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Thursday, February 10,2011

A flash in the pan

Local chef to host Valentine’s ‘pop-up dinner’ to benefit cancer nonprofit

By Chelsea Long

The next grand opening in Boulder for the foodie crowd isn’t a restaurant. Nor is it going to last more than one night. Or have a set menu.

It’s Simple Spoon’s “Valen’dine for a Cause” pop-up dinner on Sunday, Feb. 13, and runs only from 7 to 10 p.m.

The pop-up dinner, more popular in places like Los Angeles and New York, is a surprise-style restaurant, where the concept is to take dining to a place where you’d never expect to be eating, like a park or in the middle of Pearl Street.

“The super hardcore ones, they won’t tell you where it’s at beforehand, because it’s in a place that’s not OK,” says Casey Easton, founder of Simple Spoon catering. “Like, in the middle of Pearl Street and be like, boom! Here’s a dinner. But there you’d probably get about two minutes into appetizers before you got shut down.”

Easton’s plans are much more legal — a penthouse on Pearl, on the fifth floor above Tahona Tequila Bistro — but no less of a surprise.

“It’s creative. You do it once. It’s fast, and then it’s over,” she says. “It’s not like a restaurant where you’re doing the same thing every day.”

And if you needed more motivation to attend the $100-per-person dinner, all the proceeds from the dinner will go to First Descents, a Denver-based nonprofit organization that provides free adventure therapy to young adults with cancer.

First Descents organizes whitewater kayaking, climbing and surfing trips for adults ages 18 to 39.

“Our programs really give our participants an opportunity to take back their lives,” says Rebekah Koenigbauer, the events manager at First Descents. “Every person I’ve seen comes out with a renewed sense of who they are and are able to take on the challenges of their life in a much better way than they were able to before.”

Each program can cost between $20,000 and $30,000 to put on, and the organization has almost doubled the number of programs offered last year, from 15 programs to this year’s 28 programs.

“We’re very excited to be working with Casey on this and honored she’s doing something that benefits First Descents,” says Koenigbauer. “Absolutely the funding helps, but we also want to create more awareness in the community. We really want to become a household name for adventure therapy.”

The pop-up dinner should help more people learn about the organization, something Easton hopes for as a supporter who’s also been a volunteer.

“I went up and cooked for one of the camps and it was just a really cool experience,” she says. “I think what they do is incredible. I like that they’re not concentrating on the disease; they’re concentrating on the person.”

Earning funds for a cause is something close to Easton’s heart, and she’d like to have more dinners for more nonprofits — if this first one is successful.

“I’m totally nervous,” she says. “I’ve never done anything like this. But I’m excited.”

Patrons have no need to be nervous about the food offered. Easton has been in Boulder as a personal chef for the past 10 years, and currently teaches cooking classes and is a small-event caterer through her company, Simple Spoon. The projected menu is online, with the caveat that it may change subject to Easton’s whims.

“I decided I have the right to change whatever I want,” she says. “I like cooking Southwestern or Latin food a lot, so no matter what I do it’s going to lean that way, but I just make stuff up all the time.”

For now, she’s most excited about the scallop ceviche, the first of the five courses that will be paired with wine for the “Valen’dine” celebration.

Although the day-before-Valentine’s dinner might be a perfect occasion to take your sweetheart out, Easton wants patrons to be aware that it’s not going to be a one-on-one occasion. There will be community seating, with large tables where diners will eat together.

In addition to her desire to have more pop-up dinners to help nonprofits, Easton also hopes to explore the boundless opportunities Boulder has for unexpected dining rooms.

“I’d like to pull one off in one of the small parks in Boulder. My eyes are opened now. As I’m driving around, I’m looking for places,” she says. “Ultimately it would be so cool to just do one every few months for different nonprofits that I like.”

The pop-up dinner is an opportunity to be at the “flash mob of restaurants,” as Easton describes it. It’s a chance to be at a restaurant’s grand opening — and closing — all in an evening, for a good cause.

For more information on First Descents, visit its website at www.firstdescents.org. To make reservations for the pop-up dinner, check out www.simplespoon.com, or call 303-349-5553.

Respond: letters@boulderweekly.com

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