Tag Archives: colorado

Sweet potato hash, buttery salmon benedict, and messy donuts bites at Jelly Cafe in Denver, CO

There are few things that will happily lure me out of bed at 7:00 in the morning – snagging a table at Jelly Café early enough to avoid waiting in an epic queue of hungry hipsters is one of those things.

I was first introduced to the edible bliss of Jelly Café through my then-housemate, McGoo. He’s the ultimate source for the best eats around, and his recommendations are the kind I always follow. Any time he gets excited about taking me somewhere to eat, I can pretty much guarantee that I’m in for a treat.

Walk up to this breakfast haven sitting on the corner of Pearl Street and 13th Avenue any time after 9:30 AM, and you’re guaranteed to be in for a wait. I waited almost two hours once – and I would so do it again in exchange for what I’ll dub the best breakfast diner in Colorado, possibly the entire country.

Before you even attempt to survey the menu, request an order of their famous donut bites – and make sure you get a mix of all the tantalizing varieties. Each fresh puff of crispy dough represents one of four creamy concoctions: crème anglaise, homemade jelly, chocolate anglaise, or cinnamon sugar. Taking the first bite into any given beignet guarantees a dripping mess all over your chin – just let it happen.

Another pre-breakfast treat I love is the selection of funky adult beverages to make your day a bit more pleasant. I’m partial to the Parnold Almer with sweet tea infused vodka and lemonade, but you really can’t go wrong with options like hot chocolate with peppermint schnapps, bloody marys topped with shrimp and celery, or the “S’mores,” a Bailey’s brew with fluffed marshmallow vodka, Ghiradeli hot chocolate, and whipped cream.

During one visit to Jelly, I was meeting up with two Floridian friends who were considering moving up to Denver (check out her post on Jelly Cafe about What Tasty Food). My buddy ordered one of the specials, a fizzy libation that listed a Bing energy drink as one of the ingredients. As it happened, the kitchen had just run out of Bing – but fear not, Jelly sent someone sprinting across the street to a convenience store to grab him another. Now that’s service, folks.

The clear stars of this morning extravaganza are the heaping plates of breakfast delight that make it nearly impossible to settle on just one platter. There are temptress dishes like french toast stuffed with bananas and cream cheese, mini sliders stacked thick with pepper pesto sausage frittatas, and bacon pancakes – but I’m loyal to a trio of this restaurant’s finest meals.

The sweet potato hash was the first thing I ever sampled at Jelly Café. The overflowing plate presented to me was loaded with crumbly Mexican chorizo, onions, celery, roasted poblano pepper, cubed sweet potatoes, and red skinned potatoes – all topped with two eggs, toast, and fruity jelly. It’s spicy, it’s sweet, and it’s absolutely amazing.

My second favorite dish is the roasted turkey hash piled high with shredded lean turkey, tender chopped apple, onion, red potatoes, and a sprinkling of tarragon. It’s like a Thanksgiving feast in breakfast form. The third best plate was a more recent discovery, the salmon benedict with peasant potatoes. I had never tried poached eggs before, but Jelly Café converted me into a fan. They serve two poached eggs draped over a perfectly pink filet of seared salmon balanced on artisan sourdough. The entire creation is slathered in their signature dill cream cheese hollandaise – perfection.

Their corned beef hash also deserves an honorable mention for its perfect balance of savory meat and sweet caramelized onion. Really, anything you can fork into your mouth will treat you well.

I hear there’s also a lunch menu – but I’ve never quite made it past the breakfast. 

Need more Jelly? You can connect with them through Facebook,
follow them on Twitter, and check out other satisfied diners’ rave reviews on Yelp!

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Wandering through Vail Village – a quaint morning journey through town

If you haven’t figured it out by now, I’m not the fanciest gal in the gang. My travel style borders on vagabonding, and my adventures are always executed on a fairly frugal budget. However, my trip to Vail, Colorado was a glaring exception, thanks to my phenomenal parents who spoiled me with three days of indulgent mountain vacationing.

