great chinese food in denver?

Do you know how hard it is to find a decent Chinese dumpling in the United States? It's hard. Really hard. And once you've had a real deal dumpling, you can never go back. Don't even try to serve me your thick-skinned, meatball-y center nonsense. Obviously, there are good dumplings to be had in New York City. In California. In Seattle. There is great Chinese food all over the world. But there's a lot of really bad Chinese food too.

I'd pretty much given up on the idea that I could get really, REALLY good Chinese food in Denver. I had, however, heard there was a good place in Boulder: Zoe Ma Ma. I kept meaning to get up there to try it out...

But then, a second Zoe Ma Ma opened by Union Station. Score! Last weekend we took the bus down there (yay public transit and no carseats!) for an early dinner.

^^fun decor! and yes, it's empty. but it was also 4pm on a sunday.^^

It was good. Really good. The owner, Edwin, was welcoming and friendly. His goal with Zoe Ma Ma is to celebrate his mother's cooking (周妈妈 Zhōu māmā = Mama Zhou!). I gather they have roots in both Taiwan and northern China, and that's the food they're serving. Northern Chinese classics and some other crowd pleasers.

^^炸酱面 zhá jiàng miàn^^

^^红烧牛肉面 Hóngshāo niúròu miàn - Braised Beef Noodles^^

Zoe Ma Ma nailed it. Homestyle Chinese food with high-quality ingredients. Everything is made to order and tastes fresh and delicious. I can't wait to go back.

Oh and the dumplings? Fantastic.

winter weekend :: crested butte

Willa's first vacation was to the Black Hills, South Dakota. Last month, Cameron went on his first, to Crested Butte. We were so excited to have a weekend away from the city, and Crested Butte is such an idyllic Colorado ski town. We'd been once before, and were excited to get back there to enjoy snow, skiing, and a lot of bacon. (Okay the bacon wasn't exactly planned or essential, but we bought some and ate it for breakfast. Everyday. So it wouldn't go to waste. Worse things could happen. And yay for a VRBO with good pans!)

Cameron was a bit too busy being cocooned in his fleece inside the baby carrier to participate in much of the winter fun that CB has to offer, but I think he had a nice time nonetheless. And the rest of us had a wonderful time, so it was by all counts a success!

^^our rental house // the view of the butte^^

^^i was thrilled to have a chance to get out on the slopes despite cameron's bottle woes and thanks to help from my mother-in-law who joined us for the weekend (thanks again!). we debated whether or not to have willa try out skiing, but we ultimately decided to wait until next year. she had plenty of fun just playing in the snow!^^

^^the town of crested butte is great. to me, it's what i've always pictured when i thought of a colorado ski town. our rental house was easy walking distance to the main part of town, and one night we went to the brick oven pizzeria and pub. they had decent pizza and great beers on draft. (we'd actually wanted to go to the secret stash, where we'd been a few years ago, but we didn't realize they'd changed locations.)^^

^^walk home after dinner. CB, you pretty.^^

^^such fun in the snow! (the snow was not that fun, however, when we had to drive home through monarch pass. that pass, man. scares me every time.)^^

valentine's day weekend

lots of love and fun:

^^we started valentine's day off with sprinkle pancakes. i suppose they probably should have been pink or red or heart-shaped, but sprinkles seemed festive and fun! and of course delicious. it was pretty much dessert for breakfast which made willa's morning. mine too, actually.^^

^^dan and i went to brunch at argyll whisky beer. we don't typically plan much for valentine's day, but a month or so back i decided that by february we'd probably be ready for our first (non-family) babysitter, so i made a brunch reservation, and told dan the surprise plans on friday night. we were so excited to get out on our own for a couple hours, and argyll was a great spot. their menu and vibe had british flair, the servers were wearing flannel, and everything was delicious.^^

^^in the afternoon, we needed to run an errand on south pearl street, and while we were down there willa announced that she wanted pizza for "snack." sexy pizza was nearby, so even though it was only 4:30, we decided to go in for a family valentine's day dinner. willa ate more pizza than she ever has before - almost 3 pieces! she got very mad when we tried to cut them up or in half. "i want the whole piece!"^^

