I featured Commons Park Bridge in an earlier post. You can see the railings below in the bottom left corner of that picture.Commons Park, along Little Raven Street in Denver’s Central Platte Valley, offers wide lawns to walk your dog or play frisbee or sunbathe. Native plants fill the edges of the park down to the South Platte River trail.
I both love and hate to walk this bridge. It connects Commons Park, a park landscaped with native plants along Little Raven Street in Denver’s Central Platte Valley, with Commons Park West, a newish condo development on Platte Street. It provides great views of the South Platte River, but whenever I stand there while someone goes by on foot or on a bike, I shiver at the vibrations. Commons Park offers wide lawns to walk your dog or play frisbee or sunbathe. Native plants fill the edges of the park down to the South Platte River trail.
Denver bridges are the subjects of my photos posts this week, on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. One of my favorite subjects is the span over I-25 that connects Lower Highlands to the Central Platte Valley. I took this photo from the courtyard at 16th and Platte Streets, with Colt and Gray restaurant on my left and Salvagetti Bicycle Workshop to the right. I had some fun playing with the black point in this picture, which produces results similar to increasing contrast.
I walked by My Brother’s Bar in Denver’s South Platte neighborhood many a time and could not fathom what might be happening behind the white half-curtains. This Denver landmark has a symbol outside but no sign. I was, I confess, a bit intimidated. Would it be one of those bars where a bunch of paunchy men turned around in unison and squinted at me?
Now I’ve been there twice, both times with company, and I can confidently say that I wouldn’t mind going there by myself and taking a seat at the bar. Though I’m not sure how long I would stay, because the round-back chairs are nowhere near as comfortable as the atmosphere.
My Brother’s Bar, at 15th and Platte Street, just northwest of the South Platte River, is known for being “Denver’s oldest saloon still serving booze on the original site,” according to Tom Noel. An establishment called “Highland House” opened there in 1873 and served Denver’s Italian immigrant community. In the late 1800s, the neighborhood sometimes called Lower Highlands and sometimes called the Central Platte Valley (even though the river is named the South Platte) was sparsely settled. Since then, several different bars have come and gone in that corner building, and the neighborhood is one of Denver’s trendiest.
The bar has a reputation for making good burgers, so when Todd and I went there one Saturday, that’s what we ordered. I chose the jalapeno cream cheese burger, and Todd negotiated with the waitress over a chili cheeseburger. She said she could bring him a cheeseburger and a cup of chili, but not the two together. When she brought our order, we understood why: the burgers are served wrapped in paper rather than on a plate. Saves washing dishes, I guess.
If you want a great burger, I recommend Larkburger (there are locations in Boulder and Greenwood Village). If you want atmosphere, go to My Brother’s Bar, where the host says, “Have fun!” and the servers are mellow and Girl Scout Thin Mints are stacked along the front wall and up the stairs. The menu offers a variety of bar food, including vegetarian items. You can drink a glass from a small but quirky wine list or a craft beer such as Twisted Pine or Samurai or order from the full bar.
My Brother’s Bar is on the Beat Poetry Driving Tour of Denver.
Looks like it will be a good weekend to be out and about. Unless, of course, you’re at home watching the X Games. Here’s a picture of one end of the Commons Park bridge over the South Platte River.
Here’s a bit of news from 5280 magazine that I find disturbing. William Dean Singleton, chairman and publisher of the Denver Post, will be making more than $1 million after the restructuring of Affiliated Media of Denver, which owns the Post and more than 50 other newspapers. Apparently, the restructuring was done in such a way as to give Bank of America an 88% share in Affiliated Media. That doesn’t give me confidence in the news. What do you think?
Here’s the 5280 blog post.
Also this weekend: my husband is showing Birthday Girl, the test shoot for his film Kung Fu Sushi Chefs, at the Bug Theater at 37th and Navajo. Here is the trailer on YouTube.
The Denver Jewish Film Festival has a launch party February 2. The festival opens February 11.
It’s a cold, gray day in Denver, and I’m feeling in need of comfort as I write this.
Luckily, there is a shop in Denver called Sanctuary, on Platte Street near 16th Street. It’s next door to Salvagetti Bike Workshop and half a block down Platte from Colt and Gray.
