Down and Out in Denver

The ATL, y’all!

Posted in fashion, food, gays, travel by Blake on April 19, 2011

View of Piedmont Park from the 20th Floor

While Alastair was in New York for the weekend, I also flew East, but further South: to Atlanta to celebrate my Gentleman Friend’s birthday.  He’s from “the ATL,” as he calls it, and so we were able to stay at his parents’ apartment; they were conveniently out of town in Puerto Rico celebrating their anniversary.  The shot above was taken from the balcony of the GF’s parents’ apartment; they live in Midtown, overlooking Piedmont Park, which was devoted this past weekend to celebrating the Dogwood Festival.  Aside from the first night’s storms, we had perfect weather the entire time and a really fantastic time in Hotlanta.

My previous two or three experiences there had been for conferences and I had mostly stuck to the conference hotel and its environs, getting lost amid all the streets named Peachtree (Atlanta could invest in a few more street names; they’re free!), but this time, with the GF in the role of Julie McCoy, I saw lots of the city I’d never seen before.  That first night we dined across the park at the Park Tavern, which was probably the worst of the many meals we ate out.  The Park Tavern is a combination of a bar specializing in beer on tap, burger joint, and sushi bar.  Filled to the brim with straight folks on the make.  It was all just a little bit loud, and the queso with which we began was of the creamy variety (not the kind I was recently introduced to by our Oklahoma Gal Pal, which is essentially just melted cheese on a plate and far preferable).  After braving the stormy weather, we headed to one of the neighborhood gay bars (the parents live, coincidentally, in the heart of the gays), Blake’s on the Park.  I was feeling right at home!

The next morning, after nursing my hangover with some Tivoed HGTV (I do miss TV sometimes) we headed to the Flying Biscuit for brunch. Love their name!  Filled with biscuits and a chicken sandwich with bacon and cheddar (I’m not much for breakfast food), our day was just beginning: a trip to the Georgia Aquarium.  Not only did we take in all the fishes and sharks, but the GF had bought us tickets for the dolphin show, “A T & T Dolphin Tales,” which had only debuted a couple weeks previously. Here’s the thing: the aquarium itself was very impressive and while the dolphins themselves were adorable and their tricks were fun, the show itself was pretty dumb.  They had turned it into a Disney-style musical with an Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoatesque cape worn by some mythical ship captain who relied upon the dolphins to rescue him from a different evil ship captain.  Or something like that.  He sang about all of this drama and I got kind of confused. Thankfully we had saved the sea otters and Beluga whales for post-show, and they were adorable.  After that we needed to do some shopping.  The GF’s mother had suggested that we shop at Midtown’s “The Boy Next Door,” which seems to sell what my friends and I call “homosexual clothing”: lots of underwear and what the store itself calls “exciting summer swimwear.”  We went to Buckhead instead, home to two large malls. This is all I have to say about Buckhead’s malls: Alastair may be excited about the new H&M, but Atlanta has us beat.  There was a Vince and a Theory.  Be still my heart.

That night we dined at South City Kitchen.  Delicious.  Appetizers: fried green tomatoes with goat cheese and red pepper coulis; pork barbecue on a scallion hoecake with slaw.  Entrees: jambalaya and buttermilk fried chicken.  Dessert: banana pudding and pecan pie.  Desserts were not as great as everything else, but the meal itself was wonderful, including the GF’s “Country Thyme” lemonade: spiked lemonade with fresh thyme.  Our waitress, Autumn, was a little loopy, but very friendly.  And the neighbors at the next table, a flight attendant named Connie from Minnesota and her best gal pal joining her on a buddy pass, were delightful. While the GF was the only native (Autumn is from Connecticut), it was just southern hospitality and friendliness all around. (And, it must be said, just a wee bit of heartburn later that night, but well worth it.)