^^willa was thrilled to get a valentine's day balloon from her babysitter, and after that she was throwing a lot of "parties" in her play corner. here's cameron, attending one such party with her balloon around his wrist. i love it once they reach the bumbo phase and can sit up and be a part of things!^^

buchi cubano café

Given the recent change in U.S. policy toward Cuba, it seems like a fitting time to talk about Cuban sandwiches! Or, perhaps, it's a totally inappropriate time? Either way, it's happening. We went to Buchi Cubano Café recently, and I can't stop thinking about when I can go back again. Cuban coffee! Pressed sandwiches! Delicious!

My friend Alli was visiting to meet Cameron, and one night we decided to be super wild and stay up late (10pm) watching the movie Chef. I'd remembered hearing great things about the film, and was really excited to see it. Turns out, the buzz was mostly about the stellar cast and the big-name foodies behind the scenes. It was a fun watch, with especially good music, but really the only takeaway we all had was: we needed a Cuban sandwich STAT. We immediately hatched a plan to walk to Buchi the next morning.

The weather was relatively mild for December, and given that we had our dog and expensive stroller in tow, we decided to sit outside. It took a few minutes to get service because they were so packed, but the server did not forget about us. She apologetically rushed outside with waters and menus, and then promptly returned to take our order. We all, except Willa, decided to get the Cuban Mix: Cuban roast pork, ham, Swiss cheese, pickles, onions and mustard. Willa went for the side of beans and rice, obvi.

They have rich Cuban coffee available with any amount of milk you desire. I had the café con leche this time, but in the past I've greatly enjoyed a cortado. Interestingly, they use powdered milk (I found this out when I tried to order a milk for W). I'm not enough of a Cuban coffee expert to know whether or not that's typical (it probably is, I'd guess?) but it's delicious.

Walking there and back made me feel justified in having devoured my entire sandwich. Those with more self-control might be satisfied to share one.

I'll be back to Buchi soon for sure, but right now I'm going to go make an espresso with eggnog to satisfy my sweet coffee cravings...

meal train generosity + breakfasts out in nw denver

Prior to Cameron's birth, a kind and thoughtful friend organized a "meal train" for us. I'd never before asked friends to cook for me, so I felt a bit uncomfortable making the request, but given the chaos that I knew would ensue after the collision of a new baby and a rambunctious toddler, I decided I'd take the help if people want to give it. And boy, have they delievered! I cannot believe the generosity of food (and by extension thoughtfulness, time, and effort) that has been showered on us by so many. I haven't cooked a thing in the past two weeks, and we have even more meals on the way. I am so appreciative of what everyone has done for us during this exciting and totally overwhelming time. I hope I can return the kindness to everyone in my own way.

So since we've been totally set on dinners and lunches (thanks to leftovers), when some stir-craziness set in, we hit the streets for breakfast. We finally got around to trying a couple of places that have been on my list for ages, and both were divine.

The Universal 2911 West 38th Avenue Denver, Colorado 80211

^^the location is a bit odd. it's right off a main arterial road. in a strip mall next to a domino's and a H&R Block. but inside, a hipster feels right at home amidst the reclaimed wood, efficient but not overly friendly servers, and on-trend menu.^^

^^we'd looked at the menu ahead of time, so we knew we wanted the custard toast and ordered it right away since it said it was a "20 minute dish." we had the sausage scramble as our more healthful option, and then ate the custard toast for dessert. both dishes were phenomenal. the scramble was super flavorful and the side of potatoes was particularly good. sometimes potatoes are an afterthought, but these were perfectly crispy and well-seasoned. and the custard. oh my goodness. it was basically bread pudding for breakfast, which was exactly what this postpartum lady needed!^^

^^breakfast was our first significant outing with cam; one week after his birth. it took a good deal of effort for me to get dressed and out the door at a reasonable time that morning, but it was totally worth it. good food is always healing, and the short-lived time that babies just sleep in their car seats is delightful!^^

