Opened in January 2022 in West Wash Park, Montreal-inspired Au Feu is running a series of wine and liquor paired dinners to tell a story through unique food and drink combinations. Put together by sommelier Jeroen Erens, the pairings so far have ranged from Dalmore whiskies accompanied by bold flavors like Smoked Salmon Tartare and Bourbon Glazed Beef Filet to regional wines from the Rhône valley paired with traditional French dishes like Cassoulet and Roast Lamb Shank.
The eclectic tastings are an extension of the restaurant’s core concept — a French brasserie featuring Canadian-inspired dishes like Poutine ($13) and a variety of smoked and tinned fishes from Sardines to Portuguese Octopus ($16-$24). You can order Foie Gras on just about anything alongside classic French brasserie fare like Duck à l’Orange ($25) or Lobster Thermidor ($35).
“The whole restaurant is out of the box. We are doing things a little bit differently. Some people love it, others don’t, but for us, it’s about staying true to our ideas and bringing something new to Denver,” Erens said.
The space certainly sets itself apart form other restaurants in town. Low tables with upholstered chairs and couches surrounded by brass fixtures and Art Deco-inspired wallpapers are all meant to elicit the feel of a “pre-prohibition French living room.” A tableside cheese cart and an extensive collection of Eau-de-Vies, Cognacs and Armagnacs are other elegant touches you would be hard-pressed to find anywhere else in town. The result is a comfortable atmosphere matched with an undeniable eye for quality.
Starting his sommelier journey at the young age of 17, Erens has worked his way across Europe in exclusively Michelin starred restaurants from his home in the Netherlands to Germany, England and Austria. He brings an eye for the food, drink and history of some of Europe’s most celebrated food regions. The pairing menus aren’t meant to be purely academic or stiff — they are curated to tell a story about the food, wine and region showcased at each of the special servings.
“Alsatian wine is very close to my heart. I want people to see the whole picture. I want them to be curious and to look at the history as well. To ask, ‘Why do they make German-style wines in Alsace?'” he said.
The Alsatian Wine Dinner ($150/person) will take place on June 14 with more of these paired offerings to follow.
These dinners provide an outlet for the creativity of the Au Feu staff. Ideas for future dinners include a Tour de France dinner featuring wines from the mountainous regions of the famed bike race, or a Judgement of Paris dinner mimicking the famous blind wine tasting pitting American wines against their French counterparts. Whatever pairings they put forward, diners can be sure it will be a labor of love born in the desire to explore the world through food.
Au Feu — originally started as a counter in Zeppelin Station — replaced one of owner Jared Leonard’s previous restaurants, Budlong Hot Chicken, in the West Wash Park neighborhood. His other Denver spots include AJ’s Pit BBQ and Grabowski’s Pizzeria, with a pizza and BBQ joint called Campfire in Evergreen. Not trained as a chef but a self-taught entrepreneur, Leonard has opened several restaurants in both Denver and Chicago, each with its own character from down-home BBQ to fine dining.
Au Feu offers a truly unique experience for Denver with an eye for excellence brought straight from some of Europe’s most distinguished restaurants.
Au Feu offers paired dinners monthly with the Alsatian Wine Dinner on June 14. Located at 81 S Pennsylvania St, Denver, it is open from 5 p.m. – 10 p.m. Tuesday – Sunday.
All photography courtesy of Au Feu.