A Food Tour of Denver

I do a lot of travel (if the blog didn’t give thhatt away).  I have been to a lot of cities both in the country and out of the country.  Denver, in all it’s wonderfulness, has now made the top of my lists.  From the start of my trip to finish, it was just an amazing place to be.  If you read my last blog post, I was down in Denver to spend a long weekend with my sister and celebrate our birthdays.  Also, one of her residency interviews was here buutttt I mean sister’s birthday weekend is definitely the most important thing here haha!
From the moment I arrived in Denver, I felt at home.  The place is filled with art, food, photographic landscapes, and all around pretty wonderful people.  It has a bit of that Southern Charm but with that crunchy granola, ‘we care about what we put in out bodies’ vibe, plus, it’s a super friendly dog city. These were my people!  And this was my foodie mecca!
Kate and I crammed as much as we could in the four days we were there.  I’m sharing mostly our favorite adventures and highlights but there was so much more we enjoyed that I’m not sharing. If you can go there, do!  You won’t be disappointed.  Especially if you’re a foodie.  Or a hiker.  Or a photographer.  Or you really enjoy delicious fresh mountain spring water.  There’s a little something for everyone here!
After a little debate, coming in at the top of our Denver adventure was a food walking tour with Taste of Denver.  This is a fun, locally owned business, run by sisters Lindsay and Chemae.  Not only were we lucky enough to get Chemae, as our wonderful guide, but we also were the only two on the tour that day.  Seriously, that never happens!  It was a one on one experience and Chemae and all the restaurants we visited made it truly a wonderful experience.
We started our day by arriving in Downtown Denver and meeting Chamae at Milk and Honey.  It’s an upscale restaurant, hidden between two shops.  You walk through their entrance and it opens up into a beautiful courtyard (which I’d love to visit in Spring and Summer).  The inside is stunning and the food was delicious! We got to sample Blistered Shishito Peppers, Balsamic Glazed Ribs, and House Cut Fries.  The balsamic glaze was so good I was licking my fingers!  The bar was also nice enough to let me shoot some of the drinks they were making which were just stunning.

Looks good right? I could have stayed here all afternoon and sipped on cocktails but we had places to be and more food to sample!  The nice thing about the tour is there is A LOT of food you get to try.  Everything is small bites, not like full blown dinners, but it’s filling.  I promise.  Plus, after each restaurant, you get to walk to the next place, as your guide talks about the history and city around you.  You’re getting to learn, burn off some calories, and eat all at the same time.  It’s pretty fantastical.

 

Our next stop was Euclid Hall Bar & Kitchen. The building itself is rich with history.  As Chamae told us all about the building we got to sample their house made Beef Short Rib Kielbasa as well as their house-made mustards and kraut.  True story, all the meat from here comes from Colorado animals.  They make and cure almost all their meat. They also have a wonderful drink selection.  We got a coupon for a free drink and we used it!  We came back and sampled some more food and drinks later that evening and it was worth it.

denver-24

We left Euclid Hall to be greeted by Christmas carolers dressed to the nines in 1920s garb and makeup/hair.  The city really goes all out during the holidays and everywhere was decorated beautifully.  Chamae continued to tell us about the history of many of the buildings and city as we made our way to our next stop, Little Owl Coffee, a cute little coffee shop with baristas who know their stuff and do some killer coffee art. The hot beverage on a chilly day, was a perfect break before we started in on some more food. I had a macchiato, while Kate opted for a hot chocolate, and Chamae had a latte.

After warming up we headed to our favorite stop.  And no, it’s not what you would think.  And trust me, everything we had was awesome, so this was a hard decision buutttt after much discussion we both agreed EVOO Marketplace was our favorite stop.  Not your usual food tour stop either, which was why it was so memorable.  It’s a family run shop and the brainchild of a husband and wife team, Mick and Carolyn Major.  The whole store is based on the concept of ‘taste before you buy.’  And taste we did.  All their olive oil and balsamic oils are the highest quality you can buy.  From pressed and infused oils to a HUGE variety of white and balsamic vinegars.  It was so much fun and Carolyn gave us a wonderful lesson before tasting about the processes of their different products.  Then the sampling began, you take a little cup and pour yourself a little oil or vinegar and taste away. So many flavors all in one place, we couldn’t get enough! We loved it so much I got a whole case of different varieties for Christmas gifts.

