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.