After a gnarly day of skiing in a mild snowstorm left me too exhausted and sore to hit the slopes again, I joined my mother for a morning spent exploring the charming (read: expensive) area of Vail Village.

We strolled through the cobblestone streets, admiring enticing window displays with exquisite clothing, not daring to enter the shops for fear of the inevitably outrageous price tags attached to everything. Alongside the exclusive boutiques sat restaurants, gear rental shops, and a handful of lodging establishments. 

As two women who pride ourselves on bargain bin finds and snagging swag during sales, we didn’t even bother stepping inside the ritzy shops – a 10% discount on a $200 jacket doesn’t quite tickle our fancy. Instead, we played with our cameras and searched for a tempting eatery as we planned the evening’s dinner.

Aside from the absurdly priced shops that line the quaintly designed streets, Vail Village is a great little area to spend a few hours meandering around, taking in the snowy sights, and ogling crowds of bundled-up skiers and snowboarders heading towards the slopes. 

Some of my favorite stops included the pedestrian covered bridge in the heart of the village, the Colorado Ski Museum (which is FREE), and the two ice rinks that sit in the middle of the shopping areas.

Okay, so maybe the Colorado Ski Museum is more of an extensive giftshop with a lot of really cool ski and snowboard memorbilia – and maybe it’s attached to the middle of the giant Vail parking garage – but check it out, it’s pretty cool!

To be fair, not every shop is loaded with overpriced clothing; we went into a few little stores that were pleasantly full of unique items and gifts. My favorite encounter was as my family during the morning before we jetted out of the mountains. My father realized something he’d forgotten and loudly said “Crap!” An eccentric woman standing in on of the shop doors, and proceeded to inquire if my dad planned on coming into her shop, since it was the least he could do considering he said “crap” in front of it. We all laughed, and proceeded to get lost in the beautiful ornaments and little decorations she housed in her shop. I’ve generally found that the folks who live and work in Vail are always in good spirits – and it’s no wonder why.

While I won’t likely return to Vail on my own dollar, it was a wonderful experience to spend a few days there with my family. Any occasion when I can share adventures with my parents is always thoroughly enjoyed, and it was great to finally try skiing in the Rocky Mountains before I left for Florida.
 

The five best joints to grab a great meal while visiting Vail, Colorado

There is only one thing I do better than exploring the outdoors, and that’s stuffing my face with tantalizing food. I’m partial to local eateries, but can easily be swayed by any savory wafting scent.

During my visit to Vail, CO, I honestly spent more time gorging my gut than I did burning off those calories on the slopes. My skiing may have only made it to the bunny slopes, but my dining experiences were certainly epic adventures.

Here’s a look at the best places to grab a bite while visiting the luscious mountainside at Vail:

Pazzo’s Pizzeria

Don’t let the restaurant name fool you; I munched on nary a thin-crust nor pepperoni during my visit to Pazzo’s Pizzeria. My mother and I stumbled upon this gem while wandering through Vail Village very, very early in the morning. I had worked up an appetite, so we randomly stumbled into this shop since the idea of a slice of pizza before 10:00 AM somehow sounded fantastic to me.

Of course, there was no pizza to be had. Apparently this place cooks up breakfast, and since I was starving, I decided to nix my early bird pizza fantasies and ordered a breakfast burrito. Holy mother of tortillas – this thing was unreal. I can’t even imagine how large the flour tortilla really was, nor do I understand how all the fillings fit inside the perfectly wrapped giant. The monster was stuffed with scrambled eggs, green pepper, onion, tomato, ham, and refried beans – then slathered with a spicy red chili, salsa, sour cream, and shredded cheese.

I think the picture speaks for itself, but this was hands down the best breakfast burrito I’ve ever had in my entire life. I would drive back to Vail solely to munch on it again – and I’m dying to try their pizza, because it must be phenomenal if their breakfast is this good.