Sanctuary is the jumping-off point for Wade Richards’s interior design business. One thing he likes to do is to take old furniture and make it lovely and new again. When I visited Sanctuary last Sunday, I saw, kittycorner to the greeting cards, half a wall of fabric swatches and a table holding design books.
I couldn’t help but notice this chair, reupholstered with Argentinian cowhides that have been stenciled to look like wild animal skins. It sits in front of a display of framed sayings and another of barware. To the right, on the shelves on the wall, you’ll find some R&Y Augousti accessories and a small card that reads: “It is a privilege for us to carry this unique French line of handmade accessories.”
Everything about the store, including the clerk, was gracious like that.
(Though I’m not sure I approve entirely of R&Y Augousti, since they use materials like python and stingray skin and exotic shells. I would need to learn more about where they get their materials. Also, their website requested my address before it would allow me to look at their collections. I guess the website wasn’t kidding when it called the husband-and-wife team “self-confessed control freaks.”)
Sanctuary also carries Zents body care products, made in Denver of natural ingredients and, apparently, beloved of celebrities.
It was the little touches that I liked most about Sanctuary: the frogs everywhere, black glass skull candleholders by Two’s Company, these candelabra, wire bowls, fair trade scarves in bright patterns, Vita Moda Italian purses, and Table Topics games, which pose questions to start conversations to relieve that awkward silence at your very first dinner party. And this piggy bank.
My favorite item was the book 365 Ways to Save the Earth by Philippe Bourseiller, an outsize coffee table book with stunning photographs. At $30, it’s cheaper than most of the items at the store, but if you check the website, you’ll notice tabs for “under $30” and “under $70.”
Sanctuary reminded me of Bouquets on 15th Street in LoDo, but I think I am more likely to buy something at Sanctuary. Not because one store is better than the other; it’s just a matter of personal taste.
In yesterday’s post about Little Raven Vineyards, I mentioned Skyler Weekes was staffing the store last Sunday. In addition to working as a sommelier at Little Raven, Skyler has his own business selling wine barrels to be used as furniture or for aging beer, wine, or spirits.
The website for Rocky Mountain Barrel has a different email address than the card he gave me. So if you try to reach the company, I suggest trying sweekes at rockymountainbarrelcompany or skyweekes at gmail.
On Sunday I set out to visit 2 wine stores in the Central Platte Valley: Little Raven Vineyards, on the river side of the Millennium Bridge, and Corks, on Platte at 16th Street.
One thing they had in common: I didn’t recognize most of the wines at either store. It’s amazing how many wineries there are. Learning wine is like exploring the universe—it’s always expanding around you.
The main difference: Just about everything else.
Little Raven Vineyards (LRV), which is, according to Glenn Ehrlich of Corks, the second wine store in that location, is an elegant place. The wines are arranged by country (except for the North American and Colorado wines), and when you walk in this display of discounted bottles greets you.
LRV’s motto is “A Collection of Undiscovered Wines,” which the owner collects from vineyards around the world. I wrote down quite the list, which I’ve shortened here for you: Double Dog Dare, Mirth, Cupcake (I liked the citrusy chardonnay), Queen of Hearts, Fire Station Red, Sultry, Sinister Hand, Spellbound, Patriarca Chianti Classico, Out Riesling, and the one that appealed most to me because of the label and the blend: the Offering, with 49% grenache, 37% syrah, 13% mourvedre, and 1% viognier.
And those were mostly North American wines plus one Italian. Little Raven has more North American, French, and Italian wines than anything else. I found one Torrontés, Elsa Bianchi from Argentina, which I bought; the store was mostly out of Chilean wines.
Skyler Weekes presided over the store while I was there; as I walked around, I could hear the fan as well as jazz playing softly. The owner is Peter K (What is this, a nineteenth-century novel?).
The atmosphere at Corks, which opened 10 years ago before Platte Street was a destination, was altogether different. I crossed the threshold and nearly ran into a display of sparkling wines, including a Prosecco, Toad Hollow Risqué, and Barefoot Bubbly. I noticed Patron coffee liqueur, which I never knew existed, Cachaça 51, and Foxglove wines. The store carries several of the latter, although its policy is to sell only 1 or 2 wines from smaller vineyards, priced at $15 or under.
(Corks resembles Little Raven in its focus on less well known vineyards. Glenn also pointed out that larger liquor stores can buy the better known brands in quantity and sell them for less than what Corks would pay its distributor.)