View of Atlanta through Botanical Gardens

But wait!  It wasn’t over.  There was still Sunday.  We had reservations at Watershed for brunch. And it, too, was scrumptious. Brainchild of Indigo Girl Emily Saliers, Watershed is located in lesbian-friendly Decatur, a suburb of Atlanta.  I had the shrimp and crab burger with fries and among the most delicious cole slaw I have ever tasted.  The GF got the sausage gravy with biscuits (that was the third meal in 24 hours in which he’d had biscuits; someone was missing his Southern home!).  We strolled around downtown Decatur, then toured Emory University, alma mater of the GF, and finally finished the afternoon with a walk through Atlanta’s Botanical Garden.  This must be said: while Denver’s Botanical Garden seems much smaller, it is also much more impressive and has, well, flowers.  And paths that lead somewhere instead of into what the GF called “traps”: seating areas devoid of flowers.  The ABG had just finished its “Atlanta Blooms” bulb extravaganza and was distinctly short on blooms of any sort.  A wee bit disappointing, but we hadn’t allotted it much time.

A scant few blooms at the Botanical Gardens

Finally, that night we dined in Virginia Highlands, another very cute Atlanta neighborhood, at Panita Thai Kitchen.  This little Thai restaurant, which had created a front garden for itself out of tubs of plants and herbs, seemed to be run as a one-woman show: she cooked, she poured, she served, she chatted with her guests.  And it was really tasty.  The spices reminded me of Thailand more than most Thai food I’ve eaten in the U.S.  This tom yum goong had a kick!  And the GF loved his fresh ginger tea and chicken curry.

We retired early that night to finish our taxes after 2.5 days of sunny weather, delicious food, and lovely sights.  If I had been skeptical about Atlanta before (and I admit it, I had been), my doubts had been quelled.  The ATL is delightful. And people really do say “y’all” quite a bit.

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Wearable Foods

Posted in fashion, food by Alastair on March 30, 2011

We DOD boys love food… and fashion. So, you can only imagine the thoughts that ran through our heads when we came across these constructed art forms made with food. Wearable Foods is a series of works by Korean artist Yeonju Sung in which photographs depict exquisite models of clothing made from foodstuffs — aubergine, bubble gum, and bananas in these three examples. They triggered some of our fundamental senses: the desire to wear clothes and the desire to eat.

H&M

Posted in denver, fashion by Alastair on March 11, 2011

Coming to a Denver?

Ever since Saks Fifth Avenue announced it was closing its Cherry Creek location, Denver fashionistas have been guessing what might take its place. I recently heard rumors at an Oscar Party that H&M, the popular Swedish retailer, was looking into the soon-to-be vacancy. I was hesitant to say anything, but it appears prospects are looking even better. The Denver Post’s Penny Parker reported yesterday that the fast-fashion chain — whose full name is Hennes & Mauritz — hasn’t revealed where the store (or stores) will be located, but both Cherry Creek and Park Meadows malls have been contacted.

In an April 2010 Denver Business Journal online reader survey, H&M was No. 3 on the list of national chains that readers would most like to see come to Colorado, after Trader Joe’s and In-N-Out Burger, two West Coast establishments I would actually love to see stake a claim in Colorado.

Design After Dark: Get Your Tickets!

Posted in bars, denver, design, fashion, food, gays, parties, wine by Blake on January 29, 2011

Ever since Alastair and I moved here we’ve gone to the Denver Art Museum Design Council’s annual fundraiser — and all-around great party — Design After Dark.  And this year will be no exception. It’s next Friday night, the 4th of February, and if previous years are any basis for judgment, it’s sure to be a great time. You don’t have to know anything about design to attend this thing: while Alastair fancies himself a design buff, I know absolutely nothing except that I like mid-century modern (but what self-respecting homo doesn’t?).  It’s fun no matter what you know. Yes, there are architects and designers competing for the best interpretation of the year’s theme — this year it’s “Light” — and yes, there is a silent auction of various designery accessories and pieces of art.  But the price of a ticket also includes some booze and a whole lot of food and lots of good conversation with, wait for it, stylish people in Denver.  I know you thought such people did not exist — aside from your DOD boys, of course — but if you’re going to find them anywhere, this is the place.  Plus, there’s an after party this year at Beauty Bar beginning at 11.  Gay, anyone?!

So head on over to their website and buy yourself some tickets (click on the ticket button on the bottom right corner).  We’ll see you there!

