Down and Out in Denver

Grill a Hot Dog Almost Anywhere

Posted in food, outdoors by Alastair on March 5, 2011

The Portable swings into action at a moment's notice. Attach the adjustable canvas shoulder strap to the sides of the grill, fling it over your shoulder and hit the road.

Yes, I’ve been thinking about hot dogs, again. But, I’m craving more than just a great dawg. I’m ready for summer… More specifically, weekend picnics in the park. This is something I have not fully embraced in Menver. My Oklahoma gal pal and I talked the big talk last spring, but we spent most of our time on our bikes. I’m convinced the Element Portable gas grill is going to change that. Targeted at apartment dwellers like me, who have limited or no outdoor space, the Element Portable is intended to be as attractive during storage and transportation as it is when set up. What I like most is that it looks like a messenger bag when you’re transporting it. I can picture it already… a bottle of rosé, some of my best gal pals, and a couple of steaks on the grill. Who could ask for anything more?

The Portable becomes available late March for about $150.

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Corn-mazing!

Posted in baby goats, denver, outdoors by Blake on October 25, 2010

 

The Barn at Anderson Farms

I feel like I have finally become a Coloradan.  And it took a visitor — my Gentleman Friend — to make it happen.  The GF was here last week and he insisted that he wanted to go to a corn maze.  I have done my level best over the past five years to avoid corn mazes.  But the GF was having none of it.  He wanted fall foods and autumn activities and a hay ride and the corn maze itself. So after extensive internet research, as well as a consultation with his stylist at Supercuts (don’t get me started), we settled on Anderson Farms Corn Maze in Erie.  They claim to be Colorado’s largest and longest-running. They also have plenty of other activities, and this was one of the GF’s criteria.

Baby Goats

It was a bizarre, though totally enjoyable, experience.  I played hooky from work (don’t tell!) on Wednesday.  We were surrounded by lots of children, clearly also playing hooky in the middle of the day.  This part confused me somewhat.  I didn’t really understand why a corn maze would be open in the middle of a weekday, but they seemed to be getting a pretty steady traffic.  First we met the various animals: sheep, goats, bunnies, and best of all: BABY GOATS!  Really pretty much too adorable for words.

The Pumpkin Patch

Then we took a wagon ride to visit a few cows — they give you food pellets so you can feed them; cow tongues are insanely large and slobbery — and some buffalo before stopping off at the pumpkin patch, where differently sized pumpkins were available at different prices.  If you didn’t want to pick your pumpkin right there, a large assortment was available back at the barn, including gourds (5 for $1; I picked the craziest looking ones of all and they are now the centerpiece of a windowsill autumnal display).

More Baby Goats

But arguably the best part ( I say “arguably” because that’s how much I love baby goats) was still to come.  The MAZE of MAIZE! Each year Anderson Farms designs its maize maze to look like different animals from the air.  This time there was a big moose and a bear and an eagle carrying a fish.  And, dear reader, it is not easy.  You are given a map and then you’re on your own.  You follow the maze around to different stations, where you punch your card to prove you made it to each station.  I am pleased to report that we didn’t get lost, even as the GF upped the ante by making a new rule: only one navigator to get to each station, like an extended trust game.  If our relationship can withstand that kind of stress, we’re in it for the long haul!

Another Baby Goat

We finished the afternoon with a caramel apple (him) and a lemonade (me) before we drove to White Fence Farm so that he could pick up an order of corn fritters ($1.75 for a dozen); longtime readers will know that WFF is a favorite of the GF’s from his days as a child in suburban Chicago, home of the original location.  All in all, a very Coloradan day was had by both of us. And that was not such a bad thing at all.  (Note that this is perhaps the first and only time I have used the “outdoors” tag on a post!  Note also that we have an altogether new tag.)

