Hey, happy Monday! I’m back in Austin after a fun little weekend getaway in Denver, CO. Nate already had to be up there, so I flew up to meet him, hang out in one of our favorite cities, and spend some time with my in-laws-to-be! (His parents live just outside of Denver). Our wedding is 9 weeks away!!
Denver is the perfect city for a little weekend whirlwind vacation, because it’s a central city with no more than a 3-4 hour flight from pretty much anywhere in the country! Holla! So after teaching orchestra on Friday morning, I packed my bags and hopped on a plane to fly the less than two hour flight from Austin to Denver.
I think it’s fun to see how people travel, because everyone does it pretty differently. Nate and I are definitely focused quite a bit of this this trip visiting craft breweries (because 10% of the nation’s craft breweries can be found in Denver!), but we also enjoyed going to restaurants on the Eater 38 list and checking out a couple other fun sites. Here’s what we did:
Last April, Denver airport opened a light rail service from the airport to Union Station. I tried it out and will definitely be using it again! For $9 and a 37-minute ride, you get a clean, easy, traffic-free ride to downtown.
Lunch was at Biju’s Little Curry Shop in RiNo. It’s a teeny little spot that does their curry in a Chipotle-style serving line: pick the bowl you want, and then choose toppings and spice level. I had the Coconut Curry Chicken for something warm and cozy on a cold January day!
If craft beer is your thing, the RiNo neighborhood hosts a plethora of great little breweries within walking distance.
The first stop wasn’t a brewery, but a pour-your-own brew bar called First Draft Taproom & Kitchen with 37 taps of beer, cider, and wine from around the country. Each customer gets a card to swipe in front of a tap and then pour the desired amount of beer for $0.50-$1.00 per oz.
Here’s my sad story from that event: I was so excited to see they had Pliny the Elder on tap, and when I poured the tap, it kind of sputtered out at me… I should have realized this mean the tap was out, but when the bartender went to go cancel out the charge so I wouldn’t have to pay for the foamy spurt, I DUMPED IT OUT because I thought I could pour more….and then the screen told me it was gone! Boo. Haha. No more Pliny for me until my next trip west!
Bierstadt Lagerhaus, a traditional German-style brewery, had a great, crisp little pilsner that knocked my socks off.
Our Mutual Friend Brewing Company had a nice little session ale, along with about 10 other tasty taps.
And Beryl’s Beer Co. had something crazy! Their specialty (surprise…) was a bunch of barrel-aged beers, but I wasn’t especially in the mood for one of those. But I tried a coffee stout infused with pear (<- yeah, you read that right!) that I was super skeptical about, but actually loved! It tasted mostly like a coffee stout with just a liiiiittle bit of sweetness added in. If I didn’t know it was pear, I probably wouldn’t have picked it out, but it added a nice layer of depth.
Dinner was at a teeny Italian restaurant called Dio Mio Handmade Pasta. The concept was pretty interesting: to mix high-end dining with a more casual experience. So while the pasta is handmade and the wait can sometimes be very long, guests order at the counter and seat themselves. The price of the pasta (see the menu here) definitely screams “WE’RE FANCY!” while the service is more laid back and the wine is served in little glass cups instead of wine glasses. A little weird, right? Kind of fun though. I’m not sure..
I do know this: the ceiling decoration was made from folded copy paper, and I loved it!
I went for the Cacio e Pepe, after basically committing to a life-long relationship with the dish back in November at Emmer & Rye. I’ll definitely say that Dio Mio’s Cacio e Pepe fell short of Chef Kevin Fink’s version that I tasted in Austin. But that’s setting the bar pretty high.
Dessert was Nutella Semifreddo. The bowl it was served in was made to look ceramic, but was actually plastic. Again, nothing wrong with that, but the mix of expensive cost with a more casual dining vibe was a little confusing!
True story: three years ago, before I met Nate, I’d be fine going to any random Starbucks to get my coffee. I wasn’t even really a coffee person…I could go for days without coffee, and maybe just have a little black tea or a diet coke if I needed a caffeine fix. Now? I’m a consistent 1-cup-of-coffee-a-day sort of girl. I have it upon waking, and usually one is enough. But after being exposed to high quality coffee, I’ve become a little more snobbish about my coffee… And I kind of hate it, but it also makes my life more enjoyable to enjoy a good cup of coffee, so I kind of love it, too. (PS: Nate calls it an “enlightened enthusiast,” and I tell him that’s ridiculous..haha.)
This means that every trip we take together involves a decent amount of coffee research, finding and starring the nearest shops on our googles maps, and a moderate amount of deliberation before each cup of joe. Friday morning started with cappuccinos at Little Owl Coffee, a pretty little shop at the end of the 16th Street Mall.
Followed by brunch at Rioja, a lively, plush, Mediterranean-inspired restaurant influenced by local and seasonal products. This was a beautiful meal, and while I can honestly say I loved it and would go back, I loved Sunday’s brunch even more (read on for that one!), so if you have to pick just one brunch spot, this wouldn’t be my first choice….even thought it was wonderful!
|rioja house made doughnuts, lemon scented doughnuts, raspberry mascarpone cream, raspberry coulis|
|sweet potato hash, blackened pork belly, poblano peppers, red onions, sunny side up eggs|
|chronic breakfast sandwich, grilled jalapeño cheddar sourdough, poblano cream cheese, scrambled eggs, bacon, avocado, lettuce, tomato|
I had been debating buying a new winter coat. In fact, I’ve been trying to convince myself to buy a new coat for years. The coat I used when I lived in Chicago was a cheap off-brand coat that made do, but it’s definitely worn out and not very useful any more.