These aren’t your ‘everyday’ oils and vinegars.  I fell in love with their Sage and Wild Mushroom Olive Oil.  Kate leaned more towards white vinegars while I loved the darks.  All the vinegars are aged in barrels and are either infused or pressed (either aged with the product, or pressed into it in the beginning).  We loved the Cara Cara Vanilla Barrel Aged Balsamic as well as the Grilled Pineapple Balsamic.

After EVOO, we headed out again!  This time, Chamae took us into some historic buildings and bars before we headed to our next destination.  Seriously, aren’t some of these places stunning?

Where ‘pearl’ buttons were first invented for cowboy-ware was in Denver, this is their store now.

Next on the docket was Zoe Ma Ma – Super Yummy Street Food. And yummy food it was!  The owner, Ma Ma, was on hand to talk to about her food.  It’s some of the best Chinese food I’ve ever had.  And it’s all handmade with recipes from Ma Ma herself.  It’s high quality ingredients include fresh homemade organic noodles, cage-free eggs, and all-natural meats.  Not to mention the ‘sauce bar’ they have where you can mix and match different sauces to top all your food with.  We got to indulge in Za Jiang Mian.  It’s a Classic Northern noodle dish with fresh egg noodles, ground pork sauce, and julienned veggies.  Kate and I almost licked the bowls clean.  Plus, the vibe of the whole place was wonderful. It was like you were stepping into a little restaurant in China. I wish we had a few weeks in Denver because I would be back here every week just to try different dishes.

Ma Ma and our guide, Chamae.

Following happy bellies full of noodles, we headed off to Mercantile. It’s kind of like an open air market that specializes in cheeses and meats.  They also have a wide variety of sandwiches, soups, salads, and pastries. It’s one of those places you’d want to come study or read a book so you can keep going back and getting little snacks all day.  It was lovely.  I wish we had time to sample everything, because let’s be honest, cheese is quite frankly one of the greatest foods in the entire world.  We got to try Sheep’s Milk Ricotta from Fruition Farms, it came with little crackers and house-made jam.  It was super yummy.

Our last stop (sadly) was Union Station which was a plethora of different food shops.  We ended with dessert at the Milkbox Ice Creamery.  It was pretty good in the ice cream front.  It’s gmo free, 100% natural, and all sourced from local farms.  I had salted caramel pb cup while Kate had Mocha Chip.

And with that, it was the end of our food tour.  Sad day.  Chamae was nice enough to walk us back to EVOO so we could continue to taste test.  But what a great experience!  Tons of good foods and off the beaten path food stops. Literally the cat’s meow of foodie tours.  If you’re in Denver look up Taste of Denver.  They do all sorts of food tours too! So you can pick and choose what works best for you.

Following our full bellies and food coma, we headed to the Parade of Lights!  What a wonderful holiday tradition!  The city is all lit up and the whole parade is filled with lights!  They have lights on horses, dogs, even Santa!  You name it and it most likely has a glow stick or lights attached.  A fun little excursion that day and a cool thing to see in the city!  It happens every year and even if you miss the Parade, the city itself is all lit up and is lined with little shops all decked out in holiday gear so that’s a pretty photographic experience too!

