07 September 2014

The Dating Chronicles: The Hand Thief

I've been on a lot of dates recently. I'm not saying this out of an inflated ego and excessive self pride. I say this because majority of the dates I go on are nothing to brag about. Yes, I've met a handful of great guys, but majority of the dates I go on are awkward and head nowhere. As a self-deprecating writer, I've decided to start a series called The Dating Chronicles. A tribute to failed dates and the woes of 20 something single-dom.

 The Hand Thief

A few minutes early, I settle into a small booth at the front of the bar. I take in my surroundings, scanning the dimly lit Art Deco room. A waitress approaches me with a menu and I order a gimlet. A few sips in he arrives, greeting me with a nervous smile that makes his eyes go small. He's tall with dark straight hair and a sprinkling of freckles across the bridge of his nose. Taking the seat across from me, I ask him about his day. He orders a whiskey and leans back in his seat. We talk alma maters, mountains, and Malcolm Gladwell books. Places we've been, things we've seen, and adventures we've had. His nerves disappear with the whisky. Clinking the bare ice cubes in his glass, he orders a round of IPAs for the two of us. I hate IPAs, but it's easier not to say anything.
I slowly sip the bitter beer and forget to listen as he talks about his recent move to Denver. Instead, I sift through pros and cons I've unconsciously made about him. Making my way back to reality, I find myself in a conversation about skiing. I smile and nod like I'd been listening the whole time. Somewhere within the past hour, I've decided that this isn't going anywhere.
He polishes off his beer and orders another. My stomach starts to churn with hunger and I suggest we grab a slice of pizza a few blocks away. The optimistic part of me asks him to dinner in hopes of finding a redeeming quality that will reverse the decision I've made. The selfish half of me asks him to dinner out of the desperate desire for company. We split the bill in half, and make our way out the door.
A few strides into our walk, he reaches for my hand. His rough fingers wrap around each of mine, his thumb strokes the back of my hand. My fingers stay imprisoned between his, paralyzed by shock. In the short 23 years I've lived on this earth, the act of hand holding is strictly reserved for circumstance and people that are far and few. My hands are chaste territory, not meant for holding on the first date.
Not wanting to hurt his feelings, I wrack my brain for an easy escape. I spot Union Station at the end of the street and use my hostage hand to point at it with enthusiasm. "See, that right there? That's Union Station. It just opened up to the public this week after having been renovated." Uninterested he says, "cool" and snakes his hand back into mine.
This time, I don't play nice. I shake my hand out of his and walk with my arm in front of me, Hitler style. Realizing my horrible gesture, I lower my arm back down to my side just in time for him to smuggle my hand back into his. I debate making a run for it but decide that my hunger is top priority.
We reach the pizza joint where I order for the two of us without even looking at the menu, giving him a taste of his own IPA medicine. I get up to go to the "bathroom" and follow our server into the back. I look at him with desperation, asking him to please makes these pizzas fast. When I return, Happy Hands reaches across the table for mine. So much of me wanted to look him in the eye and explain how weird his hand holding was, but I didn't want to embarrass him with the truth.
By the grace of God, the pizzas come out in record time, forcing the hand holding to come to an end. I give the server my card and dinner is finished in record time. I hail a cab the second we walk out the door and bid the hand thief a good night.

23 July 2014

Denver Weekend: Larimer Square Sidewalk Sale

Looking for something fun to do this weekend? 

This weekend marks the annual Larimer Square "Peachy Sidewalk Sale." Friday, July 25th through Sunday, July 27th get up to 75% off designer goods at your favorite Larimer Square shops. The sale begins Friday, July 25th at 10:00 a.m. with free Colorado peaches and the chance to win tickets to Larimer Square's Dining Al Fresco on August 16th. 