Mondo and Gretchen: The Showdown

Posted in fashion, tv by Blake on October 29, 2010

The Final Three Pre-Shocker

It is difficult to know where to begin when discussing last night’s Project Runway season finale, which Alastair and I watched at his place with our gal pal Christine.  At the outset we all agreed that, on the whole, we had been underwhelmed by the talent of the designers this season.  It seemed clear to us that had Gretchen or Andy been competing on a previous season they would not have been in the Final Three, because other people would have beaten them out.  Which is also to say that we believed Mondo was going to win. How wrong we were. Let’s address a few issues separately, shall we?

The Peach Has a Gay Following Issue: Did you hear her say that in the reunion segment?  Did you see that she commented on our post about her? Do we flatter ourselves too much to think that Peach was talking about DOD?  Of course we do.  But maybe we think that a little bit anyway.

The Fairy Jobmother Issue: Don’t even get me started on the faux job skills workshop conducted by Hayley Thompson that we were all forced to watch during commercial breaks.  Clearly inspired by SuperNanny, but with none of her charm, we shan’t be tuning in for episodes of this anytime soon.

The Gretchen Is a Bitch Issue: In the reunion segment (rife with Heidi’s obvious voiceovers) Gretchen explained that she was not a bitch and that that was a word that generally gets used for powerful and confident women.  We agree with her on the second count but not on the first.  Men clearly are allowed to get away with more in this regard; indeed it is expected of them.  But that doesn’t mean that arrogance and two-facedness and delusional self-aggrandizement are attractive characteristics in a woman OR a man.  And throughout this season, Gretchen has demonstrated all three in spades.  We think this is nasty in a man, too, and we posted about it regarding last season’s resident egomaniac, Emilio Sosa.

What to say?

The Jessica Simpson Issue: Where to begin?  JSimps is clearly in one of her chunkier phases and that dress — maybe from her own collection at Macy’s? — certainly did not help, making her arms look like slabs of meat hanging from her torso.  But our main complaint here is with the fact that Project Runway thought it was a good idea to invite her on to be the season finale guest judge!  She offered up virtually nothing in the way of constructive criticism:  “That’s unique.”  “They all clearly put a lot of effort in and care about design.”  “I would wear that and I want my sister to wear it, too.”  Yes, she finally came down on the side of Mondo, but it was really too little, too late.  Whether through editing or not, she said virtually nothing of substance for 95% of her time on screen.

Grey, grey, grey, green, grey, grey, grey

The Immediate Elimination of Andy South Issue: Did I like Andy’s stringy tank tops and even stringier weave, newly introduced for the Season Finale?  No, I did not.  Did I love his clothes?  No.  There were two colors involved and the dominant one — seen on virtually all the models — was grey.  It was monotonous.  But there were a couple cute dresses, including one of the few unique pieces that Simpson bothered to express an opinion about at all.  I think what surprised us most was that Andy was quickly and cavalierly removed from contention.  We thought Mondo was better than Andy but we thought a reasonable debate could be had about the merits of Andy vs. Gretchen.  No such conversation took place.

The Most Important Issue: The trajectory of this season design-wise goes a little like this…  Gretchen emerges early on as the talent, then fades a bit mid-season, and by the end is barely squeaking her way into the final three, so egregious have some of her recent choices been.  You do recall the Heidi sportswear challenge, yes?  Indeed you do.  Mondo, on the other hand, was fine to begin with but made some bad juniors-inspired choices in the first half.  By the second half he was both a fan favorite, and a consecutive-winning star.

Ready to Wear This?

We expected that this trend would continue and in our estimation of the clothes, it did, though we’ll admit that Gretchen did step up her game and that Mondo could have wowed us more than he did.  I agreed with Nina that Mondo needed to edit a little more — there was a lot going on in terms of accessories — but I also thought that some of what Gretchen sent down that runway was truly hideous.  So your DOD boys and their gal pal were pretty shocked when the debate was as heated as it was: Garcia/Kors vs. Klum/Simpson.  Maybe Mondo never had a chance; was la Garcia really going to let JSimps come out on top?  Doubtful.  But the greater question is why Garcia and Kors preferred Gretchen in the first place.  And that leaves us baffled.  Gretchen was trumpeted as being a ready-to-wear designer and we can certainly see that she was more casual than Mondo, but where exactly does one wear a pair of drab ill-fitting short shorts and a matching blouse? Who, pray tell, is ready to wear that?