The Little Diner

I already blogged about my adoration for The Little Diner, but this quaint spot deserves mention while talking about the best places to eat in Vail.

The tiny countertop seating area is jam-packed by 8:30 AM, a testament to this little joint’s big servings of awesome. You watch the cooks prepare each meal in the very small kitchen area, and I didn’t see a single thing roll out of there that I didn’t want to dig my face into.

On any other day, the bursting amount of food consumed during a visit to The Little Diner would have left me napping all afternoon with a seriously bloated belly, but it’s the perfect way to begin your day when you’re planning to spend an entire day traversing a mountain with two skis strapped to your feet.

My advice? They open up shop at 7:30 – so set your alarm early if you want to snag a seat without waiting.

Vail Chop House

Sitting directly across from the gondola at the bottom of the mountain, the Vail Chop House provides pristine views of the slopes, and offers a great outdoor patio that is surprisingly pleasant during a sunny day – even if it’s only 30 degrees outside.

My mother and I set up shop at one of the outdoor tables while we waited for my dad to finish up his morning ski runs. At first, we decided to only order drinks. We each ordered an ‘adult’ butterscotch hot chocolate – and it was lip-licking, belly-warming, sticky fingers wonderful. Topped with a dollop of whipped cream, and with liquor perfectly masked by the sweetest of butterscotch liquor combined with the smooth taste of chocolate and Bailey’s; this beverage was divine.

My father finally showed up at the bottom of the run an hour, and four hot chocolates, later. At that point, my belly had digested the massive breakfast burrito from earlier, and was ready to gorge again. We sampled the miniature sliders with a side of fries, and weren’t disappointed.

This place is slightly pricey, but still doesn’t even compare to the majority of expensive eateries found in sophisticated Vail.

Sushi Oka

With two drunk parents leaving dinner plans up to me, I did my usual research on Yelp before deciding to venture to Sushi Oka for our last night’s dinner. I’ve been on a bit of a sushi kick lately, so I wanted to see what Vail had to offer.

We made our way to Vail Village from our Marriott Lodge room via the complimentary shuttle service that runs throughout the vicinity, and quickly found the sushi shop, which I had noticed earlier in the day. We started the meal with edamame and sake, score.

I must admit, while I am smitten with sushi, I’m not the biggest raw fish fan – blasphemy, I know. I ordered a fat roll topped with baked halibut and stuffed with all manner of tasty ingredients like fresh crab and creamy avocado. It was fantastic, as was my mother’s order of pad thai. Unlike the traditional flavors of pad thai, this batch had a unique hint of tomato sauce that we all enjoyed – but be warned, it is extremely spicy.

Moe’s Original BBQ

This place deserves an honorable mention, not so much for their food, but for the atmosphere.

We sauntered over to Moe’s after the first day of skiing, totally exhausted, pretty drunk, and very hungry. Much to my delight, there was an excellent bluegrass band jamming out near the bar. +100 points for the banjo music.

I’ve eaten at a Moe’s BBQ in Denver once, but never got the chance to try their version of my two favorite barbeque stapes: mac-n-cheese and baked beans. Hats off to this joint for totally satisfying my taste buds with thick, sweet beans and hearty mac that filled my belly.

Another +100 for the Pabst Blue Ribbon tall boys. My parents and I had a blast munching on ribs, sipping our tall boys, and taking in the great music.

This is admittedly not the most amazing place to eat while you’re in Vail – but if you’re looking for comfort food, no-frills service, and a hospitable atmosphere, you’re in the right place.

I didn’t come to Vail for the food, but the tasty eats I enjoyed before and after my skiing quickly became some of the highlights of the trip. Where’s the joy in spending a day burning calories if you can’t refuel afterwards?

Looking for a casual, chummy stop for an après-ski libation? Check out Garfinkle’s at the bottom of the main slope, a few shops to the right of Vail Chop House. I didn’t eat here, so it didn’t have a place on my list of the best bites in Vail – but I downed my fair share of beverages with my ski lesson buddy Kelsey after our class ended. Strong drinks, reasonable prices, and a great atmosphere for us everyday folk.