Participating shops include:

Jewelry at the Square

Blush and Hailee Grace are two of my favorite shops in Denver, so make sure to stop by. Blush will be offering up to 70% off designer labels including Chan Luu, Mother Denim, Velvet, Current/Elliott, Vince Tibi, Rebecca Taylor, LA Made, and Sanctuary. Hailee Grace will be offering 15% off the entire store, 50% off the sale rack and will also have $20, $30, and $40 racks in the Hailee Grace tent. 
ALC Theo Sweater from Blush

Gigi New York bag from Blush

22 July 2014

Denver Restaurant Review: Olive and Finch

Olive and Finch is a European inspired eatery, bakery and market located in the heart of Uptown. With a focus on local, hand-crafted, and convenient eats, Chef Mary Nguyen serves up fast yet healthy dishes. You can expect to see everything from fresh baked pastries and all-natural sandwiches to fresh-pressed juices and restaurant style entrees. With first class food and a community-style environment Olive and Finch successfully brings together quality food within a casual atmosphere. Food can either be taken to-go, bought at the market, or enjoyed in the restaurant alongside a good book, computer or friend. The informal environment and big community table for twelve, make Olive and Finch the perfect neighborhood destination. Stop in for breakfast, lunch or dinner and Olive and Finch will surely blow your mind (see full menu here).

We started out with some wine. Each table is given a letter on an Olive and Finch block so that your order can find it's way to your table.

The market is full of local and international products. Nguyen plans for Olive and Finch to become a market destination for the neighborhood and those who are a bit further away. 

Looking for a gift? Check out the gift baskets that can be put together for every taste and every budget (check it out here)

Olive and Fitch makes their baked goods fresh each morning. With an offering of Tarts, Cakes, Pumpkin Loafs, Banana Walnut Loafs, Alfajores, Cookies and more everyone can find something to satisfy their sweet tooth. 

Looking for the perfect desert for you and your guests? Call 48 hours in advance to order your custom 
pastry, cake, or cookie. 

With phenomenal food, great service, and a coffee-shop-type atmosphere Olive and Finch is a Denver must try.

Make sure to sign up for Olive and Finch's loyalty program (here)

Olive & Finch on Urbanspoon

18 July 2014

Law and Order: My First Time On Jury Duty

A few weeks ago, I received my first summons for jury duty. Just like any other outstanding citizen of the United States, I prayed I wouldn't be chosen. Nevertheless, my number was called.

As instructed, I showed up to the courthouse early giving myself enough time to find parking and navigate security. I pulled into the suggested parking lot, found a space and paid my $6.00 "earlybird" fee. Much to my good fortune, the parking kiosk was jammed and out of paper. It sputtered at me, laughing at my civil misfortune. Rather than moving my car like the others, I decided I wasn't going to let those precious $6.00 go to waste. Instead, I stuck it to The Man. I scrounged up an old receipt from a late night pizza stop and wrote "Don't give me a ticket, I paid! Not my fault your machine is defective" and left it on my dash.  

I chucked my purse onto the rotating belt and proceeded through the metal detector that promptly began beeping as I walked through. The line built up behind me as I was given a series of pat-downs and directed through the detector an additional three times. Security somehow decided I wasn't much of a threat and finally let me enter the courthouse. Once inside, I was directed into a large room of forward facing chairs. Just like flying Southwest, I was able to choose my seat. (It's the little things in life that give me so much pleasure.) After surveying the crowd, I found a home next to two older women that seemed less amused by their fate than myself. I cozied up next to them and popped open my book, Where'd You Go Bernadette.