Wines aren’t arranged on racks; instead, they’re clustered in crates under signs such as “Crisp—light-bodied” and “Voluptuous—full-bodied.” Unlike Little Raven, where you could walk quickly to a particular wine if you wanted, Corks arranges its wines so that you have to step carefully and, in the process, stop to read the tasting notes provided for every wine.
As I was taking notes on the wineries (Corks carries the Mirth label, as well as Crios wines, a South American vineyard owned by Susan Balbo), I noted Snoqualmie and Geode chardonnays, a No Time Viura-Chardonnay blend, and Bitch wines with a pink label.
Glenn asked me what I was doing, and when I told him about this blog, he mentioned that once a man from a competing store had visited Corks to write down wines his store should be carrying. Glenn thought that was a bit cheeky. We had a long discussion about Colorado liquor laws; I looked them up online and found this under Definitions in the Liquor Code:
(31) “Retail liquor store” means an establishment engaged only in the sale of malt, vinous, and spirituous liquors and soft drinks and mixers, all in sealed containers for consumption off the premises; tobaccos, tobacco products, smokers’ supplies, and nonfood items related to the consumption of such beverages; and liquor-filled candy and food items approved by the state licensing authority, which are prepackaged, labeled, and directly related to the consumption of such beverages and are sold solely for the purpose of cocktail garnish in containers up to sixteen ounces. Nothing in this section shall be construed to authorize the sale of food items that could constitute a snack, a meal, or portion of a meal.
Note that restriction at the end? Liquor stores are not allowed to sell food unless it can be used as part of a drink.
Why is that important? Because grocery stores want to sell regular beer and wine. Ever since the Colorado blue laws were repealed, they claim they’ve been losing money on alcohol sales.
Not so, counters Glenn. It’s true that grocery store liquor sales are down, but all sales are down in this economy. And he said most liquor store owners didn’t want to open on Sunday in the first place.
If McFayden and Veiga of the Colorado state legislature manage to get their bill passed in the current session, grocery stores will be allowed to sell liquor, but liquor stores will not be able to sell food. Glenn says if that law passes, Colorado liquor stores won’t be able to compete.
When I was in Louisiana for Todd’s surgery to correct superior canal dehiscence syndrome, I bought wine at Rouse’s grocery store. I don’t recall seeing a lot of liquor stores on the north shore of Lake Pontchartrain (except for daiquiri drive-throughs), but I didn’t really pay attention. It was convenient to buy a bottle of wine with groceries, I have to admit, but there wasn’t anyone there to discuss wines with me. That is more important to me than convenience.
Colorado, unlike Louisiana, has set up its liquor laws in a way that favors smaller stores, and in this economy, I would like to see those stores stay in business. They return a larger percentage of their revenues to the community than do grocery store chains, which would be the main beneficiary of the proposed changes in liquor laws.
On my way to Sanctuary on Sunday, I stopped in at Paris on the Platte for lunch and decided to try something new: cambric, or Earl Gray tea with steamed milk and cinnamon on top.
I was a little startled when this pitcher appeared, but the waitress assured me it was the smallest size (16 ounces). I drank all 3 or 4 cups, loving the taste of tea plus steamed milk plus cinnamon, even though I knew the entire time that I wouldn’t be able to fall asleep that night. Why is it that tea keeps me up but coffee doesn’t?
For lunch I ordered Zorba the Greek, which was better than the house salad I had on my last visit. To be honest, the two salads are built on the same foundation of romaine lettuce; in this case, cucumbers, feta, olives, red onions and a balsamic vinaigrette made it “Greek.” The salad wasn’t gasping for air under gobs of feta, and the dressing was just a little sweet.
I find lately that I like eating olives a lot more than I did in the past. Must be the change of life.
There was a suspicious incident at the end, when the bill came with a charge for a small pitcher. The waitress corrected the amount, and I paid.
NOTE: Wen Chocolates’s retail location on Platte closed on February 14, 2010. Check out the website for more information.
I was jonesing for Wen Chocolates until Sunday. I went by on January 11, and the store was closed for a long vacation that chef William Poole later explained was no vacation at all because he was rushing from one place to another attending tastings and such.
I think all the employees of Wen deserve a long vacation/trip/whatever. But then I went to the website, and it was down. I started to panic. I started to think I was a jinx. I told myself Wen couldn’t fail because the entire retail outlet is only as big as my kitchen (read: affordable rent) and people are always going in and buying sweets.
