most days, it’s the small things || steam espresso bar, denver

“enjoy the little things in life, because one day you will look back, and realize they were the big things.”

i’ve been sitting at steam all morning: thinking, drawing, researching, and planning. getting excited about this creative journey i’m embarking on.

steam, a new coffee shop that opened in denver just a couple months ago has found a special place in my heart. and not only in my heart, but the hearts of many other locals, it seems.

hani, the owner of thisphoto studio turned espresso bar himself is a character transformed; an international starbucks barista turned coffee aficionado. he really has made this place a gem. the brick walls, wood floors, beautiful wood community table, elegant but not over-zealous chandeliers, handled kerr jar mugs, and outdoor patio make this place irresistible to platt park’s local hispters, businessmen, entrepreneurs, and socialites.

next to me this morning, two men chat about their companies database and account management system, across the shop, a mom and daughter catch up over an iced tea. in the back corner, three veteran businessmen plan their next venture. outside on the patio two twenty-somethings giggle and gossip about their weeks and weekend plans. a man in suspenders and a crisp button up fills a silver tray with macaroons that were just delivered from a local bakery. and it all happens so seamlessly, so naturally. it is no wonder people love this place.

it is all of the little details of this place that make it what it is.

and that is the perfect reminder that in life, it is the little things that matter. it is the little details, the small gestures, and the simple words that have the potential to make a difference.

i say this for two reasons, for two experiences i have had here today.

ONE: the men seated next to me this morning [the one’s who were working on the database], asked if i would like the piece of cake that they had been eyeing all morning. i asked hesitantly why they weren’t going to eat it. “we’ve already had breakfast and we’re on our way out. hani gave this to us because he messed up our coffee order.” after accepting the slice of almond cake and taking a bite, i realized quickly another reason why people come here, stay here, and c

ome back here day after day. hani takes care of his customers. the almond cake was spongy with a sweet but not-too-sweet layer of sugared almonds on top. definitely worth a try.

an hour later, hani approached my table with a beautiful latte adorned with latte art. ‘i’m just practicing’, he said, ‘would you like a latte?’. i may be shaking from caffeine overload, but i’m totally okay with it. hani’s personal customer service and that of his suspender wearing-staff do not go unnoticed here at steam.

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SO – wandering down pearl street? in the wash park-ish area? make a special trip here. you’ll be very happy you did. and while you’re here, take a moment to notice all of the little details, all of the little things that make this place an incredible addition to the neighborhood.

cheers,

onesmallgrain

que bárbaro, mga kaibigan.

i could not have a bigger smile on  my face right now. argentina & the philippines: two of the countries in this world closest to my heart. zengo: a restaurant i’ve only been to once, but one i absolutely love. it is amazing what food can do to bring you back to the places you love. as soon as i imagine the empanadas from the store around the corners from susy’s house, all of the memories come flying back. each time i think about the chicken adobo and lumpia so perfectly crafted by ate tining, i am overwhelmed with joy. food is powerful.

which brings me to the root  reason for this post. every few months, zengo adds to (or rotates) its regular menu of latin-asian fusion cuisine. from now until march 31st, they are featuring a few dishes incorporating argentine and filipino palates. que bárbaro, mga kaibigan. how wonderful, my friends.

check out the menu here! the featured cocktails and dishes served everyday after 5pm include everything from calamansi-papaya punch to filipino lumpia spring rolls to tagalog style churrasco steak. all of these sound fabulous.

and although the prices are somewhat steep i have to warn you (although i assure you, WELL worth it), this will undoubtedly have to be one of my thirteen in thirteen.