Now aside from the food tour, Kate and I seriously ate like queens for honestly, really cheap. We probably didn’t spend over $50 a day for three square meals and that’s pretty freaking awesome.  We had three favorite places.  Cafe Paprika was seriously the best. It’s a little hole in the wall and as soon as you pull up you’re hit with the wonderful smells of Mediterranean food wafting in the parking lot.  Mediterranean food and me is like white on rice.  I’m still thinking about the gryo meat (house-made) and mint tea that they pour from authentic teapots wwaayy up in the air. We also tried a dish called Bastilla which is like nothing I’ve ever had (which is rare).  It’s layers of puffed pastry filled with spiced shredded chicken, nuts, savory herbs and topped with powdered sugar and more spices.  Now sounds crazy right? But honestly, it was soo good.  If you’re here in Denver and you have a love affair with Mediterranean food like I do, go here.  You certainly won’t be disappointed!

Next on our list was the the The Denver Biscuit Company.  Confession.  This was the only place we ate at twice.  The biscuits were that good.  They have appeared all over various tv shows, probably most notably Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives.  The biscuits are almost the size of your head and literally melt in your mouth.  The sausage gravy would have any Southern Grandma begging for the recipe and the jams and butters will make you want to get another biscuit just to use them.  If you looked up biscuit in the dictionary, The Denver Biscuit Company’s photo should be there.  They’re that good.

denver-7

Yes, be jealous of that biscuit.  I’m jealous and I already ate there.  Excuse me while I lick the screen.  Last, but not least, on our list was the Boulder Dushanbe Teahouse.  We went here during our day trip to Boulder.  Starting off we drove Boulder Canyon, which is stunning in itself and has great hiking/biking trails as well as a number of pull offs to stop and absorb the beauty around you.  If you have a few hours to spare, take the drive up Boulder Canyon and stop off and hike a bit.

The Dashanbe Teahouse is kind of a combo food, drink, architecture and artwork visit.  The building is breathtaking.  The whole building was created by 40+ artisans from several cities of Tajikistan.  They created the decorative elements the Teahouse, including its hand-carved and hand-painted ceiling, tables, stools, columns, and exterior ceramic panels.  It’s absolutely stunning.  I’d recommend going here even if you’re not hungry.  The craftsmanship of this building is so unbelievable. But we did eat there.  And drink there.  They offer unlimited chai.  YES.  YOU HEARD RIGHT.  UNLIMITED CHAI.  You empty your coffee mug and they REFILL IT.  FOR FREE.  Put that in your pipe and smoke it.  We were in hog heaven.  Add that to the artistry around us and the yummy small plates we had of hummus and veggies and a little sampler plate.  People come here for tea (obviously) and the tea sandwich sit down experience.  You have to have reservations for that, so plan in advance people!

Is your mouth watering yet?  Mine is and I’m the one writing this!  But, in all fairness, I also got to eat all this deliciousness too.  Hopefully that was a good little food tour of Denver.  You can eat like kings and queens for cheap.  Plus, there is soooo much to see!  The scenery is breathtaking, the locals are wonderful, and there are more craft breweries and wineries then I could count!  But go to Denver!  Seriously.  You won’t be disappointed. Especially if you’re a crunchy granola foodie like me!  Until next time! -Alysha

Photography and Writing By:

Alysha Yoder Photography

(b) www.alyshayoderphotoblog.com (w) www.alyshayoderphoto.com

(e) alyshayoderphoto@yahoo.com (p) 610.762.7810

(i) www.instagram.com/ayoderphoto/

Mentioned Restaurant and Business Links:

Cayman Islands, Jamaica, and Mexico… Oh my!

My oh my.. what a wonderful last week and a half it’s been.  And what a week it’s been trying to get back into the flow of.. well, life.  I tried my hardest to chronicle our trip but I certainly got sucked into the moment many times.  So yes, long post, but trying to cram three different countries during a week and a half trip is seriously harder than it looks!

Our family always asks with any event, “What was the best part vs what was the worst part?”  So in Yoder family tradition style, I’ll give you my run down.  The worst, by far was our sucky transportation to and from home.  A cancelled flight (getting there), a delayed flight getting back and a crappy car park service made the beginning and end a wee bit tricky.

