One of the best parties I have attended lately took place March 13 inside the $5 million refurbished meeting spaces inside The Westin Downtown Denver Hotel.
The event, which showed off the new digs of the mezzanine-level Continental Ballroom, renamed the Confluence Ballroom, as well as the ballroom foyer and all breakout meeting rooms.
To unveil the renovation, The Westin's sales team partnered with Destination Services Design Team to transform the space into specialty rooms such as a Molecular Microbrew bar, a Rock 'n' Roll sushi station and a soothing Spa-Ception room.
“A major component of the project was leveling the mezzanine-level fixed-seat Tabor Auditorium to create an additional 3,000-square-feet of flexible meeting space,” said Tom Curley, the hotel's general manager and owner Starwood's area managing director. “This new space, called the Platte River Room, allows the hotel to service groups more effectively by offering additional dining and meeting space options.”
Yes, the spruced-up space looked lovely, but the most outstanding aspect of the party was something I've never seen done in catering before: a salad martini bar.
When I glanced over to that food station, I thought, “Oh no, another mashed potato bar. No thanks.” But when I saw socialite and philanthropist Susan Kiely munching salad in a martini glass, I had to investigate.
Rather than heavy mashed potatoes, the station offered a healthy selection of salad ingredients mixed in a martini shaker (not stirred) with your choice of salad dressing. Bravo and brilliant!
In the limelight
The 23rd annual Limelight Awards, which recognizes outstanding people and places that over the past year have embodied the true spirit of LoDo, took place Thursday in the refurbished McNichols Civic Center Building, on the corner of Colfax and Bannock. (Frankly, not my favorite space for an event because there is mostly metered parking and no valet.)
But the event, despite the number of guests who were ticketed for expired meters, was a festive celebration put on by the LoDo District Inc.
This year's awards went to:
Cares Award for philanthropic contributions to the neighborhood: Carol Ann and Paul Rothmann for the Downtown Denver Children's Playground.
Spotlight Award for a successful marketing campaign that brought activity to the area: Tom and Diane Coohill, owners of Coohills restaurant at 1400 Wewatta, for the Beats on the Creek concert series.
Legacy Award for development projects that contribute to LoDo's culture of historic preservation and innovation: Wazee Supper Club.
Service Award for those who go above and beyond to aid LoDo District Inc: Rob Grey, LoDo District Vice Chair.
New Business Award for a new neighbor who has made a notable impact: Springhill Suites Denver Downtown at Metro State.
Party with a view
The already hot Ballpark Neighborhood restaurant scene turned up the heat with the fundraiser opening of VIEWHOUSE on March 14.
The exclusive invite party gave media and other guests an hour to peruse the new space before opening the doors to supporters of the Ballpark Neighborhood Association.
As advertised, the eatery featured an eclectic spread of bar bites from chef Jose Guerrero (from Roy's Cherry Creek, Mao and Pizza Republica), Colorado-centric cocktails and microbrews and the spectacular view from the rooftop patio bar.
VIEWHOUSE is a Denver corporation comprised of principals Brad Manske as managing partner and nightclub king Francois Safieddine as landlord and money man.
The City of Arvada is reaching out to its residents through a new website: www.arvadalistens.com.
The website invites residents to get involved in a variety of topics of discussion, from local government issues, road projects, businesses, culture (including the excellent Arvada Center), recreation (including the city's many golf courses, like West Woods and Indian Tree), restaurants and more.
The City of Arvada invites residents to get involved in their community and your feedback will help the community grow and prosper. It promises to be more than a survey, but a place where citizens' voices can be heard.
Wings and things
Can pigs fly? They do at Grillin' Wings & Things at 723 S. University Blvd. (southwest corner of University and Exposition).
The new fantastic wings joint (I tried them recently and can you say finger-lickin' good?) features pig wings (lip-smacking mini pork shanks served “special grilled” style tossed in a choice of sauces), along with egg-cellent chicken wings grilled or deep-fried.
