Denver Holiday Highlights

Denver Zoo Lights

It’s been snowing like crazy here in Colorado for almost twenty-four hours. It looks like the ski resorts will be shaping up nicely  just in time for holiday travelers. I’ll be providing those snow reports soon enough but for now, I want to clue you in on some of Denver’s highlights. Many travelers will be stopping off in Denver on their way to or from the mountains, so here are some of my recommendations for this festive season.

Denver’s performing arts scene ranks as one of the most vibrant in the country. The Denver Center for the Performing Arts (DCPA) is actually comprised of many theaters that provide a range of talent and performances second to Broadway. If you act fast, you still might be able to land some tickets to Irving Berlin’s White Christmas, a classic production based on the renowned film of the same name that’s playing now through Christmas Eve. Dixie’s Tupperware Party serves up a bowlful of fun through December 30 complete with funny tales, free Tupperware giveaways, audience participation and laughs for those sixteen years of age and up. As always, DCPA has announced a stellar lineup of shows for 2013 including War Horse which opens January 8.

Van Gogh Wheat Field

Van Gogh Self Portrait with Straw Hat

Culture, culture, culture—I can’t get enough of it when I’m in Denver and thankfully there’s plenty to take in at all times. I love hitting the Denver Art Museum (DAM) whether it’s to go to one of their spectacular shows or to check out some of their collections. (Their American Indian Art is very rich. Hey, this is the West, isn’t it?) Carve out time for both their temporary and permanent exhibitions and be sure to shop in their Museum Shop, a great resource for creative gift items for you and treasured loved ones and friends. Becoming Van Gogh is the show of the moment, a lovely exhibition I took in in November. I was saddened to learn that this great artist’s career only lasted ten years, but what a decade that was as you’ll find out at this in-depth exploration of his work. The show runs through January 20; be sure to reserve online since many of the time slots are already sold out.

I say make it a whole day at DAM and plan to have lunch or brunch at Palettes, the contemporary-styled museum restaurant right across from the Hamilton Building, owned and operated by the Kevin Taylor Restaurant Group. For over a decade and a half, Palettes has been presenting fine food to discriminating foodies in this bright and airy decor. Best of all, the staff here knows how to reply to the demands of hurried museum goers—they also gladly accommodate diners that choose to swill wine at their table for hours. I love the French flair of the whole menu, something Palettes has taken to more delightful bon vivant heights in honor of the Van Gogh show. They have, in fact, created a Becoming Van Gogh menu, a three-course prix fixe extravaganza—including French specialties such as coq au vin—that will leave you feeling like you just stepped away from a wonderful bistrot in Paris, or even better, Arles. If you want to take the Van Gogh theme even further, choose from one of the restaurant’s featured Van Gogh cocktails, enticing concoctions prepared with Van Gogh Vodka. Mais bien sur.

Palettes at DAM

Fine Food at Palettes for Discerning Museum Goers

Reserve your evening dining for the Larimer Square area, the most happening part of Denver in the heart of LoDo (lower downtown). This place goes off from happy hour until the wee hours of the morning. I recently experienced Rioja, a busy, noisy, vibrant restaurant that’s clearly one of the most popular spots on the block. With a crowd as sophisticated as Rioja’s innovative cuisine, come here to take in Denver’s cosmopolitan scene. (Made up of young movers and shakers, many of whom are affiliated with green industries and Internet technology, it’s no wonder the mile-high city is fun for visitors and residents alike.) From the gorgeous selection of bread presented at the beginning to the poached pears I savored at the end, every part of my meal here tantalized my senses. Largely known for her handmade pastas, Chef Jen also wields a strong hand with regional specialties such as Colorado lamb and pan roasted venison. A nice, robust glass of Rioja at Rioja is a must and here they know how to recommend the best. Make that two.

