A Foodie’s Journey through Denver in a Day

Union Station Denver

Stop 1: Breakfast

No trip to Denver is complete without a few food stops, and if you are a foodie like me, I would recommend starting with a hearty breakfast at Snooze AM.

If you haven’t heard of Snooze, then it’s time for you to try it. Snooze is my go-to breakfast place early in the morning. As the adage goes, “the early bird gets the worm;” in this case, if you arrive early to Snooze, you’ll beat the lines and get in fast. So literally, don’t snooze…or you’ll wait a good hour or so for your breakfast.

Snooze was started in Denver in 2006 and has now expanded to California, Arizona, and Texas. I personally love to start with their Straight Up or Spicy Bloody Marys or their fresh-from-the-tap Mimosas. Then I love to dive into one of two items, either their 3-Egg Omelets or their delectable Cinnamon Roll Pancake, the latter of which I always order on the side anyways and split it with those at the table. That is, of course, if I feel like sharing!  You honestly can’t go wrong with any item on their menu.

Visit them at the Denver Union Station starting at 6:30 a.m. at 1701 Wynkoop Street, Suite 150, Denver, CO 80202. They are tucked inside the really cool and renovated Union Station.

Stop 2: Walk it off

Once you’ve filled your belly, it’s time to burn off some of those cholesterol-laden calories. I recommend enjoying the sights with a light walking tour with Denver Free Walking Tours.  They start at 10 a.m. and meet at the Veteran’s Memorial off Lincoln Street, and they end at Coors Field.  It is about a two-hour walk and covers about two miles. Thus it isn’t too much of a hike but it’s enough to get you going.  If you are pushing around a stroller, it isn’t too hard to manage either. These tours run May 1st through October 31st, seven days a week; then from November 1st to April 30th, they run only on Saturdays and Sundays.

Denver Civic Center

These tour guides work off their tips, so do tip them generously! The tour covers the State Capitol, the Civic Center, the Denver Art Museum, the U.S. Mint, Larimer Square, and 16th Street Mall, and finishes at the famous Coors Field.  These are all the really essential places to visit while in town.  This is indeed a great way to experience downtown without having to think too much about it.

Stop 3: Food Truck time!

Perhaps I shouldn’t have recommended a big breakfast, but given that you’ve now already walked some of it off, you can indulge once again.  Do this at the Civic Center Eats, which is open 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays from May 2nd to October 5th. It is Denver Metro’s largest gathering of gourmet food trucks and carts (23-25 food trucks to be exact).  You can taste everything from local burgers to Cajun to Indian food and all the while enjoying live music and the beautiful setting of the Civic Center Park.

Stop 4: Nap or Drink…your choice

Yes, I said, take a nap. If you are lucky enough to be staying downtown or nearby, head back for a nap and enjoy a food-induced nap.  Why?  Because tonight you will be eating at one of the top James Beard award-winning restaurants, Rioja, and you’ll need room for this wonderful cuisine. However, before you do take a nap, make sure you’ve already booked your dinner reservations at Rioja.

If you are not able to nap, enjoy a beer back at Union Station’s Terminal Bar, which has a great line-up of Colorado beers, or enjoy a coffee across the way at Pigtrain Coffee Company, where you can experience phenomenal lattes.

Another great stop is a place where you can see all of Denver from a rooftop while enjoying a beer.  Go to Tap Fourteen, on the rooftop of Hayter’s & Co, half a block from Coors Field, where you can choose from a rotating list of 70 top Colorado beers on draft! You can try out their great beer offerings from 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. Monday- Friday or start early on Saturday and Sunday at 10 a.m. with brunch.  Tap Fourteen has many other activities and events; check out their homepage.

Stop 5: Award-Winning Dinner

Finally, the famous and historic Larimer Street located in Lower Downtown Denver (known locally as LODO) is where you will find a number of great restaurants besides my personal favorite mentioned earlier, Rioja. Perhaps this particular restaurant is a place I recommend because I am partial to (and have lived and worked in) the wine region in Northern Spain called La Rioja.  However, Rioja (the restaurant) is actually a place where James Beard Award Winning Executive Chef Jennifer Jasinski and Tim Kuklinski bring together local and Mediterranean ingredients to create sophisticated plates. While the food is not typical of my favorite wine region in Spain, Rioja’s many food and wine offerings stand out on their own and create their own little piece of heaven.

Rioja Meal

At Rioja, I recommend trying their egg-yolk ravioli, which is deliciously divine and cooked to perfection. With a buttery dish like this, I would recommend pairing this with a wine with enough acidity to cut through the starch, butter, and yolks. A chardonnay or a pinot blanc would pair well with this plate, given the acidity and body typical these wines.

If you plan to go to Rioja, I would recommend booking via OpenTable in advance as this place is well sought after. They open at 5 p.m. for dinner and are located at 1431 Larimer Street, Denver, CO.

I hope you have enjoyed this day as much as I have!

 

The place where Bourbon is more abundant than people…

Welcome to Lexington, Kentucky!

Lexington is an interesting place that is well worth a visit! Did you know that there are more bourbon barrels than people in the state of Kentucky? I certainly didn’t know this when I first stepped foot in Kentucky. Whether you come to Kentucky for the bluegrass horses or for the 200-year-old time-honored recipes for bourbon, you are likely to start in Lexington.

To reach Lexington, Kentucky, you can fly directly there, or you can drive there in about an hour and a half from Cincinnati Airport (CVG).

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Click here to learn about how distilling works

There are more than 10 bourbon distilleries within a short drive of downtown Lexington. You can get a local taxi or choose from an array of tour companies to lead you though the world-renowned Kentucky Bourbon Trail. Two highly recommended onsite distillery tours are the following:
1) Buffalo Trace Distillery
2) Woodford Reserve Distillery

There are also many other distilleries, including Maker’s Mark, Four Roses, and Jim Beam.

