First of all, it’s been years since I’ve read Michael Ruhlman’s classics on chef training, The Making of a Chef & The Soul of a Chef, so I had no memory that the larger-than-life character

leading the charcuterie-making presentation that preceded the wine dinner held in his honor last Sunday at Panzano was also depicted so colorfully in those pages. If I had, I might’ve minded my Ps & Qs better at the media table where I sat next to Brian Polcyn & his wife—because second of all, at meal’s end he walked over to me, squeezed my shoulder, & proclaimed me the heaviest drinker at the table. That’s a label I’d generally wear proudly, but when you’re being singled out for sloppiness by no lesser a sharp-eyed perfectionist than the author (with Ruhlman himself) of Charcuterie: The Craft of Salting, Smoking, & Curing & Salumi: The Craft of Italian Dry Curingit’s a little unnerving.

I blame it on Panzano’s ever-suave GM, Josh Mayo, as I assume it was he who created the wine pairings for the multi-course meal—most notably a wonderfully balanced 2011 Rocca dei Leoni Falanghina Villa Matilde & the oh-so-juicy sparkling red, Marenco Brachetto d’Acqui Pineto, that came with dessert.

As for the food, well, what do you expect? The range of plates below should serve as a reminder to visit & revisit not only Panzano (which I do semiregularly anyway) but also YaYa’s Euro Bistro, Beast + Bottle & Fuel Café. Though I didn’t feel comfortable disrupting the festive flow of the lobby reception to snap pics of Aaron Whitcomb’s passed apps, the tuna speck with black-garlic aioli; sausage-stuffed, barbecued quail legs; & lamb’s headcheese convinced me I need to make a point of getting out to his Greenwood Village kitchen. Who’s with me?

And I’m embarrassed to admit that, though I always got a kick out of Paul Reilly’s now-defunct Encore on Colfax & I now live around the corner from his new hot spot, I’ve yet to get there. The rustic spiced jagerwurst over beet-green pierogi with apple-beet vinaigrette acted as a sharp rebuke to that oversight.

Cotechino sausage atop lentils & grilled radicchio with pickled mustard seeds & rye-beer jam illustrated the understated flair that is Bob Blair’s calling card.

And robust playfulness has long been Elise Wiggins’ hallmark: accompanying her roast duck roulade with hazelnuts & butternut squash was an unassuming little sphere that surprised with bursts of foie gras & orange-cranberry filling.

Ditto the cranberry-&-pistachio-studded chocolate adorably shaped to resemble salami.

Nearly a week after the event, I’m left with the ironic sense that, for a food writer, I don’t get out enough lately, being too busy food writing! Such a great time to be part of the Denver dining scene, yet so little time to do it the way it deserves to be done…