Rioja on Lovely Larimer Square

Rioja Before the Crowd Arrives

My Handsome Dinner Date in Front of His Rioja Picnic: a trio of artisan meats, warm pine nut crusted goat cheese, Italian Mountain gorgonzola, olives, truffle fennel salad, orange confit and almonds

For a more subdued ambiance, perhaps by the fire, go to Randolph’s, one of my favorite addresses housed within the Denver Warwick Hotel. Chef Jean Claude Cavalera consistently woos diners with his own smoked salmon—a major component of holiday feasts in France—served on house made country bread with its traditional accompaniments all year round. His filet mignon is one of the most tender and flavorful you’ll ever taste. The crowd varies from quiet and calm during most times to large and celebratory on holidays. With special Christmas Day brunch and New Year’s Eve menus at a prix fixe that represent excellent price/quality relationships, it’s no wonder Randolph’s receives such high marks. Thankfully the smoked salmon is on both menus along with an array of other fresh and delectable offerings.

Randolph’s Romantic Interior Replete with a Red Rose on Every Table

Randolph’s Melt-in-Your-Mouth Smoked Salmon

By now, you’re perhaps wondering about shopping. Aside from a handful of lovely boutiques in the Larimer Square area, I think Cherry Creek offers the best shopping scene in Denver. Read Cherry Creek:  One of America’s Top Spots for Chic Shopping, Lodging and Dining to find out more. Sadly, I’ve become less and less of a fan of the 16th Street Mall scene, however, you might have fun poking around there.

Elephant Lights at the Denver Zoo

And how about something special for the kids? Take in Zoo Lights at the Denver Zoo, every night from 5:30 to 9 p.m. through January 2. With more than 150 animated animal sculptures illuminated throughout this spectacular zoo, you’ll be oohing and ahhhing, too. Plus, it’s fun to share our love and celebrate this exciting time of the year with the animals, too.

Happy holidays to all!

Happy Christmas to All and to All a Good Night from Irving Berlin’s White Christmas at the DCPA

Thank you DAM, DCPA, Kevin Taylor Restaurant Group, Rioja, Randolph’s, the Denver Zoological Foundation and my iPhone for the above images.

In Praise of the Italian-American Vote

Beaming Over Bombolini and More

Just about a year ago, my boyfriend of four years, Stefano Togni, became American. Many people from both his personal and professional life—even some of his closest friends—had no idea that he wasn’t an American citizen. Indeed, this Italian-born man, known to most as Steve, appears as American as my dad (who is first generation American, born of Italian parents). Although he is fluent in the Italian language and culture, his speech doesn’t reveal a hint of an Italian accent. Plus, his enthusiasm for sports—including Monday night football—rivals that of every other red-blooded American guy. Indeed, he has lived in the United States since he was a senior in high school and aside from an almost unhealthy penchant for pasta, bread, salad and San Pelligrino one would never know that his American passport is as crisp as a new billfold.

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30 Aug 2012, 5:02pm
Colorado Cycling Denver Telluride Travel Writing & Books:
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Pro Cycling Fun Wrap Up

Awaiting the Arrival of the Peloton in Telluride

Whoa, what a week it was last week, a wonderful time for cycling fans and lovers of big, colorful happenings. Colorado was blessed with the USA Pro Cycling Challenge, a terrific seven-day race that had many of the world’s top cyclists traversing some of the most spectacular scenery in the world. Multi-colored ribbons of premiere athletes crisscrossed the Rockies with all the excitement and fanfare of the Queen’s jubilee.

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17 Aug 2012, 9:47am
Colorado Denver Girl Talk Romance & Relationships:
Comments Off on I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change

I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change

The Perfect Cast of Perfect Change

Men. Women. Will we ever understand each other? Probably not. If we did, life would be boring. It’s best just to make fun of our missteps and miscommunication. That’s exactly what goes in in “I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change,” playing at the Denver Center for the Performing Arts. It’s been such a smashing hit that performances have been extended through October 14, 2012.