Walt and Wendy Do Denver (Part Three)

Posted in bars, denver, fashion, food, gays, wine by Alastair on October 28, 2010

Friday evening, in my new role as Cruise Director, I reunited with my San Francisco gal pals Walt and Wendy and their super cute companion Jess (who was sporting an adorable chunky necklace) for a post-conference cocktail at The Corner Office located in the Curtis Hotel at 14th and Curtis. CURTIS, much? There was only one question on everyone’s mind that evening: What happened to Whitney!? She was not seen at the conference that day… and her roommate was also missing in action. Was she OK? Did she survive the night? Did she get alcohol poisoning? These questions would linger in our minds for the remainder of the night as we waited for Jess to receive a text message update.  So, in an effort to take our thoughts off such worries we ordered some tasty cocktails and a selection of delicious shared plates from our tattooed server: a trio of sliders, empanadas, fish tacos, and tempura shoshito peppers stuffed with crab. Yum! We also took notice of the large amount of ink liberally applied to the remianing staff of the Office. Apparently it was a prerequisite to work that evening’s shift.

The Bar at Beatrice & Woodsley

I must confess, over the past few days I had been talking up BoyzTown to both Wendy and Walt. I’m not sure exactly why… It certainly was not for anything spectacular, like the “Male Revue,” but perhaps more for the fact that something like this actually existed in Denver. The boys were excited. After sending Jess off to her flight back to the City by the Bay, Wendy was ready to go! However, it was too early and I wanted to invite my guests to share a civilized cocktail at Beatrice & Woodsley, the South Broadway bar / restaurant know for its unique rustic cabin interior lined with Aspens and chain saws. [Side note: Walt will need to strengthen his hand-washing skills before using B&W’s one-of-a-kind faucet and sink on his next visit. Just saying. It’s a simple pully system people. This ain’t the dark ages.]

One round of cocktails, one crawfish beignet appetizer, and one a call into the office later, it was still too early to show ourselves at BoyzTown. So, we decided to stop by the nearby not-so-hot-spot, Compound/Basix. This would be the evening that Walt earned his nom de plume. BTW, I love how every gay bar in this town describes themselves as “Denver’s Best.” Really? I digress. Walt, dressed in conference attire: jeans, shirt, tie, sweater, blazer, and chucks, apparently caused quite a stir among the Compound cognoscenti, earning him many compliments. Some welcomed, so not so much. This struck Walt as odd, but this is Denver where ill-fitting jeans, and an Abercrombie & Fitch t-shirt reign supreme. In typical Blake and Alastair fashion, Walt and Wendy often took notice of the terrible jeans that endlessly plague Menver. One gentleman, who took a break from dancing all by his lonesome commented that Walt looked liked something along the lines of an English poet. Walt also had an interesting and similar encounter at 3:00 in the afternoon the same day with a woman drinking her fifth margarita in the Four Seasons elevator. I decided that if I wanted a little more attention in these parts, all I had to do was wear a tie and a blazer, or something along the same lines. Easy enough.

Give it up, give it up for BoyzTown.

Then, finally, Boyztown. Oh Boyztown. Give it up, give it up for Tyler . Give it up for sexy Tyler. A master of disguise… Tyler was striking up conversations left and right with Walt. Oh, our “Little Nugget.” There was lumberjack Tyler, business man Tyler, and Denver Nugget Tyler. Tyler, just about more than any other performer that evening, put some serious thought into his outfits. Give it up, give it up for Tyler .

All of the BoyzTown excitement must have worn out Wendy. He decided it was time to go back to the hotel for the night… shocking indeed! In the meantime, Walt chatted up Tyler, and we had a rather interesting conversation with Jackson regarding his original Rufskin padded chest piece with adjustable straps. And we were generally enjoying ourselves so much that four hours later,  the lights were on and we got the hell out of Dodge!