//

The Noshery 4994 Lowell Blvd Denver, Colorado 80221

^^the noshery opened earlier this year in the regis neighborhood. it's exactly the kind of place i wish was in walking distance from my house, but luckily it's only a short drive (or bike or run when i'm feeling better) away. the have great pastries, sweets, as well as breakfast and lunch menus featuring sandwiches etc.^^

^^baby + raspberry scone + latte. they have two sizes for coffee: small and large. small is a regular mug, and large is this mug-bowl. i had no problem drinking it all, but i'm picky about the temperature. once i'd had about 3/4 of it, the rest was cold. they were happy to put it in a to-go cup for me though!^^

^^this was just a couple days before the weather turned cold and denver got it's first snowfall. i miss those pretty leaves already!^^

fall outings

Yesterday, someone posted on Twitter: "Did anyone NOT go to the pumpkin patch today?" Loved it. Because it was so true. Between Facebook, Instagram, and the blogs I read, it seemed everyone was getting their fall festival on. We, actually, did not hit up anywhere over the weekend, but that's mostly because weekend crowds scare me. But not to worry. We'd done our fall outings on weekdays earlier this month. In addition to driving out of the city for some pumpkins and farm animals, we've also been doing our best to enjoy time in Denver with just one crazy toddler (vs. a crazy toddler and an infant).  So here's a recap of recent fall fun in pictures!

^^a couple of weeks ago, our playschool met at sunflower farm in longmont, co. what a place! there were so many animals to meet and feed, and plenty of other fun activities like swings and a campfire and a silo turned into a giant sandbox!^^

^^i FINALLY decided about what to do for a double stroller situation, and so after a long drive to the 'burbs during tuesday night rush hour to pick up a craigslist find, we stopped at star kitchen for dinner. we'd had takeout before and had been underwhelmed, but this time two of the three dishes we got were superb. my absolute favorite chinese dish is dry-fried green beans (干煸四季豆 gān biān sìjì dòu) , and they did an awesome version; without meat too,  which is rare! also, as willa tried to use her chopsticks to pick up a piece of tofu, she kept saying under her breath: "come here little guy."^^

^^knock on wood, but we always have the best luck at uncle. we decided to try to get in a couple saturday nights ago, and didn't have to wait at all. it was willa's first trip and she was miraculously well-behaved. an open kitchen is always a toddler pleaser. and of course we had to hit up little man for ice cream afterwards.^^

^^a pre-baby to-do not to overlook: use up about-to-expire groupons! dan and i did just that on a date night last week. my groupons took us first to abyssinia ethoipian resaturant where we enjoyed a sampling of their vegetarian dishes as well as some lamb. and then, despite a high level of fullness, we went to high point creamery for an ice cream "flight" (genius idea!). the winner was the basil with blackberries, which we selected for our take-home pint. gotta love groupons. things you don't even know you need! (sidenote: i think the theme of this pregnancy is lots and lots of ice cream.)^^

^^we hit up rock creek farm with friends last week to pick our pumpkins. there were animals too (which willa loved) and bouncy houses (which scared her), as well as sugar pumpkins to purchase (so much pie in my future!). it was fun to pick out pumpkins, and luckily i had kind friends to carry them for me. it was a beautiful, fall day that started out cold and was in the 70s by the time we were leaving midday. willa was most pleased with that dead vine she found. it's currently disintegrating in the back of my car...^^

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.

a night out at union station

After all our travel in August, we are trying to settle back in at home and "get ready" for our baby boy who is slated to arrive sometime around Halloween. There's painting to do, a few furniture pieces to buy, and lots of other misc tasks we "need" to get done. Also high on the priority list is squeezing in a few nights out. Last weekend, we headed to Union Station to check it out. If you live in Denver, you know exactly what I'm talking about, but for those of you from elsewhere: the historic downtown railway station re-opened in July 2014 after many years of redevelopment. The "new" station is a hub for bus, train, and light rail lines, but also includes several restaurants, bars, and retail establishments. There's a great article on the project here.

