Thursday, August 6, 2015

Afternoon Tea at the Brown Palace Hotel

No visit to Denver is complete without enjoying an elegant Afternoon Tea at the legendary Brown Palace Hotel. Luckily, I was able to take part in this long-standing tradition today. 

The festive affair took place in the hotel lobby, an impressive reflection of the Italian Renaissance, a room as beautiful as any I've ever seen. 

The tea featured a variety of finger sandwiches, scones with Devonshire cream (shipped directly from England), an exquisite selection of miniature pastries and a variety of teas that would satisfy the most discriminating of palates. And, for those who wanted it, a refreshing glass of Kir Royale was provided too. The clicking of crystal glasses, as celebratory toasts were made with these cocktails, added to the festivities.

Melodic sounds of a pianist floated in the air and added to the ambiance and pure enjoyment of the experience. What a treat to listen to his classic selections, as well as to those requested by others sitting nearby.

Listening to the ancient works of the great composers as I poured hot water from a sterling silver teapot was fitting.

It reminded me of the 19th century and Anna, the 7th Duchess of Bedford, who gets credit for being the first to break for Afternoon Tea.

During her time, it was usual for people to have only two main meals each day - breakfast and then dinner at or around 8 o'clock in the evening. Often, the Duchess complained of "having a sinking feeling" in the middle of the afternoon. The solution, of course, was to prepare a pot of tea and a light snack.

I know a lot about that "sinking feeling." Especially bad when one is traveling and trying to see and do it all in a great city like Denver.

And, I agree, breaking for Afternoon Tea is always the perfect pick-me-up!

Denver's Union Station

The City of Denver has a lot to brag about -- a bustling economy, winning sports teams and, of course, its proximity to the majestic beauty of the Rocky Mountains.

But, nowadays, the opening of its newly renovated Union Station is the thing most locals can't stop talking about. 

The station, located at 1701 Wynkoop Street in LoDo (lower downtown), is Denver's main railway station and central 
transportation hub. It is comprised of the historic terminal building, a train shed canopy, a 22-gate underground bus facility and light rail station.

The terminal first opened in 1881, and its present-day structure was completed in 1914. It stood as built for a long time, until 2012, when major renovations began. The goal was to redevelop the terminal as the centerpiece of a new transit-oriented mixed use development on the site's former rail yards.

The beloved building re-opened just last summer with the addition of the Crawford Hotel, several of the city's top restaurants, bars and shops, and an incredibly beautiful train hall.

I had the pleasure of visiting Denver's new Union Station today, without the benefit of a Google search or seeing any photos beforehand. Thus, I really didn't know what to expect. As it turned out, I'm glad. Pleasant surprises are nice!

Approaching the entrance, I came to a large, granite plaza, centered by a series of underground fountains shooting streams of water into the air. 

I spotted many families here today, all were enjoying themselves -- eating picnic lunches and cooling off with playful runs through the h2o. 

After a bit of people-watching, I stepped inside the station's Great Hall and was, immediately, taken aback by the busy-ness of the place and, of course, its beauty.

The 67-foot-high ceiling and white marble walls were impressive. So too were the refurbished terra-cotta stone floors, massive arches and imposing chandeliers.

I love the way the Great Hall is furnished. There are long wooden benches that remind of times gone by and comfy chairs for longer stays. And, in the center of the hall, I spot two shuffle board tables. 

Several local couples are playing now. From my vantage point, it appears they are enjoying a low-skill, but highly competitive, game. 

Before Union Station was completed, developers were quoted as saying the "Great Hall will become Denver's new living room." 

It was a bold prediction. But, for sure, the Great Hall at Union Station is becoming just that.

Lunch Break at Euclid Hall

Thanks to a strong recommendation from Michelle, a very friendly and highly knowledgeable staffer at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Denver, I took my lunch break today at Euclid Hall Bar and Kitchen. 

Euclid Hall is located on 14th Street in the Larimer Square Historic District, in an 1883 building that was once home to the highly respected Sappy Smith's bar.

This delightful American bistro has a young and contemporary vibe and features high quality and innovative pub food from around the world, including homemade sausages, po-boys, poutine and schnitzels. There is an extensive beer selection, and creative cocktails drive the beverage program.

I found the menu to be especially unique and interesting, and deciding exactly what to order was difficult. Finally, however, I opted for the Roasted Cauliflower Salad. It was listed under the category, "Because we want to." After just one bite, I understood why! 

The starter featured a haystack of goat cheese, poblano and jalapeno marmalade scallions and tempura crunchies. It was, to me, unbelievably yummy! So much so, I asked for the recipe, hoping to prepare my next batch of roasted cauliflower just like it's done at Euclid Hall. Fortunately for me (and my future guests), the chef cheerfully agreed to my request. 

Euclid Hall Bar and Kitchen is the third restaurant from the team of Jennifer Jasinski and Beth Gruitch, owners of the award-winning Rioja and Bistro Vendome on Denver's historic Larimer Square. Jasinski, by the way, was Denver's first chef honored by the James Beard Foundation. The honor was bestowed on her in 2013. 

Euclid Hall is open for lunch Mondays through Fridays and nightly for dinner. Its location is perfect for visitors to the Pepsi Center, LoDo clubs, Denver Convention Center and the Denver Center for the Performing Arts, as well as for those shopping around the corner in Larimer Square.

