Colorado’s Culinary Scene Helps Define Meetings
Photos: Breakfast on the Colorado National Monument, courtesy Visit Grand Junction; Snowmass Wine Festival, courtesy Snowmass Tourism; Brewhop Trolley, courtesy Visit Longmont; Cooking School of Aspen; Café Julie at The Broadmoor
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With more and more people being plugged into the food scene and having various dietary needs, the culinary element of any meeting or event demands more consideration than ever. Not only are quality and ingredients in the spotlight, food and beverage are a big part of the overall experience.
Whether gathering at a hotel or restaurant, tapping the talents of a catering company or booking a cooking class for team-building, there is no shortage of great options in Colorado. Plus, there are great nontraditional venues to enhance the dining and drinking experience, including an impressive range of wineries, breweries and distilleries that have tasting rooms and event spaces.
Here are five ways to utilize Colorado’s culinary landscape to help make your next meeting stand out from the crowd.
1. Meet the Makers
Farmers’ markets held across the state in summer and fall are the perfect place to meet the people who raise the produce and livestock, make the jams and jerkies, and roast the chiles. But what if the timing of your meeting doesn’t overlap? Properties like Hotel Madeline & Residences in Telluride have been known to create a farmer’s market for an outdoor reception. Add some appetizers made from local foods and invite the local breweries and distilleries to create a magical and tasty evening.
Some of the easiest places to meet the makers are at the nearly 200 craft breweries, 100-plus wineries and 40 distilleries that call Colorado home. For example, small groups can stay, meet and celebrate at Two Rivers Winery & Chateau in Grand Junction or larger groups can do a tasting and reception with the vineyard as a backdrop. Schedule a meeting at The Infinite Monkey Theorem in Denver, the first winery to can wine, and wrap up with a toast or a blending trial to craft a custom wine from up to four IMT favorites.
Distilleries around the state have tasting rooms, and some like Montanya Distillers in Crested Butte and Marble Distilling Co. in Carbondale can host groups for events. Marble Distillery also may be the only place in the nation where there is an inn with five guest rooms above where spirits are made. Big names like MillerCoors in Golden and Budweiser in Fort Collins along with craft breweries around the state offer tours and tastes, and the Brewhop Trolley in Longmont makes it easy to visit several in a few hours.
2. Hotels Breaking Out of the Mold
Remember when every hotel restaurant and banquet meal used to look the same? Hallelujah that is no longer the case, especially in Colorado. The Broadmoor, a AAA Five Diamond and Forbes Five Star resort in Colorado Springs, makes nearly all if its delicious breads and pastries in-house, has a chocolatier on staff and features a AAA Five Diamond restaurant, The Penrose Room.
Sheraton Downtown Denver Hotel sends its executive chef, sous chef and food and beverage director on exploratory missions to attend events like the Palisade Peach Festival and visit cheese makers, jam producers and sweet corn farms on Colorado’s Western Slope to find the best products available.
The Source Hotel + Market Hall recently opened and is home to New Belgium Brewing Company’s first Denver small-batch brewery. At the heart of the lobby experience, guests check in a few feet away from where a 10-barrel system produces beers featured on a constantly rotating tap list served at the rooftop Woods bar and restaurant. There are two other restaurants at the hotel and a collection of experiential, craft-focused Denver vendors plus the original Source market hall only steps away.
3. Tasty Team-Building
Cooking School of Aspen has a 3,000-square-feet space in the heart of downtown Aspen and presents all sorts of hands-on cooking, demonstration and tasting classes for individuals and groups of 10 to 120. The chef instructor might be one of the school’s culinary team members, a local chef or a celebrity chef. Cooking School of Aspen also has event space and hosts weekly farm-to-table dinners in the summer and occasional pop-up restaurant theme nights with chefs flown in from around the world.
Chef Casey Easton started her career in natural foods, opened Food Lab cooking studio in Boulder not long ago and has created a large menu of classes ranging from hands-on cooking and wine-pairing classes to Iron Chef-style competitions. Classes for up to 25 participants can be held and customized for groups.
4. Food Tours & Festivals
Local destination marketing organizations can help guide the process when planning a progressive dining experience, especially in walkable downtowns or neighborhood districts. Another great way to sample local fare is on organized food tours available in Denver, Colorado Springs, Boulder, Fort Collins, Grand Junction and Telluride.
With all the great chefs and foods raised in Colorado, it’s no big surprise that there are all sorts of celebrations like the Olathe Sweet Corn Festival in Olathe, Colorado BBQ Challenge in Frisco, Pueblo Chile & Frijoles Festival in Pueblo, and Slow Foods Nation and Taste of Colorado in Denver. Schedule a gathering in tandem with one of these local events for easy entertainment outside of meeting time or in conjunction with food and wine festivals in mountain towns like Aspen, Breckenridge, Telluride, Crested Butte and Snowmass.
5. Distinct Dining Experiences
Get a taste of the bounty raised in the Grand Valley during breakfasts for groups prepared by chefs from Two Rivers Convention Center in Grand Junction on top of the nearby Colorado National Monument or work up an appetite by hiking, snowshoeing or skiing to Tennessee Pass Cookhouse near Leadville. A mile-long trek through the forest leads to a warm yurt and four-course candlelight dinner.
It’s fun to get a taste of the West at Bar D Chuckwagon suppers in Durango and enjoy a music and comedy show by Bar D Wranglers and delicious choices of grilled meats served with sides of oven-baked beans, flaky biscuits, homemade applesauce, old-fashioned spice cake, cowboy coffee and more.
At the Downtown Aquarium in Denver, dine surrounded by the restaurant’s 50,000-gallon centerpiece aquarium filled with more than 100 species of colorful, tropical fish. In nearby Morrison, The Fort Restaurants’s menu features beef, buffalo, game and seafood and a tantalizing selection of foods from the early West. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, The Fort has reintroduced foods from the 1800s and creates current trends of its own like buffalo empanadas.
This is just a sampling of how Colorado’s delectable culinary landscape can be integrated into meetings that are sure to receive Five Star reviews from attendees.