Thursday, December 31, 2009

The year in review

2009 was plentiful for me. I know, I feel most people feel differently about 2009 and everyone seems to be focusing on the possibility of 2010. I like the idea of 2010 because of the World Cup, which will be in South Africa. I loved Cape Town and so I am nostalgic feelings of that country. I wish I was more of a soccer fan. I might have arranged to go to a game.
But, I am not. And, soccer fans are crazy!
Nevertheless, 2009 was a good year for me.
I set out to do 12 trips, stateside. The travel bug inspired me to return to places for my past and explore new cities--all in the States. I began in Phoenix with 4 of my friends from high school. We opted to do a reunion type of destination trip. Since I had lived in Tempe, I was the natural choice of tour guide. We dined at 3 of my favorite spots--Los Dos Molinos, Postino and Pizzeria Bianco. I know that my friends enjoyed it. We checked out the Taliesen West, for Hailey; Botannical Gardens, for Jill; Piestywa Peak for Marcee; and Marideth was happy to do it all. She suggested thrift store shopping or making jewelry. I was unable to fully research those options. I ran out of time. I wanted to impress them with the food.
We did some souvenir shopping for all of them since they all are moms and wanted treasures to bring home to their kids. All in all, it was a lovely trip. I am fortunate that they agreed to meet in Phoenix and allow the opportunity to reconnect, as adults. Our senior year, we spent most of it, together.
I met Shari in Napa for the anniversary of Brian's passing. Each year, we explore a different city. I prefer warmer climates. 2010 will be spent in Seattle.
We spent two nights in San Francisco, and one in Napa. Kuleto's wowed us, with a radicchio delight, and we had sea urchin with some of my girl friends from high school. 2009 was about connecting with people from my past.
St. Patrick's was spent in Kansas City. I saw the Silversun Pickups play at the new P & L District. The weather was amazing, for Kansas. For example, my friend, Ames, entertained me with a much needed motorcycle ride. Yes, Kansas in March, was ideal for that.
In April, I flew to Seattle. I spent 3 days with Jean, her twin, Jan, and wine. We drove to Walla Walla, Washington, and proceeded to entertain the locals with our random behavior. I have known Jean, since college, and she has yet to disappoint me. She always is engaging and a ton of fun.
I drove to Santa Fe. I needed that fix. I convinced Melody, my friend and massage therapist to meet me for dinner. In exchange for dinner, she comped me a massage. It was so fantastic that I made her dine with me the following night. We checked the Pink Adobe, 315 Restaurant and Mauka. Chef Joel, of Mauka, was the most amazing of the three options. Plus, we were able to watch him prepare our food and strike up an interesting conversation with him and his staff. If you have time and a food craving, head to Santa Fe and go to Mauka. It is near the Sanbusco.
I enjoyed the road trip, and so I decided to drive to Kansas. I wanted to see my dad, my "grandma" Carol and some other friends. I had a theme to 2009. Reconnect with people from my past. I spent a night at the Eldridge and drank at Free State, my old job and stomping grounds while in college. It felt like home to me.
I flew to Phoenix, again, to get a hair cut and spend time with Jan and Tom. 4 Peaks, Los Dos Molinos and Z Tejas ensued.
Instead of going to my cousin's wedding in Santa Barbara, I continued to train for the marathon. I practiced by completing my first ever 1/2 marathon--the Georgetown/Idaho Springs 1/2. Training sort of took over most of my free time. No longer could I work on Friday nights or travel through Saturday. I was committed to my long days.
I flew to Boston. I planned on spending my anniversary with Brian there. I had had success in Phoenix, Napa and Chicago, years past. Boston intrigued me. I have a friend who lives in Maine and so it became a combo trip. I took a bus to Surry, ME. I spent 3 days with Jean. She was a gracious hostess. I had lobster and ample wine. Again, I like her hosting style.
I returned to Boston and spent two nights there. Thankfully, a friend, Casey, from my past met me for dinner. I loved all of the restaurants we drank wine at, but was disappointed in Mistral--the main event.
3 weeks later, I flew to Washington, D.C. My old duplex mates live there now and so I spent one night with them and two nights with Casey. I had been to D.C., as a child, but didn't appreciate the food, the energy or the subway. Proof was amazing. It is located in Penn Station and again, a real gem of a restaurant. We shared appetizers and sides.
I returned to Denver, 9/25, late, and picked up Saucy Noodle to carb load. I had a 21 mile run planned for the morning. Amazingly, after spending a week gorging myself with rich food and wine, it was by far, the best run I had experienced. I ran without my ipod and alone. The Goddess was running with a different runner and I had a different stride that day. I was confident in my running. Wow, if only that had been the marathon.
Yep, October 18, was the Denver Marathon. I am proud of myself for accomplishing that goal. It was amazing, but I wanted to finish stronger. I am inspired to do it again, sometime, in 2010.
Two back to back trips to Kansas later and I arrive at trip #12, Las Vegas. I figured I should end it on a big note. Food mecca haven, for me. Plus, we stayed at the Bellagio. Can you say, heavenly?
Yes, 2009 was about reconnection, travel and gratitude. People continue to enter my life, for reasons unknown, but it is always beneficial to me. I recognize that I have a little space in my heart for possibility. I recognize that travel continues to stimulate and propel me to new opportunity. And, it continues to introduce people in my life. I met Paula Commerford for lunch at Elway's while she was in the States. We went to high school together and I haven't seen her since high school. Food does connect us all.
Yes, 2009 was wonderful. I am thankful for the opportunities I had and for the continued support of my friends and family. It was about growth and gratitude.
Enjoy the Blue Moon tonight. It should be lovely and peaceful. Welcome 2010. Goodbye to 2009...I learned a lot about myself, this past year.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Christmas continued