Chicken tenders and jumbo shrimp also grace the menu, along with salads and wraps. Sides include deep-fried corn on the cob, garlic parmesan fries, and beer-battered onion rings.
The sauces are a standout with everything from honey hot to sweet ginger Thai to spicy garlic chili. Many of them are gluten-free.
Grillin' Wings also serves wine and beer. Fly on over and check out this place.
Gluten be gone
The Walnut Room's two locations — Two North Broadway and 3131 Walnut St. — have expanded their gluten-free offerings.
In addition to gluten-free pizza, the restaurants have added gluten-free bread for sandwiches and a flourless torte.
The Walnut Room restaurants have also expanded their gluten-free beverages to include the Strongbow Cider at the Broadway location, and Magners at the Walnut Street eatery.
“We are proud to offer our gluten-sensitive customers more choices to make their dining experience more varied,” said Leslie Odell, director of operations.
Bid adieu to The Big Easy Creole Kitchen, at 250 Steele St., which closed this month after less than six months in business.
The good-food restaurant owned by George Gastl, a native of Denver who lived in New Orleans and cooked at the Palace Cafe, served New Orleans favorites including turtle soup, crawfish etouffee, gumbo, blackened shrimp and sweetbreads.
No word on whether Gastl plans to reopen The Big Easy Creole Kitchen elsewhere. The lower-level space has been a challenge to other restaurateurs as well. Jesse Morreale, owner of El Diablo on First and Broadway, operated Sketch in that space, but later changed the concept to Tambien with chef Sean Yontz. That restaurant eventually closed.
Kate Spade boutiques may no longer be guided by the namesake founder, but they're still making a fashion forward statement about a city.
Now, Denver can boast about snagging a Kate Spade store of its own. The chic boutique opened quietly this month at 105 Fillmore St. Hours are 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday and from noon to 6 p.m. Sunday. More information: 303-321-3112.
Colorado chef in top 10
Food & Wine Magazine makes an annual anointment of who the foodie mag deems to be the 10 “Best New Chefs” throughout the country before the annual much-anticipated Food & Wine Classic in Aspen. Those top 10 are invited to the Classic to prepare a dish during a dinner in their honor.
New this year, the public is invited to participate in picking 10 chefs for a People's Choice award through online voting. Denver, which so often is overlooked when national nods are given out, has a single entrant who made the ballot: Max MacKissock of The Squeaky Bean.
If you want a Colorado chef to win, vote for him at www.foodandwine.com/peoples-best-new-chef/southwest.
Popular recording artist Josh Groban will perform a special concert with the Colorado Symphony on July 7 at Red Rocks Amphitheatre. Tickets go on sale at 10 a.m. March 22 at www.ticketmaster.com.
Groban is an internationally renowned singer, songwriter and actor. His latest album “All That Echoes” debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard Album Chart, making it the first No. 1 debut of his career.
No doubt his fame will make this concert a sellout for the Colorado Symphony, which had been nearly fatally wounded by lackluster ticket sales. Smart move on the Symphony's part in this partnership.
Two bartenders from Tom's Urban Diner — the 24-hour eatery on Larimer Square — were Vegas-bound to compete as finalists in the “Shake it Up” cocktail challenge.
“It's such an honor to be participating in the national contest,” said Chris Clewell, who will compete with fellow barkeep and pal Les Baker. The two cocktail-ologists spent weeks experimenting with recipes, and then submitted their best to the national competition.
The field was whittled from 500 original applicants to 30 who will be competing for the 2013 best cocktail recipe. The event takes place on March 20 at the Las Vegas Convention Center.
A panel of expert mixologists from around the world will judge the cocktail entries and narrow the field to just five contenders. The final five will be given a secret ingredient and mere minutes to create a winning adult beverage.
Penny Parker's “Mile High Life” column gives insights into the best events, restaurants, businesses, parties and people throughout the metro area. Parker also writes for Blacktie-Colorado.com. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 303-619-5209.