How Adorable? There are no words

Birthday Dinner at Grant Family Farms

Posted in food, music, outdoors, wine by Blake on August 29, 2010

Flowers and Wine at GFF

Every year to celebrate our birthdays, which are quite close to each other, my gal pals Historiann and ej and I go out to dinner. Alas, ej has moved out of state recently so she was unable to accompany us, but we toasted her repeatedly.  (Were your ears ringing last night, ej?)  This year Historiann suggested that we have dinner at Grant Family Farms.  Dinner at a farm, you ask?  Why yes, indeed. Grant Family Farms of Wellington (just north of Fort Collins) is both a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) farm with members and a supplier to restaurants and, one presumes, grocery stores and the like.  And they have begun a series of dinners on the farm that include music, entertainment and tours.  So last night Historiann, Dr. Mr. Historiann, and I got back to the land.  And what an adventure we had.

We decided to live it up — as well as avoid driving — by spending the night at the lovely Armstrong Hotel in downtown Fort Collins.  The Armstrong offers a discount to those participating in the Grant Farm dinners.  And one can take a shuttle bus — a brightly painted former school bus — from the Sports Authority parking lot, just a few blocks away.  The bus, driven by the friendly Maria, dropped us off at the Farm around 4:00.  And we were immediately treated to a delicious selection of hors d’oeuvres: dates wrapped in bacon; fresh vegetables; MouCo ColoRouge and Camembert cheeses; Il Mondo Vecchio cured meats. And wine and cocktails, too.  We were particularly fond of a very refreshing cucumber and mint gin and tonic.  I am a huge fan of the G&T and I usually don’t like it messed with, but this was very tasty and something I might just have to try at home.

Bus as Chicken Coop

Grant Family Farms is not just a family business, it’s also a family business, if you know what I mean, not at all what I was expecting in northern Colorado.  I was very much at home.  After a walk around the beautiful grounds we all hopped back on the bus — cocktails in hand — for a tour of the farm.  We bumped down the lane as farmer Chelsea explained how the farm works.  They farm about 2,000 acres, 600 of which they own; the rest they lease.  They harvest an astounding array of fruits, vegetables, flowers, and trees: eggplants, tomatoes, parsley, onions, raspberries, basil, sunflowers, and so much more.  They grow more cilantro than anywhere in the nation outside of Arizona and California.  Everything — including all the chicken, ducks, geese, and pigs — are raised organically and many of the chickens live in roving coops fashioned out of old school buses.

Before the Feast Commenced

Following the tour it was time for our four-course meal.  We began with a Romaine and butter lettuce salad, topped with poblano vinaigrette, wax beans, carrots, and tomatoes. Then came a very tasty green pepper stuffed with Lebanese zucchini, corn, Anaheim peppers, and cherry tomatoes.  It was served with goat cheese and a cabbage slaw.  I had just eaten two courses without meat and I was satisfied; who knew?  Following a brief interlude of dancing and hula hooping — music courtesy of Cowboy Jazz — we were served our main course: oven roasted duck with wilted spinach, cauliflower, and spicy pico de gallo. This was definitely my favorite of the four courses.  Dessert was a peach cobbler with a biscuit and a surprise flavored ice cream (it was Cap’n Crunch!). Food was prepared by the staff of Café Vino and the wines were courtesy of Vintages. Dinner is served at a very long table, set with beautiful flowers from the farm.  After a couple glasses of wine had loosened everyone up we were chatting with our table neighbors from Fort Collins, Boulder, and Denver, many of whom are members of the farm and regularly partake of their eggs, vegetables, or milk.

Fire Dancers Perform Mid-Meal. It was even more dramatic in the dark.

But the fun was just beginning!  After dinner and in between sets by Cowboy Jazz, fire dancers performed in the dark.  Two dancers had ropes that were lit at each end and then swung round rhythmically in a coordinated routine.  As we lounged on blankets spread out on the lawn, the fire dancers lit up the night sky.  And then there were fireworks! One must say this for the staff of Grant Family Farms: they pull out all the stops to insure that their guests have a good time.  I was expecting fresh and tasty food, maybe even a tour, but the cocktails, the music, the performers, and the fireworks made this so much more than just a dinner out; it was an extravaganza.  For those interested, GFF will be hosting a two-day Harvestival on September 11th and 12th: tours, activities for kids, a farmer’s market, and live music (featuring the one and only Judy Collins!).  If Harvestival is anything like their dinners, it’s sure to be a good (and tasty!) time.