Thirty minutes later, screens dropped from the ceiling and the lights dimmed. An outdated movie about the judicial system played, explaining our role as "selfless" and "heroic" citizens. (Too bad the only reason we were all there was because we had to be, not because we chose to serve our system in the name of justice.) We were then given bland instructions from a short woman who reminded me of a saltine cracker. A series of numbers were to be called out with a corresponding court room number. If our number was not called at all, we were free to go. I crossed my fingers in hopes of the latter, while simultaneously repeating "4925" to myself. I have this weird fear that I'll somehow go brain dead and forget my name, birthdate or the number that's written on a piece of paper directly in front of me in high-stress situations like this. Just as I began the usual dialogue - "Mallory, your number is 4925...4925...4925...oh shit, what number am I?! oh yea... 4925...or is it 9452?!... Mallory, calm down, you are a smart girl your number is 4925.... or is it?! -Mrs. Saltine said, "number 4925... number 4925....is number 4925 present?!" Excited that I had remembered my number, I jumped out of my seat, screaming, "here!" Just like a soldier reporting for duty, I marched with a group of 25 people to courtroom C25.

Although I was upset about having been called onto the next round, I decided to make the best of my situation. You see, I love to people watch and there is no better place to do so than public venues like airports, amusement parks and court houses. People from every walk of life gather here, so I decided to sit back and enjoy the show. Just as I reached C25, a middle aged man burst out of a courtroom down the hall followed by a group of police officers. Kicking and screaming, he was forced to the ground as more police officers flocked the scene. Handcuffed and cussing, the man was escorted past us where his sad eyes met each of ours. A young British man opened the doors to C25 just in time to see the tail end of the drama. He looked at all of us and said, "welcome to jury duty" in a sarcastic tone. "Follow me this way..."

We were individually escorted into the court room based on our number, giving me a second wind of "brain dead anxiety." The first 15 people were seated directly in front of the judge. The rest of us were packed in the wooden pews next to them. The judge, a Brian Williams lookalike, introduced himself and gave us a brief overview of the case. I crossed my fingers for something juicy like a murder, drug bust or anything Law and Order SVU worthy. Instead, the case involved a plumbing company and a missing wad of cash....

The judge and lawyers began the questioning process, putting each of us on the spot. Questions were asked, answers were given and jurors were dismissed. Similar to musical chairs or Survivor, the ill-suited jurors were kicked off the island and replaced by the seat's successor. One thing lead to another, and I found myself sitting directly in front of the judge. I was asked to introduce myself and give any information that would make me unsuitable for this case. I wracked my brain for any life event that would give me an easy out, but I was stuck. The judge asked the lawyers if they had any further questions for the jury, and that was it. I was officially juror number five out of twelve on a criminal case.

The twelve of us were an odd group. Juror #1. An elderly man with horn-rimed glasses as large as he was tall. Juror #2. A Harrison Ford doppelgänger who opted to take notes on his disposable coffee cups each day. Juror #3. A tired southern belle with hair the color of watered down orange juice. Juror #4. A stunning 22 year old mother studying forensic science at a community college. Juror #5. Yours truly. Juror #6. A nearly albino college student with a literary mind. Juror #7. A quiet latino father of four. Juror #8. A young, rotund disciplinary officer with rings stabbed through her nose, eyebrow and lip. Juror #9. A health enthused, middle aged emergency pediatric doctor. Juror #10. A librarian type woman with thick hair, hushed voice and outdated slacks. Juror #11. A short man who made up for his height in leadership. Juror #12. A Chaco loving, granola chewing, environmental studies college graduate. As odd and different as we all may have been, we each showed up on time every morning and gave the case the respect it deserved. It was with those twelve people that my confidence in the average American was renewed.

Unlike the juicy Elizabeth Smart case I was hoping for, the trial we were placed on was about as bland as high school math. We were given receipts to analyze and contradictory statements to sort through. It was like watching a Rosanne marathon, entertainment based on the woes of the working class. Although I was disappointed by the case logistics, I learned some valuable lessons throughout those three days in court. One of the first questions we were asked after having entered C25 was how we would rate our judicial system on a scale from 1-10. We constantly read about racial and economic unjust alongside a never-ending list of flaws that can be found in any US courtroom. Every single one of us were hesitant to give anything above a 6.

