Despite the threat of snow, there was a solid turnout for Denver’s newest food festival, A Bite of the Rockies. A major goal of this festival was to showcase locally owned restaurants, food trucks, and specialty food vendors who might not be able to participate in other Colorado food festivals. In an interview before the festival’s opening, Cat Kirk of Rainbow Girl Productions, the company that organized the festival, said, “I’m not going to mention any names, but some of the bigger food festivals have gone corporate in recent years, making it too expensive for local places to be involved.”
In some ways this goal was achieved. There were at least 40 local vendors present for the event, showing off baked goods, spices and sauces, honey, cheeses, preserves, coffee, loose leaf teas, cookware and more. The Styria Bakery, which specializes in European style gourmet and artisan breads, was a highlight. Their fresh baked asiago basil loaf had a lightly crisped crust and a soft chewy inside. The asiago was on the sharper side giving the bread a nice bite. Another unique vendor was Cream City Market, which produces Wisconsin cheese curds. The business has recently relocated to Colorado from Wisconsin, bringing their traditional techniques and hometown favorites along.
Yet the small selection of restaurants present for the event was disappointing. There were only three or four places where you could get something more substantial than a tiny sample cup to eat. Even national chain Quaker Steak and Lube, who had been scheduled to be a part of the event, was absent. “We had five restaurants cancel on us at the last minute.” Kirk told us.
Los 3 Garcias, one of the restaurants that did make it to the event, served some killer green chili smothered tamales. Stuffed inside was the traditional masa (a corn based tamale filling) and the pleasant surprise of moist shredded pork. The tamales were spiced heavily enough to have some kick but not so much that the sweet corn flavor of the masa and pork were lost.
The other thing that didn’t come together was the BITE ticket system. Tickets were purchased at the door ($10 for 15 tickets). Guests were intended to use the tickets to purchase food samples from vendors and restaurants. The few resturaunts at the event accepted the tickets, but not many vendors did. Most vendors took cash or credit cards instead, defeating the point of purchasing the tickets. Many guests likely left irritated about their ticket purchase.
Unfortunately, A Bite of the Rockies ended up feeling more like a large food shop or farmers market than a food festival. It was an entertaining shopping experience with plenty of food goods to bring home, but there wasn’t enough to eat at the event to call it a food festival. Though some aspects of A Bite of the Rockies were not a success, the event has a lot of promise. The vendor’s section of the event was truly well done, offering a wide selection of quality local products; and the food from the restaurants that were present was good. Hopefully, the festival will return next year with more restaurants as a part of it’s lineup and a better system than the BITE tickets.