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Pro Cycling Hits Colorado

Pro Cycling in the Rockies

“It’s one of the most exciting events in the world. You get a chance to see some of the world’s best athletes—certainly in cycling. You get to do it in beautiful places like Telluride, Vail and Aspen. The best part is it’s free,” says Shawn Hunter, CEO of USA Pro Cycling Challenge. Listen to more of what Shawn says about this exciting event that’s taking place in Colorado August 20-26 by clicking on the play button below.

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Travels with Valentino

Valentino Checking in to the Sonnenalp

Valentino Checking into the Ritz

Anyone that knows me or reads this blog, likely knows that I’m a cat person. I’m a writer and a single woman, so of course I have two cats, Leo and Clara. I love all animals actually. I’d like to adopt a dog someday, but that will come the day I move out of my one-bedroom apartment. Plus there’s so much to know about taking care of a dog—they’re a whole different animal from cats!

I became a doggie-mom in training of sorts this past spring when I did a road trip to Denver (a six to seven-hour drive from Telluride) with my friend Mary Dawn. In the eight years I’ve known MD, she’s always had two Bernese Mountain dogs, gorgeous animals that have since become my breed of choice. I wanted to see the Yves Saint Laurent show in Denver and MD was headed to check out some puppies at Wagontale Bernese, breeders just outside of Fort Collins. (Her noble Smokie Bear had passed away just a few months prior and she was ready to adopt a new baby.) So we thought it made sense to combine our interests and make a trip out of it. Valentino, her handsome Berner, was to escort us throughout our travels. (How appropriate that a dashing fella by the name of Valentino accompany us to the YSL doings.)

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14 Jul 2012, 1:06pm
Colorado Denver Restaurants:
Comments Off on Celebrate Bastille Day at Randolph’s in Denver

Celebrate Bastille Day at Randolph’s in Denver

Happy Bastille Day!

Yay! It’s Bastille Day! Time to celebrate the French and all the wonderful goods they’ve flourished on the world. Excellent French food and wine immediately come to mind.

I’m in Breckenridge now, on my way to Leadville, Colorado, the highest city in the United States perched at an elevation of more than 10,000 feet. Can’t help wondering if there’s a French restaurant in that old mining town. If not, I suppose I can content myself with a fine glass of French wine—that you can typically find easily enough.

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Denver à la Française: A French Whirlwind in the Mile-High City

Feeling Très Royale at Bistro Vendôme

Hmmmm, Kir Royale. Yum. I love the sensation of sweet, bubbly goodness that this cocktail produces in my mouth. Its balance of effervescence and full, ripe fruit tantalizes and satisfies like well, hmmmm, yes. I guess that’s why this is a drink for lovers.

Actually I was with my girlfriend, Mary Dawn, recently when I sipped this delicious nectar at Bistro Vendôme in Denver. (Hey, you don’t have to be with a guy to feel sexy, especially since women often do a better job than men at making other women feel attractive, wouldn’t you agree?) We were both feeling PRETT-Y perky—you know two girls out on the town in the big city feeling footloose and fancy free.

I think it was the whole French thing that brought these sentiments on and, of course, the Kir Royale, a fabulous apéritif that embodies all the lusciousness and fizz of Paree. Ours was raspberry, likely made with Chambord, which, as I explained to MD, was made with champagne (or at least sparkling wine), as indicated by the word royale. (A regular kir is made with white wine—or sometimes a chilled red in France—and a touch of crème de cassis.)

We were to be in Denver less-than twenty-four hours and in honor of the Yves Saint Laurent exhibition at the Denver Art Museum, I insisted we make it a totally French experience. I had zeroed in on Denver’s Italian flair before (see below), however, I hadn’t explored its French side. I had visited Yves Saint Lauent: The Retrospective in the afternoon and was already feeling fantastique. We had also already checked into the Ritz-Carlton Denver, the mile-high city’s first and only AAA five-diamond hotel where I was happy to discover much of the grandeur and elegance of Paris. So the French theme was well underway.

Voilå, zee Ritz

Bistro Vendôme: Never Has Denver Been So French

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