So I was relieved during my visit to Denver’s Savory Spice Shop in the South Platte River Valley neighborhood on Sunday to find Wen doing a brisk business. The website is still down as I write this post, for a redesign, and Poole has changed his approach a little bit.
Instead of offering a large selection of truffles, he’s downsized to 8 bestsellers plus 4 others per month plus 1 truffle of the month. (I can’t remember why the 4 additional truffles were selected.)
For example, when I asked about the Milan (on the left), which is a coffee-and-chicory truffle, he said it didn’t do well. I had thought coffee truffles always sold, but what do I know? That one, and others like it, will be coming back sporadically, if at all.
Poole and I also discussed his efforts to make the store eco-friendly. When I first visited Wen in the fall of 2008, employees put the truffles in a plastic bag and then in a cute pink bag with polka dots. (I still have 1 or 2 of those.) I believe there was also a bow involved.
Poole has found plastic bags made of cellulose, which are more expensive than the old ones, but he said he’s willing to eat the cost. He’s not putting shiny stickers on boxes anymore because they don’t decompose, and he’s doing his best to find boxes made of recycled materials. (There are plenty of boxes made from recycled or compostable materials in the world today, but they don’t always come in candy-friendly shapes and sizes.)
I walked out with 2 truffles I bought (Pagan Bunny and Rue Royale), plus another Pagan Bunny and a caramel he gave me for free. To make the Pagan Bunny, on the left, Poole poured chocolate into an antique mold imprinted with a bunny.
I bought the Rue Royale because it involved absinthe, rye whiskey, lemon, and bitters—all that sounded different and cool. I bought the “bunny” because of the name, and butter rum caramel needs no explanation.
The picture, unfortunately, doesn’t do them justice. I would have had better luck photographing them separately outside, but instead I took the picture inside Paris on the Platte, using a flash.
The Rue Royale tasted delicately of absinthe and lemon more than anything else. Absinthe is an anise-flavored spirit that at one time was banned for its supposedly addictive qualities, and I tasted more in the last bite. The Pagan Bunny, according to Poole, contains chocolate from 3 continents and 7 plantations, and he implied it would rock my chocolate world.
I’m not sure I agree, but it did taste dark and earthy, especially after the other candies and an Italian soda.
It would be interesting someday to do a tasting that involved eating 1 food (say, basil) and then tasting a chocolate. And then eating something else salty, or sweet, and tasting the same chocolate. The flavors would fight each other, or blend, or build. And perhaps one of the foods would bring out a flavor in the chocolate that I hadn’t noticed before.
I’ve walked by Colt & Gray many times. I did so on Sunday, looked to my left, and saw a cadre of servers wearing black and white. The front page of the restaurant’s website indicates happy hour begins at 4:30 on Sunday, but things didn’t look promising. (And the happy hour page has happy hour on Monday through Thursday only. A little more consistency, please.)
According to one conversation I overheard, Colt & Gray has the best burgers in Denver. Not to mention pig’s feet. And now I notice they have a twist on the “Vesper” cocktail—and here I am watching Casino Royale: The Remake—and the Riviera is just one of their original cocktails.
Perhaps I should assemble a group, so I won’t feel so intimidated by gangs of servers.
The Colorado Indian Market and Southwest Showcase is happening this weekend at the Merchandise Mart.
Savory Spice Shop in Denver’s South Platte River Valley neighborhood is the kind of place where I could spend hours and lots of money, if I allowed myself. It’s the kind of place that tells me, Yes, Beth, you can be a great cook. You can arrange dinner parties for 10 people and make the main course for the first time that night, and it will be perfect. And to do so, you need to buy this salt,
And you might want to read all these books first (except the one on Colorado place-names). And after that, try the salad dressing mixes and the stocks and the lobster mushrooms and the curries and the BBQ powders. And the “Italian herbs” containing French thyme, Greek oregano, and California basil. (I got a kick out of that.)
What usually happens in stores like these is that I buy far too many herbs and spices (this picture was taken from the cash register), and they sit in my spice drawer and lose flavor. For example, the main reason I went to the Savory Spice Store in the first place was that I checked the date on my dried onions, and it was 2006. The date on the mustard was 1991.