 

thirteen in thirteen

i love living near the city, denver specifically. part of the reason? there is so much unknown space, so much room to explore, to learn, and to jump outside of my comfort zone. i love exploring new shops, i love sipping on lattes, new coffee shops, and sipping on cocktails at new happy hours. but most of all, i love pleasing my palate at new restaurants.

for 2013, i’m going to try to try thirteen new restaurants – and i’m going to write about them. i’m going to share the sights, the sounds, the scenes, the service, and my overall satisfaction. one every month and two during one month i’m feeling extra adventurous (or my pocketbook is feeling more flexible).

i have a few on my list already; here they are. a few other ideas are stewing. recommended dishes, required edits, or places to add to this list are all greatly appreciated!

i’ll be needing fellow foodies, let me know if you’d like to join in on the fun!

  1. trattoria stella
  2. central bistro and bar
  3. lucille’s creole café
  4. duo (people rave about their BRUNCH!)

FYI, i’d love to see a great authentic mexican restaurant, a thai restaurant, and a killer pizza restaurant added to this list!

and, if all goes well with my restaurant explorations, i’ll move on to coffee shops, happy hours, ice cream shops, food trucks, wine bars, etc. this could be fun.

if this quote doesn't explain my reasoning behind thirteen in thirteen, i don't know what does.

if this quote doesn’t explain my reasoning behind thirteen in thirteen, i don’t know what does.

the professional hipster’s third snack break.

the title says quite a lot; civic center eats is a few things.

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1. it is hipster. stand alone food trucks are what i would consider hipster. put 25 or so of them in less than one square city block and you’ve got hipster on steroids. add kenny lee young to the background and you just got more hipster. more chic. more vogue- whatever you want to call it. and by no means is the hipster allocation a complaint, simply an observation. most of the people that I have talked to inside of the food trucks are former new yorkers who hated the competitive edge of the food truck scene out east. they’ve moved here and made the food truck movement what it is- truly something new and different collaborative and enjoyable. frankly, they are the hipsters in hiding.

2. it is professionals. people, and rightfully so, (unlike myself) don’t drive from outside of the city to have a lunch at civic center eats. it’s a bunch of business people, who have decided to take a walk down to civic center park during their lunch (or as the title and guide to hipster life would recommend, their third small portioned snack of the day) break.

3. it is diverse. in food options, that is. argentine, venezuelan, pizza, cupcakes, indian, biscuits, etc. you can find it all at civic center eats. and i think that is what i liked best about it. there really is something for everyone. give everyone a time limit of 10 minutes and meet back in the middle of the trucks and pull up to a table to each individually enjoy what you’ve got for lunch. no more of this “where should we go to lunch today… it has to be somewhere where we can get chicken nuggets, pizza, alfredo and a steak…” this is the perfect place to take a good friend for lunch. walk around, figure out a couple things you want to try, have your friend do the same and then split what you each want. you’ve just turned a meal into a wonderful sampling of foods from every different reach of the palate.

4. it is community. proceeds benefit the civic center park conservatory. school groups play in the yards near the capitol. a local artist accompanies the buzz of the lunch hour. most of the trucks source their food locally. others, organically. civic center eats is denver.

5. it is delicious. what did i have?

you can never go wrong with an arepa- so i did what no food truck wanderer should ever do. i ordered something i’ve had before. an arepa (la original, $7.50) from the quiero arepas truck. its just soooo good. black beans, avocado, platains, and a cilantro-lime sauce all wrapped in a corn shell tortilla thing.

then, i of course HAD to get an alfajor ($3, including my tip) from route 40 – one of the trucks that i tried a couple weeks ago at the farmers market.

AND just for kicks and giggles, i had to get a cupcake from the denver cupcake truck to go. not only did she have a wide variety of cupcake flavors on her menu, she also had a special menu of the day hiding out on the blackboard on the inside back wall of the truck. pumpkin and java chip were the two options today. now i’m not normally a pumpkin person, but in the spirit of the newly arrived season, i gave it. and i’m really quite glad i did. the cream cheese frosting and the pumpkin cupcake ($3) were to die for. FALL literally IN MY MOUTH.

