Category Archives: Restaurant

Denver Brewery Tour

December 3, 2016

While Colorado may be known best internationally for being the first state to legalize marijuana, it is also very well known for its craft beers.  Breweries have become very popular, and they seem to be on every corner! A few of my friends from Dallas came into town, and of course, they wanted to try out a bunch of breweries.  As such, we created our own brewery tour.

Our first stop was at Great Divide Brewing Company which was opened in 1994 when Denver’s craft beer industry hardly existed.  Over time, Great Divide Brewing Company became one of America’s most decorated craft breweries.  While Eric tried the Yeti Beer which appeared to be pretty popular, Steve and I tried sample flights.  Both of us thought they were good and well priced!  The brewery sells a variety of T-shirts and such, but only popcorn for food.  A guacamole food truck was parked outside the brewery when we left around 1pm, but it wasn’t open yet.

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Our next stop was at Jagged Mountain Brewery just a few blocks from Great Divide.  Here I tried the Cougar Slayer.  With that name, it may have been better suited for a male, but the blackberry saison sounded good to me.  None of us tasted any blackberry in the Cougar Slayer, so that was a bummer, but the boys liked some of the other IPA’s.  Neither had seen a 17.5% alcohol beer, so Steve and Eric ordered it to share.  It tasted almost like molasses…it was very syrupy.  We really liked the vibe at this brewery that had much more seating than the Great Divide.  As with most breweries, it only sold popcorn, so it was time for us to find a place with food.

We headed the opposite direction from where we wanted to end up, but it wasn’t that long a walk…eight blocks or so to reach First Draft Taproom & Kitchen.  This taproom has 30+ beers on tap on the wall along with a few ciders and a few wines.  Most of the beers were Colorado crafts, yet some came from other states as well.  The lightest could be found on the left of the wall and they grew bolder to the right.  Guests can draw as much beer from each tap as they want…a one ounce or eight.  A card connected to our credit card tracked the amount of each pour.  There is a total limit which is probably a good way for the establishment to control guests over-serving themselves!  We all ordered food though I can’t say it was the best.  It was, however, sustenance.

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From First Draft we walked a bit to Wynkoop Brewing Company, located across from Union Station.  Wynkoop was started by John Hickenlooper (Colorado’s current governor), Jerry Williams, Mark Schiffler, and Russell Schehrer in the 80’s when LoDo (lower downtown Denver) was a ghost town.  Now, Wynkoop is a Denver institution in a hopping downtown.  Wynkoop brews its own beer, features guest beer, and has a full menu.  We tried one beer quickly before we took a break from breweries to go to the hockey game at the Pepsi Center.

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It only took about ten minutes to walk to the venue where the Dallas Stars were taking on the Colorado Avalanche in a division rivalry.  My Dallas friends were happy to see the Stars win…3-0!

Our final stop of the night was at Union Station.  Union Station was recently renovated, and is spectacular.  The building includes an expansive lobby with the Terminal Bar and a few shops surrounding it.  There are also a few fancy restaurants and a nice hotel.  The Terminal Bar is great!  We just joined the line at its window to order a beer and then headed to the shuffle board tables.  Some other folks joined us for some friendly competition.

Just as we were about to call it a night, I ran into my friend Marissa and her friend Catherine.  We caught up for awhile and then headed home.  We hardly made a dent in the breweries.  There were several more in the same vicinity.  My friends planned on trying more breweries tomorrow.  I opted for something a little more healthy tomorrow…a hike in the Rockies.  What a fun day though! ETB

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snowy falls website copy

The Denver Zoo by Day and Frasca and Hotel Boulderado by Night

February 14-15, 2016

Denver Zoo
Address: City Park
Website: http://www.denverzoo.org
Hours of Operation: Winter Hours, 10-4 daily
Fees: Adults $13, Seniors $11, Children 3-11 $9, Children Under 2 – Free