Christmas dinner was excellent.
The next morning, we walked to the City Center to check out Aria. First, though, we went to the MGM so that I could get my coffee fix. The Bellagio has a few coffeeshops that are typically inundated with people. I felt Starbuck's calling and so we went to the MGM. I showed Casey around the MGM, mentioning my favorite spots--Nob Hill, the West Wing Bar, Sea Blue. The casino is dark/smoky compared to the Bellagio. I still enjoy staying there, though. My absolute favorite bartender used to work at Nob Hill. Truly, Mark was a mixology god. I miss him!
Next, we walked to the City Center and it was beautiful. How could it not be--it's new and smells heavenly. Seriously, we entered the Aria, the casino that opened and it smelled like marshmellows. No smoke, clean carpets and the beauty of possibility. We checked out a few of the restaurant menus and wandered around the casino. I understood why people were flocking to the building to check it out. It is massive and currently, Aria, is the only casino in the structure that is open. They have a Mandarin Hotel, and a completely separate hotel, the Harmon, that was slated to be Condominiums. Since it had problems selling the condos, it is now an all suite hotel, non-smoking, no casino. The Center is lovely.
At this point, we were hungry. We walked to Caesar's. I wanted to check out Mesa Grill, a Bobby Flay place. I am not a fan of Bobby Flay. I think he is an arrongant chef. I mean, he jumped on his cutting board after winning Iron Chef, one time. Who does that? He's a chef. He should respect the kitchen, not act like a jackass. And, I have seen him on other Food Network Shows and he exudes arrongance. No, I am not naive about chefs. Many of them are cocky, but he seems to take the cake on this factor.
Nevertheless, we went to Mesa because Paul's wife, my sommelier friend from Bouchon, works there. It wasn't busy when we entered. Two other people were dining at the bar and we decided to share a few items. I like to dine this way. It enables me a richer experience in one setting as opposed to getting one entree, each. I like trying as many dishes as possible.
Immediately, I noticed the cheese dip and chilequiles. I really wanted those. I had eaten them while living abroad in Mexico. Basically, it's tortillas cooked in egg, chile and cheese. It's a delight that I hadn't had since 98.
Casey was interested, too, but there were other options. We settled on the cheese dip-mostly since it was served with chips--and I asked for tomatillo salsa, which the bartender brought with the main course. We shared a chicken and pepper hash, with a poached egg on top. It was great and filling and yes, Flay knows what he is doing.
Unfortunately, I could not remember Paul's wife's name and so that trip was in vain. I did like the food and the bartender was pleasant and entertaining. Brunch was available when we dined there. I looked over the regular menu and would have been happy with some of selections.
That night, we returned to the Venetian to check out Mario Batali's restaurant, B&B. My friends, Tim and Joyce, recommended it to me. I respect their palettes and so I wanted to check it out for them. We compare restaurants, in Denver, Napa, San Franciso and other places we have both been. Three weeks ago, they were in Las Vegas and so I foisted Olives and Bouchon on them. They loved each of those and didn't make it to B&B.
Regardless, we dined at Batali's place. The bartender was Brazilian and quite knowledgeable of the menu. I wasn't wowed by the wine list. They offered 5-6 by the glass selections of red and white, respectively. I felt it could be expanded and more user friendly.
We chose the grilled octopus, root vegetable carpaccio and brussel sprout hash. I had to have it. I still was in awe of that side dish at Bouchon.
The octopus was amazing, perfectly grilled and flavorful. I enjoyed the carapaccio with house made ricotta cheese, too. I let Casey devour most of that, though. I liked the brussel sprouts, but were not in love with them. They were more acidic and had pancetta mixed in. I enjoyed it, don't get me wrong, but it wasn't Bouchon.
We asked the bartender, for another suggestion, for dining. He hands me a business card to Carnevino, also in the Venetian, and another Batali place. I wasn't going for that dine only at Batali type of night.
I realized that I wasn't hungry, anymore, either.
Instead, we walked back to the Bellagio, and quickly realized that we had a slight case of food poisioning. I blame it on the pancetta. I had bad pork in Honduras and that is another story in itself. Let's just say...Honduras was much worse.
I still applaud the experience, minus the setback. The octopus was fantastic! I would go back. Plus, they started us with an amuse bouche, and concluded with a small dessert. It was cute.
So, maybe, I should steer clear of pork products. We'll see. I know they have brussel sprout hash at Elway's. Oh, Rapture wine and Elway's, always seems to be a priority in my life.
I finished my Vegas food adventure where it began--at Olives. This time, I met a couple from L.A. and a lady from San Francisco. My bartender, Ernie, was working and so I was treated well from start to finish. I ate a side of cauliflower and a small caesar salad. I met the other diners because both of the women saw my caesar salad and were inspired by it. It is a great caesar salad. I think they charged $9 for the salmon that topped one of the caesar salads which seemed much. I mean, it was a 5 oz. salmon. But, then again, it is Vegas.
Until next time, I will remain hopeful of my dining options and people that I meet. Bouchon and Olives will continue to be my must do food list. I might go to the Elvis Show next time in town. Who doesn't love the King???

