If you ignore the name, the Chile Chili Festival was a perfectly sensical, solid first-year event. Otherwise it was still a good time, just confusing: There were more Denver food trucks (six members of the Food Truck Renegade collective) and art sellers than green chile vendors, and as many liquor purveyors (two).
Also, some attendees wondered aloud about the chili cook-off (advertised on Rock Ledge Ranch's website and erroneously reprinted by the Gazette), or at least why they paid five bucks to get in if there wasn't one. (Organizer Tisha Casida says she tried to organize a cook-off, and neglected to have RLR update its site when it didn't gel; a portion of the entry fees, in addition to beer sales, benefited the ranch directly.)
Miscommunications and potential misnomers aside, we attended in part for the rare chance to sample Denver's rolling restaurants on our home turf. Here's our favorite trio of the batch; look for additional write-ups on our IndyBlog.
This truck, or cart, really, can often be found in Denver's Civic Center neighborhood dishing an eclectic grilled mix, like Hawaiian-style kalbi ribs, satays and a variety of forcemeats, from 10-inch bratwursts to grilled wild boar sausages stuffed with apricots and cranberries ($4). We went with the latter, and an elk-jalapeño-cheddar version ($4), both from Continental Sausage in Denver.
With New Belgium Brewing Co.'s beer garden nearby, a pairing with its Mothership Wit, an organic wheat beer, was a natural choice. The Wit both cut the delicious, spicy greasiness in the elk and highlighted the sweet notes from the pale boar sausage. The only downside was that we eventually ran out of meat. Good thing a sausage four-pack is only $8.05 at continentalsausage.com. — Bryce Crawford
"Crock and roll" — love it. Crock Spot has made a culinary monster out of one of the least sexy and most sensible kitchen gadgets: the crock pot. We've all witnessed the benefits of lengthy cooking at low temperatures, but the Spot's whole roasted duck bowl ($9) shows how it's done.
To build any bowl, you choose a grain base (quinoa, barley, etc.), a protein (chicken, pork, vegan lentils, etc.) and a sauce (tzatziki, peanut-ginger, etc.). We went for Thai Jasmine fried rice, and a carefully dished (so as not to mix) combo of Sriracha sour cream, chimichurri (lime-cilantro) and Yucatan Fire (hot chilies, lime). The duck — was that really a whole duck? — was superbly soft, great with each sauce, but perhaps best with the lingering Yucatan Fire, cooled only a touch by a light Asian slaw garnish. — Matthew Schniper
Three-month-old Chef Driven uses local products, and chef Richie Stothard has designed an eclectic, internationally inspired menu. His BahnMi ($7.50), essentially a Vietnamese hoagie with many filling options and styles (he usually offers pork, chicken or tofu), consisted only of a barbecued pork option for the festival.
Wrapped in a nice, spongy baguette, the meat was cooked and seasoned gorgeously, moist and tender with a mild hot-pepper element and oily sweetness. The only trouble: We wanted more of it, and more of the house-pickled cucumbers and daikon (radishes) and jalapeño-cilantro garnish.
The meat dramatically tapered off toward the bread's heels, but the flavors were bangin', like Hanoi givin' Philly a high-five. — Matthew Schniper