Before sending Walt off into his cab, we stopped around the corner at El Diablo’s late-night taco window to grab ourselves a snack. That torta had to be one of the best I’ve had in recent memory. If you find yourself looking for something lat at night, I highly suggest El Diablo’s taco window. Quick, fresh, and super delicious.

PR Incredulity: Michael Costello

Posted in fashion, tv by Blake on October 16, 2010

Alastair and I watched PR at his place on Thursday night — whilst enjoying a little vino rosso and a pizza from Benny Blanco’s — and we were pretty shocked by the outcome.  Not shocked that April was eliminated, though if each outfit were judged on its own basis — as opposed to the designer’s entire history, which they always say they won’t do and then do anyway — it should have been Gretchen.  But it was April, and we were sad to see her go.  We had unexpectedly become fans of April.

Michael Costello's Creation

No, what shocked us was that Michael Costello won.  We were pretty much convinced throughout the episode that he would be going home, or at the very least that he would be in trouble with Nina and Michael Kors.  And not because the dress itself wasn’t pretty — it was — but because it was boring.  It wasn’t new in the slightest.  It has been done and seen before.  Michael’s dress was inspired by … get ready … a dress.  Need we say more?  Apparently we need.  If the point of this challenge was to be innovative and creative and bring something new to the runway, then on all three counts Michael failed.  But all that seemed to be forgotten by the judges because they thought that Michael had brought the “wow” factor to bear in his design.  It is a pretty dress and it did drape well, but if I understand draping at all (and I may not) it seems to me that innovative draping is a little more complicated than what Michael did here.  This dress just hangs, tent-like, straight down.  Is that so challenging?  (Maybe it is; it doesn’t look that challenging, however.)  Isn’t this just a big maxi dress with a high slit and a plunging back?

I don’t think that any of the other designers were doing their best on Thursday either.  It was all a little ho-hum.  But with the exception of Gretchen (“It doesn’t look downtown, or uptown.  It looks midtown.”  OUCH.) at least each of them designed something unique and something that was very much identifiable as being designed by Andy or April or Mondo.  Michael Costello, not so much. Maybe we misunderstood the challenge?  In any event, we’re down to four, with one left to be eliminated before they show in Lincoln Center. We’re becoming very curious…

Fall Fashion File: A.P.C.

Posted in fashion by Alastair on September 24, 2010

I recently came across a blog post stating that my profession apparently has a uniform. There’s variation within the profession, as one might expect. However, I was unaware of this so-called uniform. One might say I have my own personal “uniform,” but I also imagine it’s far and away from the “business intelligent” this blogger was referring to.  What is business intelligent? In any case, feeling a little self conscious about my “look” and wanting to update my wardrobe, I started perusing the web looking for something new. Honestly, I could use a little variation. Blues, greys, and blacks, though in many shades they come, only get you so far. I thought these examples from the A.P.C. Mens / Autumn 11 Collection might fulfill the “business intelligent” uniform while also keeping in tune with my own personal “uniform.” The French seem to do it so casually, but yet so intelligently. And the French ready-to-wear company A.P.C. (or ‘Atelier de Production et de Création’) has become one of my favorite brands. Founded in 1988, A.P.C. has become known for  its clean-cut and minimalist nature, as well as simple, chic, and modern design.

Fall Fashion File: Plaid

Posted in fashion by Alastair on September 19, 2010

Clockwise from top left: 1) Plaid wool woodsman shirt by Woolrich Woolen Mills. 2) Heathered crescent plaid shirt under the Ludlow Suit by J. Crew. 3) Check flannel shirt by Gitman Brothers Vintage. 4) Plaid overshirt under the 80’s Mac by A.P.C.

Plaid flannel shirts have always been among the most democratic items in a man’s wardrobe, worn by all types, from Paul Bunyan to Kurt Cobain. In the 1970s, gay men appropriated plaid and so did English punks. This fall, designers have gone to the other extreme, elevating those rustic shirts to sophisticated chic. I love a plaid shirt under slim fitting suit, and the shirt maker Gitman Vintage is making a variety of weights and patterns to suit all tastes and styles.