Monday, December 28, 2009

Christmas in Vegas

Another successful holiday in Las Vegas--I love it!
I arrived on Friday afternoon and made my way to the Bellagio. I was uncertain if they would let me check in at noon, so I was prepared to check my bag and go to Olives. I had forgotten that Las Vegas is all about accomodating the needs of guest, ensuring the quality of the stay. I was grateful to be able to check in to my room.
I stopped in Olives, hoping to see my bartending friend, Joe. I had met him on previous trips out to Las Vegas. I always dine at Olives.
Joe wasn't working, but I befriended the other bartenders. The bar was packed, and I found myself sitting by a single lady. I started talking to her, suggesting restaurants to check out and listening to her story of xmas in Vegas. She was out for five days and more interested in the gambling aspect than me. She had arranged for a full spa day, too. I wish I had taken that route. Nevertheless, we had a pleasant conversation. I wished her luck and was on with my day.
Casey arrived after a treacherous ride to the airport in Kansas City. There was that ridiculous snow storm that had covered the midwest. He had a time getting out of Lawrence and thankfully, most of the flights were delayed. He was able to make it to Las Vegas.
My friends, Carrie and Adrian, live in Las Vegas. I wanted to see them and so we met at Olives, again, for drinks on christmas day. The bartender, Ernie, remembered my first visit and we were rewarded with strong cocktails. I love seeing Carrie since she is always entertaining. She never disappoints. We reminisce about our youth in Phoenix and other trips to Las Vegas. Carrie has been there since 2001. She met Brian, a few times, and some of my other friends too. Carrie is good people.
We had dinner reservations at Bouchon. Because of this, we cut our time with Carrie and Adrian short. We walked to the Venetian and made our way to Bouchon.
Paul, my sommelier friend, greeted us with champagne. We chose the trout, pomme frites and brussel sprouts. Paul suggested a rose' to accompany the main course. The standout, for me, was the brussel sprouts. I loved them. I was sad that it was only a side dish--they were that good. The trout was nice, but I have had better entrees at Bouchon. I enjoyed the fish, but it was topped with cauliflower and diced potatoes. I couldn't understand why the potatoes were part of the dish. They were blah. Of course, fries with dijon are always tasty.
Afterwards, Paul approached us with the dessert menu. Since I have been on a carrot cake kick *for the last year*, I was disappointed that they didn't offer it. Paul, the accomodating sommelier, went to another place in the Venetian and brought me carrot cake. I had a snifter of Ron Zabaco Rum, with coffee and concluded the evening.
Yes, Christmas was successful. Bouchon always rewards. I will write more later. I know that I have been a slacker the last few days. I have been busy with work and tending to the holidays. I hope yours were plentiful and great!

Friday, December 18, 2009

Gratitude cards

Normally, I love christmas cards. I love receiving them. I enjoy writing them.
A few years ago, I had a lovely time retelling a story of my last christmas with Brian. He loved Christmas and lavished me with gifts. This was his holiday while I preferred our birthdays. They are a day apart and so you can see how easy it was to go extreme with the birthdays. It benefitted both of us.
For whatever reason, I did not have the same feelings for Christmas. I knew that he wanted the Bouchon cookbook, from Thomas Keller, that had just been released. I couldn't find it and so I settled for a Nobu cookbook.
Christmas Day arrived and we exchanged gifts. He opened his first and liked it, and then handed me a large gift. I knew it was a book and was a little confused as to what he had gotten me. I unwrap it and it's the Bouchon cookbook. I am devastated. I mean, it was what I had wanted to buy for him. My mind jumps to--well, this is a gift for him.
I unwrap the plastic wrap surrounding the book. I read the cover and I put it on the table. Truly, I had no interest in the book. It was his gift, not mine. He looked at me and said, "Harmony, you missed something. Here." He hands the cookbook back to me and I notice that there are two inserts in the book. I assume they are coupons for Keller's next book release. I open the papers and realize that he had bought us a trip to Las Vegas and we had dinner reservations at Bouchon. I was overjoyed and ecstatic! Again, Brian and tricked me and enjoyed the gift exchange as much as I had. I know that my reactions were priceless. I have never been a good liar. I express too much.
I wanted to share the christmas story and how fun it was to be able to make that my Christmas Story for 2006. 2007 was skipped since I was traveling. I had my blog and that was my way of relating my experiences while traveling during the holidays. I spent Christmas in Margaret River, Australia. That, too, was amazing, but different. I spent both days on the beach with a Scot, a Canadian and a Brit. I think I made myself rice and veggies for the celebratory dinner. We had pints at a pub and that was that.
2008, I sent out a letter. It was not very memorable and so I will not even attempt to remember it.
This year, I had little motivation to do anything. I am enjoying the weather, too much, I think, to think about christmas. Yesterday, I finally got in the spirit.
I am sending out some gratitude cards. Yep, I bought thank you cards. It seemed more interesting and genuine. I do have much to be thankful. I have a new apartment, with a concerned landlord. I love my neighborhood. I am 12 blocks from the Denver Public Library which is fantastic. I am closer to a Whole Foods to feed my tamari almond addiction and I am steps away from Argonaut Liquor Store. Lately, I seem to be restocking my wine more. Hmmmmmm.....could be my visitor.
Anyways, I am grateful for many things in my life. I look around me and see strife, war, negativity, Tiger Wood's affairs and our fascination with them, instead of focusing on what is important.
I opted to purchase gifts because I wanted to, not because I felt obligated too. And with that lack of obligation, the gratitude cards became a reality.
There is still time to donate to your local shelter, salvation army or hospital. If you are interested in a specific organization, check out It is an organization that helps inner city kids in New York. Each year they arrange summer camps or stays with host families. Donating helps more kids be able to enjoy the outdoors and open their minds to opportunities/possibilities outside of their homelife.
Or, if you are a runner or new runner and want to plan a race in March, consider the NYC 1/2 on March 21, 2010. The Fresh Air Organization is hosting a team and would love donors or runners for that premier event. Think about it---New York in March could be lovely! I might even try to do it. The Goddess and I are still deciding on a 1/2 in either March or April. After April, she will be residing in Flagstaff, AZ, which is fantastic for her personal life, but sad for me and my running. I am sure that I will befriend another runner that motivates me.
I hope this finds you well and I apologize for the length. I felt it was important to build the gratitude story and I couldn't do it without mentioning my Bouchon book story. Be well!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Caveau Wine Bar....

