Saturday, March 25, 2017

Brunch Alert - Ester's

Saying that Denver is completely into brunch is an understatement. In fact brunching has become an acceptable verb in most people's vocabulary in this city. I recently discovered a new brunch location to add to the arsenal - Ester's at 1950 s. Holly st.

I was slightly skeptical when I pulled into the strip mall off of Holly and Evans. There is a liquor store, nail shop, a retro furniture store, and the strip is anchored by Ester's. Upon entering, I was pleasantly surprised by the super chic decor - a mix of pallet wood and clean-lined accessories with bright pops of color. Best of all, even though the restaurant was busy at 11am on a Saturday, we did not have to wait for a table for two.

Ester's core menu features Napoleon style pizzas from the gas pizza oven. I probably should have tried this, but my companion and I went for a more traditional brunch of Huevos Rancheros and Chilaquiles. Both were delicious and you wouldn't go wrong ordering either dish. The Chilaquiles was the traditional presentation, but the Huevos came out a little different than expected. The components were all there, but instead of the typical red or green chili, there was a spicy broth that mixed with the beans, reminding me more of a black bean soup than a chili sauce. It was delicious all the same.

My only complaint was that the acoustics were a little out of control and it was pretty difficult to have a conversation where we were sitting. The restaurant could improve the atmosphere, by adding just a few more acoustic panels to offset the ambient noise. Other than that, it was a great experiance and I'm looking forward to  

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Colorado Day Trip #6 City Park West – Breakfast at the Denver Biscuit Co., Sample Music and Books at Twist & Shout/ Tattered Cover, Walk City Park, and Dinner at Shells and Sauce

The Denver City Park neighborhood has a lot to offer and quite honestly you could spend several days exploring. Between the park, zoo, museums, jazz, and all the restaurants in the area, it’s difficult to be bored in this neighborhood.

Denver Biscuit Company

Cost: $8 -$12 pp

3237 E Colfax Ave, Denver, CO 80206
8AM–3PM Sat and Sun, 8am to 2pm M-F

There is nothing quite like a freshly baked buttery biscuit, except maybe a delicious biscuit with say homemade fried chicken, local honey, and house made pickles – otherwise known as The Ellsworth. Actually it’s hard to go wrong with anything on the menu, since the whole menu is pretty much based on a near-perfect biscuit recipe. Over the years, The Denver Biscuit Company (DBC) has built a following - starting with the original location on Colfax and expanding to two more locations the over the past couple of years. The Denver Biscuit Company is part of a co-op with three different companies housed within the same building space, which include the Atomic Cowboy, Fat Sully’s Pizza (delicious, I might add), and DBC. From 8am to 2pm DBC operates shop and then after 2pm to close (1am-ish), it is Fat Sully’s Pizza’s turn in the kitchen – and though it all Atomic Cowboy is slinging drinks from Bloody Marys to your favorite local brew.   

Twist and Shout/ The Tattered Cover Bookstore

Cost: Free – (less whatever you decide to buy)

Twist and Shout

2508 E Colfax Ave, Denver, CO 80206
10am – 9pm M-S & 10am -6pm Sun

The Tattered Cover

2526 E Colfax Ave, Denver, CO 80206
9am – 9pm M-S & 10am – 6pm Sun

Exploring Twist and Shout and The Tattered Cover is one of my favorite ways to spend an afternoon. Twist and Shout has listening stations set up throughout the store with carefully curated selections. Seriously you could spend hours listening and sampling each station and you will want to after the first ‘bite’. It’s kind of like trying a dish that you never knew existed and realizing it’s delicious and that you want more.

The Tattered Cover will tempt you to want to read SO many books.  From the moment you walk in, the lure of the next favorite page-turner will grip you. Beautifully displayed collections are everywhere you look – from a garden to table cookbooks, to a spy novel, to a graphic design magazine… Fair warning if books are your thing, you will get pulled in here.  In addition to the ever-changing inventory at both Twist and Shout and The Tattered Cover, there are regularly scheduled events – book readings and educational talks at Tattered Cover and performances at Twist and Shout. Be sure to check the websites for the current calendar of events.  At this point, if you need a snack or light lunch there is an in-store coffee shop worth checking out that has the typical assortment of coffee drinks, plus smoothies and teas.  