Buffalo Trace Distillery

Buffalo Trace Distillery

I personally visited Buffalo Trace Distillery. There I received a wonderful tour by J.W., whose passion and knowledge of bourbon really showed in his tour and presentation of the 400-acre estate, home to over 300,000 225-liter barrels. It is noteworthy that while Buffalo Trace makes over 17 brands, it only has three recipes. What varies is the aging time and the location for the aging. Location for aging involves different types of buildings–for example, red brick buildings, yellow brick buildings, or metal buildings. The choice of buildings determines whether the buildings holding the bourbon-in-process will either absorb the heat, reflect the heat, or even heat up and cool off faster.

Another distillery, the Old Fire Copper Distillery, or OFC, was built in 1787–indeed, established before Kentucky was even a state. (At the time, Kentucky was still part of Virginia.) OFC was one of the four distilleries in the state to continuously produce bourbon even through Prohibition.

Did you know that back in those days, bourbon was considered medicinal, and a prescription was required in order to obtain it? To this day, you can still buy bourbon at pharmacies!

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Learn 10 things you didn’t know about Bourbon and the angels share…

So what is bourbon, and what makes Kentucky so special? Bourbon can be whisky but this is not necessarily true vice versa. Bourbon’s base is corn, with a requirement of at least 51% corn; wheat and rye are considered secondary grains. Only virgin white oak barrels are used, generally American oak, for aging, and aging requires at least 2 years. The reason barrels are used is to impart that beautiful caramel color typical of bourbon that comes only from its time in barrel. Absolutely no artificial colors or flavors can be added if it is to be considered bourbon. Once barreled, the bourbon-in-process is stored, and, unlike some wines, there is no further movement or rotation of the barrel. It simply sits, and eventually the angels take their share over the years of aging.

In fact, a full barrel will be reduced over a period of 20 years to approximately a quarter of the original barrel. When it is ready to be bottled, this concentrated bourbon is then transferred to a tank where it is blended with Kentucky limestone water to the correct proof, and then filtered, bottled, and labeled (by hand at Buffalo Trace).

So why Kentucky? Kentucky is perfect for distilling and aging bourbon because it has four distinct seasons, which are necessary in order to age bourbon. Not only this, but as mentioned earlier–similar to sake–it is all about the water source. Kentucky offers easy access to limestone water, integral in the flavor profile of bourbon. Indeed, boubon is made only in the U.S., and 95% of bourbon is made in the state of Kentucky.

I hope you’ve learned as much as I have from this trip.

And as you know, Kentucky is not just about bourbon. Be sure to visit the beautiful and historic horse Keenanland Race Course during the famous Kentucky Derby in early May or the bands at the Festival of the Bluegrass in June. To learn more about what Lexington has to offer, go to http://www.visitLex.com. For more on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail, visit www.kybourbontrail.com.

A Thirst for Cider: Oregon Cider Week

What was once old is new again. This holds true not just for fashion but also for cider. The US has now experienced a cultural resurgence of cider and is developing quite a thirst for it.

Once Colonial America’s drink of choice, the U.S. is quickly returning back to its roots for inspiration. According to federal data, draft cider sales rose 700 percent between 2011 and 2012; in 2012, U.S. cider sales topped $90 million.  Why?  First, thanks to the interest and subsequent growth of craft beer, the craft cider industry has grown as well. Furthermore, the interest in and demand for something new and different, and perhaps healthier, has created the perfect opportunity for cider.

Data also suggest that the average cider drinker is 20-35 years old. A number of these younger drinkers, particularly in the Northwest, are looking for something authentic, original, and different from the mass-produced sub-par cider and beer. Given all of this data, the Pacific Northwest is the perfect place for a craft revolution.

The resurgence of interest in cider has been very notable in Oregon.  On June 20, Oregon kicked off its third annual Oregon Cider Week with Cider Summit Portland, featuring over 140 ciders from 37 producers, from 6 states and 7 countries. This event will continue on to Seattle, Chicago, and Berkeley. Portland showed its support by coming in droves: 3,000 to 4,000 visitors over two days, to be exact. It was a well-attended event with a lot of people enjoying the sun, the music, and the cider being poured by artisan cider houses.  The rest of the week featured events throughout the state including a number of tap takeovers, happy hours, tastings, and dinners.

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I had the honor of attending the Cider Feast Dinner at St. Honoré Boulangerie off SE Division Street in Portland. Hosted by St. Honoré Boulangerie, Chef Dominique Geulin, and Kevin Zielinski, E.Z. Orchards’ owner and cider maker, this five-course French-style dinner showcased ciders from Finnriver Farm and Cidery,  Virtue Cider, Reverend Nat’s Cidery, 2 Towns Ciderhouse, and E.Z. Orchards.

Cider Feast Dinner

Cider Feast Dinner

The pairings dinner featured a beautiful Goat Cheese and Rainer Cherry tartalette, a mixed green salad tossed with Finnriver Black Currant Cider vinaigrette, a plate of country pâté and chicken liver mousse paired with a E.Z. Orchards cider mustard, and a gorgeous Alsatian-meets-Northwest tarte flambé. This feast was all finished off with a very interesting Cider and Saffron Sabayon.

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For me, it was a beautifully-paired dinner by Chef Geulin, and I will make sure to return during St. Honoré Boulangerie’s happy hour for more cider-based cocktails soon. What is unique about St. Honoré Boulangerie is that they create not only beautiful breads and quiches but also wood-fired pizzas. I was happy to taste some of my favorite cider producers, from E.Z. Orchards to Finnriver to Reverend Nat’s, all paired in this great cider dinner. I look forward to seeing the other great events Portland has to offer.

Stay tuned!