The Liquid Diet

This Week in THE LIQUID DIET…..

This week brought us a couple of killer beers at a couple great spots, but somehow they were out shined by some incredible juice! No, not juice box juice, even though those are pretty awesome!  The goodness created by the great science and art of fermenting grapes.  Come on, do I have to spell it out for you…WINE!  Of course my week had to start and finish with those killer beers because… I like beer!

Wednesday August 31, 2011 at 7:27 PM MST

As do most of my weeks, this one starts (as far as my adult beverage career is concerned) with a tall cold glass of grain transformed to mash transformed to wort transformed to BEER!  This stop was just for one, which we have all said too many times before and so often seems to lead to debauchery! However, on this trip it was only one because of pesky dinner reservations. Drive down 17th and pass the usual spots like Steuben’s, D Bar, Il Posto, Thin Man  and on 17th and Vine you’ll find Vine Street Pub, a quaint neighborhood joint. Have you been to any of the Mountain Sun establishments? Vine Street, Mountain Sun, Southern Sun? Well, if you have then I am sure that you have experienced a Resinous Rye.

This American style Pale Ale, with enough rye seed to make you slap your mama, is unequivocally my favorite of their perennial brews.  When I drink it or even when I hear its name I instantly envision a major league baseball bat.  Like ‘Casey at the Plate’ with a giant tree trunk with that pine tar lathered all over it.  A once pristine Louisville Slugger now greased and bruised, yet somehow it creates the perfect dynamic to slug the crap out of the ball.  That’s a Resinous Rye!  Its strong grain build and hop forward characteristics are only heightened by the rough, yet poignant sharpness of the rye.  I really enjoy how un-apologetic it is.  It says: “I am hoppy, I am spicy and I am a bit grungy, so deal with it!”  It hits a home run in my mouth.  That’s enough, I’m moving on before someone gets hurt.

Wednesday August 31, 2011 at 9:45 PM MST

Now on to those pesky dinner reservations I was talking about.  This being my birthday dinner I wanted to go somewhere that I knew would bring it when it came to food and wine and boy was I right.  The scene of the crime was Wild Catch, and with Jon Greschler and Justin Brunson behind the wheel, I knew I was in for an ass whooping!

The evening started off cordial enough with how do you do’s and nice to see ya’s, but I knew they were just trying to lure me into letting down my guard.  A familiar face in our server Jim and a futuristic gizmo iPad wine list almost sucked me in.  I noticed Bobby Stuckey (MS/owner of Frasca) could not keep his hands off of the iPad.  Every time he picked that thing up, Jon looked quite nervous and with good reason.  It would be like Thomas Keller giving my menu a thorough “judging”. I would of course pretend to be sublimely confident, but that would be all for show.

Anyway, I started with a South African Chenin Blanc by Ken Forrester, which was lovely.  Its refreshing to see something elegant coming out of South Africa.  Too many Pinotages have clouded my judgement about their wines.  This Chenin Blanc had beautiful acidity and strong minerality, which I really love.  Finished very dry and complimented the food brillitantly.  I worked my way through their fish charcuterie plate which was where Justin started to really try to get in my head with smoked mussels in Swedish mustard.  Briny and delicate yet assertive with hints of real unicorn blood or something mythical and delicious like that.

Kingfish Crudo, Arctic Char and Diver Scallops all followed and were executed beautifully and that’s when it happened: I succumb and let them bring the hammer!  Jim casually mentioned the desserts he thought I had to have and an excellent wine that would compliment both said desserts.  I blindly obeyed and waited patiently for what I thought would be a nice quiet conclusion to the evening.  Jim returns with a late harvest then frozen Pinot Noir called Deglace (in the style of Vin de Glaciere) by Adelsheim from Oregon and it had begun. This 17%  juggernaut boasts rich peach and citrus notes.  The mouth feel is like velvet wrapped in clouds. Then the chocolate came and all hell broke loose!  I awoke in a forest with my clothes torn to shreds, dried blood at the corners of my mouth and the smell of freshly killed deer wafting all around me.

Okay, it didn’t get that out of hand, but I did start to salivate like a hungry animal.  The Bittersweet, as they have dubbed it, is a devil’s food cake layer with chocolate sabayon, bitter caramel, candied orange zest and fleur de sel.  The intense chocolate flavor punches you in the mouth and then the savory levels of salt and bitter caramel bring you back to life.  The orange zest cleanses your palate and you are ready for another decadent bite.  Then you involve the wine and shit gets real! I usual have some great adjectives and strange descriptions to articulate what is happening in my mouth, but at this moment the words escape me. Sorry.  You’ll just have to try both the Adelsheim and the Bittersweet.  Justin confirmed my suspicions about who was responsible for this chocolate monster of yum… Deanna Parker, who else.  She is one of the pastry powerhouses here in Denver, so you should know who she is ASAP and taste her desserts at Wild Catch or at Table Six.  Consider yourself educated!

Sunday September 4, 2011 at 4:07 PM MST

My first trip to the newly opened Denver Beer Co yielded a couple very interesting beers and some great conversation.  Getting together with friends and swapping stories is really the cornerstone of what has and will always make beer such an integral part of the human condition.  Beers can wait, the joyous swapping of stories took place with the one and only PJ Hoberman! PJ, if you are from Mars and don’t know, is the Ringleader of this very publication and a good friend.  We laughed, we cried and were mesmerized by the artwork of goats on the walls.  Seriously, have you been to Denver Beer Co?  The art is simultaneously creepy and inspiring!

After picking my buddy Casey Capper’s (Head Honcho at Denver Beer CO) brain about their line-up I settled on drinking a…well all their beers alright!  I loved the unique combo of kaffir lime in a wheat beer.  The citrus and “soapy” flavor of kaffir really gave some funk to the bready nature of the wheat.   Right away I wanted to be on Federal doing a bar crawl, but traveling not from bar to bar, rather from Pho house to Pho house with a keg of that strapped to my back.  Then from Pho to a dine around Denver eating nothing but pig parts paired with their Smoked Lager!  I admit, it doesn’t take much more me to fall into a pork eating frenzy, but this beer definitely would expedite the process.  I put it to my nose and I was instantly whisked away to a medieval feast and there over a roaring fire was a noble swine on a spit ready to be devoured.  On the palate the Smoked Lager had a peppery bacon flavor with a nice bitterness, yet it being a lager it finished very crisp.  Not quite sessionable, but quite drinkable for such an aggressive smoke character.  I was going to hit up the food truck outside, but after drinking that Smoked Lager I felt fully satiated.  Did I mention how crazy awesome the artwork is?!

Great friends, great beer and great wine make for a great week!  Always remember to enjoy the company you keep as much as the booze you drink.

Quite a week in the life of THE LIQUID DIET…what will this week hold in store…stay tuned!

About Jensen Cummings

Jensen Cummings (@JensenDCummings) is the Executive Chef at Row 14 in downtown Denver. He calls his food "Pangean Cuisine" and his teaching style "Fortune Cookie Philosophy" so you know he's a little off his rocker! His side passion project is to collaborate with brewers on chef/food inspired beers meant to be paired with high end cuisine. Jensen is an avid beer collector, student of spirits, soon to be Certified Cicerone and a sommelier in training. Basically, he is just really into adult beverages and super geeky!