I have been wanting to check out Caveau for some time.
Everytime that I would suggest it, someone would remember how much I love Elway's or Lala's--due to the convenience factor. In all honesty, I "heart" Elway's and tolerate Lala's. The service, there, is consistently poor and the wine list lacks. It does not suit the calibre of a true wine bar.
That being said, last night, I went to Caveau, with my friend Jenny. Jenny and I met when we were 10 years old. Fast friends. I believe I spent 3 solid months at her house when they moved to the neighborhood. My mom kept warning me that I would wear out my welcome. For whatever reason, Jenny kept inviting me back.
My parents divorced and we moved to the north side of town with my mom. My friendship with Jenny, changed, as is normal. We lived far apart and our interests changed as we entered high school. I worked, all of the time; and, she was able to enjoy the high school experience, more than I did. We continued to be friends, but not in the same-stay-at-my-house-for-three-months-type of friendship.
We went to different colleges.
I moved to Denver. She did, too.
For the last 8 years, we attempt to meet up, more than once a year. We haven't been too successful with it. We try. We do. But, our lives are busy. Jenny works a lot, is married and travels with her job. I travel as often as possible and my schedule changes each week.
Last night, she agreed to meet me at Caveau. I chose the place and asked her to meet me at 5:30. I had made plans to run with the Goddess and since I hadn't heard from Jenny, I pushed my run time, back to 4:30. Of course, Jenny e-mailed that she could meet me at 5:30. I responded that 6ish would be preferable and rushed to make it work.
I had forgotten that Jenny is perpetually late. I arrived at 6, entered the packed bar and looked lost. I know that I did. There were no bar seats available and the restaurant was full. A girl approached me and offered to help me out. She suggested standing at the bar, until one of two tables left. She saw my jacket and commented on how great the Bull & Bush was. I mentioned that I worked there and we were immediate friends. Dana saw to my needs, from that point on.
I was impressed with the wine list. They offer 1/2 price glasses of wine, daily, from 4-7 pm. Any glass under $12, is $5 during that time. I understood why it was packed with people. Again, the wine list was user friendly and they offered pizza, bruschetta, meatballs and a cheese plate. We sampled the bruschetta and meatballs.
Dana was not our server, unfortunately. Our server was slammed and so the service was a little slow, but they were kind and it was obvious that she was busy, not lazy. When you order a glass of wine, they bring you the bottle and pour a sample of the wine so that you determine, if yes, you enjoy it. I like the concept, but it is time consuming during happy hour. It definitely slowed them down.
Jenny and her husband, Josh, met me, which was great. I enjoy them, as a couple, and I wasn't upset that she included him. I do have friends, that are couples, who make out the entire time I meet with them. That is not enjoyable or fun to encounter or endure. Or, I find that I censor my conversation with couples. There are exceptions--Steve and Sarah--and now, Jenny and Josh.
If you have time, check out Caveau. It is located at 17th and Pennsylvania. Parking is decent and again, the wine list is varied. It isn't the standard b.s. list that people are familiar with. I think if you advertise that you are a wine bar, than have a wine list that is user friendly and unique.
Jenny and I arranged to meet in February. I made sure she put it in her phone and we even decided on a place. There is no stopping us now!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Faith in Top Chef restored....

I loved Top Chef.
It was the ultimate cooking show--creative, competitive and new. The first season was about the food, not the drama, of most reality shows. I enjoyed watching the quick fires and elimination challenges. Of course, there was some drama--Steven, Tiffany and Dave all provided it. For example, the famous--I'm not your bitch, Bitch--sequence between Dave and Tiffany. Or, Steven's rant on Kandance about her lack of skill in the kitchen. Harold remained calm and was announced the first Top Chef.
I continued to watch Top Chef and with each season, the focus shifted to the contestants b.s. and less on the cooking. The challenges seemed uninspired. I was bored, but wanted it to be captivating. I remained loyal to the show.
I lost my faith in it when Stefanie won Season 4. It seemed like a complete cop-out, to me. Like, the show felt it needed a female Top Chef. Stefanie has skills, but I didn't believe she honestly beat Richard--the steadfast "Harold" type of Chef from Season 4.
Then, I traveled. I returned to the States and no longer had cable. I rely on to catch up on my shows. Hulu and Bravo do not have a symbiotic relationship, it seems. I saw a few episodes from last season, when Hosea won. This too, seemed, unlikely, since he whined the entire season and did not seem that great. I know he is from Colorado and should be thrilled that he won. I felt it was an afterthought, though.
This season, I saw two episodes, on-line. I wanted to view more since the season seemed more interesting than the previous three. I felt the show had returned to its humble beginnings in the cooking genre. I was perusing episodes, offered by this morning, and saw that they had the finale, on-line. I began watching it and knew that the three remaining chefs deserved to be there. I was happy when they announced the winner. Michael deserves to be Top Chef. My faith in the show, is restored, for now. I wonder how they will continue to challenge contestants or interest viewers. Will there be a Season 7? Hopefully, Hulu will have the episodes, available.
If not, I will figure out a way to view the show...

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Butternut Squash

It began with squash--the vegetable, not the sport.
Last night, I went to Bryn's house. We try to meet up, once a week, for a gab session and lately, my laundry. We drink coffee or tea, walk the lake and eat dinner. I knew that Bryn wanted mexican. There is a family owned restaurant, near her, that is our place to eat mexican. I swear, the same waiter, Jose, never leaves the restaurant. I believe he has waited on us every single time we have eaten there. I think we have been dining, there, for about 7 years. I enjoy their chips and salsa and I like their breakfast burrito, too. We are fairly regular in our order--burrito, no lettuce or cheese, smothered, with tomatoes and a side of rice. Good, hearty, standard, consistent food. I am always happy when we go to Tafolino's.
However, I wanted Edgewater Inn Pizza. This is another family run establishment, near Bryn's house and the pizza is quite good. Normally, we order take-out and make a salad at her house. I had been craving pizza since Casey mentioned his desire to go to Rudy's Pizza.
We ate mexican since I was doing laundry at her house. I appreciated that she was saving me the inconveniece of sitting at the laundromat, waiting hopelessly, for my clothes to dry. Next time, I will suggest pizza.
The cold prohibited us from walking the lake and so we drank coffee and dished on life. I told her that I wanted to cook squash. I wanted to make use of the seasonal vegetables. I guess I am inspired to use my kitchen since I have someone to cook for now. Even if it is temporary, I am motivated to use my kitchen knives, cutting board and random equipment. I feel it is time to get them out of storage.
Her response was that I should take one of hers. I didn't since I forgot. I was preoccupied with collecting my belongings and laundry.
My house guest returned from work and we talked about our days. I sensed that she wanted to be alone and so I grabbed my Moosewood Cookbook and looked at squash recipes. In the index, it was referenced and the one labeled--Chilean Bean Stew--interested me. I looked at the recipe and realized that it was the porotos granados that I had searched out while in Santiago, Chile. Basically, it is pinto beans, corn and squash. I walked 14 miles, or forever, to go to one of the best places for it while in Santiago. It was my last day there and I did not consult the map before beginning my walk to the restaurant. I know, blonde moment, and yes, this does happen to me when traveling. I think it makes for a better adventure or a more animated retell of the story. I know that I blogged about that particular story while in Chile. I met an interesting guy on my walk and for once, found my voice and was able to tell him off. Blonde hair in Chile means never being able to walk or run without notice. Factor in it being South America, the whole machismo crap and you get a sense of what I was dealing with.
Yes, it started with the idea of squash. I walked to Safeway to purchase the necessary items to make the porotos tonight. I am excited and hopeful that Sara will enjoy it, too. If not, there is always ample wine to cover the lack of flavor, right?
Either way, I am excited to be using my kitchen my again. It is the beginnning of a new phase in my life....less dining out and more experimenting at home. Wish me luck!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

The food factor from Friday night....

Initially, I had wanted to dine at JJ's in Kansas City. I had been there, before, and loved the wine list. On my last visit, I was not wowed by the food, but I loved the wine list. In my world, I wanted to fly into KC, head to JJ's for wine and small plates and drive to Lawrence.
My plan did not mesh with Casey's and so JJ's on Wednesday was not an option.
He suggested going into the city on Friday. We could go to the Nelson Art Museum, walk around the Plaza and dine at JJ's. For whatever reason, I knew our opportunity had passed. It would be a different trip. It seemed foolish to make the trip on Friday since I had to be back at the airport, early, Saturday morning.
Friday became a free day. We decided to focus on restaurants in Lawrence. There were new options and the best way to check out all of them, was to course know, an appetizer here, small plate there. We decided to begin at Pachamama's, go to either 715 or Genovese, but definitely check out Angler's. We accomplished two of the four since we had dessert at Free State. It is the natural mecca when I am in Lawrence.
We arrived at Pachamama's and headed to the bar. Since we were only having small plates, we opted to dine there and not waste a table for a server. The bar, itself, had twelve bar stools and filled to capacity. They had a promotion of wine and small plates that looked interesting, but we did not explore that option. I perused the wine list and they offered two different sizes of wine glass or by the bottle. We chose the Ridge Zinfandel and waited to order the food. They had 4 male bartenders at the bar. I was surprised, given the amount of space, and believed that we would be overwhelmed by their attentiveness. We weren't.
We tried a crab roll and pommes frites. The menu was interesting and I would like to check out some of the flavor profiles. The wine list was user friendly and they carried Free State and Boulevard Beer. I like establishments that support local brews/products.
The crab roll was tasty and the fries were fine. I wanted them for the dijon mustard that accompanied them. I did like that. I believe the mustard was the highlight of the meal. The atmostphere was upscale trendy. We weren't out of place, but it wasn't as inviting as I would have liked. It seemed stuffy.
From Pachamama's, we drove to Angler's which is a few blocks away. Angler's is a new addition to Lawrence. Our friend, Dave, recommended the place. He said the oysters were awesome and that they had a fantastic beer selection. They were excellent and the place was lively. I loved the feel of it immediately.
The owner shucked our oysters and entertained us while we dined at the bar. I would have preferred to experience the entire Friday night meal, there, and skipped Pachamama's. When we walked in, we were greeted by the lobster tank. It made me laugh since we were definitely land locked in Kansas.
I had wanted to check out a third restaurant. I was full, though, and dessert sounded necessary. Free State has carrot cake. Enough said.
I had another Santa's Helper and chatted up my old co-workers and friends. I did enjoy dining in Lawrence and figure I can always go to JJ's on another trip. I will return to Angler's. When I was in school, Pachamama's was opening and it was definitely, the elite option. The location has changed, making it more available to diners like me, that enjoy coursing out the meal. Another trip, another meal, another experience.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Cabin Fever

The weather is ridiculous. It is 8 degrees. How can I function in this weather? I am not handling it well. I am determined to stay inside. I have limited movies, books that I have read, which is a fantastic way to waste time and I do have food. I stocked up, somewhat, since I have a house guest for an undetermined amount of time.
I don't have coffee, though.
I will be venturing out to rectify that issue. I need it. I want it and I like to be able to appear to be a gracious hostess.
I called my landlord to let him know about my situation. I wanted him to know that I would have a temporary guest and approve of additional keys being made. I tried to do it on my own, yesterday, without success. He has the Do Not Duplicate keys and I wasn't crafty enough to persuade the guy at Ace Hardware to overlook the techinicality. He suggested having the landlord authorize the keys being made with a letter on a letterhead from his building.
I called Dustin. He told me that it would cost $45 to have additional keys made. I was shocked and tried to suggest the other route--letterhead, but he insisted that this was the only option. He had tried to do it in the past, but told me that a locksmith was the only way to have keys made. I agreed to it since I want to feel safe in my space and I want my friend to be able to come and go as she pleases. I do not want her locked out.
I figure I did the right thing. I notified Dustin of the temporary situation and was processing how to justify the cost of the keys. Safety/security trumps feeling insecure due to not locking one of the doors to ensure entry for her.
Dustin stopped by with my lease and said--you are in luck....I found a few copies of the keys that you are responsible for if you lose them. AWESOME. And this validates doing the right thing. I am certain that the Slumlord would have found some way to make sure that I paid for keys, the door, the extra person in his house. Basically, somehow he would be compensated. Funny, I still haven't heard from him regarding my deposit. He will forever be the SLUMLORD in my book.
Although, I have severe cabin fever and mass boredom, I am accomplishing some tasks. I know that I will venture out for coffee and maybe library books. I need something to read. This hulu connection is lovely, but mindless. I need to be challenged not brain dead.
I will comment on my experience at Pachamama's later. I checked out another place in Lawrence, too, Angler's, which was fantastic and a rare find.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Part two

Day two of my 3 day trip began with the walk to campus, followed by lunch at Free State and risotto at Casey's place. I wrote about the walk a few posts back. It started and ended with biting cold.
On the walk, I mentioned preferring Teller's to Free State because of the proximity. It is two blocks from Free State and at that point, I wanted warmth, not more distraction.
Teller's is a restaurant that used to be a bank. While in college, I used to frequent it for Italian margaritas with Jean (when I was underrage and wanting the sweet drink), martini's with Sarah (the Sarah from college that lives in my favorite city in the world--San Francisco) and wine as an adult. I had eaten there a few times. It is fairly standard italian fare. In college, it was a dining destination, a romantic date night type of restaurant. I worked at Fifi's and was spoiled by their food.
Rarely did I frequent Teller's for food. No, for me, it was all about the drinks, the wine, the conversations that occurred after working a shift at Free State. I haven't dined there in years. I think I made Brian dine there, once, on a visit to Kansas.
Regardless, we ate at Free State Brewery, a place that I used to work. It continues to be the best run restaurant, in my book. It is a well-oiled machine, incredibly efficient and consistent. The beer is stellar and the fare is cheap and good. They have specials and many options. We chose to dine at the bar, since I am a bar kid. Casey knew the bartender. I did not. Initially, the bartender deferred to Casey for all decisions. I was annoyed, but dealed with it. We decided to share a chimichurri pasta salad and a black bean quesadilla. Free State has great mustard and so I insisted that we share a side of fries.
The food arrived and I was disappointed. The rice and the fries were cold. The salad was boring and lacked salt. But, I was hungry and so I ate it.
The beer was excellent. I tried the Santa's Helper, which is a belgian style beer. As the meal progressed, the bartender talked to me--finally. The bar, itself, is small. Initially, it appeared that the guy didn't enjoy his job. I think he was having an off day. I ran into him on Friday night and he was more animated and lively.
Overall, I like Free State and will dine there again. It holds many memories, for me, good and bad. Work is always a mixed bag of memories and I frequented Free State throughout my time in Lawrence. Even though I wasn't wowed by the food, I know that it can be much better. They are not sacrificing the quality for a cheaper product. I think it was an off day.
That night, we had dinner at Casey's house. He made mushroom risotto. I love risotto and I enjoyed his rendition of it. I laughed while he critiqued everything about the meal and how much better it should have been. We are hardest on ourselves, I believe.
I will post more about the food factor in Lawrence and my time spent in Kansas. I did enjoy checking out Free State, the Eldridge bar, Teller's and the Pig. Lawrence continues to be "good" to me. And, for the first time ever, I dined at Pachamama's. That place is "the" place to dine in Lawrence. I will explain why and why not later....