Happy Birthday ej!  Happy Birthday Historiann!

East Coat Adventures

Posted in bars, food, gays, outdoors, scene, travel, weather by Blake on August 3, 2010

While Alastair was soaking up the sun in Palm Springs – are you staying at a clothing-optional resort, Alastair? Enquiring minds want to know – I was having an East Coast adventure.  It all began with a work trip last weekend to Rochester, New York; continued with four days at a friend’s cabin in the Adirondacks; then a night in New York City.  I then joined some of my best gal pals from college for a road trip to West Virginia. For a gay wedding.  I kid you not.  Then back to New York, and finally back home.  Some observations about my ten days on the road:

Pandora Boxx

Gay bars in Rochester are fun!  Not only did we see Pandora Boxx, one-time star of RuPaul’s Drag Race perform live at the Tilt Nightclub and Ultralounge (more than a lounge, an ultra lounge), but we also hung out at Rochester’s Leather and Levi Bar, Bachelor Forum (a little lite on the leather and levi, it must be said, not that I’m complaining; they also have what can only be described as a gay sculpture garden out front), and the most fun was had at 140 Alex: karaoke, drag shows, great music, strong drinks.  Best of all, it was as mixed as can be: people of all shades and hues, ladies and gents, butch and femme, even straight people!  This is what seems to happen in small towns: less queer self-segregation.  DOD approves.

The Garbage Plate at Nick Tahou's in Rochester

Rochester is known for something called the “garbage plate”: macaroni, beans, red hots (apparently some sort of spicy miniature hot dog), beef, and a variety of other delicious elements.  Health.com has named the garbage plate the fattiest food in New York State.  Needless to say, I did not partake, though I did have sushi. In Rochester. At a restaurant that “specialized” in the food of at least 5 Asian nations.  And it wasn’t half bad.  The rust belt surprises every once in a while.

The Adirondacks are lovely in July.  Highs in the low 80s and overnights in the 60s.  My gal pals and I swam, we boated, we ran, we ate ice cream at a stand called Northern Lights in a quaint lakeside town sitting on a bench.  One of us (not me) prepared a delicious bourbon marinated (though he said marinaaaded) pork loin on the barbecue.  We even hiked.  In short, it was rather all-American.  And that was not actually unpleasant.

I love New York City.  Sometimes I miss it like I might miss an absent limb.  I used to feel like my life continued on there even while I was physically in Denver.  I am pretty much convinced that it is the center of the universe.  That said, it is a foul disgusting humid pit of a city at the height of the summer.  The nights were actually reasonable but during the day I was a sweaty mess and found myself missing the very dry heat of Denver, which doesn’t leave a boy feeling quite so unkempt.  That said, I must have lost about three and a half pounds in water weight just walking around in one afternoon.

The Hillbrook Inn near Charles Town, WV

West Virginia is beautiful!  I was a wee bit scared that four gay boys on a road trip to WV might well have difficulty making it out of the state alive, and while we definitely got a couple strange looks at a rest stop, we also had a fantastic time.  We were staying at the Hillbrook Inn, a beautiful 1920s Tudor mansion converted to a bed and breakfast and the site was idyllic.  Manicured lawns, patios and porches, and a stream running through the property all made it the ideal spot to lounge around with good friends for a weekend.  They even provide quilts for that very lounging on the lawns. The wedding party had the whole place to itself and it turns out that the grooms’ other friends were lots of fun as well.  We also ate well and drank ourselves silly.  In short, it was all a wedding weekend should be, and this is coming from someone who objects to marriage.