My favorite part of the trip… that’s a harder one to narrow down.  I always LOVE spending time with my little sister, it’s fantastic to catch up on life.  We did a cave excursion in the Mexican jungle, which might be one of the coolest things I’ve ever done. We also ate soo many wonderful meals, I couldn’t even choose a favorite.

The hubs and I are truly blessed to be able to travel and explore like we do.  We certainly both have the travel bug baaddd and before kids, we want to see as much of the world as we can! Now, I already covered the first 1/2 day that we were in New Orleans (check it out here).  We couldn’t leave Nola without a little Cafe du Monde treat, so beignets and coffee au laits were had before we boarded the ship. We braved the rain in hopes of seeing a New Orleans Style Easter Parade, but sadly it was postponed due to rain. We did however get to see lots of people dressed to the nines, as well as a lot of ladies wearing some pretty fantastic hats!

Kate, shortly thereafter, dropped us off at the cruise port where we waited to board (excited waiting for our shuttle as you can see).  This, unlike many cruises, started in fresh water.  We spent sunset sailing down the Mississippi River, drinking Pina Coladas and went to the ship’s steakhouse for a truly amaaazaballls dinner.  If you went the first night, you got a free bottle of wine, which is always a perk in our book!

If you look close in the first pic, you can see New Orleans off in the distance.

Caesar salad, french onion soup and lobster crab bisque.

Surf and turf, filet, hazelnut cheesecake and chocolate sampler.

After two days at sea, our first stop was Jamaica.  We had a wonderful tour guide named Brooks from Real Tours Jamaica. We were picked up at port and headed out to swim with dolphins.  I was so excited to test out my new waterproof camera!  We got to swim and touch stingrays, get ‘kissed’ by dolphins, and see a nurse shark.  Sadly, upon arriving, we realized that they wouldn’t let me take my camera in with the dolphins, instead, charging $100+ for a disc of our ‘dolphin photos.’ Now I’m all for supporting photographers (as I am one, duh), but this kind of seemed shitty. I literally had bought a camera for this, and I couldn’t justify spending more money on this excursion.  However, I got to take some of the stingrays (which allowed cameras.. odd) AND the dolphins when we were out of the water.  They also had a camel and ostriches, I know… super random on a tropical Caribbean Island.  But it made us laugh.

After we dried off, we got back in our van and headed to Seven Mile Beach (we went to one in The Cayman Islands too so stay tuned).  Our guide, Brooks, filled us in with little facts about all the island and it’s history.  Seriously though, arriving on the beach, I swear, it looks like a post card. White sand, blue water.  Perfection.  Brooks arranged for our authentic Jamaican lunch (jerk chicken.. yeeeess), while we jumped in and pretty much floated away, enjoying this beautiful beach.

Sean clearly, very much in his happy place.

Our awesome lunch with the view of the beach.

Sadly, as anyone who cruises knows, you have to get back to the boat.  If you don’t, they’ll leave you.  I’m not kidding.  You miss getting on board, you’re left behind.  Now granted, I could have stayed on that beach for a few days.. well.. weeks lol, but we had other places to see!  Off we went for to our next port, the Cayman Islands!!

Us heading out on a tender and our ship, The Carnival Dream.

Now seriously, bit of cruise advice.  Do your research.  We really just wanted to head to Seven Mile Beach in the Cayman Islands (which is actually just 5.5 miles, little factoid there).  It’s supposed to be one of the best beaches in the world, and we’re sucker’s for clear blue water.  However, excursions on the boat were $40-50 per person.  Now that’s all well and good, but being the travel junkies we are, a taxi there couldn’t be a ton.  We had to take a tender from the ship, landed ourselves a taxi driver (they’re literally waiting for you with signs when you get off), and paid $4 + $4 tip to get to where we needed to go.  Saved about $80.  So just be aware, before your cruise or vacation, get to know your port. The beach lived up to it’s reputation.  While there were more people (lots of ships docked that day), there was plenty of sand for us.  We even had a few tropical fish follow us.  One wouldn’t leave Sean alone and just circled his legs.  Got to play with the new camera and got some pretty unique shots. Almost looks like the fish are swimming in the clouds, cool right?