A Deluxe Night on the Town

Posted in bars, denver, fashion, food, gays, wine by Blake on September 18, 2010

Sketch Wine Bar

Last night Alastair and I met up with our gal pals Christine and Justine for drinks and dinner and then far too many drinks, as it turned out.  We rendezvoused (can I use the word that way?) at our fave, Sketch Wine Bar, at Broadway and 1st. There we enjoyed a few glasses of albariño and pinot grigio (we do like our dry whites) as we contemplated our dinner options. We had not made a reservation but we also weren’t ready to eat till around 9:00 and in Denver that is the equivalent of midnight in other cities, so our odds were good.  We decided to try the nearby Deluxe; I was slightly worried that it might be too crowded (it’s not a big space, after all) but all worry was for naught.  At that hour the place was nearly empty, mostly filled with fellow homosexuals, though of the female persuasion.  Seriously, it was lesbian date night at Deluxe.

We ordered a couple appetizers to begin: the monsoon dumplings (filled with chicken and ginger) and the halibut ceviche.  Both were quite tasty.  We also had a nice bottle of California cabernet (OK, we had two; there were four of us).  Justine and Alastair both opted for beef for their main course: the NY strip for Alastair and the T-bone special for Justine.  Though both found their meat tasty, neither felt it was properly cooked to order.  Alastair had ordered medium because he wanted rare but feared that it would be too rare.  It arrived rare, so he got what he wanted but he had to be devious in order to do so.  Justine requested his steak “bloody” and it, too, arrived rare.  Maybe Alastair needn’t have worried after all; perhaps all meat is cooked rare at Deluxe?  Christine and I, so tempted were we by all options on the menu, decided to split two of them.  We ordered the Deluxe paella, one of their specialties, which I had had before.  And the chicken Bolognese, made with wide flat noodles.  Both were great.  I am very picky about paella, in large part because there are just so many ways to do it wrong.  It can easily be too granular (the rice should be quite sticky and almost glumpy) or it can be too saucy (paella is not gumbo).  The seasoning can be off or the seafood portions can be stingy.  But Deluxe’s paella suffers from none of these afflictions.  It is true that they are a wee bit generous with the peas (and really who cares about peas in a paella?).  Christine also found it a bit salty for his taste, but it seemed great to me.  Granted, I could also bathe in a salt lick and be happy; in fact, I ended up salting my portion (as Christine looked on, horrified).  The pasta was also very nice: well cooked with tangy tomato sauce and fresh ricotta and parsley.

The Bar at Deluxe

Two complaints about Deluxe: the décor needs some help.  The leopard carpet is looking tired and the big mirrors and letters commanding one to EAT over the bar are starting to seem a little dated.  Particularly when the place isn’t full it all just seems a little bit sad.  This is nothing that can’t be fixed pretty easily, but fixed it should be.  The waitstaff also seemed, it must be said, intoxicated.  There was more confusion than was warranted by the small number of people present.  And our waiter also committed what I consider to be one of the Seven Deadly Sins of Serving: he cleared plates before everyone was finished eating.  Justine was still working away at his not-bloody-enough T-bone and he was doing it at a table devoid of all other plates.  This is the sort of thing that can make a diner self-conscious.  All plates should remain until all diners have finished. It’s as simple as that.

After dinner we headed to the nearby and tacky-as-ever Boyztown.  And who should we see, but Mondo!  Of course he must just have come from Fashion Week in New York and must also know who won this season of Project Runway.  It might even be him! We left Mr. Guerra alone to enjoy the evening with his friends and proceeded to order far too many cocktails (your DOD boys were in pain this morning).  Alastair also got rather friendly with one of the dancing boyz.  Maybe Alastair will start demanding that we go to Boyztown more often to see his newfound friend.  Maybe this will be like a gay version of Pretty Woman!  (I get to be the sassy Kit DeLuca.)

After Boyztown, somehow we convinced ourselves that we still weren’t done and headed back to the ‘hood for a nightcap AND a second meal at the absurdly spelled Barricuda’s.  Yes, with an i.  Apparently Barricuda’s is open till 4 AM but their 2 AM last call — get this — is not a last call to order alcohol, but instead to consume it.  Anything not imbibed by 2 is actually confiscated.  I have never experienced such a thing.  What is the reasoning behind this?  Can anyone explain?