Now, alas, back to work…

Wednesday Links

Posted in denver, entertainment, fashion, food, music, outdoors by Alastair on June 16, 2010

 

Neon Indian performing at the Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival

  • Cafe Society’s Jonathan Shikes reports on the Civic Center Eats Outdoor Cafe which returned to Civic Center Park yesterday for its weekly run through the summer. Here is some of what was available.
  • Adam Richman tackles Boulder, kicking off a new season of the Travel Channel’s Man v. Food tonight at 7:30 p.m. MST.
  • The Westword Music Showcase, Denver’s biggest one-day music festival, takes place this Saturday. Neon Indian, a major player in bringing the country’s attention to the chillwave movement of 2009, performs on the Mainstage at 4:30 p.m.
  • The 28th annual Highlands Street Fair takes place this Saturday. Held on the Saturday of Father’s Day weekend, the street party features live music, tasty food, beer, and much more.
  • J.W. Anderson, the 26-year-old menswear designer out of London (and Alastair’s professed pretend boyfriend) is one to watch. The NYTs T Magazine talks to the 26-year-old about his protogrunge-adventurer collection.
  • Cougars on the prowl in Colorado nightclubs AND at Elway’s? I can’t imagine… 
  • Have you run out of ideas for Father’s Day? KI.D Collective offers up her own idea… and presents some handsome bags for the guys.

Cherry Creek Farmers Market

Posted in denver, food, outdoors by Alastair on June 2, 2010

The warmer weather means many things: rosé, farmers markets, and al fresco dining, to name just a few. In other words… I’ve pulled out my eating dress. It’s been washed, pressed, and been put to good use these past few weeks. And before summer ends there will be plenty of chicken grease, mustard, and sangria stains to scrub out before it’s put back and away for winter.

More recently, me and my Oklahoman gal pal have been swinging by the Cherry Creek Farmers Market on Saturdays to try out the myriad of food options. It’s the perfect place to start off the weekend and to fuel up for one of our summer bicycle rides. However, unlike say, San Francisco’s Ferry Plaza Farmers Market or New York’s Union Square Greenmarket, there is not a wide variety of local produce to choose from. The majority of our interest lies in the food carts, trucks, and the purveyors of many fine baked goods. What follows are a few of our suggestions. Feel free to share yours.

Cowboy Catering

The quesadillas at Dana Hill’s Cowboy Catering cart are pretty spectacular. We’ve stopped by every time and have never been disappointed. We’ve tried both the Beef Fajita and Supreme (with Kobe beef) versions. Yes, we like BEEF. They were made simply and with the freshest of ingredients. Easy to eat and to split between the two of us, we’ll continue coming back for more.

Nicky’s Quickie

The greek gyros at Nicky’s Quickie are one-of-a-kind. It should be mentioned that the original impetus for heading to the CCFM was to catch the guys at Gastro Cart who have a terrific version of their own gyro, however we just missed the guys our first time around. Nicky’s sautéed gyro meat is served on a grilled pita with tzatziki, grilled onions, mixed greens, Roma tomatoes, feta, and a Kalamata olive. Before you judge Nicky’s Quickie on their menu spelling mistakes, try one of these gyros first. You’ll be happy you did.

Denver Biscuit Co’s Biscuit Bus

After a cup of Evo Bean Coffee, we stopped by for “breakfast” at the Denver Biscuit Co’s Biscuit Bus where everything, from the sausage to the biscuits are made in-house, everyday, from scratch. We had the homemade sausage biscuit with scrambled egg and cheddar cheese. If that wasn’t enough, we had it “smothered” in gravy. It was fresh, filling, and delicious. Our only comment would have been that it wasn’t really smothered. We love our gravy, especially my Oklahoman gal pal. And if you’re in doubt, part of the Oklahoma state meal is sausage and gravy. She should know! Nonetheless, we were very satisfied.

Back Off Denver Drivers!

Posted in denver, outdoors by Blake on March 4, 2010

Alastair and I have long noted a trend among Denver drivers: they don’t pay attention to pedestrians. This is probably because there aren’t all that many pedestrians in this car-centric culture, even as many Coloradans pursue exercise in any number of other ways.  This is one of Alastair’s biggest pet peeves because he walks to work.  I notice because I am a runner, sometimes through Cheesman or Wash Park, but more frequently along city streets and sidewalks.  Just yesterday I was heading along Seventh Avenue at a decent clip and was just about to cross the street at Josephine when a car whips around the corner and cuts me off at a green light, my green light.  For future reference Denver drivers, this means that a pedestrian has the right of way:

My Right of Way, Not Yours!

