The Liquid Diet

This Week in THE LIQUID DIET…..

This week it is all about the Denver Food and Wine. I am going to be a bit self-promoting and regale you with the conquests of Row 14.

Saturday September 10, 2011 at 11:57 AM MST:

We are set and ready to rock when the first few guests start to trickle into the tent.  Our team (Chris, Griffen, David, D-Ron, Panda, Taylor and Russell) is pumped up and I think they are already making deals with the wine tables to either side of us to trade food for wine.  Somehow, though, we drew the short straw and were nestled right next to a table with the entire gambit of Yellowtail wines.  I almost feel bad when their rep offers me a taste and I give him a half hearted, “No, I’m fine, thanks”.  Quite an awkward situation but necessary to keep my dignity and credibility, right?!

We begin to build our first few plates and peddle them to eager patrons with wine glasses hanging from their necks by red straps which form little holders.  How clever!  I explain our dish again and again and receive looks of excitement, apprehension and a few sheer dumbfoundedness  (you know me, just making up words).  “We are offering a Yellowfin Tuna Poke with compressed Rocky Ford cantaloupe, sunflower seeds, wasabi tobiko, soy ginger vinaigrette…………………and caramelized bone marrow emulsion!!!”  I make sure to blurt out the last bit to really get a reaction.  I give them one of two follow-ups to ease or exacerbate their shock: “Its light refreshing and delicate and a decadent slap in the face all at the same time” or “Its just a play on Vitello Tonnato, the classic Italian dish of roasted veal with a confit tuna sauce, except not”.

I don’t know why it brings me such joy to Mind Ninja people, but it does.  I like to make people think.  Especially in large events like Denver Food and Wine, because there is so much sensory overload for people that getting them to stop and take a second to think can really have an impact.  I apologize, I’ve written way too much and have yet to mention any libations besides the Yellowtail, which let’s be honest, we are not counting.  I had to find a beverage that would pair with my dish.  Being the professional that I am I had to be diligent and “taste” copious amounts of alcohol to find the right paring.  What I unearthed as the best pairing to my Frankentseinian tuna and veal dish was an ‘09 Trefethen Dry Reisling.  If you have not had their wines, you need to get your ass on a plane to Cali and go to Napa and their winery.  The minerality and limestone with hints of white peach and slightly floral fragrance are everything that I want in a Reisling.  It really cut the “meat butter” richness of the marrow, yet still accented the elegance of the tuna and the sweetness of the melon.  All around a great wine and a brilliant pairing, a difficult task to be sure, because not many wines could simultaneously compliment bone marrow and raw tuna.

Saturday September 10, 2011 at 2:09 PM MST:

I have to run from our table to one of the Culinary Showcase Stages to rock out a demo.  I am sandwiched between Michael Long (Opus, Aria) and Sheila Lucero (Jax-Big Red F) so I know I gotta bring it!  The focus of all the demos is local Farm/Ranch to Table.  Each Chef partnered with a local producer to showcase their product.  I chose to work with Shannon and Chris Owens of Tenderbelly Pork.  They provided me with three beautiful suckling pigs.  I hooked up with my good friend Jake Norris (formerly of Strannahan’s Whiskey) and we smoked those bad boys over whiskey barrels and a small amount of pecan wood for 12 hours.

I have smoked, roasted, grilled, sous-vide, braised, broiled, boiled, stewed, confit, cured and steamed tons and tons of pig over the years and this was some of the best pork I have ever put in my face!  The combination of amazing pigs, basic chile brine, simple peach glaze, great wood, time and not f-ing with it too much yields sweet sweet love!  My demo was comprised of stuffing a whole pig through a bazooka looking jet-netter, sawing a part of baby pig and drooling over meat melting right off the bone.

I knew exactly where to go for a wine that would pair with a pile of this de-ricious suckling pig which, by the way, was topped with a Palisade Peach Marmalade.  I went to see Mr. Greg Konnigsbauer and he poured me an ‘08 Moccagatta Barbaresco.  100% Nebbiolo from Piedmonte aged in French barrrique.  The wine’s high acid and dry finish were exactly what the fatty richness of the pork needed to balance it.  The small amount of spice and pepper gave a great contrast to the sweetness of the peaches.  The wine had just enough structure to linger on your palate as the grease ran over your tongue and right out of the corners of your mouth.  The long finish was perfect because I could still taste the wine as I picked bits of crispy skin “candy” out of my teeth.  I wish you were there and if you were then I hope you rub it in to all your friends!

The lesson of the week is to sometimes challenge your palate and your mind with food and drink, and sometimes to just let the simple joy of yummy overcome you!

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!

  • Jensen Cummings


    Thanks for your kind words about this post. denver has a really great food and booze scene and it is only getting better! Love to have you some visit me at ROW 14. Sned me a quick message if and when you head this way