Traveling to the midwest--part one of the food factor in Lawrence...

I had a brief visit to Kansas and froze. I covered the weather and that fact in my last post. It stayed with me since it was THAT cold. Really, truly, was terrible.
I woke up. I overslept and it was snowing in Denver. I had agreed to bring coffee to Tiffany and so I made my way to Daz Bog. Normally, I would have stopped at Peet's coffeeshop, but knew that parking would be an issue. Instead, I drove, slowly, to Daz Bog and picked up our respective coffees.
I met Tiffany at the Bull and Bush and she drove me to the airport. Immediately, I recognized that in my haste to meet her and bring coffee, I had forgotten my travel water bottle. Mistake #1--avoid purchasing unnecessary items at the airport. Everything is overpriced and again, unnecessary. I had gum. I had hoped to eat prior to meeting Tiffany, but figured I could have lunch with Casey. Mistake #2--skipping breakfast unintentionally. I should have eaten either an english muffin at my house or a pastry that Mark offered me at Daz Bog. Either way, food would have been nice.
I flew in and we drove directly to Lawrence. I was famished. I arrived at 1:15 pm and we drove to Lawrence. No stops for wine or food. Instead, we ran errands. I was a little annoyed because of the hunger, but was trying to remain positive.
Since we were running errands, my hunger waned. I was beyond hungry and so when it came to choosing a place, I couldn't decide. I considered mexican--typical--but Casey was uninterested. He suggested going to Aladdin Cafe, but I wanted to check out La Parilla. I hadn't been there since a trip out with Brian and I had fond memories of it.
La Parilla is south american fare and, again, I had enjoyed it. We entered the restaurant and we were the only diners. Well, it was an odd time to eat lunch. I think it was 3:30 at that point.
Anyways, Casey chose the special and I was intrigued by the salvadoran enchiladas. I considered fish tacos but thought better of it. Fish in the midwest could have less than desireable results. The salvadoran enchiladas were potato, yuca and cheese, or something to that effect. We began with chips and salsa. The chips were fresh, unsalted, but recently fried. I overlooked the lack of salt and tried the salsa--too sweet, but hunger kicked back in and I ate it.
The food arrived and it was okay. It lacked flavor and I suffered through it. I was disappointed with the food. I remembered it being tasty and flavorful. Plus, the margaritas used to rock. The house ones we drank were mostly sweet and sour.
We decided to check out the Bourgeois Pig...again, another place that I used to enjoy while in college. We entered the coffee shop and ordered a drink. I chose a ginger infused vodka with soda. As we caught up with each other's lives, I recalled the delicious hazelnut coffee that used to draw me to the establishment when I was in school. Suddenly, a pot was brewed and I had other fond memories of Lawrence. Although, I do not believe that I would be able to drink the coffee now--too sweet.
The day started off, frantically, but ended in a calm fashion. We watched the KU game at a pub and drank red wine. More later on my food adventures while in Kansas. I promise I will stop lamenting the weather.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

I am defeated.....

Typically, I am a freak...when it comes to nature that is. I wear shorts yearround. I prefer it.
I get hot. I have mentioned it before. I know that I brought up performance art, lack of pants and what not. That is, until I went to Kansas.
It's not like I haven't experienced a winter in Kansas. I have. I did it for my entire childhood, adolescence and college. Funny how easily it was forgotten.
I visited last week.
I checked the Weather Channel-35-40 degrees all week. I figured it was similar to being in Denver. I forgot one thing...the wind.
The wind won.
I had no defense. I was defeated.
We walked to campus from Casey's house. It is about a mile and a half...maybe a little more. I had a bus pass when I was in school, but I rarely used it. I preferred walking then and I tried to continue with that decision.
The sun was shining. I was wearhing my standard outfit--shorts, polo and my Bull and Bush Dickey's jacket. Casey thought I was crazy and he asked me where my jeans were. I explained that I would be fine. The weather was similar to Denver and I had just walked in 35 degree weather with no problems.
We departed and started the walk towards KU.
I attempted to speed walk. He stopped me. He wasn't strolling, like Chileans, but due to the weather, I would have liked to have walked a faster pace.
Nevertheless, the initial part of our walk was pleasant.
We approached the Union and I was beginning to get uncomfortable. I was cold, but not ready to admit it. I purchased a few items in the bookstore and we opted to walk downtown for lunch. I had wanted to eat at Yellow Sub. When I was a student, there was a Yellow Sub, next to Union. I remember dining there and having beers at the Crossing. Funny, this time, there was empty space. Some construction, but no signs of either building.
So, we walked downtown. The five blocks of Mass. St. continued to grow, as I was freezing. Our destination was Free State, but I would have readily settled for Teller's to get out of the cold. The last two blocks were brutal. I couldn't continue. I told Casey that it was no longer a question of enjoying too many beers...I wouldn't be able to walk back to his place due to the bitter cold. I lost. Kansas and its wind won. If I go back, I must have long pants to battle the cold.
Funny, how it snowed today, in Denver. I never once considered wearing jeans to work. There is something about the weather in Denver that feels normal to me. Shorts yearround and sunshine minus the biting cold. I choose Denver.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

I bought pants....