On Sunday, however, I restrained myself for once. I bought the “Toasted Onion, Sliced,” because the clerk said it would add brightness to chicken stock (and I actually have a chicken in my fridge waiting to be cooked in the crock-pot and then turned into stock), and the Summer Savory (also called “Bohnenkraut, or the “bean herb”) because I have never used it before.
Check out the recipes on the Savory Spice Shop website. The sweet potato bisque sounds decadent.
In this picture you can see Wen’s taupe awnings just next door. Of course, I couldn’t resist Wen, but more about that on Thursday.
I love details. I photograph signs, shadows, all the little things. If I ever end up doing landscape photography, I’ll be shocked.
Last Saturday I found beauty in 2 trees, 1 in Lower Highlands and 1 in South Platte.
Across the street from the Smithson Clinic, on Vallejo between 28th and 29th Avenues, I turned to see this gnarly old cottonwood. You don’t see too many of these big cottonwoods in cities anymore. Their spreading roots wreak havoc on plumbing systems and crack driveways and patios. Their branches are weak and often break in storms.Nevertheless I love them and hope more of them grow in the Denver Metro area. Last year Boulder cut down the huge cottonwoods at 75th and Arapahoe so as to add a lane. It would have taken at least 2 people to circle one of those cottonwood trunks; their branches extended out over Arapahoe. I still get mad when I drive by that intersection.
But this post was supposed to be about trees making me happy. Let me try again.
At the end of last Saturday’s walkabout, I took 29th Avenue to 16th Street to the bridge over I-25 that ends at this example of Denver public art.I wrote about it last fall; that post begins and ends with a picture of the bridge. In the courtyard surrounding National Velvet, someone pasted a beautifully detailed paper tree. If you zoom in close enough on the left side of the tree’s canopy, you can almost read the signature: Barney, perhaps.Last Saturday, I visited the tree again. It’s had a difficult winter.There’s more snow now than tree.
I wanted to like Mona’s, truly I did. It serves Morning Fresh Farms eggs and Maverick Ranch beef, both local companies. It makes it own hot sauces. It’s in a cool narrow old building 2 doors next to Scribbles and My Brother’s Bar at the corner of 15th and Platte and has painted concrete floors and walls lined with booths.
I’ve been to Mona’s twice now, once for lunch when I had a salad, and once for brunch with Todd. The first time they sat me in the back, near the bar and a mother and child who were waiting for Dad to come out of the kitchen, in his chef’s whites and a NY cap. My table was dotted with glass and illuminated by the window to its left. Mona’s is full of light and talk. I could hear the voices of diners around the corner, including the distinct voice of one man.
The first time I was tempted by the French onion soup but chose the spinach salad, with raspberry onions and Danish blue cheese and Granny Smith apples and walnuts (which should have been candied). The vinaigrette was just a little sweet. The English muffin I ordered to bulk things up was white bread, naked, lightly toasted, and hot—a perfect combination.
On my second visit, I ordered pancakes instead of the scramble and then regretted getting yet another sweet in a season of sweets. At least I had the sense to leave some of the 3 generously sized blueberry flapjacks on the plate; I did finish the lovely lemon whipped cream and most of the pure maple sugar, for which I paid $1.50 extra.
It was Todd’s choice that really stood out: the huevos rancheros that resembled nothing so much as a huevos salad. Even so, I would have taken it as it was, taco salad bowl and all, but for the romaine strips scattered all over it. That was a little too much new American cuisine. The green chile was spicy enough for me (translation: not too much), the eggs were perfectly scrambled, and the taco bowl, broken up, made great thick chips. But it just didn’t come together into the squishy layered thing.
As I was watching the blond busboy with a camouflage headband clean off this table, Todd commented on how thin all the waitstaff were. “Do they not feed them?” he wanted to know.
I was raised Catholic. Maybe you’ve heard the Jesuit saying attributed to Francis Xavier, “Give me a child until he is 7 and I will show you the man.” Well, the Catholics had me until twice age 7. I never did turn into a man (perhaps that was the problem?) or remain Catholic past high school.
But the legacy remains in a certain ascetic streak exacerbated by my current life and the holiday season. Sometimes I just can’t stand how much stuff I buy, and yet I don’t want to stop. I know I’m not cut out for the pure subsistence lifestyle, but I can’t see my way out of consumerism either.
It was in this mood that I continued my shopping on Monday after buying a fish pillow at Tomte Modern Craft. First I visited Unity, whose store on South Pearl I covered last December, and then Common Era (on the right below), which also has a store in Boulder just east of the Pearl Street Mall.
Don’t know what it is about these stores grounding themselves on Pearl and Platte streets, no matter what the city. I do know that both increase my shopping ambivalence, probably because they’re designed for teens and twenty-somethings, not 47-year-old women with a BMI of 25. Having said that, I was seriously tempted by Unity’s DVLP hoodie at $100. The fact that DVLP hails from Denver and is committed to building an international fashion scene in my city doesn’t hurt.
Neither did these storm trooper cufflinks. I can think of quite a few people who would like them, but they’re not on my gift list. Too bad for them.
Unity’s tiny shop on Platte Street (right next to Sous le Lit) has been open 3 months and features women’s clothes; the South Pearl store had more of a men’s selection. Brands include Lento (“slow” in Spanish), which makes biodegradable hats (now that’s a niche); Livity Outernational; Tom’s Shoes, which donates one pair to a child for every pair bought; and Threads 4 Thought, which makes delicate patterned T-shirts for slender women.
It was only a few steps across Platte to Common Era, which is in between Paris on the Platte and Wen Chocolates. Luckily for my BMI, Wen is not open on Mondays, but that didn’t ease my craving for a Milan truffle.
After checking out a few of the “cutest clothes you’ll ever own,” I decided that everything in Common Era was made in China, but then I found (and tried on) 3 pairs of Closet pants made in the USA and priced around $30. How is that possible? I don’t know. I’m not sure I would have gone for the wide legs even if they had fit. Still, Common Era does know how to display the goods.
Which is my problem.
I was on my way to Sanctuary Home on Monday when I noticed it was closed, turned around, and discovered a new store on Platte Street. A brand-new store, which I think is the baby of Platte Street (though Unity’s second location a few doors down opened this year as well): Tomte Modern Craft.
Opened in October by husband-and-wife team Brett and Crystal from Vital Industries, Tomte sells their screenprinted clothing and glassware (such as these scarves; the bicycle is one of their dominant motifs) as well as handmade items by other artists they met at craft fairs.
The emphasis here is on handmade, which generally means made in the USA, though I did notice one sweater made in China. The T-shirts they purchase for screenprinting are domestic.
I bought a long, narrow, cream-colored pillow made by Chakra Pennywhistle and printed with a swordfish. It’s just what every suburban living room needs. You can find a list of the artists whose works they sell (such as Berkley Illustration cards and Sophia Masri jewelry) on the Tomte website.
Tomte Modern Craft itself is tiny, and several times the owners slipped behind the gold curtain in the picture above and ran upstairs to get something from the “stockroom,” which I suspect is also their home. They’ve definitely made the most of the space they have. The store is two blocks from the corner of Platte and 15th and is right next door to The Other Side Arts.
More than two months ago, I wrote about the courtyard near Colt and Grey in the South Platte neighborhood. One of the photographs I wasn’t able to use in that post was this detail from the courtyard.
If you turn your back on the tree, cross the bike ramp, and peer over the fence, you can find this little haven under the bridge.
Do you ever feel anxiety when you’re coming home? Do you ever worry that today you’ll walk in and find your home has been robbed? Well, imagine leaving your belongings under a bridge.
There were about 10,000 homeless people in the Metro Denver area as of 2006 (I’m sure that number has grown in the past year). To help get them off the streets, try giving to one of the organizations listed below.
Boulder Shelter for the Homeless is my favorite organization. It helps people without imposing religion on them.
I’ve also given money to the Denver Rescue Mission, but I stopped because it spends so much money on marketing and also because it does mix religion with charity. Then again, if it didn’t exist, many more people would be spending nights on the streets.
Catholic Charities runs Samaritan House, located across Park Avenue from the Denver Rescue Mission.
If you’re interested in statewide outreach, try the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless.
You can also help those who still have homes but can’t pay all their bills by contributing to Energy Outreach Colorado.
And if you’re struggling too much this holiday season to mail in a check, try putting a few dollars in the Salvation Army bucket. At least in Broomfield and Boulder Counties, the Salvation Army is in need of donations this year, and every little bit helps.