All in all it was a blast.  We definitely stayed a weeee bit too long in the sun; and paid the price for it later that night.  It is harder then you’d think to lay in the bed without anything touching your shoulders.  I’m pretty sure we were both putting off nuclear heat lol. But onto our last port, MEXICO!

This was my favorite port by far.  This is also completely and totally because of the AWESOME excursion we did.  We booked this one with our cruise ship and it was run by Cancun Adventures.  Stepping off the boat into Mexico is an experience in itself;  from all the tequila, street vendors, and hilarious huge statues to take pictures of from a ‘zonkey’, to a life size cake you could climb in, to huge gross feet you could ‘pretend were you own.’ We went for a photo in front of the town marker, but hey, to each their own lol.

The port itself is beautiful though.  All the water and sand.  Stunning. We met up with our guide, and headed for a 20-30 minute ferry ride to the mainland.  It was rough.  Like seriously rough.  They were handing out barf bags.  Annnndd selling tubes of tequila, which they referred to as ‘Mexican Breakfast.’ It was an experience.

Travel-233

Travel-164

That yellow and blue boat in the background was our ferry.

Our first stop was to go snorkeling with tropical fish.  Some cool facts, where we swam, fresh water and salt water met.  The two don’t combine and instead stay separated.  When you’re swimming it actually kind of looks like there is a layer of ‘oil’ in the middle of the water. It’s very cool. But you’ll see a bit of a blur/distortion in some of the photos, and that’s what it is. We were also told not to put on sunscreen or insect repellent, as it affects both the fish and the coral/plants growing in the water.  It was the hubs first time snorkeling, so a new cool experience for him too!

And at that point, I was in hog heaven and was thinking, ‘seriously… this can’t get any better.’  Well guess what?!  It did.  It got SOO much better.  The photos on Carnival’s website don’t do this justice.  I thought we were going to strap on a hard hat and go into a lit cave and walk around.  No, no, NO.  First we head in the bus for about a 30 minute drive.  We actually passed Nicolas Cage’s house. For real.  Here it is.

Travel-165

From there we head into the jungle.  Yes, the Mexican jungle (you know jaguars, iguanas, snakes.. jungle).  There are still native Mayan’s living in this jungle.  Our guide pointed out their homes and school.  They use this cave as revenue for the village.  Here’s one of their traditional homes.

After that we arrived at the cave or as they call it ‘canote’, which refers to a natural pit or sinkhole made from the collapse of limestone. Most of these places are sacred to the Mayan people.  We straped on hardhats with lights and life jackets and just jumped in.  The water itself was quite cold, but it was beautifully clear and blue.  There were tons of little fish, and a few medium sized black catfish swimming around.

After everyone in our group was in, our tour guide proceeded to lead us deep into this cave.  Bats have also made their homes here.  They are flying throughout, and occasionally you can look up and see large groups of them. Stalagmites and stalactites are everywhere.  Did you know it takes them 100 YEARS to grow 1 centimeter??? At some points as we’re swimming through, they’re only a few inches from our heads.  The cave’s bottom is sandy and rocky and sometimes will just drop.  So you could be walking and then end up in deep water.  It was pretty awesome.  I felt like a bad ass adventurer for sure!

Various clusters of bats hanging from the ceiling when you looked up.

Travel-193

Believe it or not, these are actually tree roots that have grown from the surface.

No…. lol, I know what you’re thinking… the tall hubs didn’t break that off.  Limestone is so soft that when they have earthquakes some of the stalagmites and stalactites snap.  They actually have to close down the caves for around 2 weeks to make sure everything is still stable.  A few different kinds of stalagmites and stalactites are shown above.  The curvy one is the drapery variety while the very thin pointy ones are the straw variety.

