meeting my newest seattle friend

I made a quick trip to Seattle last month to see my dear friend Megan and meet her 5-week old baby boy. As cheesy as it sounds, Seattle clings tight to a piece of my heart. As soon as the plane landed on the tarmac, surrounded by clouds and drizzle, tears came to my eyes. I was there less than 48 hours, but we packed a lot in. Most importantly, I spent a lot of quality time with Megan, her husband Sean, and the cute newcomer to their family.

^^after touching down at seatac, i took the light rail (for just $2.75!) downtown, and then walked up to capitol hill. i had to hit up my favorite coffee shop, victrola, before uber-ing to megan's 'hood: madison park.^^

^^baby william! so happy to meet him! what expressions he has at such a young age. no surprise, though, given how cool and animated his parents are.^^

^^baby william, his parents, our friend shannon, and i all went to anchovies & olives for a delicious dinner, and then ended the night with dessert, conversation, and baby bouncing at cupcake royale.^^

^^gorgeous saturday morning light in madison park.^^

^^beautiful new mama rocking the best baby carrier eva.^^

^^obviously, going to mighty-o donuts was a must. conveniently, they've open a new shop in ballard, which was another spot i wanted to visit. we spent saturday afternoon walking around and checking out new and old spots, happily full of donuts.^^

^^had to stop at golden gardens for a quick walk along the beach. // as the sun set, we went back to madison park and cooked salmon and vegetables for dinner. we talked parenting and baby carriers and life. we reminisced about the fun we had as twenty-somethings in fremont and capitol hill. we were too busy talking to take any pictures. it was just lovely.^^

^^a quick shot after a great breakfast at geraldine's before i headed back to the airport. thank you SO MUCH for the wonderful weekend, megan!^^

summer in denver :: highlights

The weather recently has still been too hot for my liking, but there are sure signs of fall all around. Leaves are changing, and the mornings are full of crisp air. I did a terrible job blogging about our summer adventures...I probably have one more post to do about our trip to Vermont, but until I can get around to doing that, I wanted to post some miscellaneous pictures from the summer months.

^^homemade ice cream; delicious.^^

^^many of our summer days looked like this.^^

^^bocce and pizza in the park!^^

^^summer haircut + pizza afterwards.^^

^^denver chalk art festival.^^

^^few things are more fun than the fountains at union station.^^

^^willa's 4th birthday!^^

^^bbqs at my sister's house are always fun + yay for a rare family photo!^^

^^willa asked for a kite for her birthday. windy days aren't frequent, but we've gotten it up in the air a few times!^^

^^fun with nana!^^

^^we hit the pools pretty hard this summer.^^

^^summer nights.^^

^^friends. thank goodness for friends. and park picnic playdates.^^

^^the color run. super fun.^^

^^the day we biked to cherry creek to buy a deep fryer.^^

^^the donuts we made with the fryer.^^

^^and just like that, summer was over. back to school!^^

doughnuts! donuts! in los angeles!

To start, apologies for the grammatical situation in this post's title. When it comes to two acceptable spellings of a word, you're supposed to pick one and stick to it. But I have trouble doing that with the word "donuts." Because, you see, even if I pick one, then I'm going to go eat donuts at a place like Sidecar Doughnuts (or Johnny Doughnuts!) and there I've gone and contradicted myself. Just one of my many donut problems. That's not really the point, though. What I want to tell you about is: Sidecar Doughnuts in Santa Monica. We went while we were in Los Angeles in January, and it was phenomenal. So good!

Before our trip, I'd researched donut places in Los Angeles, and didn't come up with much. (It's highly likely that I was interrupted by one of our smaller family members and then didn't get a chance to resume my search.) I'd heard about a place in Koreatown, but as soon as I saw a picture of a donut with Fruit Loops on it, I was out. When our plane touched down at LAX, I didn't have a donut shop on our agenda.

But. Driving from the airport to my brother-in-law's place in Santa Monica, we happened past Sidecar Doughnuts. It looked legit. A quick internet search returned promising results. A few mornings later, we found ourselves there at 7am. (They open at 6:30. Plus one for them. Early opening time is high on my extensive list of donut-shop criteria.)

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I probably should create my own donut-rating system, but let's save that for another day. For now I'll just say these are solid donuts. Lots of options of both the cake and yeasted varieties. Their flavors bordered on what I'd deem too dessert-like, but stayed mostly in safe territory. Their "daily" options were a good bet, while the monthly specialities seemed to get a bit fancier (sweeter). The Saigon Cinnamon Crumb and the Huckleberry were my favorites.

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They have two locations in Los Angeles, so if you're ever there, check them out! Also, Stumptown Roasters coffee. Nuff said.

more donut complaining

We are leaving in the morning to fly east. My sister is getting MARRIED! And we're making a vacation of it; spending time in Boston before heading out Cape Cod for the festivities. But to distract myself from our inability to pack light (that'll be another post), I'm going to write about donuts. And how Denver is still failing on that front.

Ok. Failing is a blatant overstatement. The multiple donut establishments in the area are providing totally servicable donuts. But no one is hitting it out of the ballpark. New places keep opening but they are not satisfying my intense need for a donut exactly like one from Seattle's Mighty-O (Side note: It expanded recently! In Ballard now! And Capitol Hill!).

We recently biked down to Lohi on a Saturday morning to check out Habit Doughnut Dispensary. I had high hopes. Probably much too high. Definitely much too high. But Lohi! Old brick building! Donuts! Donuts.

Let's be positive. Here's what they had going for themselves:

  • Solid yeasted donuts. The dough was the right amount of puffy and held its shape when you took a bite. And it wasn't too sweet.
  • Decent varieties. I'm a bit of a purist. I don't want fruit loops on my donut. Don't you dare give me an artificial flavor. I just want some thoughtful flavors with an appropriate amount of sugar. Habit was okay in this regard. They delivered on some, but others were a bit over the top.
  • Good hours. A donut place has to be open early. Period. End of sentence.
  • Friendly staff. Welcoming, knowledgable, efficient.

Positives are boring. I like to complain. Here are my gripes:

  • No cake donuts. Wtf? Is it an altitude thing?
  • Whiskey? Huh? They advertise alcohol to go with the donuts. I'm pretty sure that's a silly idea, but even if I were to go with it, I'd expect some high-quality bourbon. But no. They have little plastic shots by the cash register. Not enticing.
  • Free coffee. Habit is right next door to Carbon and both businesses are under the same owner. But they're not really connected. Two different outside doors. Habit offers free drip coffee when you buy donuts. I've never been to business school, but that seems like a terrible idea. If you weren't giving me free coffee, I'd go buy a $4 latte next door. I would have enjoyed the latte more than the drip coffee too, but I'm a sucker for free things. But now all I remember is bad coffee.
  • Candy store? The also sell other "necessities" like candy and laundry detergent. An interesting concept, but it's not so much corner store-y as it is gimmicky. I just don't imagine they'll sell much of that stuff. But again, I am no business expert so maybe it's me who's missing something.
  • Atmosphere. The space Habit occupies is primo. But they obviously weren't aiming to make it a comfortable café. Most of the space is devoted to baking (I assume?) with just a small counter and limited indoor seating. Even though the donuts were good, it didn't feel like a place I'd want to linger.

Can't wait to go donut hunting in Boston! And no, I will not be eating any Dunkin'. I'm surprised you'd even ask.

a happy birthday brunch for our three year old!

Willa turned three last week!

So far, I'm not sure what to make of this age. It's so hot and cold. Up and down. She's the cutest little girl EVER and then moments later she is so naughty. But I know it's all part of her development, and I'm doing my best to take deep breaths and be patient and supportive as she's learning.

