Monday night I was a guest of Esther's, a friend of mine from the Denver Athletic Club's pool where we meet three times a week for water aerobics accompanied with a lot of laughter and conversation. Often the topic is about food along with our personal reviews of the latest restaurants we had been to.
Esther is involved with WOW, Work Options For Women. WOW is a "Denver based non-profit organization dedicated to helping low-income women gain the skills and confidence necessary to break the cycle of poverty and embark upon a life of long-term independence and self-sufficiency. Through its culinary training program, case management and job placement, WOW prepares women for employment in the food industry."
This evening was the 8th annual Women Cook - Dining for a Difference event benefiting Work Options for Women. It was a wonderful event with 15 different food stations featuring Denver's leading women chefs, many from some of favorite restaurants.
One of my favorite bites was the slightly seared Ahi Tuna on a bed of cucumber tabbouleh with a tamarind vinaigrette. Perfectly prepared by Sheila Lucero from Jax Fish House.
Another sublime bite was the rhubarb puff pastry tart filled with a foie gras mousse and topped with a sprig of micro greens. Dana Rodriguez was the genius behind this dish from Bisto Vendome. Anything with foie gras gets my attention!
I enjoyed the plate prepared by Rhonda Banks from Gaetano's. The warm shot of sweet pea bisque with the hint of mint reminded me of the minted-marinated peas recipe that I have had in my library for years. That recipe (submitted by my good friend's mother, Wilma Bartholomay) was part of the Junior League of Phoenix cookbook, Something New Under The Sun (published back in 1972). Along with the bisque was a bruschetta topped with a fava bean and radish mixture. It was tasty but needed a little salt and maybe some lemon zest to bring out the flavors and give it a little punch.
A very savory plate was from Panzano's (in the Hotel Monaco) - braised rabbit, seared gnocchi, slow roasted tomatoes, herbs, Gorgonzola, leeks, mushrooms and shallots. A dish I have had at Chef Elise Wiggins restaurant.
The team at DBar Desserts were serving a tropical verrine in clever little clear plastic square vessels filled with passion fruit panna cotta with coconut cream and mango chutney. Those who know me know that coconut is one of the four things on my "I detest, will not eat" list so I had to rely on the other guests at my table that they were to die for. They certainly were pleasing to the eye.
I did enjoy the cherry and honeyed goat cheese tarts prepared by Sandra Adams of the Hyatt. The carrot cake petit four that Kathleen Kenny Davia offered from Gateaux was flavorful and very moist.
The evening was emceed by Pat Calhoun, editor of Westword. Graduate of the year went to Lisa Norwood. Lisa was hired by a local Montessori school to work in their kitchen one week after her graduation from the WOW program! Unbeknown to her, she was asked to speak that evening, there was about 500 in attendance. Divorced a few years ago, she has the sole responsibility for her six children; as she said, "They stay off the streets and work hard at school. My oldest just graduated from school with a 4.0 average". Her love of cooking and the confidence she has gained thru the program was evident. She is proud to have a job, especially one that she loves, and the ability to support her family. By the way, WOW has a 75% success rate!
WOW is a fabulous organization and it was an evening that I truly enjoyed.
Learn more about WOW by visiting: www.workoptions.org