Frasca
Address: 1738 Pearl St., Boulder, CO
Website: http://www.frascafoodandwine.com
Phone: 303-442-6966
Hours of Operation: Dinner Only, Closed Sunday

Hotel Boulderado
Address: 2115 13th St., Boulder, CO
Website: http://www.boulderado.com
Phone: 303-442-4344

For Valentine’s Day, we decided to do something different. After playing tennis at City Park, we stopped in at the zoo. We thought it would be nice to visit on an unseasonably warm day this winter. Loads of other folks thought the same thing, though with the sun behind the clouds, our 1.5 hour visit wasn’t as warm as we expected.

Neither David nor I are big zoo fans, but given it’s less than a mile from our house, and I haven’t been for the four years I lived nearby, I thought it was time. I believe the Denver Zoo focuses heavily on rescue animals like the rhinos without horns which is good. Having said that, I’d prefer animals to have a larger more natural habitat.

Our first stop was at the cafe for lunch. After that, we made a quick loop passing by mountain goats, lions, tigers, giraffes, monkeys, polar bears, grizzlies, peacocks, elephants, and more. Occasionally, we go indoors and enjoy the heat, and then we’d keep strolling.

After visiting the zoo, we headed to Boulder and checked into Hotel Boulderado which opened on New Year’s Day in 1909 and is now on the National Register of Historic Places. Little did I know, my distant cousin, Erin, was working at the front desk! It was fun to see her.

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We had an early dinner reservation at Frasca and enjoyed a lovely meal…scallops, lobster pasta, halibut, steak, and chocolate dessert. After dinner we stopped at the hotel bar for a night cap. It was a nice evening!

I thought I would have more pictures on Monday as we planned to enjoy the holiday snowshoeing near Nederland, but the snow was coming down sideways! Since I don’t like the cold, we skipped that and took a leisurely drive home. ETB

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Sunflowers website

Herman Gulch in the Summer

August 22, 2015

Herman Lake
Location:
0.1 mile north of exit #218 from I-70
Elevation: 10,332-11,987
Roundtrip: 6.5 miles
Fees: None

I finally made it to Herman Lake. This is a hike I have wanted to complete since I moved to Colorado four years ago. I finally tried getting to the lake this past winter and didn’t make it. I decided to try it in the summer with Heather, Jaz, and David.

This time we made it. We made the left turn soon after the trailhead and climbed up through and aspen grove and beneath the conifers until we reached an open area blanketed in wild flowers. Again, we entered the forest and soon popped out above the treeline.

We gained around 1,600 feet over 3.25 miles to lake situated beneath the peaks around 12,000 feet. We enjoyed lunch at the lake beneath finicky skies…sometimes sunny, sometimes cloudy and cool. Little did we know that when we returned to Denver, we’d be entering a down pour! We felt fortunate for the lovely morning in the mountains. ETB

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Blue Columbine website

Take a Road Trip to Rocky Mountain National Park

July 23, 2015

Rocky Mountain National Park
Location: Near Estes Park, about 66 miles from Denver
Website: http://www.nps.gov/romo/index.htm?utm_source=Persbestand&utm_campaign=051d219cbc-Persbericht_Rocky_Mountain_National_Park&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_1829023557-051d219cbc-48538949

Fees: $20 for week per car, $40 for yearly pass, $80 for all national parks for year (fees changing Oct 1, 2015
Hours: Year Round

The Stanley Hotel
Address: 333 Wonderview Avenue, Estes Park, CO 80517
Contact Info: Toll-Free 1-800-976-1377, 970-577-4000, info@stanleyhotel.com
Website: http://www.stanleyhotel.com/

Denverites are fortunate to live about 1.5 hours away from the glorious Rocky Mountain National Park near Estes Park. What makes a road trip to this National Park perfect is to enjoy a little luxury at the Stanley Hotel. David and I enjoyed a few days in the area for his birthday!

