Hit the ACF awards dinner this week

The Pikes Peak chapter of the Colorado Restaurant Association is probably the trade group most heard about in these parts. Its Pikes Peak Food & Wine Expo — coming up on March 6, where you’ll find yours truly helping judge the cocktail competition — is one of the best food events of the year.

But the Pikes Peak  chapter of the American Culinary Federation also puts on a strong showing, and Colorado Springs School District 11 executive chef Nathan Dirnberger hopes the ACF will have a larger local presence from now on.

We hope to create experiences and facilitate the growth and development of the culinary culture here in Colorado Springs,” Dirnberger tells the Report in an email. “With or without membership in the ACF it is vital to bring together chefs, food critics, foodies and the like to develop a culture and network.”

Dirnberger has long been a part of that culture, having led kitchens at Nosh, the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo and now District 11. Among ideas the chef would like to see more of include “Brother Luck’s Knife Fights and other experiences that the chapter will facilitate.”

Towards that end, the ACF is holding an awards dinner at 5 p.m. on Sunday, January 31 at the Warehouse Restaurant and Gallery. Reservations for the $36 tickets are open to the public and need to be made by this Wednesday.

The menu starts with Carolina white shrimp over a Colorado cheddar grit cake; continues to a warm roasted carrot salad with shallots, butternut squash and an apple-mint vinaigrette; and peaks with a “land and sea” combination of pan-seared steak, butter-poached lobster and  rissole potatoes with green-chile hollandaise.