I’ll open my review of REI with this quote from the website:
What began as a group of 23 mountain climbing buddies is now the nation’s largest consumer cooperative with more than three million active members. But no matter how large we grow, our roots remain firmly planted in the outdoors. Our passion for outdoor adventure is clear, whether you walk into one of our 100-plus stores, phone us, or visit the REI website.
By staying true to our roots, we’ve earned a place on FORTUNE magazine’s list of the “100 Best Companies to Work For” every year since the rankings began in 1998. We work hard to earn our reputation for quality and integrity every day. Our commitment remains the same as when we started out in 1938: to inspire, educate and outfit for a lifetime of outdoor adventure.
REI was established in the Pacific Northwest. Even though it isn’t a homegrown store, I think of it as a local institution. It has several locations in the Denver Metro area, including the Denver “flagship” store, off 15th Street near Platte in the 1901 Denver Tramway building. (This picture was taken at the confluence of the South Platte River and Cherry Creek. Fifteenth Street is off to the right.) I both love and hate visiting that store. As you can see from this picture, it’s huge and has a large selection, but walking up the stairs always gives me the willies. Unfortunately, the women’s clothing section is located upstairs. Every time I go, I ask myself, “Do I really need to look at clothes? I could just stay on this floor and look at backpacks!” If I stay downstairs, I can sit and relax by the fireplace, or read in the bookstore (off to the left in this picture).
I’m a little more comfortable in the Boulder store, which is constructed around a raised central area designed for readings and meetings.
As a member of REI, I get a dividend every year (usually about $20). I can order something online and have it delivered to any store I want for free.
My main complaint about REI is that almost everything in the store is an import. You will find some products made in the USA, such as Patagonia clothing. Last year I found hats made in Boulder and bought two, one for me and one for Todd.
I can’t think of any other store in this area that has such a comprehensive selection of outdoor gear.
I promised you recently I would go back to Scribbles to buy Christmas cards, and I did that today. I also bought a set of cards at the Tattered Cover.
Both met my criteria of being made from recycled paper and not being wrapped in massive amounts of unrecyclable plastic. In fact, the only plastic involved was my credit card. The 20 cards from Mudlark (from TC) came in a box with pears on the cover and an “American proverb” on the box’s inside cover. The 8 blank notes and envelopes from Paper Source (Scribbles) have penguin adults and chicks on the front and come wrapped in a blue band.
I found Scribbles much the same as it was before Halloween: still quiet, with only one other customer in the store; still full of cards and notes and other paper items from 150 vendors, some of whom you won’t find elsewhere, spread out on tables and shelves along the walls. Scribbles is located two doors down from 15th and Platte in Denver’s South Platte Valley neighborhood, between Mona’s and My Brother’s Bar and across from Vitamin Cottage and Wilderness Exchange. Like Mona’s it fits into a long, narrow space that probably used to be a house, though Mona’s seems to have been updated with cement floors. Scribbles has wooden floors painted black and a pressed tin ceiling and brick walls.
I saw one brand at both stores: Green greeting cards company. That was the only one I noticed, though of course I didn’t do a scientific survey.
Scribbles also has an area upstairs where brides-and-grooms-to-be can design their wedding invitations.
I’m going to repeat myself a bit today, to make up for not posting yesterday (I had a copyediting deadline). On Wednesday I showed you pictures of the 16th Street bridge across I-25. Once I descended the stairs from the bridge and crossed the courtyard and Platte Street, I reached Commons Park West, an attractive condo development that borders the South Platte River.
Past the burgundy and forest green condo buildings, I found another bridge, which vibrated as I crossed it. Then I was in Commons Park, which is planted with lots of native grasses and shrubs in addition to bluegrass in the high-traffic areas. I followed the winding paths to Ink! coffee, where I found this sign.
Makes its point, doesn’t it?
But once inside, it’s all very friendly, and the baristas all looked good. The lone female barista, who wore a wide headband, reminded me of one of my neighbors in Broomfield. They made me a smooth, yummy latte, and I sat in a corner of yet another red room to eat some more Wen Chocolates.
The bar was where the action took place: two men there were discussing Colt and Grey, which I had just passed earlier that day. In its short life it’s become renowned as the Denver bar for artisan cocktails, but these guys were discussing the food. Best hamburger he’s ever had, said Mr. Affliction shirt, but “the prices are a little on the high side.”
The barista must have surmised they were hungry because one walked up with a pink box of donuts and opened it. I had my chocolates, but still I was envious.