As a nod to college students who frequent the bar after classes, Euclid Hall has a unique take on its Happy Hour. It runs from 3 to 6 p.m. and is referred to as Study Hall, and appropriately so. Most afternoons and early evenings, Euclid Hall is filled with college students, all with their heads in their textbooks or their fingers pecking away on the keyboards of their laptops. 

Shopping in Larimer Square

Larimer Square has the distinction of being the first revitalized historic neighborhood in America. It opened many years ago, in 1969, one year after my initial trip to Denver.

Time has passed quickly, but it has been good to Larimer Square. Today, Larimer Square is Denver's premier urban shopping and dining district. It boasts "18 shops and boutiques that carry more than 200 fashion lines from the fashion capitals of the world." And, its nightlife defines hip urban renewal.

Larimer Square is both charming and elegant. Shoppers seeking unique clothing and accessories need only spend a couple of hours here, and they will find exactly what their hearts desire - and many other items their hearts will be more than open to.

Well, at least that was my experience today, when I spent a awhile checking out many of the district favorites.

First stop was Eve, a great little boutique that is "urban, hip and unmistakably feminine." The shop, now celebrating its 15th year, is filled with unique clothes and jewelry and hats (and much more). Eve was a delight, and so was the woman who "helped" me purchase a beautiful, one-of-a-kind, Indian-inspired beaded necklace! 

Another favorite stop along the way was Studio West. This shop was founded in 2001 by Priscilla Palhava in Crested Butte, Co. It started out as a design consultation business and has grown to a 2000-square-foot interior design showroom. Larimer Square, its second location. is filled with unique clothing and accessories, home decor and gifts. 

There was so much to see at Studio West, and so much I wanted to pick up and bring home. Not being able to this time, I have made a promise to myself to go back soon. Real soon!

Denver's 16th Street Mall

I love pedestrian malls, and the beautiful 16th Street Mall in the heart of downtown Denver is my newest favorite. 

Designed by I.M. Pei, the famed architect, the 16th Street Mall stretches from north to south for one mile. It features a lovely promenade all decked out with an abundance of flowering plants and trees and unique, domed-top street lights, as well as an eclectic mix of locally owned shops, some major retailers and 42 outdoor cafes, which make the 16th Street Mall the best people-watching spot in Denver. 

The promenade is made of red, white and gray granite in a repeating pattern. I was told that the pattern resembles the skin of a Diamondback rattlesnake when viewed from above. I didn't get to see that for myself, so I'm taking the "reporter's" word for it. It does sound like something Pei would think to do!

Near the south end of the mall, there is a shopping and dining complex with 12 movie theaters and more than two dozen shops and restaurants. At the north end, the path continues over three bridges, connecting downtown to Commons Park and LoHi, a hip urban neighborhood filled with restaurants and brewpubs. 

There are many points of interest along the mall, including the D and F Tower, a replica of the Campanila of St. Marks in Venice. Notably, it was the highest building west of the Mississippi River when it was built in 1909. 

Making it extra easy to get around and see everything are the free electric shuttle buses that roll continuously up and down the mall and stop at every corner. 

My visit to the 16th Street Mall today was delightful. I enjoyed poking my head in a number of new-to-me shops, favorite big-guy stores and the Visit Denver office.

And, then, before exhaustion set in, I thoroughly enjoyed breaking for an ice-cold Mocha Frappuccino at the corner Starbucks. 

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

A Bite of the Sweet Life

It's nearly six o'clock in the evening, and I've just checked into the Ritz-Carlton in Denver. I'll be here for two nights, to get a bit of the sweet life here, take notes and, eventually, report on all for readers of Houston Woman Magazine. 

My room is on the 12th floor, on the hotel's prestigious club level. It is large, with a great view of the city. The decor is understated, yet elegant. The two double beds are unusually high off the ground; the pillows and duvets are especially soft and comfy. 

I was tempted, of course, to change clothes, position myself in between those luscious 1000-thread sheets and call it a day. Right then, right there! 

But, of course, I didn't. It was still too early and, as always, I am not one to take a chance on missing anything!

So, I made my way down the hall to the club lounge to grab a bite of dinner and an adult beverage and to mix and mingle with a few other business types who had already gathered there.

Entering the room, I immediately came face-to-face with a beautiful collection of large crystal containers, each filed with freshly made and delicious-looking cookies and confections. All made especially for guests like me!

I smiled, realizing just how appropriate this decadent display of sweets was to the regal space. 

And, then, before I did anything else, I lifted the lid of the container closest to me, removed one of the large chocolate chippers and, without guilt, took a bite. 

It was sweet. Real sweet! 

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Ritz Carlton at Bachelor Gulch

In anticipation of my first visit to the Ritz Carlton at Bachelor Gulch, I have been spending a lot of time on the internet looking at photos - the ones on its website, of course, but also the ones posted by guests who had stayed there. 

The photos I found show the grandeur of a great Rocky Mountain lodge, built entirely of huge timbers and reminiscent of the West. They show how this lodge is perched atop Beaver Creek Mountain and why it boasts incredible views of the valley below and more of the Rockies beyond, views unmatched by any place else in this part of Colorado. 

Other photos show happy people enjoying the many amenities of the Ritz Carlton Bachelor Gulch, including the hiking and biking trails, the fishing and whitewater rafting areas, the outdoor pool, the 21,000-square-foot spa (#1 in America), the golf course, the restaurants and bars, and more.

Needless to say, I can't wait to get there and put myself in all those wonderful photos. 

Soon, very soon, I will 
be doing just that.