After closing arguments and deliberation, we did not find the defendant guilty beyond reasonable doubt. After the verdict was given, the judge asked to meet the jury one final time in the conference room. He thanked each of us for our time and asked us to once again rate our judicial system on a scale from 1-10. Sitting in that room with my eleven fellow jurors, knowing we had reached a fair decision, I couldn't help but be reasonably proud of our system. Going around the room, each of us confidently gave a proud and honest an 8 or 9.

15 July 2014

Denver Restaurant Review: Lola

With food inspired by coastal regions of Mexico and a top rated tequila bar, Lola has remained a Denver favorite for close to a decade. Considering the onslaught of new restaurant districts and Denver's ever-changing tastes, remaining a a popular dining destination in this sink or swim climate says a lot about what Lola is whipping up. Having spent three years on South Pearl Street and an additional seven in the trendy LoHi neighborhood, it's obvious that Lola is doing something right.

Contrary to Lola's acclaim, I never had the chance to go until this past Thursday night. With such high expectations it's easy for popular restaurants like Lola to fall short, but Lola not only lived up to those standards but far surpassed them. With an extremely hospitable crew, quality flavors and coin-style margaritas, this Denver favorite found it's way into my top five restaurants in Denver.

We started out with some sweet, smokey salsa and cocktails. 

Jamey Fader, Lola's Executive Chef/Owner, suggested we try this sweet specialty drink as it was his grandmother's favorite. With fresh lime, cucumber, agave nectar, and a squeeze of orange, it's easy to see why this easy-sip drink is such a hit.

 Fader's fascination with authentic Mexican flavors spawned from having worked behind the scenes at various Denver restaurants like Jax Fish House. He partnered with Query in 2002 and began creating unique yet authentic cuisine, pulling inspiration from regions like Oaxaca, Yucatan peninsula, Baja, Veracruz and the Northern Pacific Coast. Drawing on Lola's tradition, new Chef Kevin Grossi, is rolling out some amazing items of his own.
It seems to be teamwork that makes Lola work so well. With an amazing General Manager, Patrick Kneese, runs the floor while letting Chef Kevin Grossi and Jamey Fader whip up wonderful things.

The table-side guacamole plays a large role in Lola's popularity. A rolling table full of ingredients is brought to your table where you help create your very own specialty guac. 

My favorite part of the night was the halibut and kale. There is something wonderful to be said about a seared piece of fish and perfectly cooked veggies. Lola's chefs stay within the flavor boundaries but add their own creative spin to each dish.

I couldn't have had a better night!

Lola on Urbanspoon

02 July 2014

Denver Restaurant Review: Tamayo

July 1st through September 30th marks Tamayo's annual Guacamole Festival here in Denver. Come taste Chef Richard Sandoval's guacamole creations inspired by the diverse regions of Mexico. Flavors from Yucatan, Baja, Sur, Norteno, and Pacifico work to create this unique series of guacamole tasters that are only around for a limited time.

Last night, I was lucky enough to help kick off this year's Guacamole Festival (see menu here). Both a guest and myself were treated to a platter of guacamole samplers including: The Baja, Sur, Pacifico, Traditional, Bacon, Tuna Tartare, and the Spicy Crab. The samplers came on mini tostadas, piled high with each guacamole flavor alongside habanero and tomatillo salsas.

The Sur featured cotija cheese, cilantro, lime, tomatillo, onion and GRASSHOPPERS! I consider myself to be a fairly adventurous eater, but I wouldn't last a week on Survivor. I'm not about to eat any bugs. However, those who ate it said it was surprisingly delicious. 

My two favorites were the Baja featuring kiwi, strawberry, mango and mint and the Pacifico with grilled beats, walnuts, orange and lime.

Tamayo has always been one of my favorite restaurants in Denver and it's always fun to try something new. Make sure you venture down to Tamayo this summer for some one of a kind guacamole or at least a margarita or two!

Tamayo on Urbanspoon