Announcing a bittersweet shift from snowy Colorado mountaintops to humid Floridian flatlands

If you haven’t figured it out by now, my life is a constantly evolving adventure. It’s taken me from the shores of the Atlantic to the rocky cliffs of the Pacific, from lazy living in Tallahassee to a spontaneous move out to Denver, and on more whimsical outings that I can remember.

And along my journeys,
there is always an element of constant change.

As with many of my announcements, this may not come as a shock to those who chat with me frequently, but may come as a surprise to many of my readers. It is with a heavy, bittersweet heart that I announce:

I’m leaving Colorado next week.

But I just got here. After a very short six months of living, exploring, and adventuring in and around Denver, Colorado, I am packing up my meager belongings and preparing to return to the southeast.

But I just got here! I roughed out the frigid winter months, braved my first snow season, and here I am, gearing up to ditch the Rockies right before the spring sets in. The gorgeous warm months in Colorado are part of the reason I moved out here, and now I’m leaving before it even begins. Sigh.As my lady friend Gina Bégin discovered during her own unexpected move, part of being a full-time adventurer is rolling with the punches – whether you feel particularly fond towards those punches or not. A combination of losing some freelance markets while LivingSocial ‘rethinks’ their business strategy, and coming upon a project in South Florida that I feel truly passionate about influenced my decision to pack up and head ‘home.’

These next few weeks will be an absolutely whirlwind for me. In two short days, eight of my climbing buddies from Tallahassee will be visiting for their spring break – which means a lot of climbing, and not a lot of time to prepare for moving. If I survive the week, Niko and I will be driving from Denver to Florida on March 9th. I’ll then spend a few weeks in Tallahassee preparing for the annual Save the South competition at Tally Rock Gym before finally trekking down to Miami to unload my carload of junk.

So what comes next?

After my frantic move across the country, I’ll be alternating between bouts of working in Miami and traveling around the southeast for climbing. I’ve already got an April ladies’ trip in the works; a week or so of camping and climbing in Tennessee and Georgia, followed by a ‘writer’s retreat’ in Chattanooga while shacking up at The Crash Pad. Other than that, I plan on spending the rest of the year training for climbing.

And naturally, a few cross-country road trips for conferences, outdoor expos, and generally adventuring are also on the agenda – but you’ll just have to stay tuned for those.

Send good travel vibes, I’m certainly going to need them!

The day I became a skiing snow bunny at the top of Vail Mountain in Colorado

Note: Excuse the lack of my usual high-quality photos a la my Nikon D7000 – all of these photos were taken on an iPhone 4s due to the sketchy weather conditions on the mountain. Stay tuned for a slew of the usual photography during upcoming posts that explore Vail Village and more!

After an unpleasantly exhilarating drive into the mountains with whiteout snow conditions, a handful of hours spent snoozing on the plush pillows of the Vail Marriott Mountain Resort, and a massive breakfast feast at The Little Diner, the time came for me to finally learn how to ski.

I think my favorite aspect of Vail is the accessibility of absolutely everything. The main mountain gondola, ticket area, and rental centers were situated amongst numerous restaurants and quaint shops sitting a short five-minute walk from my cozy hotel room. The more historic and happening Vail Village was settled a few minutes up the road, but all areas on this mountain are easily accessible via complimentary shuttle services.

I scoped out the crowd of eager early bird boarders and skiers before wandering around the square in search of what I needed to do to secure a beginner lesson and some sweet ski gear.

While being outfitted for my skis and boots in the warm rental facility, I bumped into another woman, Kelsey, who was also gearing up for the beginner course – instant friends, thanks to our common I-have-no-idea-what-I’m-doing perspectives.