We didn't have a reservation anywhere for dinner, but of course wanted to first give Stoic & Genuine a try.  It's opening earlier this summer was arguably one of the "most anticipated" in Denver in a while, and seeing what "the best" fresh seafood in a land locked state tastes like seemed like something we needed to do (although, given my pregnant state, it wasn't exactly the best time to go to a seafood place, but oh well).

We lucked out and right away got two seats at the bar, which gave us a chance to taste the food and check out the scene, although perhaps not the same experience in terms of service. The drinks and food were indeed impressive, but our service was a bit lacking. The bartender helping us seemed a bit aloof and when we asked a few questions about the menu the answers we received were short and perhaps a tad condescending. But nevermind that tiny complaint. The food was stellar! To start, I had the grilled sardine with lemon pureé, fennel, and pinenuts. It was quite a generous amount of fish for $6, and the grill and seasoning was perfect. I also had one of their specials: a dungeness crab and mango salad which was phenomenal. It was pricier ($17) but totally worth it. Dan tried some west coast oysters which didn't disappoint (we love you Puget Sound) and a tuna crudo.

The seafood was indeed quite fresh. (Although we did take a few seconds to acknowledge the environmentally unconscious nature of our eating choices that night.) The preparation was impeccable. The menu was a bit difficult to take in: they had three different pieces of paper for us to read, which seemed a bit excessive. There were also "sauces" listed on the menu without prices nor guidance on how to apply them to the dishes (this was one question our serve didn't/couldn't answer well). Also of note, the clientele seemed a notch fancier than what I typically see out and about at Denver's trendiest restaurants. Perhaps that's the Union Station vibe?

The station itself was definitely happenin'. In the main terminal is the Terminal Bar, which has seating inside, on a patio, and also offers drinks "to go" that you can then sip while sitting in the station's main lounge. The grand hall is outfitted with new, vintage-style furniture which I can only presume is on point for a certain chosen decade. There are lots of cozy sitting areas, and in the center there are two shufflepuck tables that apparently you can play for free. Fun!

Before we left, we hit up Milkbox Ice Creamery for some salted oreo (they serve Little Man) and enjoyed the outdoor fountains. It was a beautiful summer night.

I was so happy we finally had a chance go check out the scene down there (always a bit late to the party these days). In the station itself, you can easily see that the redevelopment project has resulted in a space that's trendy and new, while preserving the historic character of the building. As for actual transportation, I've read that the number of passengers coming and going on bus, light rail, and train are increasing every month. But still, being there on a Saturday night, I couldn't help but feel slightly odd as I saw people like me drinking martinis on wooden benches who had likely driven there and parked in a parking garage (like me also, although we found a street spot for cheaper!). The nature of cities and transit have unquestionably changed so much in the last fifty years, and although we're trying to bring it back, it often feels like an uphill battle. Sure, people will come for a drink and a great dinner, but will they stop to have a drink before they get on the bus or train hope? Will I? I hope so.

snowmass + aspen

Last weekend we packed up the car for another adventure. This month has been full of trips, which has been fantastic, but also totally exhausting. This time, we headed to Snowmass for a long weekend "in the mountains." Dan competed in the Tough Mudder with some friends, so we'd decided to make a whole weekend of it. We stayed in a perfect little condo in Snowmass Village (I love you, VRBO) and the weather couldn't have been better. It was blue skies and sunny the whole weekend (minus a quick shower when we arrived on Friday) with just enough coolness in the air to make you think of fall. Although...I did get pretty sunburned watching the race on Saturday, so I suppose the weather was actually mostly summer-like. That Colorado sun at altitude will get you every time! We also had fun exploring Aspen, just a few miles down the road. I loved the beautifully preserved historic buildings against the backdrop of mountain peaks. Willa's favorite part of Aspen was an art installation of three monkeys that appeared in a few different spots around town. She actually leaned in to one monkey and said, "I love you very much."