She's working on being a big sister. She loves her little brother and enjoys having him around. She will say, "Hi little buddy!" when he wakes up from a nap, and if he's fussing, she'll say, "It's ok Cameron!" and then tell him something about what's going on. She has trouble sharing her toys with him. She often grabs things away from him. But she'll occasionally bring him a toy to play with, and she loves to share her food with him while they're at the table eating.

My favorite thing about Willa at this stage are our conversations. She loves to ask me questions. Lately we've been talking a lot about "workers" and what they build. She started with, "Mama, did workers build our house?" And now she asks if workers have built other things. The other day we were driving somewhere and she asked me to explain how the workers built our car. You can feel her mind working.

She remembers details and events of things we did so long ago. I am always surprised when she reminds me of them weeks or months later. She can carry on a conversation so well. It blows me away. She is getting so tall and so smart. I feel proud of the beautiful and inquisitive little girl she is growing into. She challenges and delights me each day.

Her birthday was a wonderful day! We were lucky to have family in town to celebrate and we threw a little brunch shindig with friends, donuts, cake, and an inflatable pink picture frame (Is that what we call it? No idea. But it was fun!).

^^"Mango cake!" For weeks before her birthday, Willa was telling everyone that she was going to have a mango cake. We weren't sure exactly what a mango cake was, but opted for vanilla cake with mango custard in the middle and buttercream frosting. It was delicious. Willa might have ruined her appetite with donuts, but I certainly enjoyed it. Huge thanks to the pastry chef! ;)^^

^^Cam slept for the first half of the party, but woke up and put on his party pants. He tried some snacks and was super excited to meet his Uncle Mike!^^

^^An inflatable pink frame = possibly the best $1.99 I've ever spent at Goodwill.^^

a donut desert in denver

When we moved to Denver, I knew I would miss so much about the city of Seattle. Not so much the rain and the grey (although I actually do really miss that sometimes!) but lots of other things. One thing I didn't anticipate missing, however, was donuts. Artisan donuts. To get even more specific, vegan donuts. Basically, Mighty-O Donuts. Before moving to Seattle, I'd always liked a sweet baked good, but I'd never really dabbled in the donut scene beyond a Dunkin' Donut or a Krispy Kreme (why so much alliteration in the donut world, btw?). But on a cool, rainy, Seattle morning, there's really nothing like a donut and a coffee to get you going. Mighty-O is where all my loyalties lie, but the city's other big purveyor, Top Pot, is pretty much just as delicious. We'd frequently stop by one or the other for donuts on our way to a hike or a walk or a ski trip.

Then we moved to Denver. A donut desert. There were great restaurants to be enjoyed, craft beers galore, and sufficiently (although not exceptionally) delicious cupcakes. But where could a girl get a donut? No where, it seemed. I asked around, and most people didn't even understand my need for a fancy round treat.

Ok, ok, I know what you're thinking (Voodoo!). There are exceptions to this complaint. Mighty-O sells their donuts in a few Whole Foods. (Not all of them though, so it took a lot of asking and hunting. Cherry Creek is your best bet.) Voodoo Doughnuts opened on Colfax earlier this year. And another place joined the donut game as well: Glazed and Confuzed. It's a bit of a haul from our 'hood, but we made the trek last weekend to see what they were serving up.

Unfortunately, despite the excitement shown in the above photo, I'm still left missing "Seattle-style" donuts. I'm hard to please, I guess. Voodoo, Glazed and Confuzed, and others certainly make delicious donuts. But here's why I'm still not satisfied:

1. High-quality ingredients vs. Wow Factor The craziest donut you'll find at Mighty-O is something like chocolate raspberry. They make delicious and unique flavors, but they're all pretty tame. French Toast is one of their standbys. This means whatever you choose for your breakfast treat will be indulgent and sweet, but not overly so. You (most likely) won't feel ill. I'm not vegan, or even vegetarian, but because Mighty-O uses only vegan (+ non-GMO) ingredients, their donuts are never going to be as over the top as Voodoo's. Same goes for Top Pot. Their donut case has shades of browns and beiges. Not so much a rainbow. And that's just fine with me.