My fellow snowy ski-mates included my comrade Kelsey from San Francisco, a Tampa chick who had never before seen snow, a friendly married couple, David and Michelle, a funny man named Jeffrey who had already taken a lesson the day before, and Karen, our fearless leader on the bunny slopes. We quickly lost Natalie from Tampa, as well as the female half of our married duo, but the remaining bunch stayed together for the remainder of the day.

Unlike my uncomfortable slope fumbling that I struggled with while snowboarding in Lake Tahoe, skiing came naturally and flowed like an activity I had know how to do all my life. After Karen taught us the fundamentals of our new winter hobby, the real lesson began on gently curved miniature slopes.

I am proud to say that I only fell a total of three times during my entire day – if you don’t count two incidents where my unstoppable speed caused me to just kind of sit on the snow to slow down. Where snowboarding left me feeling anxious and uneasy, skiing was a snow sport I could actually excel in. Picking up speed wasn’t a harrowing rush of adrenaline, turning was a fluid, controlled process, and by the end of the day, I had learned how to come to a safe stop on my own accord.

There’s really only one thing I can say:

I love skiing.

The weather conditions weren’t exactly ideal on this day, with gusty wind that left me flabbergasted as Karen bellowed instructions to “keep your eyes where you want to go,” while the gray snowy winds were entirely destroying any visibility in front of me. Regardless of the iffy mountain conditions, our group had a fantastic day learning the ropes and putting our newfound skills to the test.

Plus, occasional periods of particularly ugly bouts of weather offered an ideal excuse for our crew to take a break and warm our fingertips in the dining hall area.

By the end of the day, I was skiing laps down the big beginner slope and sharing the lift back to the top with my fellow skiers Jeffrey and David over and over again. Kelsey was a bit shaken after a high-speed crash into a crowd of us waiting at the bottom of the bunny slope conveyor belts, but she eventually braved a run down the beginner terrain as well – largely because I kept motivating her with the promise of free drinks if she stayed with me all day.

At 3:30, Karen reminded us that our long lesson was finally over, and our group rode the gondola back down to the Vail courtyard area. We bid our farewells, and then Kelsey and I returned our rental gear before indulging in those highly anticipated libations.

We shared tequila and whiskey shots at Garfinkles, a casual dive bar conveniently sitting right next to the slopes. Her boyfriend and his cohorts had gotten a hefty head start on the drinking, so Kelsey and I worked to catch up. We exchanged battle stories of our respective days, downed wine and mai tais, and although I can’t quite recall all the details, I remember there was a lot of boisterous laughter being exchanged.Effectively hammered (that high elevation will get ya), I returned to the hotel room where my parents were waiting to head out to dinner. We journeyed to Moe’s BBQ, which happened to be featuring a live banjo band. The funky music combined with extra tall 24 oz. Pabst Blue Ribbons, and savory bites of saucy ribs provided the perfect way to top off an extraordinary day.

I’m telling you: If you ever find yourself taking a lesson at Vail –

Ask for Karen!

She was the best instructor, and I honestly give her full credit for my success as a novice skier. Her gentle demeanor combined with a relentless motivation helped to develop my skills and foster my confidence on the mountain. Our group planned to reconnect the next day for a second lesson, but my toes once again bailed out on the cold, and with painfully swollen feet, I was unable to make it back for another early morning session.

Karen, if you’re reading this – thank you a thousand times!
I had a phenomenal experience braving the brutal weather with you
and our little crew, and am already eager to get back on the slopes.

Starting a day of skiing in Vail, Colorado with a big breakfast from The Little Diner

The trek from Denver to Vail was a harrowing experience packed with white-out snow conditions, icy roads, and the thrill of reuniting with my parents to explore the wintry Colorado mountains. We arrived at the Vail Marriott Mountain Lodge a bit around midnight, and quickly crashed into plush beds.

