Fans of international cuisine flock to Comal Heritage Food Incubator in RiNo during their lunchtime service every day of the work week (M-F, 11am-2pm). But Comal’s purpose extends beyond just serving delicious food to the community – for Denver women who are accepted into the program, it also serves as a culinary arts and business training program.
A spot in the Comal program, which is an initiative run by the Focus Points Family Resource Center, allows these women to gain the skills to work in a professional kitchen or open up their own food ventures.
The food served there is inspired by the cultural heritage of the women, many of whom are immigrants or refugees. Monday – Wed is devoted to Hispanic food, Thursday is Ethiopian, and Friday is Middle Eastern.
In June, I had the opportunity to attend a very special event at the restaurant – the Comal Impact Dinner. The Impact Dinners are benefits that occur several times during the year and benefit the Focus Points Family Resource Center as well as a local nonprofit, specially selected for each dinner. Not only are these dinners for a great cause, you get to experience the magic of the Comal space at night – a treat since the restaurant is normally only open for lunch.
This particular Impact Dinner also served as a celebration and welcome to Comal’s new executive chef, Arden Lewis. Hailing from Fort Green, Brooklyn, Chef Lewis was most recently executive chef and partner at the high-end New York City catering company Purslane and is a recent transplant to Denver.
That night Chef Lewis helped execute an Ethiopian feast with Comal chef Genet Gebeye. The entire meal featured drink pairings curated by Friends & Family.
The four course meal was a treat for me – I’d never had Ethiopian food before and found it a great experience. I was lucky enough to sit at the Chef’s Counter and loved hearing the stories behind some of the dishes from Chef Arden and also doing a little New York City-talk.
The giant family-style Ethiopian Dinner platter was a sight to see. It featured spongy injera bread layering the whole of the circular platter. On top was doro wot (a flavorful, pull that meat off the bone chicken stew), gomen (collard greens), kitfo (steak tartare), tikl gomen (cabbage and carrots, homemade cheese, hard-boiled eggs, and lentils.
There was no way my husband and I could finish everything – but luckily I brought along an extra reusable takeout container so none of the food would go to waste! (We actually ended up cooking the raw kitfo once we got home to serve as the base of a delicious meat pasta sauce the next night!)
But perhaps my favorite part of the evening was during the dessert course when Chef Gebeye came out behind the kitchen and personally served up her Pashti (fried Ethopian dough dusted with cinnamon sugar) to diners and also poured freshly roasted Ethiopian coffee (very strong, but very smooth) out of an elaborate kettle.
Overall, it was a wonderful In order to find out when the next Impact Dinner is, check out the Comal Facebook page for updates as well as the latest weekly lunch menus.
Comal Heritage Food Incubator – 3455 Ringsby Ct, Ste 105, Denver, CO 80216, (303) 292-0070
Please note: Financial compensation was not received for this post. I was invited by the PR firm working with Comal to attend the Impact Dinner. Opinions expressed here are my own.