2. Coffee. Maybe this is another Seattle vs. Denver thing, but both Mighty-O and Top Pot offer stellar coffee alongside their donuts. (I'm talking about a full-service espresso bar that uses locally roasted beans. Not a thermos with some random variety drip.) It seems like a no-brainer. Does anything go better with a donut than coffee?

3. Cake vs. Yeasted Which type is your favorite? I'm with cake, all the way. And that's what Mighty-O and Top Pot do well. They usually have a couple yeasted options, but not too many. Voodoo and Glazed and Confuzed on the other hand, offer up several yeasted varieties.

4. Lines. This is where only Voodoo fails. I don't even want to get started because I might not be able to stop. I have a serious problem with the omnipresence of the line outside all (most?) of their stores. Sure, there's a long wait when something new and exciting opens. But months and months later, the line is just evidence that you're not doing something right. You need a more visible menu! And perhaps you should carry a few less varieties at a time so people can order more quickly! Or staff some more people!

Ok. I have to cut myself off. From this post, that is, not from continuing to demand what I think is a better donut. It must be coming? It exists in so many cities. Come on, Denver, make me proud.

this weekend + last, in pictures.

life lately:

^^last weekend we went up to fort collins to see my parents, and started the visit with a lovely drive around horsetooth reservoir. it was super windy but really pretty.^^

^^beer tasting and mr. potato head playing at equinox. a box of toys at a brewery is a superb idea! it was a really fun place, and great if you're a hop-lover, but i regret that equinox beers aren't my jam. too many ales.^^

^^strolling through old town. W had her eye on the furry friends in the window of this pet store. she let herself inside and would have stolen one if i hadn't intervened.^^

^^up next: new belgium. it was CROWDED. but they offered up some great beers. much better than the ones they bottle and distribute, IMO.^^

^^this friday night, we rode our bikes to billy's inn for dinner. this is the only picture i took, but it was a lovely evening. we're so excited to have a bike seat for willa now, and she loves it. she also loves helmets, which is fantastic. i think it's mostly the buckles.^^

^^the big thing on our calendar for this weekend: ikea. we spent 4 hours there on saturday morning, stocking up on furniture to outfit our basement. that place is maddening. but so great at the same time. we took a lunch break (which was a first for us, we usually try to just power through which does not actually go well), and i have to say i greatly enjoyed the lunch we got for $8. no meatballs, but salmon, eggplant lasagna, and mac + cheese. plus free tea and a cinnamon roll. it kept us sane amidst the ikea crazy.^^

^^after a long day at ikea, dan and i went out to dinner at session kitchen in platt park.^^

^^overall, the food was great! and the portions were much more generous than you find at many restaurants these days. i would say, however, several dishes lacked flavor punch i was expecting given their concept and vibe. the best dish was definitely the perogies and asparagus, with "frank's red hot butter" (basically chicken wing sauce) and crispy potato skins. it was innovative and well-balanced. i pretty much licked the bowl clean. they also had cronuts for dessert. i've yet to have the real deal, but these were delicious!^^

^^on sunday morning, dan got up before 6 to get us voodoo doughnuts! we'd been wanting to try them for months, but didn't want to wait in the line that still is around an hour long. no wait at 6am. we aren't interested in voodoo's crazy concoctions, but their more tame doughnuts were seriously solid. i'll always be a mighty-o loyalist, but these still made my day.^^

^^this girl was a big fan too. her favorite: the sprinkle doughnut. so she can pick off each sprinkle one by one. she calls them "rice." dessert rice i suppose?^^

a quick trip to cali

We spent last weekend in California visiting family and friends and eating lots of great food (Johnny Doughnuts!). It was a quick trip, but always worth it to see loved ones. AND, Willa was a flying champ. She didn't fuss at all on either flight. Just happily played with ice, the earphones, the seatbelt buckle and a few of the toys we brought. I've been on so many flights where I've seen other, calmer children, and I've thought to myself, "why can't W be like that?" This time she was! I was so proud. It made the weekend much more relaxing, and gave me lots of "hey, we got this," confidence. (To surely be shattered sometime in the near future, but that's parenting, no?) We picked up a cold somewhere along the way, so this week has been a bit of a drag, but these sunny pictures make me happy:

^^the ferry bringing our friend CC for a visit!^^

^^it's always great to see old friends.^^

^^so happy on daddy's shoulders^^

^^she kept saying, "wow!"^^

^^learning to skip rocks^^

^^boats! exciting for W, and always nice to look at when you're visiting from land-locked denver.^^

restaurants i wish i could fly to

Earlier this month, the New York Times ran an intriguing article: 10 Restaurants Worth a Plane Ride. I must admit, I haven't been to any of them, although one happens to not require a plane ride for me (just a ferry) and another is within affordable striking distance. Reading the article of course got these restaurants on my radar, but mostly it got me to thinking about what restaurants I wish I could fly to from time to time. I'm certain I'm omitting many delicious eating experiences I've had, but here are the places I can't seem to stop missing despite the innumerable delicious Seattle eating establishments:

THE MIDDLEBURY BAGEL DELI - Middlebury, VT I feel pretty strongly that you haven't truly experienced a breakfast sandwich until you've had a bagel-egger from the Bagel Deli: Best. Breakfast. Sandwich. Ever. My preferred order is a bagel egger on poppy seed with bacon and cheddar. Their self service coffee is delish and the donuts make a delightful breakfast appetizer.

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BLACK SHEEP BISTRO - Vergennes, VT Clearly I'm partial to this place, since it was the site of our rehearsal dinner. The atmosphere of this Vermont restaurant is both cozy and classy. The food is comforting (fry wheel!) but elegant at the same time. They change their menu regularly and are one of those great places that has a list the options by course, all with the same price. I love that. I'm bad enough with decisions as it is, let alone when I have to decide if I want the duck $4 worth more than I want the pork loin.

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PLAN B - Hartford, CT You don't know what you've got till it's gone. That pretty much sums up this place for me. We went all the time when we lived in Connecticut. Burgers, beer, and bourbon. Done right. Exceptional tap list and delicious burgers chuck ground in-house daily. They've expanded to three restaurants in the Hartford area, and according to their website they'll be in Boston, DC, Atlanta, and Chicago soon. So many flight options!

1844 HOUSE - Canton, NY Not a place you'd expect to find fine dining, but this place is a gem. Great service, top-notch food, and an outstanding wine list.

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MIAN KU (NOODLE LOFT) - Beijing, China With two (or three?) locations in China's capital, this is a must stop right up there with Tiananmen and the Forbidden City. We first heard about it before our 2006 trip thanks to Anthony Bourdain, and had an adventure or two trying to find it (remember, Amber!?). But it was worth all the headache, the Shanxi noodles were like none I've ever had before. They're hand-tossed at the bar. Kind of like pizza is in New York. I haven't had them in five years (thus the hankering for the plane flight to taste some noodle goodness) but word on the street is they're still going strong. (Check out this recent blog post at the tiny urban kitchen.)

CHALET LA PRICAZ - Montmin, France High atop a mountain in the alps, in July 2010, I devoured the most delicious meal I have ever eaten in France. And from a girl who gain nearly 20 lbs. as an exchange student there before college, that's saying a lot. We celebrated Bastille Day with family following a cousin's wedding at this restaurant famous for it's tartiflette.  The owners have a herd of Tarine cows, who make reblochon cheese on location (farm to table anyone?). Tartiflette is a local specialtiy where the reblochon cheese is melted over potatoes and pancetta. Most of the men at the table ate only 3/4 of their individual cast iron skillets of goodness. The ladies consumed 1/2 max. I ate my entire dish, plus the 1/4 Dan left. I don't regret it one bit. I might never have that meal again. (We were led there by our French hosts, but turns out the restaurant was raved about in the New York Times in 2007.)

Where would you fly?