Yes, this particular driver was on her cell phone and that probably contributed to her inability to see that she had almost run me down.  But the greater problem is that Denver drivers do not seem to realize that while pedestrians may often be confined to the sidewalk, in order to get from sidewalk to sidewalk, we, too, must cross the street (or alley; don’t even get me started on how drivers don’t check before emerging from one of Denver’s alleys).  The roads belong to all of us!

I used to live in a big city with crazy traffic, a city whose drivers have a bad reputation, but it was also a city of pedestrians, millions of them, and so drivers also knew that there could always be other people using the roads, and they were often ready for us.  Not so in Denver.

Post-Thanksgiving Ruminations…

Posted in bars, denver, food, outdoors by Blake on December 1, 2009

We have returned from the Thanksgiving festivities and must immediately commence a regimen of starvation and exercise if the entirety of the period of late November through early January (usually known as “the holidays”) does not leave us resembling beached whales due to all the celebratory noshing and imbibing.  Regaining a pre-Thanksgiving weight should put us in good stead to gain it all back again over Christmas and New Years.  But at least we’ll only have half as much to lose in early January as we’d have had if we just keep eating from here on out…

Speaking of exercising: the DaOiD boys do not participate in winter sports (though we do exercise regularly) but we are constantly asked if we do.  This tends to happen in two distinct contexts: 

1. When meeting other Coloradans who take it as a given that we either ski or snowboard or hike or take flimsy boats down frothy rivers.  We do none of these things.

2.  When outside Colorado and meeting new people who are trying to put a positive spin on our response to their inquiry about where it is that we reside: “Denver,” said with either a sneer or a sigh.

Because the DaOiD boys do none of the Colorado activities that everyone assumes we do, we have made a number of strange observations about Denver’s culture of athleticism.  In very little logical order, they are: 

1. This one has been oft-observed by others: Coloradans are always excited by snow, in that it means they can ski and do the other aforementioned activities, but they seem to be completely unable to cope with it on roads and sidewalks.  Because the DaOiD boys are originally from very snowy climes – before we relocated to our previous urban homes of more recent vintage – we find this disjuncture particularly surprising.  Suck it up, Coloradans!  I’m not saying that we like it any better than you do (we don’t) but at least we know how to deal with it.

2. Coloradans seem to be a particularly athletic bunch, but they don’t walk anywhere.  They will get in cars and enormous gas-guzzling SUVs to go to the park for a run, when they could actually run to the very same park.  For a state that prides itself on its athleticism, Coloradans are remarkably lazy

3. This means that when they go out at night many of them drive drunk.  We have been sort of stunned to observe the degree to which, because everyone is so dependent on automobile travel, Coloradans – gays and straights alike –seem perfectly comfortable drinking copious amounts of alcohol at bars and parties (and we are certainly not opposed to this) and then getting behind the wheels of their cars (we are not in favor of this).   We are well aware that there is no subway or metro here – don’t get us started! – but what about the bus, people?  Or a taxi cab? Or – gasp – one’s very own two feet?  

4. Since 1990 Colorado has captured the title of skinniest state in the nation.  (Mississippi is currently the most overweight with 32% of its adults obese).  But even Colorado has an obesity rate of about 19.1% and, if anything, its rate has been on the increase (as it has for all other states in the nation).  So given that even Colorado could stand to do better, it’s clearly still more petite than every other state.  How?  Clearly not everyone is skiing – which, when you think about it, is still just sitting on an electric chair to go uphill and sliding on sticks going down – and most people are certainly not walking in their everyday lives, at least not in Denver.  So how do we do it, Colorado?  Is it just that a lot of athletic people moved here and they go (read: drive) to the gym all the time? Or – as I suspected when I first moved here and lost some of my regular appetite –does it have something to do with the altitude?  What makes Colorado so skinny (by which I mean 80.9% non-obese)?