I was so excited to finally stay at this iconic hotel, famous for inspiring Stephen King to write The Shining and featured in the hit film Dumb and Dumber. The hotel was built by FO Stanley (of Stanley Steamer) after he and his wife moved to Colorado for his health. The construction began in 1907 and the hotel was complete in 1909 with a hydraulic elevator, running water, and phones.

Admittedly, I was slightly disappointed with our room. It’s small size and no air conditioning didn’t bother me too much, but the mold in shower and on the curtain, the lighting on only one side of the room, and no place to place a makeup bag in the bathroom was little to be desired. Fortunately, we were not spending much time in the room, and the lobby, whisky bar with 800 choices, porch, and views certainly made up for the lacking decor in the bedroom.

We didn’t arrive to Estes Park until Monday afternoon which we spent eating lunch, savoring ice cream and strolling around town before we checked into the hotel. After checking out the grounds, we sat on the patio at Cascades Restaurant and enjoyed a nice dinner before we decided to take the ghost tour, as the Stanley is known for its hauntings, in particular room 217.

The tour took us to the pet cemetery to begin and through a variety of the wedding rooms, the music room and the haunted tunnel. We were encouraged to take pictures in black in white in order to see green orbs and other aboritions. David and I aren’t big ghost hunters, so we found the tour to be slightly hokey, though we did enjoy learning some history about FO Stanley and his hotel. Who knew he created the #2 pencil, though he made most his money changing the photography world. It was also kind of fun to go in places closed to the masses.

Tuesday we decided to tackle a 10 mile hike to Sky Pond in Rocky Mountain National Park. We got a late start and at 9:30 am the Glacier Gorge Trailhead Parking was already full. Park and ride was available, though there was a small parking lot about half a mile down the road, so we turned our ten mile hike into eleven miles. I suppose we were probably fortunate we picked a weekday to visit, as I doubt we would have found parking at this location otherwise.

The trail to Sky Pond was absolutely spectacular. We began following the well groomed path through a small aspen grove as it ascended to Alberta Falls. I think many visitors to the park stop here. We kept going along the well marked track to Loch Vale, a large lake where many tried their luck at fishing.

Our ascent to Loch Vale was gradual as we followed the cascading creek beneath the conifers to open, windy ridge. The dark skies dropped just a few rain drops, but spared us for most of the climb up. Soon we reached another waterfall which one group call a staircase that basically required us to boulder up the wet rocks to Lake of Glass. This lake was beautiful and any tired souls wouldn’t be missing much if they stopped here instead of continuing on to Sky Pond, as the water features were similar.

We kept going. We followed a rock path through grassy terrain, stepped across a small patch of snow and enjoyed watching the countless marmots. Some ate with no fear of visitors while others scampered into their holes. With a strong wind circling around the pond, we took cover behind some rocks for lunch, but didn’t stay too long as the skies looked ominous, and we could hear rolling thunder in the distance.

Just about as soon as we descended a light drizzle fell…enough for a raincoat, but not enough to make life rough or anything. Upon reaching a lower elevation, it stopped and we continued the rest of the way down the peaceful path. I actually expected to share the trail with more people, so the few we encountered wasn’t too bad. It is always slightly entertaining to see the hodge podge of hikers in the National Parks.

Drove by these guys on the way back from our hike!
Drove by these guys on the way back from our hike!

We worked up an appetite for Twin Owls Steakhouse. The pecan pie was delicious, but I had hoped David’s birthday dinner would have been as good as mine. All of it was reasonable and the service was great, but I wouldn’t say it was out of this world or anything.

Wednesday found us dragging a bit. I think we had gotten enough hiking in over the last few weeks, so we spent a leisurely morning on the porch at the Stanley drinking our coffee. We opted to visit Rocky Mountain National Park again, though this time we just took a drive across Trail Ridge Road to Lake Granby. I’ve driven this road in the past. The views and the elk never disappoint!!

