white chocolate.
6, 1/2 inch layers of cake and 6 of frosting, this was a gorgeous presentation and happy departure from the standard milk chocolate dessert [though I do love my milk chocolate].
The cake was paired with a Muscat from Spain, which was perfect.
Someone at the table found it too sweet, and I thought they were crazy, but did my duty and drank theirs too.
Anytime you have the opportunity to have food prepared for you by Kevin Taylor, and have a Master Sommelier* select your wines, it’s a true privilege.
We had a wonderful, warm group of people at our table, and I was reminded once again, how the table is a true place of connection and community.
Another privilege I’m grateful for.
*There are only 134 Master Sommeliers in North America, which is why a film like SOMM is so fascinating – to get a peek into that highly demanding process. You can read the full list of them – and the cities they’re in – at http://www.mastersommeliers.org.