By Beth Buehler
The culinary scene for meetings in Colorado is simmering with new ideas, fresh and local ingredients, inviting and innovative locations and chefs who are pushing the envelope and coming out from behind the kitchen doors to interact with groups.
Colorado also is sizzling with new restaurants and concepts like Denver’s The Source, an artisan food market that occupies a former 1880s brick foundry building, and Avanti Food and Beverage, located in a repurposed building where seven restaurants are located in shipping containers and share common space like lounges, patios and eating areas.
Longtime favorites like the newly renovated The Palm in Denver as well new eateries that are constantly entering the landscape in other foodie towns like Boulder, Aspen and Steamboat Springs are offering private dining space that tie into the overall theme of the restaurant, have cozy features such as fireplaces, and feature views overlooking bustling downtowns, ski slopes, mountain meadows and waterways.
Many hotels and resorts also have amazing private dining and event spaces, including patios for city views and mountain vistas. For example, Viceroy Snowmass has two beautiful private spaces in its restaurant, Eight K, and Hotel Teatro in Denver has an intimate wine cellar. River Valley Ranch Golf Club in Carbondale offers dining space with large windows and a terrace overlooking the golf course and with views of Mt. Sopris.
Need something larger? Imagine a ballroom with floor-to-ceiling windows that overlook a mountain lake at The Estes Park Resort.
Food tours continue to pop up for an insider’s look at top culinary spots in towns like Vail, Telluride, Grand Junction, Denver and Boulder. For example, Vail Valley Food Tours offers a Vail Village Tour and a Brew Tour, offering a convenient way for groups to get a taste of Colorado. If a group’s stay overlaps with farmers’ market days that take place all over the state, typically from May through October, it’s a fun way to see what is raised in Colorado, buy ingredients for a cooking class and work in some fun team-building with a farmers’ market scavenger hunt offered by the Grand Junction Visitor and Convention Bureau.
Companies such as CBST Adventures and top-notch destination management companies throughout the state can help plan other fun team-building options that involve food and beverages such as chili, salsa, chocolate dessert and Dutch oven/open fire cook-offs, craft cocktail or margarita competitions, and more.
Various hotels and restaurants offer chef’s tables where attendees can watch the preparation of meals and hear the stories behind the dishes, and some can even incorporate items from their own gardens, herds and honeycombs. More than ever, planners can request and even expect that local flavors will be part of a meal. It’s even possible to dine at farms, vineyards and orchards in Boulder, Grand Junction, Palisade and Delta County.
Other fun ideas are bringing in local food trucks for a street fair/local feel and having interactive food stations that represent various regions of Colorado or where your company is located. Or organize a dine-around or progressive dinner in a compact area such as a downtown district, neighborhood or Stanley Marketplace expected to open in late summer at the former Stanley Aviation headquarters on 22 acres in Aurora and featuring multiple restaurants, boutique shops, a beer hall, a park and more.
Don’t be afraid to ask about the wide range of culinary options when meeting in Colorado. You will find chefs, restaurants, caterers, farms and venues eager to have some foodie fun right down to the smallest details such as breaks that inspire and energize and in-room amenities.
Beth Buehler is editor of Colorado Meetings + Events and Mountain Meetings magazines, has planned numerous meetings and events and enjoys exploring Colorado in all seasons.