In the morning, we woke at the crack of dawn to make an early breakfast at The Little Diner, which had attracted my attention with rave Yelp reviews and claims that it offered reasonable prices – a miracle in this expensive ski town. Arriving shortly after the tiny eatery opened, we easily snagged seats along the U-shaped counter, which offers space for less than two dozen hungry patrons at a time. The cozy, open atmosphere of this little shop reminded me of my favorite Cuban eatery in Miami, Ruben’s. The menu offers a variety of early morning grub, from traditional breakfast skillets to sweet and savory crepes. The small cooking space is situated in the middle of the counter area, so you get a meal and an entertaining experience at the same time. My bar stool sat next to the grill, and as soon as I laid my eyes on huge chunks of sizzling hash browns, I knew I had to try them.

As usual, I ordered the traditional breakfast platter with wheat toast, scrambled eggs (with cheese, of course), homemade hash browns, and extra crispy bacon. My father opted for the chunky french toast – another dish that was prepared right under my nose, and smelled delicious. Always the elegant one of the group, my mother was keen on sinking her teeth into a spinach, mushroom, and egg crepe.

Everything tasted outrageous. Not one for fancy plates and food that looks more artistic than edible, I can always appreciate a home-style helping of hearty grub. I surprised myself by demolishing the entire platter, even though I was stuffed full about halfway through. I regret not snagging a bite of the thick french toast that was sitting just inches away from me at the counter, but I definitely enjoyed a small sampling of the healthy crepe my mother ate.

Don’t let the title or cramped quarters of The Little Diner fool you; this restaurant packs big flavor and breakfast satisfaction into generous portions that will leave you struggling to clean your plate. Being early birds, we were amongst the first handful of people to arrive at the joint, but by the time we left, the diner was jam-packed with eager snow bunnies waiting to load up on savory goodness before hitting the slopes. I wouldn’t have asked for a better way to start my first day of skiing in Vail, Colorado.

Getting stoked on the wintry Vail spirit?
Stay tuned for updates on my very first ski lesson, exploring Vail Village, and more!

Hittin’ the road – I’m going to the winter X Games in Aspen, CO!

Often times, travel plans involve weeks of planning, coordination, and thought – and then sometimes, plans just present themselves as just the right moment. This rare, serendipitous style of traveling on a whim so delightfully brought about this announcement:

I’m going to Aspen for the 2012 Winter X Games!

Anyone familiar with my lifestyle knows that while I would like to portray myself as a spontaneous fun-loving road tripper, I am actually quite keen on practicing my planning and organizational skills before I hit the road. However, this was simply one of those opportunities where you just have to say “I’m in!” – and hope that it all works out.

Here’s how it went down.

Last week, entirely out of the blue, my wild climbing buddy Dan sent me a message that read something like this:

“Boue! You should come up with Adam! We’re goin to Aspen next week for the X Games – got a house and lift tickets, you should come play, plus maybe ice climbing in Ouray. Think this trip is right up your alley. No Excuses!”

Committed to using my time here in Colorado to do as much exploring as possible, this proposition immediately piqued my interest. Free place to stay? Check. Free ride out to Aspen (since my tiny Scion tC doesn’t take well to snowy mountain drives)? Check. A legendary sporting event with free admission? Check! It didn’t take me long to decide that I was in.

After a long week of deadlines, social media marketing, photo editing, and all the usual fuss, I’ll be dusting off my winter gear and road tripping out to Vail and Aspen for a wild weekend of skiing, snowboarding, and presumably, heaps of beer drinking. Can’t wait to return with a full report and a camera full of photos for your viewing pleasure.

UPDATE: I am so not going to the X Games anymore – oops. As quickly as those plans so whimsically came together, they rapidly fell apart. Between a series of miscommunications about driving dates, accommodations, and work schedules, it ended up in such a mess that I am sadly no longer going to be heading out to Aspen this weekend. Oh well, such is life!

As always, you can follow my adventures as they happen via Twitter (@themorningfresh).
Heading to Aspen this weekend too? Drop me a tweet, I’ll buy you a beer!

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