^^despite a passing rain storm, we had a great time checking out aspen on friday afternoon. we took shelter from the rain at the main street bakery & café, where we had a delicious lunch, and after we'd eaten the sun was back out!^^

^^once dan was registered for the race in snowmass village, we found bia hoi for dinner. sitting outside by the fire, we enjoyed surprisingly good (albeit not too authentic) southeast asian street food. the banh mi, sausage lettuce wraps, and vegetable fried rice were all fantastic! the pork potstickers? not so much.^^

^^race day! despite getting a bit sunburn in the beautiful weather, willa and i had so much fun watching the race. i got my own workout walking up and down the hills to see the different obstacles! willa loved looking for daddy at each stop, and it was so sweet to see them hug before dan continued on the course.^^

^^pretty views from our rental condo.^^

^^we made another stop in aspen on our way home on sunday for a quick bite and a stroll around town. such a fun town, full of cool restaurants and stores i can't afford to shop in. but hey, there's a lovely playground in the middle of town that's free! also, that's what i look like at 32 weeks preggers...^^

the land of 10,000 lakes

Last week, we piled the whole fam into the SUV and made for Minnesota. It sounded like quite the endeavor, but in the end, the roadtrip really wasn't that big of deal. Willa always surprises me with how well she does in the car (for the most part). At this age, she loves talking to us (repeating the same thing over and over again), especially about things she sees out the window. A train spotting can pass at least 20 minutes. She slept some, and we definitely utilized the iPad a decent amount this trip. Hour by hour, the fields of Nebraska and Iowa zoomed past and after a night in Des Moines, we were delighted to be in Minneapolis. We spent the week visiting good friends, and had the chance to go up to their cabin for a few days. It wasn't as hot as we might have hoped for a lakehouse vacation, but we still had a fantastic time. I went swimming several times, we cooked good food, and we encountered tons of wildlife. I slept so well in the dark, quiet, cool cabin. It was delightful. A good night's sleep when you're pregnant is THE BEST.

Back in Minneapolis we were able to go out for an adult dinner at a hip new restaurant, Hola Arepa, and ice cream at Sebastian Joe's. And if that wasn't enough to eat, the next day we hit up the Minnesota State Fair. Holy fried food. And big pigs.

As is the case with any trip, I learned a few things on the road:

At 2.2 years old, Willa's totally over the travel crib. But put her a "big girl bed" and she'll sleep like a champ. (Or perhaps she heard what I said about her in my recent post and was trying to prove me wrong with a few sleep hiccups.)

Super 8 went through a phase a few years ago when they were spiffing up all their hotels. I think that phase is over. We might need to upgrade.

Iowa isn't joking about the corn. We took a detour off the highway for awhile, and wow there were a lot of corn fields. And soybeans. We were listening to an anti-big agriculture podcast at the time. That seemed fitting.

You really can fry anything. Just check out the Minnesota State Fair. It's also a great place to check out strollers.

Wendy's frostys are still good. Oh and their fries are better than McDonald's. And there's no healthy food options off the interstate in Nebraska.

Des Moines had some of the most fantastic Thai food I've had in awhile.

Booking a last-minute hotel from your phone can result in a great deal. Check out the Hotel Tonight app!

Rest stops never appear when you want them to.

Starbucks milkshakes aren't nearly as good as their frappuccinos.

Arepas are hard to split but probably should still be split because they are super filling.

Vacation is great.

burma superstar

I had Burmese food last weekend! It was sensational! I'm very excited about it! Can you tell by the exclaimation points!? On Thursday, we flew to San Francisco for a family wedding. Our flight left early in the morning, so we were on the ground in California by 9am. We opted for a rental car this trip so we could have some flexibility, and the timing worked out perfectly; we pulled up to Clement Street at 11:20am, and Burma Superstar opens at 11:30. Rumor has it there are usually long waits, but due to our lucky impeccable timing, we were able to snag a table right away. Willa was a bit out of it from the morning of travel (and the fact we woke her up from her carseat snooze), but luckily she settled in happily once she heard rice was involved.