6. it is pricey. i can’t go without mentioning it. its a little spendy (prices mentioned above). but what do you expect? it’s mostly local and organic food coming from a truck with a fancy facade and a gas guzzling engine. and its fun. and it only has to be every once in a while that you treat yourself to lunch from a truck. so just go, enjoy.

i’ll go again with anyone who wants to go on the last day for the season- THURSDAY, september 27th from 11am-2pm! happy exploring, happy snacking!

first fourteener(s). finally.

today i feel as though i can officially consider myself a colorado transplant. a born-again colorado native (if that exists). more like a wannabe colorado native i think most official colorado natives would say. regardless, today, i conquered my first two fourteeners.

i’ve had these hikes on my bucket list for quite some time now. and finally, in the last free weekend before the rush of discoveries orientation and the beginning of the school year, i’ve been able to cross them off.

my roomate jake and i took off from denver a touch after 5 sunday morning. my new car (who i’ve decided to name luna) got her first taste of mountain driving and i’m happy to report she did quite well. after a very rocky, skinny, cliff wrapped road (and a very nervous me) we made it to the trailhead and by 6:20am we were off. off to explore almost 3000 vertical feet of colorado landscape, air, sunshine and glamorous views.

three hours later, we summitted grays peak. 14,270 feet. and although the climb was tough- i would definitely suggest it to anyone acclimated to the altitude who isn’t wearing a boot or some other sort of movement restricting device. although i did read an article that claimed this 14er was essentially wheelchair accessible. i’m thinking it was a joke. but there was a part of the climb that was relatively flat: the first fourth of the climb. maybe.

after taking multiple pictures,  one of course with our wich wich bags (you get a free sandwich, DUH!), we started our treck down and up again to torreys. this summit was more of a straight shot – straight UP, that is. unlike the many switchbacks that led up to the first summit. what kept us going? the early morning climbers that were making their way down and saying “it’s so much easier on the way down”. well thank you, captain obvious. but again, in about an hour, we made it to the summit. 14,267 feet.

and after basking in the wonderful 360 degree mountain view, chatting with two brothers from jake’s church, swapping cameras with at least 5 other summiters, and having a few snacks (mom, your scotcharoo bars made it to the top), we started making our decent.

we arrived again at the trailhead by 1:15pm. exhausted and feeling accomplished, we headed home. after making a stop in idaho springs at the original beaujo’s pizza, that is. all in all one heck of a successful day. i can’t wait to do another one. and no – i didn’t do it all for the wich wich. but i’ll make sure i get my free sandwich.

here are some awesome photos from the journey!

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food of the streets.

EDIT: check out this wonderful reel of pictures from westword about the justice league of street food event in june!

saying i’ve become obsessed with street food is an understatement. and while my love for street food stems back to my first scoop of queso ice cream from the rolling ice cream carts in manila, this obsession has recently blossomed.

although i highly recommend taking a local along if you decide to conquer the street food of south east asia, the street food scene here in denver is one i give you full permission to explore solo. a good place to start? civic center eats. every tuesday from 11-2 in civic center parks, more than two dozen food trucks line up to cater lunch for the downtown crowd. all of those trucks in once place is a great way to get to know the trucks.. have an appetizer from one truck, an entree from another, dessert from another, a drink from another, and then go back for seconds from another if you’d like. and then go back on thursday. repeat. you’ll have half the trucks covered. easily.

while civic center eats is far from intimidating, i found something that is not for the faint of heart. well at least that is what the name suggests. but it should be awesome! it’s called the justice league of street food. a group of food trucks that is ‘saving denver one mobile meal at a time’. the next bash is taking place next saturday, august 4th at sustainability park (another AWESOME gem denver has to offer) from 5-10pm. gina from the denver cupcake truck (a quick shoutout to their red velvet and surprisingly delicious maple bacon cupcakes) told me about this fantastic event which brings together the great street food community of denver; both trucks making the food and people willing to simply eat. pack your tennis shoes and bring your game face because this month’s theme relates to one of our favorite events happening right now, the summer games. even if you don’t plan on eating, i’m sure this event will be one you don’t want to miss.

