Part of what I love most about food are the experiences that are woven through the tastes and sights. Farm dinners under twinkling stars, a cooking class in Tuscany on a hillside vineyard, dining amongst hanging beer hops, breaking bread with strangers at a restaurant’s community table, a chicken shack in the middle of a cornfield off a dirt road, a hole in the wall restaurant with just four tables to delight locals – these all speak to me and pepper my food experiences that I’m constantly looking to “devour”.
When I heard about the pop-up dinner concept, Chromatic Kitchen, I was immediately intrigued. It started as a creative outlet and “testing labratory” for Chef Dustin Beckner and Scott Mattson (of Mondo Vino). Mattson’s wife Nicole (also an owner), describes it starting as “just a couple of guys researching, listening to old jazz records and staying up late to create unique flavors and plates that could express a musical idea or articulate the mood of a recording.”
Chromatic Kitchen thus turned into a beautiful evening over six paired courses, alongside the legacy of a jazz artist. It is involved and inspiring and I attended Volume #3 – an evening accompanied by the music of Thelonius Monk. You’re given the location only a week before and ours was at Arthaus, a contemporary art gallery in Denver.
The quality of the experience, the music, the food and evening was impressive. And it lasted from the moment you walked in, to the moment you left as they had little boxes of truffles on your way out the door (as if six courses wasn’t enough).
We were greeted with a special cocktail and then we sat at our long table alongside other guests. I loved the detail alongside the table runner, candles sat on vintage records.
The evening was structured by a thoughtful segment of paired dishes, that were tailored to match Monk’s music, album or even life path. The design was so well curated and it was such a sensory experience, as you ate, you enjoyed a full jazz band pumping up Monk’s best.
As I enjoyed the evening and thoughtful food, I learned that they’re planning on opening Nocturne Jazz and Cocktail Room – a brick and mortar concept (think 1940’s supper club) that allows them to take this into something full-time.
Since Chromatic Kitchen is a special experience, the team recognized that they want something more day-to-day, but with the creativity of Chromatic Kitchen.
The core idea of both Chromatic Kitchen and Nocturne is the belief that when you combine food and drink with music you elevate the experience of both. The sum is greater than its parts.
Nicole shares Nocturne will be more intimate and guest centric, by offering varied guest experiences that allows them to guide guests on the experience that best suits them.
They boldy want every night at Nocturne to bring together great live music and a food/drink program that can “hang with anything else that you’d see on a table in Denver,” as Nicole states.
When I asked Nicole about their real hopes and the dream behind Nocturne, she put it so eloquently I had to share it here from her directly. This passion and vision, is something I’ve experienced first hand with them at Chromatic and it’s always something we could use more of:
As children, both Scott and I latched on to images of what it meant to “go out” as an adult. Each of us remember pictures of our grandparents and friends all done-up and going out for a night on the town. Men in suits, ladies in cocktail dresses wearing pearls, sitting at a table right in front of a band, everyone with big smiles, champagne buckets full, martini glasses in hand, engaged in the evening, (not in their smart-phones). Now that we’re “grown-ups”, we’ve found that these experiences are going by the wayside and we think there is something absolutely wonderful about having an elegant, sophisticated night out – dressing up a bit, eating and drinking well, and listening to great live music being played just a few feet away.
As we formulated the idea of Nocturne over several years, Scott and I pushed ourselves to identify why we are doing this. Opening any new business requires an immense amount of sacrifice, hard work, and tenacity. You don’t get into to F&B for the money, so why do it at all? When we asked ourselves “why”, we both felt a burden that many important pieces of our culture as Americans are getting lost. There is culture in the experience of a meal, of hospitality, live music, and jazz in particular as an American art form. What drives us to create Nocturne is the opportunity to rescue these elements of culture and our answer to “why” became “To reclaim America’s social identity”.
We’re excited to be doing this in our own city. We’re both Denver native’s (high school sweethearts from Arvada and Lakewood, and eventually DU and Metro State graduates). It felt right to start with Denver in this quest to reclaim America’s social identity. We can’t wait to build an authentic experience for our home community to experience that great night out as grownups.
Currently, Nocturne is being bootstrapped and they have their own community funding option right on their website. If you are inspired by their story, or love good drink, food, and music – I encourage you to check out their concept or consider donating to their fund. As Nicole said if you’re down with “reclaiming a bit of our collective social identity,” then Nocturne Jazz & Cocktail Room might be for you.
Those that donate will get their name on their founder’s wall, as those that helped bring Nocturne to life and receive discounts, gift certificates, and other perks for being part of Nocturne’s story. You can donate here.
Note: I was happy to hear that they will also continue to host Chromatic Kitchen so that future “Volumes” continue to drive their creativity. I’ve been to a lot of special food events over the years and this one was one of the special ones. I wouldn’t write about them if that wasn’t the case. You can sign up here if you want to be in the know for these delicious, unique pop-ups.