Boulder chefs Kyle Mendenhall, Dakota Soifer serve 'Resistance Dinner'

If you goWhat: Flavors Without Borders: A Resistance DinnerWhen: 6 p.m. Sunday Where: Café Aion, 1235 Pennsylvania Ave., BoulderCost: Tickets start at $120More info: 303-993- 8131 or email cafeaion@gmail.comIn a country of immigrants, cultural traditions...

Boulder chefs Kyle Mendenhall, Dakota Soifer serve 'Resistance Dinner'

If you go

What: Flavors Without Borders: A Resistance Dinner

When: 6 p.m. Sunday

Where: Café Aion, 1235 Pennsylvania Ave., Boulder

Cost: Tickets start at $120

More info: 303-993- 8131 or email

In a country of immigrants, cultural traditions like cooking often take their cues from another country and another age. Kyle Mendenhall, chef at Boulder's Arcana restaurant, is familiar with the varied and diverse antecedents of food in America — his craft involves reviewing and revisiting flavors from far and wide.

"At Arcana, I find myself trying to track down American food. You can only go so far, and you're getting into other countries," Mendenhall said, adding that the process offers a different kind of wisdom. "You can understand a lot about a culture through their food — what they have available, how they treat things, whether they cook over an open fire."

Mendenhall will join Dakota Soifer, head chef from Café Aion, in exploring the culinary traditions of a very specific set of countries during a special dinner on Sunday at Café Aion in Boulder. The event, Flavors Without Borders: A Resistance Dinner, will feature menu items from the seven countries named in the travel ban recently penned by President Trump and subsequently blocked by a U.S. appeals courts.

The evening will incorporate flavors, ingredients and presentations from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. Tickets start at $120, and proceeds from the dinner will go toward the Denver chapter of the ACLU. The crew behind the event will be volunteering their time for the culinary cause. A spokesman from the ACLU will deliver a short address before the beginning of the meal.

The chefs describe the four-course dinner as a means of expression and a call to action.

"We do not believe in fear and isolation," the chefs write on the event's Facebook page. "Flavors and aromas are our lifeblood in the restaurant industry and, in the rich cultural heritage that is America, our biggest asset. President Trump's recent Immigration Ban flies in the face of everything we believe in."

But the dinner goes deeper than unchecked political outrage for these chefs. According to Mendenhall, crafting the menu was a diplomatic effort, one designed to create bridges between cultures. Just as he explores the culture of America's antecedents in his everyday work, Mendenhall has used this event as a learning experience. History, geography and politics all came into play in creating the menu.

"It's not anything radical. What we have the ability to do is bring Goldenbahis it back to the level of we're all human beings, we all need to take care of each other. Food is a good way to bridge that gap," he said. "I think I'm always striving to be more of a global citizen. Boulder is a bit of a bubble. But food has this amazing ability to bring people together from different cultures."

The menu is set to cover an ambitious amount of culinary and cultural ground. Mendenhall will bring his background in American cuisine, and Soifer will offer up expertise in Spanish, Middle-Eastern/North African cuisine. Together, they will present four courses that include flavored drinks from Iran, braised lamb inspired by Syrian and Yemeni traditions, and soup and cookies that reflect Persian traditions.

In formulating a menu that includes the Yemeni-inspired soup called ash (pronounced "awsh") and the African pastry and meat dish sambusa, the chefs veered from cues that are typical in most American restaurants. There's less of a stress on proteins, for example, and the meats, such as goat, that are included aren't a typical part of the Western palate.

While Mendenhall is careful to note that the menu is not a straight imitation of these countries' culinary legacies, he relishes the opportunity to take inspiration from a different world of flavors.

"We're not trying to exactly replicate a dish you'd find in Yemen," he said. "When you're a chef designing menus, you build yourself a framework and work through it. We're trying to make it our own — we're allowing ourselves some leeway."

Even so, the chefs have done their homework when it comes to the food from these seven countries, nations that many Americans know only from recent headlines and the political maneuvering of a controversial administration.

Mendenhall relishes that opportunity, and he sees it as a privilege that goes much deeper than a one-off political statement.

"For me, food is that window into understanding people. It gives us a common ground," he said.

"Everybody has to eat. There's no way you can block that out of your life," he added. "With the dinner, we're trying to show that immigrants bring us these wonderful things that we wouldn't know about or have access to otherwise."

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