another quick tidbit i can’t sign off without sharing…an excellent resource for us street foodies. romainghunger.com is my least intimidating suggestion when it comes to conquering street food. essentially a twitter feed just for food trucks, this website shows the latest updates from local trucks. headed downtown and craving a mobile meal? checkit out. want to know what and where your favorite truck is serving tonight? check it out. and denver is not the only city on the menu. so why not plan your next road trip around street food? i’m planning on it.

buenos aires pizzeria.

i’ll never forget when susy (my aregntine host mom) asked me if we ate pizza in the united states. why yes, of course we eat pizza. are you kidding me? she had no idea. argentina, with its large number of italian immigrants does do pizza pretty well (but better than anyone else, i’m not sure about that). argentine pizza is no papa johns, no dominos, and no pizza hut. its not made in bulk, rubbery, fatty but flavorless pizza. its handmade, unique, made to order pizza. my dad sent me this USA today article this week profiling an argentine restaurant, buenos aires pizzeria, here in denver.

the restaurant is located in lodo, only a couple blocks away from the home of the rockies – coors field. the storefront is a little deciving. at first we walked into the side of the restaurant that hold their gelato case. a little confused we walked out and tried the next door. and in love i fell. pictures of one of the most fascinating cities in the world – buenos aires – cluttered the walls. i could tell from the start the place was unique. this picture, one of my favorites from la boca was the first image to catch my eye, transporting me right back to the time i spent exploring buenos aires sola  during my last few days in the country. opening the menu, i was again transported back to buenos aires. to el cuartito, the famous pizza place that both welcomed me to and bid me farewell from argentina.

and per the articles suggestion and the confirmation of the argentine waiter, i had a beef picante (spicy beef) empanada and a friend of mine has a caprese empanada. these two empanadas bring back memories as if they happened yesterday. and then we split a pizza – mine was  la porteña – arugula, prosciutto and parmesean. nichole went with the fugazetta – cheese, more cheese and sauteed onions. again – the flavors take me right back to buenos aires – my hysterical experience alone in that popular pizza place in buenos aires. to finish off the meal we had panqueques con dulce de leche and mango sorbet. holy yum. i could taste the countless spoonfulls of dulce de leche i consumed at 3am during my 5 months in argentina. i could taste susy’s kitchen.

that’s a really cool feeling. being transported back to the best months of my life. thanks to the waiter who made me feel like i was truly back in buenos aires. his porteño accent, his use of the ‘vos’ and the slight ‘sh’ in his ‘ll’ made it all too real. it took all i had in me not to drop a few tear and impulsively book a flight and go back to argentina just to be a part of that wonderful culture that i miss so much.

anyways, check it out! located in lodo – on 22nd between larimer and market – this place, although somewhat quiet for the early dinner hour (can’t say i’m surprised) will not dissapoint.

LINGER – food worth waiting for.

late night (south american late) meals are WONDERFUL, i’ve decided. yes, i’m ravenous by the time the food hits the table. BUT, somehow i’ve come to appreciate a meal’s tardiness every once in a while. so why a late night meal this past week? no, i wasn’t busy all day. no, i didn’t have to watch my asado slow roast for four hours. no, i wasn’t waiting for guests to arrive. so what was it, then? a chalk-full reservation list. LINGER was booked straight through until 10pm. but believe me – it was worth the wait. here are a few reasons why.

ONE: a good friend on mine – one of the sweest and most passionate people i’ve ever met, who has a love for jesus, life, and the people in it stronger than i’ve seen in a long time – was in town visiting. i got to enjoy dinner in her fabulous presence. she just got  new job, by the way and i can’t wait to see where she will go from here. (love you, em!)