The Sie Film Center

2510 E. Colfax Avenue, Denver, CO 80206

On a side note, and equally worth visiting, is the Sie Film Center, which is also part of the same building complex as Twist and Shout and Tattered Cover. The Sie Film Center features primarily independent films and curated events and movie collections. It’s always worth checking out what they are showing, because a lot of times there is something very special that you would otherwise miss out on… As in many of the showing may ONLY have Colorado showings at this theater.  

City Park

2001 Colorado Blvd, Denver, CO 80205
5am – 11pm

City Park is pretty big – it houses the Denver Zoo, Denver Museum of Nature and Science, Tennis Courts, horseshoes, baseball, football, and soccer fields; two lakes, boat rental, monuments, playgrounds, water features, and picnic area … Take your pick of activity or just walk around. There are also ongoing events, such as Jazz in the Park and many others. Checking the city’s calendar is probably the best way to keep up on events.  or

Shells and Sauce

2600 E 12th Ave, Denver, CO 80206
Tues-Weds 3-10pm, Friday 3-11, Sat 10am -11pm, Sunday 10am-9pm, and Closed on Mondays

Happy Hour - Tuesday through Friday 3pm-6pm, Saturday & Sunday 3:30pm-6pm

Shells and Sauce is a great little Italian eatery in the City Park neighborhood. They feature traditional Italian dishes, such as home-made meat balls and lasagna, as well as some less traditional dishes adding their own flair. Always check for the specials here– one of the best pasta dishes that I have had ever was a special at this restaurant. It was the Diablo Linguine, which had a lemon butter sauce and jalapeno sausage and was topped with fresh ricotta. I have yet to find another dish like it. It’s a cozy restaurant, so I recommend going earlier in the evening to avoid longer wait times.

** Often there is a Groupon for Shells and Sauce - Italian Brunch or Dinner for Two or More at Shells and Sauce (Up to 40% Off)

Sunday, September 18, 2016

TEDx - Denver and Boulder

Ted has become a common house name over the years. I see Ted on Facebook, YouTube, and Netflix. For the first time ever though, I got to meet Ted in person. Or I guess I should say TEDx at the Macky Auditorium in Boulder. And what a fabulous meeting it was. Love at first sight I would say.

For those who are unaware (as I was), the little x at the end of TED just means that the event was independently produced and that a group had gotten a TED license. Most TED talks have a theme of some sort and the one that I saw was called Discovery and Wonder. The event ran from 5-9pm and I was transfixed the entire time. I learned about Moon Rocks discovered in Antarctica, the special kind of heartbreak that comes from losing, How water could equal peace, Bacteria (! much to think about here), and finding empathy in clutter. The four hour event had an intermission where they served a light salad sourced by the Boulder Farmer's Market.

The best thing about this event is the hunger that I left with wanting to hear and see more. My curiosity was piqued about subjects that I didn't even know existed. Furthermore, the speakers were all local and all apart of the Colorado community. I truly can't wait for the next event to come.

There are a few  TEDx communities in Colorado -

I don't have access to any videos from last night's event, but below are a couple of fascinating ones from previous years.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Epic Sandwich? Curtis Park Delicatessen

What makes a great sandwich? Is it the fillings, the perfect bread, or a handed down recipe? The Curtis Park Delicatessen first piqued my attention when I read an article from Denver Eater - Epic Sandwiches to Eat before you Die . That's quite the lead in.

Waze has lead me through Five Points and I am driving through the 'residential' section. My GPS indicates the Curtis Park Deli is on the block of 26th and Champa. On this Sunday afternoon, a street spot is readily available on the block.

Walking up to the entrance there are several occupied tables on this sunny afternoon.  As I'm entering the eatery, I get the feeling like I'm walking into someone's home. The interior 'Dining Room' consists of two large dining tables ... by dining tables, I mean like the ones at my mom's house growing up. You know, like Oak Express style.