Travel-228

One of my favorite shots from the trip.  The water droplets on the lens add a little something.

I don’t know if the photos do it justice, but that was one of the coolest things I’ve ever done.  I’m also glad I didn’t get eaten by a python or something, but all in all a wonderful, wonderful excursion.  After returning our gear, we headed back into town for some authentic Mexican food (soooo good) and got to see some cool shops.  Also, we indulged in a margarita and a mojito mmmm.

Sadly, that was our last port for our cruise.  This was followed by a day of relaxing back on the ship and heading back to New Orleans!  We lucked out that my sister had the week off from school (this almost never happens).  The ship docked early, and we immediately got picked up, and decided to go explore the Oak Alley Plantation.  It’s actually been nominated as one of the most beautiful plantations in the world.  Man oh man, would I LOVE to photograph a wedding at this venue.  Talk about just drreammy wedding photos.

That large metal bowl with fish in it at the top?  That’s what they used to make molasses in with the sugar cane harvested at the plantation.

We took the tour inside the house, where we learned all about the plantations history.  At one point, the house was even abandoned and cows took over.  No joke, cows.  They ruined all the Italian marble that had been on the first floor, which is why there are hardwood floors today.

These were various examples of what the slave quarters would have looked like.  Fun fact learned, they actually had a master grafter (who was kind of a big deal back in the day) on the plantation.  Pecans, at the time, had a hard shell that made it difficult to crack and process at a large industrial scale.  He grafted plants together, so the pecan’s shell became soft, helping to make it easily processed, eventually getting it to where pecans are today.

Now, if you know anything about New Orleans, you’ll know that there is pretty much a festival going on every day.  No joke. 300+ a year.  It’s definitely a happening place.  We were lucky enough (as were our stomachs) that it was Foodfest.  All kinds of food vendors placed along the Mississippi River.  The smells alone were wonderful.  Luckily, there were three of us so we got to try A LOT of food.  The hubs also had his first crawfish experience, and being a good ol’ crab breaking, shellfish loving Baltimorean, he was in hog heaven.

Bacon wrapped hot dog, brisket, and sausage after getting smoked, double chocolate whiskey brownies.

Custard, bacon bloody marys (with bacon vodka), meat pies, smoked oysters, crawfish boil.

Delicious right? We left with full bellies, crawfish salted hands, and in need of a nap.  Our last day consisted of catching up on some sleep (as we had a long drive ahead of us that night).  We spent a lazy morning walking through New Orleans, as I love capturing photos of all the old houses, and stopped at a fantastic doughnut shop (District Doughnuts and Sliders).  This place not has only has some pretty fantastical doughnuts, but they also have things like Vietnamese Coffee on tap.  Yes, TAP. Along with amazing sandwiches (lots made with doughnut dough), beers, and sliders.

 

The last stop on our journey was at the best fried chicken establishment in America, Willie Mae’s Scotch House. No lie, it’s won a James Beard Award, been featured on just about every food show (the Travel Channel was filming the last time we went), and usually has a line out the door. We lucked out and pretty much walked right in.  Last time we waited an hour.  Soooo lesson is… if you want some fried chicken and don’t want to wait – Monday at 2pm is primo time!

And that’s a wrap folks!  I hope you enjoyed the read and the photos.  Seriously, I urge everyone to travel. You can do it on a budget… do a long road trip… grab some friends for an adventure… and get to experience a little more than a 100 mile radius where you live.  Getting to learn about new cultures and meet new people is truly humbling.  Every time I get to see somewhere else I realize how lucky and blessed my family and myself are.  What a wonderful world it is out there!  Get out and enjoy it!  Until this weekend – Alysha

Photography and writing by:

Alysha Yoder Photography

(b) www.alyshayoderphotoblog.com

(w) www.alyshayoderphoto.com (e) alyshayoderphoto@yahoo.com (p) 610.762.7810

 

 

 

 

 

 

%d bloggers like this: