Finger-lickin’ bucket list

First-class tastings, classes, festivals fill the season ahead

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Susan France

Tulips are popping their lips above the dirt in Boulder. Birds are starting to nest. It’s still winter so those may be signs of climate change. You can tell spring is in the air because lambs are being born, gardeners are perusing seed catalogs, and blizzards are anticipated shortly after you plant your garden. The opening of the Boulder County Farmers Market season is only eight weeks away.

It’s also time for 2018’s fresh crop of food, wine, dining and cooking events, festivals and culinary workshops in Boulder and across the state.

I have been previewing Colorado’s summer food events since the mid-1980s. Besides the exponential increase in the number of festivals, the difference now is that the Front Range is no longer a place to fly over on the way to Aspen.

Colorado is finally getting recognized as a culinary hot spot, which means that the state’s most coveted taste experiences sell out more quickly. You need to get motivated now if you want to ascend to the mountaintop tasting at the Taste of Vail, or be lucky enough to see Jacques Pépin do a cooking demo at the Aspen Food & Wine Classic. But you also need to buy tickets and make reservations soon for other, less-pricey coming culinary attractions such as Denver Restaurant Week and CineChef.

Keep this guide on hand or read it aloud to Siri, who can auto-fill your calendar with must-attend occasions like June’s Slow Food Nations, when the U.S. food world migrates to Denver. Sign up now to upgrade your skills as a gardener or cook at local classes and workshops in everything from beekeeping to risotto.

Upcoming events

The Super Bowl is a few hours of munching on one Sunday. The Winter Olympics is the decathlon of TV-watching eating opportunities spread over nearly three weeks. At a Feb. 9 class at Boulder’s Food Lab, you can learn to make popular treats from competing nations including scallion pancakes (Korea), meatballs (Sweden), dolma (Turkey) and apple strudel (Austria). Upcoming classes: Thai Street Food (2/22), Champagne and Fried Chicken (3/3). foodlabboulder.com

Meet local farmers and sign up for your share of vegetables at the CSA Fair sponsored by the Boulder County Farmers Markets Feb. 12 at Boulder’s festive Rayback Collective. bcfm.org.

Eight chefs, including Salt’s Bradford Heap, Kevin Kidd of Erie’s 24 Carrot Bistro and Eric Skokan of Black Cat Bistro, compete by creating movie-centric dishes for CineCHEF, Feb. 23 at the Boulder International Film Festival. Event includes the documentary Michelin Stars: Tales from the Kitchen. biff1.com/cinechef.

The new, improved Denver Restaurant Week, Feb. 23-March 4, features dinners at three price points: $25, $35 and $45 at hundreds of restaurants. Participating locals include Boulder Chophouse, Boulder Cork, Greenbriar Inn, Jill’s, Riffs, Salt, 740 Front Street, Via Toscana, Azitra and Hickory & Ash. denver.org/denver-restaurant-week

Fifty Colorado distillers are pouring at the inaugural Hearts & Trails Festival, Feb. 24 at Denver’s Mile High Station, including Vapor Distillery (Boulder), Mad Rabbit Distillery (Westminster), Leopold Bros. (Denver), State 38 Distilling (Golden), Black Canyon Distillery (Longmont) and Spring44 (Loveland). distillerytrail.com.

Boulder County’s revived Slow Food chapter hosts a happy-hour discussion about Ark of Taste seeds March 11 at Mountain Fountain in Hygiene. slowfoodboulder.com

The Boulder County Farmers Market opens for the season in Boulder and Longmont on April 7. bcfm.org

The Colorado Jewish Food Fest is April 15 at the Boulder Jewish Community Center. boulderjcc.org

The Taste of Vail, April 5-8, includes “Speed Dating with Pinot Noir,” the debut of 2017 rosé, the American Lamb Cook-Off, the mountaintop tasting and the Reserve Grand Tasting with food from Beano’s Cabin and Sweet Basil. tasteofvail.com

The Feast of Saint Arnold — Colorado’s only church-centered, family-friendly tasting of ales, wines, spirits and food — is June 9 at Chapel of Our Saviour Episcopal Church, Colorado Springs. feastofsaintarnold.com

Following a successful inaugural year in 2017, Slow Food Nations returns to Denver July 13-15, for tastings, demos and seminars. slowfoodnations.org

The Aspen Food & Wine Classic, June 15-17, offers tastings, dinners and demos with food superstars including Ludo Lefebvre, Jacques Pépin, Marcus Samuelsson, Jonathan Waxman and Andrew Zimmern. foodandwine.com

Culinary classes and

workshops

The Lyons Farmette hosts workshops including Backyard Chicken Keeping (2/24) and Intro to Beekeeping (3/10). lyonsfarmette.com.

Boulder’s Growing Gardens guides novice beekeepers through their first season of beekeeping. The Beekeeping Series runs from Introduction to Beekeeping (3/10) through October. growinggardens.org

Denver Botanic Gardens classes include Berries and Grapes for the Front Range (2/10), Intro to Beekeeping (2/27), Vegetables A to Z (3/13), Spring Plant Sale (5/10) and Japanese Tea Ceremony (6/9). botanicgardens.org

Haystack Mountain’s Longmont creamery offers classes including a Cheesemaking Farm Tour with Baby Goats (3/16) and Cheesemaking Bootcamp for Beginners (3/23). theartofcheese.com

Wine beginners can get savvy in a weekend at Wines of France seminar, April 8-11, at The Little Nell Wine Academy in Aspen with Master Sommelier Carlton McCoy. thelittlenell.com

You can raise sustainable fish and vegetables at the same time at home after taking the Aquaponics Basics and Build (2/25, 3/18, 4/8, 5/6) workshop at Denver’s GrowHaus. coloradoaquaponics.com

Good for the Gut: A Fermentation Workshop (2/10), So You Forgot to Learn to Cook (3 sessions starting 3/5), and Classic Milanese Risotto — rice’s bid for immortality (2/17) are scheduled through the Boulder Valley School District’s Lifelong Learning. bvsd.org/lll

Baked apple aftermath

Writing last week’s Nibbles column on baked apples reminded me to roast a couple of Golden Delicious with cinnamon sugar. For no particular reason, I then baked some couscous in milk, instead of water, and added some maple syrup, butter and vanilla. I chopped the baked apple and added it to the couscous. I ended up with a sort of couscous “kugel,” like the noodle pudding at Jewish delis. It was a nice change of pace from the usual oatmeal.

Words to Chew On

“It’s like sleeping on brioche.” — from a Casper.com mattress ad.

John Lehndorff hosts Radio Nibbles 8:25 a.m. Thursdays on KGNU: news.kgnu.org/category/radio-nibbles