Friday, October 23, 2009

Denver, CO - Day One

The Mile High Sugar High...

This was my third trip to Denver, and it remains one of my favorite airports to get stuck in, much less the sight of many writing related conferences over the years. It’s definitely a fiber-friendly city, with a big selection of yarn stores to choose from and knitting-friendly weather to match. Even if your relationship with a ski slope is like mine--you sit in the lodge knitting while you watch other people risk life and limb--this is a sweater town, just waiting for your hands and needles to take them up on the challenge. Ready, set, knit-eat-shop!

DAY ONE (Thursday, for our purposes):

First Stop:
1160 N Speer Blvd
Denver, CO 80204
(303) 376-0070

Now, you know I’m a fan of doing desert before meals, so what better way to start off a great weekend than with cupcakes? Aside from the delights a dazzling array of flavors (locals recommend the white mojito among others), Gateaux has mini-pastries so you can load up on loads of options while you plan out the rest of your visit. Don’t worry, we do actually have lunch plans. Folks say the bombs are, well--I have to say it--“the bomb,” as well as superb cinnamon rolls. They donate 10% of their tea cookies to local charities--it’s practically your civic duty to eat them. Awaken your tastebuds from their highway truckstop or airplane food stupor with a few goodies from this much-recommended establishment before we start our tour.

Next Stop - Actual Lunch:
Under The Umbrella Cafe and Bakery
3504 E 12th Ave
Denver, CO 80206
(303) 256-0797

Balance is the key to eating desert first, so you want to make sure lunch is light and tasty. For a quick and close sandwich, soup or salad, this is the spot. Massive breakfast burritos can also be had if you’re truly hungry, though, so chances are something at this friendly spot will hit your spot. It’s one of those homey places where they’ve got WiFi and nobody’s going to rush you out if you need to sit for a bit. You may even want to log on and make your dinner reservations (see below). A friend recommended the BLT, but I wasn’t there at a mealtime to take it in so I can’t confirm, but a good BLT is a delight to behold in my book. Before you think the place is all about healthy food, however, be warned that they are known for their lemon bars and lemon squares, too.

Walk a few doors down to our first yarn store of the tour:
The Lamb Shoppe

3512 E 12th Ave
Denver, CO 80206
(303) 322-2223

This is one of those totally comfortable, welcoming shops where you could waltz in and plop yourself down in a chair for three hours and everyone would know you by name before you left. How can you not love a place that has a monthly pajama party? Look to either side of the deep store and bask in the high walls of non-stop yarn. Inspiring and encouraging, one owner says, “I want you out of scarfdom by your third lesson.” If they can’t get you over your fear of circular needles or double-pointed needles, no one can. And they serve coffee! One of the customers I talked to described it as “the most pleasant place to be.” I agree. Owners Mary Carol Jehn and Anita Meyer have attended to every conceivable detail--from the handy needle inventory on the back of their business card (don’t I wish I had that during my size 17 needle fiasco from our last episode!) to the excellent lighting throughout the store. I don’t feel like I’m coming to a yarn store, I feel like I’m visiting someone’s home. Adding to the atmosphere is Andy, the absolute perfect yarn-store dog.

Shawl Collar Vest
Mary Carol is wearing it in the photo, and I’m delighted this will be our Knit-Along for the episode. Buy the Misty Alpaca Chunky in any of the delectable colors they carry (and they carry loads of colors!), and you’ll get the pattern free. Mary Carol was even kind enough to adapt the pattern for my tall frame right then and there (much appreciated!), ensuring me a fashionable fit.

Mai Win Schwartz’ I-Cord Hat
Adorable and unique, this little cap can be done out of lush Debbie Bliss Cashmerino Aran or it can be a creative scrap-buster project.

Circle Scarf
You’ll need to actually sign up for the class for this one, because it’s a truly unique pattern that needs a set of eyes looking over your shoulder, but I’d have signed up in a heartbeat if I had the time. And hey, I’d want to sign up for a class just to have a reason to make multiple visits to this place.

Make yourself comfortable and enjoy the company fellow knitters--this place is always full of friendly fellow fiber fiends. You may get a few more recommendations on places to visit outside of what I found, not to mention making instant friends. This isn’t just a yarn store, it’s a community worth visiting.

When it’s time for dinner, head farther southeast to:
Hapa Sushi Grill & Sake Bar

2780 E 2nd Ave,
Denver, CO 80206

Aside from their good food, Hapa is known for their racy menu item names. You can start off with your usual miso soup, but I dare you not to blush while ordering the customer favorites the “Multiple Orgasm” or the “Booty Call” rolls no matter how good they are. Shock value aside, their food is very fresh and very good, and the perfect lighter compliment to the sugar highs we called meals today. And speaking of sugar, this is one of the rare asian restaurants that features a full and creative desert menu. No settling for red bean iced-cream here, kiddos...although they do have the charming little Moochi rolls that are a personal favorite.

Sugar? check. Yarn? check. Dinner? check. I’ll take this moment to recommend my personal favorite Denver B&B:
Queen Anne Bed and Breakfast
2147 Tremont Place
Denver, CO 80205
(303) 296-6666

I’ve personally stayed in the Aspen Room, which is painted with a wall-to-ceiling mural to look like you’re sleeping in an Aspen forest.

Whether you’re staying here or anywhere else, head on back to your lodgings, get in a few more rows on your current project, and get ready for more tomorrow.

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