^^rainbow salad. we weren't sure which to pick - this one or the tea leaf salad, but we wanted to be sure to try some noodles, so we went with the rainbow. i'd say it was very good but not out of this world. it could have used a tad more kick.^^

^^chicken and tofu kebat. now this dish was FANTASTIC. it had so much flavor it was unbelievable. i used the spoon to eat every last drop of the sauce.^^

^^willa would like you to know that the coconut rice was also quite above average.^^

^^when we finished lunch there were a good number of people waiting outside. it really is a destination restaurant but i'd say the hype is justified. it's impressive how good their food is after being open for over 20 years.^^

^^after lunch we enjoyed walking around the neighborhood (clement street in inner richmond). we found a great cantonese bakery where we enjoyed an egg custard and a black bean cake. oh and also, i'm pregnant. haven't i mentioned that? 28 weeks in this pic!^^

rosenberg's bagels + delicatessen

I wouldn't describe myself as a bagel lover. Donuts? Yes! But bagels? They're good, sure. Growing up I loved having a bagel that my dad had picked up at the local bagel shop. When I was in college at Middlebury, nothing compared to a bagel egger sandwich at the Middlebury Bagel Deli. So good.

But then we moved to Seattle, and bagels were a joke. So bad. No one in Seattle could make a decent bagel. Even the places that were rumored to be good were just mediocre. Sure, it too bad, but I was never bagel-obsessed enough to really mourn the loss. I just moved on with life, bagel-free.

And yet, when I heard that some smart fellow (Josh Pollack) was opening up a new bagel shop in Denver and engineering the mineral content of the water to make perfect New York style bagels, I was indeed intrigued.

We finally got to Rosenberg's last Sunday, and although the outside looked a little unpromising (we came in the back entrance off 26th and there isn't yet any signage), there was a long line at 9:30am. Things moved pretty quickly, and we got to the front of the 20-some person line in 10-15 minutes. Most people were opting to take their orders to go, so there was ample seating. The space was super cool without being overly trendy. Pollack apparently wanted to restore the art-deco history of the space, and he has definitely achieved that with just a few modern touches.

The bagels were indeed perfect. Crispy on the outside but doughy and appropriately chewy on the inside. The fish options on the menu looked fantastic (salmon galore! cod! trout! hand-cut!), but we opted for eggs. I got one of their specialties, "The Frenchie" (think French toast meets egg sandwich), while Dan tried egg, bacon, and cheddar on a poppyseed bagel. It was great to try something unique, but I ultimately prefered the basic egg sandwich. It was just done so well. Most importantly, the bacon was the perfect crispness so you could take bites. There's nothing worse than bacon that slides off a sandwich on the first bite, right?

They had a fancypants espresso machine whipping up fantastic drinks (Boxcar Roasters coffee, I think? Shoot. I can't remember for sure.), and I enjoyed an iced latte (small complaint: no liquid sweetener besides honey which isn't super cold-water soluble!). Another food trend observation: lots of people were drinking cold brew bottled coffee from the fridge case, which seems like an odd choice to me when you're in a place that has an espresso bar...I do think it's delicious and a great option when there isn't one, but...?

Anyway. In case there was any confusion, the verdict on Rosenberg's is: go now! I cannot wait to go again. Who knew how much I was missing bagels?

fourth of july weekend!

The past two July 4th holidays in Denver, I realized something: most people leave town. If ever there was a "let's all go to the mountains" weekend, this one must take the cake. The streets are deserted; many restaurants close for "vacation." It's a bit weird, but at the same time, kind of wonderful. We went to the pool on the 4th, and pretty much had the place to ourselves. We snagged a last minute dinner reservation at a place we wouldn't usually be able to book. However, come late night on the 4th, things didn't seem quite so quiet. Firework booms came from every direction until the wee hours of the morning. As if to say, "Don't worry! We're all still here! Happy 4th of July!"

Happy 4th, indeed.

^^cherry pie! dan made one around this time last year, and we decided it'd be a solid 4th of july tradition. he used about 1/3 tart cherries from the tree he planted last summer, and the rest were frozen ones from costco. we greatly enjoyed eating it all weekend long. with bourbon vanilla ice cream from brooklyn of course.^^

^^between thunderstorms we biked to the neighborhood pool for willa's continued swim lessons. ok, that's not true at all. we just let her do whatever she's comfortable with but it's exciting to watch as each time she gets more and more interested in the "big kids' pool."^^

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^^a virgin mule / date night dinner @ lower48^^

^^all dressed up for lunch out with friends.^^

^^ending the weekend with a splash (pad)!^^

a night in vail!