But, I'm not here to check out their furniture. Proceeding to the counter, I study the chalkboard menu hanging above a deli display case, showing meats and cheeses. I try not to pay attention as the woman in front of me buys 3 packages of bacon for $70 bucks ... Maybe it was their meal too... Note to self to check out that bacon later. 

My friend and I decide on the Curtis and the French sandwiches. Truth be told, I had decided to order the Curtis because it was on that damn list. I don't always do what I'm 'told', but if someone claims that a sandwich is so good that you should try it before you die, I'm inclined to at least check it out. 

The Curtis is basically a Ruben on Ciabatta bread. Normally, I avoid ciabatta. Not because of the taste, but due to the chewy battle between my teeth tearing the bread - I don't like fighting for my food if I can help it.  This Ciabatta was different; soft and sour with a dusting of flour. This is the perfect vehicle for the homemade thousand island dressing, sauerkraut, corned beef, and swiss.

Looking at my friend, he momentarily has flour on his lips from the French sandwich that he is eating. He asks if I want to try a bite. It's just as good, but for different reasons. The tang of mustard (also house made), complements and brings out the flavor of the brie and rosemary ham. 

A great sandwich is the sum of it's parts and every ingredient was on point, creating a perfect bite. As consumers we typically judge a restaurant by it's food, service, and atmosphere. This is a place to come to for a good sandwich. The guy at the counter was friendly, but their philosophy is just to make yourself at home, which includes helping yourself to the drinks, seating, and getting your food. Not that this is a bad thing, just setting the expectation.
Address: 2532 Champa St, Denver, CO 80205

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Beauty on 17th st

Beauty on 17th st 

No area is perfect, but I do find some parts of Denver to be extra special. I was walking down 17th st recently, passing Steuben's, Hamburger Mary's, and The Denver Turnverein - and it struck me how peaceful it felt. I love the life of the city hearing ping pong balls bounce as I round the corner by Ace. Next I saw the shadow dancers in the windows at the Denver Turnverein moving to the music pouring from the building and I couldn't help but think how lucky I am to be in a city like Denver. 

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Denver Day Trip #5 Stapleton - Brunch at Four Friends Kitchen, Leopold Bros Distillery Tour, and Rocky Mountain Arsenal Visitor Center - Trail and Drive

Day trip number five starts out with Brunch at Four Friends Kitchen, followed by a tour and refreshments at the Leopold Bros. Distillery. After the tour, get snacks at Thai Street Food and head over to The Rocky Mountain Arsenal and Wildlife Preserve.

Four Friends Kitchen
Cost: $7-$15 pp
 2893 Roslyn St, Denver, CO 80238
(303) 388-8299
Breakfast: M-F, 6:30-11; Lunch: M-F, 11-2:30; Brunch: SAT-SUN, 6:30-2:30

The Four Friends Kitchen features southern cooking with a modern twist. This restaurant is a newcomer to the Denver brunch scene, but is here to stay with already classic dishes such as their  Crispy Huevos Rancheros, ‘Overnight Grits’ (that can be ordered either sweet or savory), and a variety of benedicts. If you are not in the mood for breakfast foods try, they have a great lunch menu too – consider the Mac-n-Cheese, Green Chili Chicken Cobbler or the Root Beer BBQ Brisket.

Leopold Bros. Distillery

Cost: $16-$20 pp for tour and sampling 
5285 Joliet St, Denver, CO 80239
Saturday 11:00am/ 4:00pm or Sunday just at 11:00am – Reservation required (check website for current tour times)

Now that you have had a bite to eat, it’s time to check out one of the many great distilleries that Denver has to offer. Leopold Bros is a family owned and operated small-batch distillery, just outside the Stapleton area. The distillers feature whiskies, gins, vodka, liqueurs, fernet, and absinthe – And all from Colorado grain. The entire process is completed on-site – malting, milling, fermenting, to the barreling and bottling. The only part of the process that they don’t do is farm, but not to worry – most of the ingredients are sourced locally. While you can find the Leopold Bros. around town, the best way to experience the brand is to take ‘The Connoisseur Tour’ or sit in on ‘The Cocktail Hour with Alec’… for those 21+ of course. Both events require advance ticket purchase and frequently sell out. As they are a small distillery that works strange hours, they typically cannot accommodate impromptu visits, so please plan before visiting.