I know--that sounds like sacrilige, coming from me.
No worries...they are running pants. I figure if I want to avoid a gym membership and treadmill, than I needed to invest in some running pants for the winter. Today was the perfect example of why I need pants to continue training. The weather altered and my walk home was frigid.
Again, I know this sounds odd, coming from me. Typically, I wear shorts yearround. Correction, I wear shorts indoors. Yes, it isn't awful where there are heaters. Actually, I think I overheat at work and in my house.
Truly, I own two pairs of Levi's (somewhere, that I bought in 2000 or 2001--uncertain--it's been that long). I wore jeans to work, one time, and knew it was a mistake within 20 minutes. I was hot and I had 9 hours to despise how hot it was and how uncomfortable my night would be. So, I wear shorts.
I enjoy watching people's reactions. It feels like performance art. I have walked through Target, several times, and people either stop and stare, or feel it necessary to question my sanity. Really, aren't you cold or better yet--you are making me cold. I am all about comfort.
Hence, the running pants. I am committed to running. I enjoy it and I hope to accomplish two 1/2 marathons in 2010 and one full. I know that I will do the Napa 1/2 which is July 18th. I am recruiting other runners and friends to do that particular race. It will be awesome. I mean, what better way to celebrate finishing a half marathon than having ample wine or sparkling wine? Chandon is a fun winery and yes, they have lovely "champagne". I have been there several times and enjoyed the atmosphere.
I haven't decided what other half to tackle. I believe the Goddess and I are signing up for one, prior to her move to Flagstaff. I am sad that she is moving, but know how excited she is for this adventure. We would like to do a 1/2 in April or May. I prefer April. If anyone has any suggestions of fun events, please let me know.
Also, I hope to run another full. I would like to run a sea level, flat, warm race. I like the idea of Chicago, but the weather is an issue. I have heard that Austin is a great marathon because it is flat. Phoenix would work if it weren't in January. I would like to be able to get more running under my belt before any long race.
I don't know. I am sure that something will feel right. I might even try the Denver Marathon, again. Next year it will be a Rock n Roll Marathon. There is an advantage to that marathon since again, it goes by my house. I don't know if I will be able to resist the temptation, though.
Regardless, I bought pants. I realize that for the last few months, most of my purchases have been running related. I guess I have found my hobby. Thanks for listening.

Mundane randomness and thanksgiving recap--finally's cold.
Wow, what a difference an hour makes.
At 3 pm, I went for an afternoon run. I had to delay my plans since I was waiting for my landlord to stop by so that I could pay him for December rent. He can be somewhat flaky and so I wanted to be close to my place. I didn't want to have to arrange another meeting. And, I mean, flaky in the sense that his time can be off...not that he completely blows me off or anything. Just that he loses track of time, sometimes. It has worked in my favor and I am not complaining by any means. He is a complete improvement over the Slumlord. He maintains the property, shovels the sidewalks and appears to take my concerns seriously.
For instance, this afternoon, I mentioned that my downstairs neighbor was fighting with his girlfriend. 20 minutes later, it ceased. Dustin is a great landlord in my book.
Anyways, I went for a light run. I contemplated going longer or faster. Than, I convinced myself that it was okay that I was only going for a bit. I mean, anything is better than nothing, right? Or, that was my reasoning this afternoon.
I opted to walk to Cherry Creek for stamps and coffee. Somehow I lost my stamps and I needed them for the upcoming holidays. Plus, I had written two cards this afternoon and wanted to send them off.
I showered and departed. It was FREEZING. Ridiculously cold. The sun was still out, but the weather had turned. Where did the heat go? Wow, my walk back from the Safeway was bittersweet. I talked to Jade on the walk back and froze. I couldn't believe how cold it had gotten. And, no, I didn't make it to Cherry Creek--thank goodness. I might have called a cab for that walk back.
Now, I am home, warm and safe inside. I took a brief break from blogging. My holiday was fantastic. I had a lovely Thanksgiving with Bryn and her family. I have spent several thanksgivings with them. I am grateful to have them in my life for their making me feel like one of the family. Her dad makes the best oyster stuffing and typically, we have lunch followed by coffee and pie. I always feel peaceful after spending time with them.
I met Morgan on Friday morning. I follow Morgan's blog--Caution Redhead Running, and since she was in town for the holidays we met for coffee. We had considered a run, but I was a chicken. My minor tendon injury allowed me to suggest coffee and not join her for the 10 mile run. It was great to meet her in person and we had a wonderful conversation. I felt fortunate that she made time for me while visiting her family. I hope to head to Florida in 2010 for fun and possibly a run--who knows? Travel is always welcome in my world.
On Saturday morning, I met up with Steve and Alecia from Kansas. They are creating new traditions for themselves and decided to go to the Broncos Game for Thanksgiving. They had a blast and we were planning on meeting up for drinks on Friday, but an allergy attack from her and my cold prevented it. Instead, we had breakfast at Lucille's. Food is friendly, you know? I mean, if you are unable to meet for drinks, at least, find a suitable restaurant to share a meal. Lucille's has awesome breakfast and great bloody mary's. Yes, I know this from experience.
I think I took a break to reflect on life. I am still reflecting, but I missed blogging. I want to continue running, travel and take a class. I have a friend that took cake decorating classes. My aunt is quilting and learning how to crochet and I feel an itch to learn something new. I haven't figured out what, but it's there.
Have a great night....