The Liquid Diet

This Week in THE LIQUID DIET: like most of you, I was enchanted by the spell of the Holiday Season!  Which, like most of you, means that I was in the mood for booze.  There is something about this time of year that evokes a passionate drive to drink (responsibly of course).  Is it the child-like excitement, the stress, or the cold weather?  I’m not sure, but I do know that I was willing to endure nothing short of frost bite to get something good in my cup!

Friday December 23, 2011 at 9:51 PM MST:

A rare opportunity to sneak out of the restaurant early on a Friday night presented itself and I jumped at it like a Jack in the Box (except slightly less creepy, or rather only very slightly less creepy).   What a perfect evening for an impromptu bar crawl around downtown Denver.  This merry jaunt, like so many things we do this time of year, brought me to many familiar places and faces.  The tour progressed as follows: Le Grand Bistro for a Vieux Carre, Freshcraft for a Saison by Funkwerks, Euclid Hall for a Doppelbock by Aventinus, Crave Dessert Bar for a Sazerac and then home for a nap.

If you were anywhere near the downtown area, you felt the bone-chilling cold sweeping through the streets.  I, in my holiday-induced desire to see good friends, shivered my ass around to these spots, stopping just long enough to warm my weary bones before shuffling to the next whiskey bar.  On this night, one beverage in particular caught my fancy.

The stop at Freshcraft was memorable, because over the last few years Funkwerks has really been gathering momentum in the Colorado craft beer scene–and I like beer!  They really made a statement that defines a niche identity when they set out to be a brewery specializing in Saisons.  Saisons have really become the vanguards of the beer world and are so versatile as Funkwerks continues to prove.  Their flagship brew, aptly named Saison, really differentiates itself from other Saisons by the use of French Saison yeast, pilsner malts, Munich II malts and German Opal hops.  Not that any one of these ingredient types is that uncommon in a Saison, but to group them all together in one Saison is.  All the malts and hops these Fort Collins boys use are grown organically, as well. This beer carries those citrus, ginger and pepper notes that you would expect, but the really interesting attribute of this beer is the long dry finish with lingering yet subtle bitterness.  This is a byproduct of the base of the beer being built almost like a German Pilsner that then is with the funky Saison yeast.  It is like a German-French-Belgian mutant baby raised in Fort Collins and has now been unleashed onto the world!  It is a very sessionable Saison even at 6.8% ABV, so don’t feel guilty drinking a whole bottle to yourself…I did!

Saturday December 24, 2011 at 7:46 PM MST:

Quite counter-intuitive to popular schools of thought, which see white wines being “summer-y” and reds more “winter-y”, I was going to swim upstream for I was in a Riesling mood! Riesling is a wine that screams, “festive food-friendly save me from all the rich food.”  It doesn’t actually say any of those things, because it is a wine and it can’t speak, but in my warped mind that’s what I hear.

So, tonight at a lovely Christmas Eve dinner, I knew that a German Riesling was just what Santa ordered.  A first visit to the restaurant Edge in the Four Seasons was exactly the vehicle I needed to deliver me that Riesling I so desired.  The expansive dining room was impressive, yet I felt out of place.  Not because I wasn’t wearing a suit, but because nearly everyone else in the dining room was either twenty years older or twenty years younger than me.  Families as far as the eye could see!  The table I plopped down in had a slight view of the kitchen, so obviously I had my head cocked that way for the entire meal.

The first plate that hit the table was compliments of the kitchen and was the highlight of the meal.  A minimalist plate with a few gleaming slices of Kobe beef sat aside a truffle ponzu, a bowl with sushi style garnishes and hot stone nestled in a wooden box awaiting the meat it was there to cook.  This Japanese style of hot stone cooking is called ‘Ishi-Yaki’ and dates back to before some of the more ancient guests at Edge were born.  Being, well, not that smart, I felt the overwhelming need to touch the stone…it was hot! Go figure.  It was meant to cook my dinner.  As the first tender vittles hit the stone, the 2008 Markus Molitor Spätlese Riesling hit the table.

Spätlese (“late harvest”) is a category of Riesling that refers to a wine produced with late harvest grapes.  This is the lowest tier of three (Auslese, Beerenauslese) that signify their scale of sweetness.  I am a big fan of Spätlese because they have that sweetness and funk from sitting on the vine too long and getting infected with Botrytis (nobel rot), but have a gripping acidity that makes them so great with food.  While enjoying my Riesling, Kobe beef and my burnt finger I glanced up and noticed Don Cheadle in one of the private rooms with his family.  This has nothing to do with my experience, but I am a big fan of his movies and felt it worth mentioning since he, come to find out, is a Denver Native.  Sorry for the tangent.

Upon devouring every plate put in front of me and every drop of booze poured I headed back to the kitchen for quick tour…their dish station is bigger than my entire kitchen at ROW 14…and that’s all I have to say about that!  Yet another tangent, but the important thing is that you get out there and try some Riesling.  From sweet to dry this grape/wine is the King of Whites (sorry Chardonnay)!

All kidding aside…I have a belly button! (Ya, it’s an innee.)  I thank all of you for allowing me to verbally vomit every week about my experiences.  I hope you all had a great Holiday!  The memories we create with the ones we love always sweeter with something delicious in your cup!  Cheers!

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!