TWO: the food was AMAZING. my mouth is watering as i sit here writing this. emily had always sworn by the place. but i don’t think i really understood its brilliance until i tasted the first bit of coconut buttered popcorn they slipped onto one table as we sat down. and it was only uphill from there. mouth-watering deliciousness in every bite. so what exactly was all of this deliciousness? small plates, perfect to share and be able to enjoy a few different things from the expansive menu. to start: that coconut buttered popcorn that i mentioned – perfectly moist with a sweet butter with the right amount of crunch and the perfect not-too-heavy pre-meal munch. then: crispy-lentil apple salad, oh yum. fried lentils. goat cheese. apples. crispy lettuce. pistachio puree. then: we almost ordered the sesame BBQ tacos. and then the waiter asked if we had heard about the special: goat tacos, chimichurri sauce, pickled onions and feta cheese. and yes, of course we tried it. i was hesitant, but they were DELICIOUS. the corn tortillas with perfectly braised goat, feta cheese and a little kick. i would definitely order those again. and lastly: wagyu burger sliders. the most tender, perfectly cook burgers with a curried sour cream sauce, peppered bacon, and cheddar and delicious waffle cut sweet potato friend served with chipotle ketchup.

THREE: everything at linger is done with purpose. each ingredient, spice, and flavor adds something to the meal. i would highly recommend making a special trip to the highlands just to visit linger – the outrageously delicious mortuary (water served in formaldehyde-esque  bottles being the only remnants of the previous inhabitants) turned eatery.

FOUR: and this place has more than just great food to offer. their service is fabulous. 75% of the restaurant was built and finished with reclaimed, reused, and recycled materials. local, organic, and sustainable products are used except in cases what that is just not possible. and they compost everything they can.

and of course, after dinner we had to make a pit stop below linger at little man ice cream. what did i try this time? honey banana and peach. SO DELICIOUS. my mouth hasn’t been that happy in a long time.

thanks emily for showing my one of your favorite places. the next time any of YOU – friends or family – are in town, you know where i am gong to take you. and if you’re not okay with a south american style cena – let me know when you book your flight and i’ll make us a reservation.

weirdly wonderful.

summer seems to bring out the crazy of this wonderful city. this article highlights some of the most outrageous, cooky, off the wall happenings the mile high city has to offer!

one thing i’m most looking forward to being a part of? one of the weekly denver cruiser rides! these crazy, costumed rides around downtown denver are apparently a HUGE hit and have been since they started in denver a number of years ago. after having stopped at a few key locations around the city, the ride ends with a circle of death – a small but intense round about of crazy bikers. rumor has it the craziest of bikers even dare to circle against the normal flow of traffic.. i think i’ll have to see the madness to believe it myself.

how about a trip to the county fair? who doesn’t love pie eating competitions, robot wars, paper airplane competitions, skits from casa bonita, speed texting competitions, food trucks and oh i cannot even imagine how much more! sunday of the fair is titled ‘viva denver’ and it’s ‘celebrando la diversidad de denver’, HOW AWESOME! some events on sunday include: dora the explorer, a sopapillas toss, a quinceañera pagent, pin the tail on the burro, and a sugar skull making workshop. the entire lineup for this event (taking place august 10-12) is not for the faint of heart. so put on your overalls, prepare your best chicken dance and get ready for some good, old fashioned fun. i’m going, hope to see you there!

and don’t forget, the cherry creek arts festival is taking place this weekend – be there or be square!

have a great weekend, denver!

heat wave? ice cream cures that.

friday, june 22nd: 100° F

saturday, june 23rd: 102°F

sunday, june 24th : 101°F

it’s been a little warm here in denver this past week. and by a little warm i mean scorching. what better way to eradicate the heat that a trip to the infamous little man ice cream shop in the highland neighborhood of denver.

their brandied peach sorbet is to die for. a good friend of mine, gergana, had the lemon-lime sorbet; the perfect tart ice cold treat for a day like yesterday!

for only $1.99, the little man kiddie scoop was the perfect amount of peach perfection to whisk away at least some of yesterday’s perspiration. and what’s even better about little man? locally sourced, seasonal, and organic ingredients combined in small batches to produce some of the best ice cream, gelato, and sorbet around.

if you’re in denver this summer, i highly recommend a trip! it’s even accessible by footbridge from the end of the 16th street mall!

stay cool, denver!