Last Saturday, Dan and I headed west on I-70. Destination: Vail. My parents kindly offered to watch Willa for a night, and after contemplating camping or some other more adventurous outing, we decided to just book a night in a hotel in Vail, and spend time relaxing and exploring the village. Let’s be honest; I needed some rest.

When we arrived in Vail, we first headed out on a hike along the Gore Creek Trail. The hike takes you to Gore Lake after about 4 miles, but we knew we wouldn’t make it that far. Still, it was a beautiful hike along the creek and it was kind of liberating to be hiking with no dog or toddler in tow.

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After the hike we made our way into town to the Tivoli Lodge, which we’d booked without much research, but it ended up being just perfect. Our room was quite and peaceful with a nice balcony and mountain views.

We went out for the most fantastic dinner. A quick search on Vail restaurants led me to the relatively-new Mountain Standard. When I saw the menu and the partitioned pig graphic on the website, I knew it was a good fit for us. They didn’t have any reservations available, so I wasn’t sure if we’d get in, but we easily got a table at around 6pm.

Every single dish we ordered was superb. We hesitated before ordering the $7 “coal-roasted” olives, but figured, “hey, we’re on a mini vacation!” And boy did we make the right choice. I’ve never had olives so good. They were piping hot, and served with toasted pine nuts and golden raisins. I honestly had no idea olives could be so delicious.

Our other appetizers were shrimp and grits and a stone fruit salad. Both were fantastic; one in a hearty, rich, and spicy sort of way while the other was light, fresh, and sweet. We had Rocky Mountain trout for an entrée, as well as a rotisserie chicken salad. The salad was perhaps the lowlight of the night, but by no means bad, just lacking that something special. The trout, on the other hand, was splendid. For some reason it’s hard to find local-ish trout in Denver restaurants, so it was a nice treat.

We hesitated about ordering dessert. We were pretty satiated and thought about just walking around town and finding some ice cream, but the peanut butter pie sounded pretty good, and we definitely made the right call. It was the perfect end to a perfect meal.

On Sunday morning we slept in a bit, and then hit up the Vail Farmers’ Market. We scored some goat cheese curds to eat with a fresh bagel on the way home...quite good, but I think I’ll stick to cow’s milk ones. Goat cheese is too soft! But I of course still had no problem eating them.

We got home Sunday just in time to deal with transitioning Willa to a toddler bed. Of course she would decide to start climbing out of her crib the night we're trying take some time off. Parenthood!

vashon island

When we were in Seattle last month, a main stop on my itinerary was Vashon Island to visit my dear friend Brenna and her family. They'd moved out to Vashon after we left Seattle, and I'd never otherwise made the trip, so Vashon was a total mystery to me. (Ok, "total" is probably an exaggeration, since I'd heard lots about it from Brenna and others, but I was still very excited to check it out.) Brenna's daughter is the same age as Willa, and we were so happy they'd have a chance to play together for a couple days. Vashon was beautiful. The island itself, and in particular my friends' house, made me feel like life had slowed down. Everything felt calmer. Quieter. More relaxed. It was lovely. I was super excited to be back in the Pacific Northwest. So green! Moss! Trees and flowers of all types! Friends and fresh air are quite rejuvenating.

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^^ferry riding^^

^^coffee, pastries, and steamed milks @ the vashon island coffee roasterie. it was the birthplace of seattle's best coffee. and they now "specialize in heirloom coffee." (i love seattle.)^^

^^just look at all that green! don't you feel more relaxed?^^

^^around town. we had the most fabulous lunch at snapdragon. it was so hard to pick our sweet treats; such options! and, how cute are the little ladies?^^

^^beach time. breakfast time.^^

^^this is what trying to do a self-timer shot with two toddlers looks like.^^

Thanks for everything, Brenna!