Our final stop before returning to Denver was at the Holzworth Historic Site. We managed to stroll the half mile down the dirt road to find old farming equipment, wash basins, and log cabins. The ranch was established in the early 1900’s and guests used to come to fish. It was lovely and a nice way to cap off a fun birthday jaunt. ETB

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mountain goat keychain sideview

Matisse and Friends Exhibit

February 6, 2015

Brilliant: Cartier in the 20th Century
Denver Art Museum
100 W 14th Ave Pkwy
Denver, CO 80204
Phone: 720-865-5000
Website: http://www.denverartmuseum.org/exhibitions

Fees: Colorado adult resident – $10, non-resident adult $13; for seniors and youth pricing check the website; member – free
Hours: Tues-Thurs, Sat-Sun 10-5; Friday 10-8

While I have to say Tanya and I enjoyed a lovely day on this splendid, Denver afternoon, I recommend not paying for the Matisse and Friends Exhibit at the Denver Art Museum. And given it is closing today (February 8, 2015), don’t feel bad if you missed it.

We started out with lunch on the patio at Lo Stella enjoying 60 degree temperatures in February! My grilled seafood salad was fantastic as well. Tanya ordered the Nicoise which wasn’t traditional, but a nice salad once she added salmon.

Lo Stella is just a few blocks from the museum, so in no time we presented our member cards, and had access to a large, exhibit room on the first floor that seemed like it would house several Matisse paintings which we were excited to see. Much to our dismay, the exhibit displayed more of his “friends” work, than that of Matisse. And while I am no art connoisseur, both Tanya and I liked some of his “friends” work, better than the four Matisse paintings hanging on two walls.

Due to the bright colors, we liked Matisse’s “The Open Window” the best. It was also cool to see how he depicted the scene compared to a black and white photo of the window located at the entrance of the room.

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Our favorite painting in the Matisse exhibit was by Rauol Dufy. It was of sailboats.

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Despite the limited number of paintings in the exhibit, only 14 in total, the atmosphere with different colored walls and cozy seating arrangements were an added touch.

Fortunately, the museum is large. Since we strolled through the Matisse exhibit so quickly, we wandered through part of the regular museum. Some of the western art was fantastic, along with “junk” art made of cardboard and styrofoam.

There was also a neat piece made of the metal pieces that cover the tops of wine bottles. All in all we had a nice time, though we wished there were more than four Matisse oils. ETB

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Sunflowers website

Union Station Whistle-Stop

September 29, 2014

Union Station
1701 Wynkoop
Denver, CO 80202

Website: http://www.unionstationindenver.com
Email: info@unionstationindenver.com

The newly renovated Union Station in Downtown Denver deserves more than a whistle-stop, more like a weekend, but I thought “whistle-stop” was a catch title!

On a rainy Monday night, I was fortunate to visit Union Station with my friend Caro, who is a member of the Denver Art Museum’s Design Council. Through programs and events, the Design Council, which was established in 1990, provides a variety of unique opportunities to it’s members and a tour of Union Station and the Crawford Hotel was no exception. What a treat! http://www.denverartmuseum.org/membership-support/design-council

Having only been in Denver a few years, I was not familiar with the history of the station, but I understand that it was somewhat dilapidated, stinky, and threatened to be demolished at times. The station opened in 1881 to serve four different railways. During its heyday in the 1900’s it served 80 trains a day. Today it serves 2 trains a day though the service will be expanding with the new and improved station that has an “old-timey” feel, but looks lovely.