Later a goth young woman with a skateboard took the listener’s seat and revealed that she lived above Dixon’s restaurant in downtown Denver. Saturday nights, as you might expect, are loud, but it’s quieter in the winter. She said she’s been practicing her skateboarding skills for 6 years.
When I left Paris on the Platte to head over to Ink!, I was expecting a quieter vibe, but I didn’t find it. In addition to the people chatting at the bar, I could hear murmurs from other patrons around the corner, who all seemed very studious when I went jonesing for a seat. Ink! doesn’t offer any really cushy seats, like a couch or a big wing chair, though it does have high chairs and low chairs. But my counter-height chair was comfortable enough for an hour’s worth of reading.
Ink! has locations all over Denver and in Aspen. The one I visited is located in Riverfront Park, just over the Millennium Bridge from Union Station and, past that, downtown Denver.
In Denver’s South Platte River Valley neighborhood, around the corner from Paris on the Platte and right next to Colt and Grey at 16th and Platte, there is a courtyard leading west to a bridge over I-25 and east to a bridge over the South Platte River, Commons Park, and downtown Denver. Next to the bridge is a partial amphitheater that looks like a skateboarder’s dream except for the strategically placed ridges on the seats. The theater surrounds this rather blobulent piece of public art, “Red Velvet” by John McEnroe.
The best part of the courtyard is the circular ramp enabling access to the bridge. I sat there and watched cyclists whiz up and down and around it, coming to and from this bridge leading to the Highland neighborhood.
At Paris on the Platte late Sunday morning, my waitress caught me photographing the menu and whisked it away after she took my order. I felt a little sheepish, but that passed as soon as she brought my “Providence”: 2 pieces of rye bread with an egg over easy on top of each, drizzled with lemon butter and cayenne, all for $3.95. The small house salad (overpriced at $3.95) huddled next to it; the cilantro ranch dressing tasted of hot pepper rather than cilantro.
Denver’s oldest coffeehouse (according to the rather annoying website) is a great place to hang out, though definitely not a quiet place. The fun mix playing while I ate included Modest Mouse and Man Man. Also, those who are sensitive to smoke might be put off by a fume or two wafting in from the smoking room, which is not closed off but somehow manages to meet the legal requirements.
I remember going to Paris on the Platte with my writer’s group in the early 1990s. At that time, there were hardly any businesses in that area. I suppose My Brother’s Bar was open, but I don’t believe REI had moved to the confluence yet. I think Rock Island (1996–2006) was somewhere in the neighborhood, but my sense of Denver was so confused at the time, I remember little but a gray fog with coffeehouses and clubs rearing up out of it.
Paris on the Platte offers many details to delight the eye: brick walls to my left; a black, ridged ceiling near the door; red walls to my right with some of the two-by-fours exposed (Hasn’t that look been done for a while?); and a large beige-and-black chessboard hung diagonally over the counter where you place your orders. Tucked in between the counter and the tables is the coffee roaster. The smoking room is off to the left, and there is a cheery bathroom. (I have a thing about photographing bathrooms. Someday I’ll do a Denver bathrooms series.) There is a wine bar next door that has a separate entrance.
The menu features these categories: Breakfast, Hot Drinks, Cold Drinks (including milkshakes and malts), Boards (finger foods such as cheese and fruit), Sandwiches, Pizza, Salads, and Cakes. Paris on the Platte is located near 16th and Platte.
I reviewed Paris on the Platte again on January 25, 2010.
This week I’ll be taking you on a journey from one side of the South Platte River to the other. Today, I begin on the northwestern side, at Sous le Lit, a shoe and purse boutique on Platte St. across from Wen Chocolates. (Sous le Lit also has locations in Littleton and at SouthGlenn.)
A couple of doors down from Vitamin Cottage, Sous le Lit is a small store. The first thing I saw when I walked in was a selection of disposable cameras and film cameras made from plastic. The clerk showed me a manual for the Holga (on the left), which is apparently quite versatile.
You can also find shoes there you won’t find at the mall,
as well as accessories like this cap and scarf. I think the selection at Sous le Lit was comparable in size to that of Ahimsa Footwear, on 17th Avenue in Uptown, but I liked Ahimsa’s purses better, especially because many are made from recycled or nontoxic materials. Another store that sells stylish purses is Unity on South Pearl.