The Connoisseur Tour takes about 3 hours and usually available on Saturdays at 11am/4pm or Sundays just at 11am, but check out their website for current times. On this tour you get to learn the history, see the entire production, and best of all, sample a tasting of the Leopold Bros entire line of spirits. This tour costs $16 and 50% of the cost of admission can be donated to 1 of 4 non-profit organizations that Leopold Bros supports (Children’s Hospital, Colorado Symphony, Dumb Friends League, and Food Bank of the Rockies).

Thai Street Food

Cost: $9-$12 per entrée
 11650 Montview Blvd, Aurora, CO 80010
Open Tuesday – Saturday 11:00am – 8:00pm

If you need a bite to eat after the 3 hour tour (ahem’ and drinking), pick up some take-out at Thai Street Food. Full disclosure - Thai Street Food restaurant is ‘Carry Out’ only. We have included this restaurant because the food is amazing. Almost everything is made-to-order and is customized to the level of spiciness requested – boasting 7 levels of spice! The menu is relatively small, but each item seems to be carefully curated. Chef Anna originally started with a street cart on 16th street mall and many patrons would sometimes wait over an hour for these tasty Thai dishes. As accolades and business continued to grow, Anna transitioned in the brick and mortar restaurant at the current location.

The Rocky Mountain Arsenal Wildlife Refuge

Cost: Free
 6550 Gateway Rd, Commerce City, CO 80022
(303) 289-0930
Wednesdays – Sundays from 9:00 am – 4:00 pm
(Closed on Federal Holidays)

Now that you have your take-out, head to The Rocky Mountain Arsenal for a picnic and some prarie trails. The Rocky Mountain Arsenal has a history dating back to pre- WWII. The 15,000 acre preserve was declared a super fund site, but thanks to a partnership between the U.S. Army, Shell, and the U.S.  Fish and Wildlife Service in the started mid-90s, the Arsenal has become one of the largest urban wild life refuges in the country. The refuge is home to more than 330 species of animals. There are over 10 miles of hiking trails, site tours, or a self-guided auto tour. The visitor center is an experience in itself, as it is somewhat a museum of the history and the evolution of the Rocky Mountain Arsenal Wildlife Refuge.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Miyako Ra-Men Spot - Noodles in the Burbs

In the midst of a Colorado January, few things are as satisfying as a delicious bowl of broth-y ramen. The problem is that for those of us (non Subaru drivers) in south Denver, we tend to not want to make the trek on icy roads, to the other side of Denver. Needless to say, I was quite happy to discover the newly opened Miyako Ra-men Spot on S. Broadway. It's a little north of Dartmoth, close to the Gothic Theater.

The food is simple and a good value for the amount of food that you get - The Ramen starts at $9.50 a bowl. We started with an order of the house-made Gyoza and the flavor and texture were perfect. Potstickers are not fancy, but I love when they are perfectly seared and these ones had the perfect mix of the crunch from the sear with the dough having a nice tooth, but not mushy.  

The Ramen of course is the main event. I ordered the Shoyu Tonkotsu - salted pork and soy sauce broth with egg noodles. The standard toppings include a 1/2 boiled egg, shredded carrots, spinach, house roasted pork, and green onions. There are additional toppings that you can order a la cart, but I just went with the standard for my first time. The broth was delicious and had great flavor and the noodles were cooked perfectly.

The service was attentive and I appreciate the recommendations from our server. We were there on a Sunday around noon and the restaurant wasn't super busy. I could however imagine this place filling up rather quickly depending on the day. I've only visited once so far, but myself and my companion both enjoyed our food, so I'm sure that we will be back soon.