Our tour was led by Dana Crawford, for whom the Crawford Hotel is named. What a lady! Ms. Crawford has been involved in Urban Renewal for decades. She pioneered the redevelopment of Larimer Square in the 1960’s and was involved in saving Union Station from being demolished many years ago. http://danacrawford.net/home.html

Now the station will house RTD’s front range bus route, light rail, and a full Amtrak schedule. The light rail from DIA is scheduled to arrive in 2016! The station is also home to a few shops and a variety of bars, fancy restaurants, and a 112 room hotel. The hotel rooms wrap around the wings that extend from the station’s lobby. The 22 foot ceilings allowed for an extra floor to be added to create three types of rooms: small, art deco pullman rooms; classic rooms, and loft rooms. Several people like the small, pullman rooms, that emulate sleeping in a train car. I personally loved the lofts decorated with rustic looking furniture and complete with the wooden beams that cut through the bathrooms. http://thecrawfordhotel.com/

I’m not sure if we saw the deluxe or premium or superior category of each room, but rooms are available for about $260/night and increasing, not counting taxes. After seeing the rooms, we enjoyed cocktails at the lounge that overlooked the lobby before we finally ventured down to the Mercantile for a fantastic dinner! Caro ordered the short ribs. I ordered the fish. Both were flavorful. My “snack” (as they call it) appetizer which included a variety of spreads for bread was enough for two and only priced at $6. http://mercantiledenver.com/

Despite the stormy weather, the restaurant was quite full, and from what I understand, Union Station is packed on the weekends, so plan your visit for a dinner, night or a weekend…it’s worth it! ETB

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Food Tasting Tours Around Denver

September 27, 2014

website: http://www.Denvergourmettours.com
phone: 720-722-2350
Price: $49-$69, Groupon half-price

Not going to the mountains, want to explore a neighborhood, and try some food, on a nice day, http://www.denvergourmettours.com might be something different to try.

Now for the caveats…get the groupon as I found “gourmet” to be a bit of a stretch. Gourmet applied to the portion size more than the type of places that we visited.

There are a variety of tours available. We picked the Highlands expecting to go to some of the popular, fancy restaurants, though for $25 we had our suspicions. While we didn’t make it to any place fancy, we did stop by a few places I didn’t know about and the day was glorious, so overall we found the tour to be worth it once.

We started out at Savory Spice on Platte Street which is a shop, not a restaurant. We were provided a bowl of popcorn and got to taste several spices that they grow and grind themselves. It is a very nice spice shop, and I have been to the one in Littleton. Any cook would love this place. http://www.savoryspiceshop.com/

From the spice shop, we walked next door to Eat+Drink, a popular Vail Valley artisan cheese boutique. While it feels more like a fancy cheese shop to me, Eat+Drink includes a small indoor dining area and patio. The menu offers paninis, cheese plates, olives, charcuterie plates, salads, and even chocolate flights and wine. We tried three different cheeses on tasty bread which we quite good. http://eatdrinkinc.com/

From Platte Street, we crossed the bridge and walked up to Boulder Street where the Highlands Farmers Market is held. It was just ending around 1 p.m. when we visited Shangri-La Cafe. Again, I wouldn’t consider a coffee shop gourmet, but I will say the Artufo panini (turkey, pesto, swiss and arugala) was fantastic! If I lived in this neighborhood, I’d probably come here for breakfast sandwiches. I bet they are good. http://shangrilacafe.com/

We moved on from savory to sweet and tried out the ice cream at Little Man which offers a handful of flavors from its freestanding building. For every scoop it serves, it donates a scoop of rice or beans to underdeveloped countries. The scoops are large and filling. I see why we came here next, due to the location, but it was weird to have ice cream and then visit a Jamaican Food Truck. http://www.littlemanicecream.com/

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We returned close to our starting location and enjoyed a pulled pork taco and fried banana from the food truck by the Denver Beer Company. I was positively full by then, but I stuffed down the tasty dish with a beer before we ended our afternoon. http://denverbeerco.com/

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We were surprised by the warmth of the late September day, but enjoyed the sun while we could. We were also surprised by the average age on the tour which was a bit older than expected, but didn’t affect us. While we didn’t try any fancy restaurants, it was nice to spend a nice, relaxing weekend day in Denver. It doesn’t seem like I do that very often. ETB

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pine cones website