I’m an under-spender (meaning I’ll try to just get by without buying something that I obviously need, like tissues or salt or hand soap….y’know, obvious things that I know I’ll have to buy! I read about this concept in Gretchen Rubin’s book Better Than Before), so I keep telling myself just get through the winter and you won’t have to buy a coat! And then I make it through the winter, but I’m kind of miserable.
So after my first 18 hours or so in Denver, I realized I actually had to make the splurge and buy a coat, because I get really grumpy when I’m cold! I was set on getting a North Face, but there was a Patagonia store right around the corner that looked tempting..
I ended up trying on a few coats and getting this one in silver and I love it! I almost went with the synthetic puff, but decided that since I live in Austin where it rarely (if ever!) snows, I don’t have to worry about it getting wet (because down feathers lose their warmth if they get wet). So I basically never took it off for the rest of the trip. Haha.
Another cup of coffee at Amethyst Coffee, a sunny cafe down in Capitol Hill. This was my pick for my favorite cafe of the weekend for sitting down, relaxing, and maybe doing a little work or reading. It was just cozy!
Nate just got the AirPods from Apple, and using wireless earbuds came in SO handy! We’d each take an ear and jam out to some music while walking around the city. I think I might get myself a pair. They’re obviously easy to share, but they’re also so handy to use by yourself because there are no wires. I’m not crazy about how expensive they are right now, but I’m hoping that the price might go down when the novelty has worn off. Have you bought them yet? Any thoughts?
And one more quick cup of joe at Black Eye Coffee. There are two locations, and the Capitol Hill is the prettier of the two!
We killed some time at the Tattered Cover bookstore before going next door to the Sie Film Center, Denver Film Society’s small cinema that focuses on artistic, independent, and both domestic and foreign film. We saw the film “Loving,” the 1916 film about Richard and Mildred Loving, a mixed-race couple living in 1958 Virginia, a state that banished them for living as a mixed race married coulee. It was moving and informative and sad…all the feels! And the film center was a great little place that I’ll definitely be visiting again.
Dinner was at Cart-Driver a little brick oven nook pizzeria (really – it’s teeny!) with a southern Italian flair. Sausage and Kale pizza with a glass of Prosecco was dinner!
Dinner was followed by two quick little brewery visits. The first was to Epic Brewing Company. The Big Bad Baptist is a chocolate-and-coffee-infused, whiskey-barrel-aged, imperial stout. Haha, what?? This thing blows my mind every time and it’s definitely worth a (little) taste. Of course there are plenty of other lighter options to try!
Epic was followed by a flight tasting at Ratio Beerworks, a microbrewery just around the corner from Epic. I was pretty “beer-ed out” by this point, but I did have a couple tastes!
All bundled up and ready for another day of exploring! Sunday’s coffee was at Novo, one of the first specialty coffee shops in Denver. And yeah, I’m wearing the coat in literally every picture…haha! It was just so warm! I’m a little bit of a cold weather wimp..
My very favorite meal of the week was Sunday’s brunch at Linger, a restaurant that draws inspiration from street food. So while some of their items fall under they “typical American brunch” category, most of them have some sort of Asian influence.
I kicked off the morning with something just slightly healthier to give me an energy boost, them sampled a couple of menu items with Nate.
|Anti-Milkshake: Almond Cashew Milk, Chai, Cardamom, Carrot, Hemp and Cacao|
Left: |Dragon Bun, Tempura Avocado, Radish, Snap Peas, Nori Puffed Rice, Unagi Sauce & Wasabi Aioli|
Right: Mongolian BBQ Duck Bun, Scallions & Miso Pickled Cucumbers
|Adobo Pork Benedict: Poached Eggs, Braised Pork, Plantain Sopes, Chipotle Hollandaise, Refried Lentils & Black Beans|
The Museum of Contemporary Art was a nice way to spend an afternoon. It’s small, with just three stories of rotating exhibits. That’s kind of fun, because then it’s different every time you visit!
<no pictures, but thoroughly enjoyed!>
And then three more little brewery visits on Sunday:
Denver Beer Co. was doing a cookie and beer pairing (yes! cookie and beer! be still my soul) with Deb’s Traveling Bakery. There wasn’t one ounce of me that even tried to resist the urge to get a flight of beer and cookies!
Next up was Hogshead Brewery which specializes in English-style craft beers. I really enjoy these cask beers that are served slightly warmer and flatter than the Co2 carbonated keg beers. It makes me want to go back to London to enjoy a pint in a proper British pub!
And the final stop before the airport was Crooked Stave, an artisanal brewery focused on farm-to-barrel brewing. It’s located in the The Source, and if sour or funky beers are your thing, be sure to make a visit to Crooked Stave! Even if you’re not a beer lover, The Source is a beautiful indoor market with multiple food and beverage venders sharing a space. We got a cheese board for dinner to enjoy with beer, but there are also several restaurants in the space, along with wine, coffee, spices, meat, and other vendors. I love this space!
Our flight was delayed with made for a late arrival on Sunday night back in Austin. I’m always happy to be back home in my city! I think that loving my home makes traveling even more fun; as fun as I have while I’m away, I’m always really happy to be back to my normal schedule in ATX.
And that’s a little look into my weekend! Happy Monday, everyone!