First there was the hype. A good friend of mine had bought the Safta cookbook. She swore she would only eat Safta 7 days a week, 3 meals a day, for the rest of her life. It was that good. We decided to check it out for our anniversary the following week. The entire week before going, everyone, friends, coworkers, strangers on the street were talking about Safta it seemed.
“Have you tried Safta?” “You have to try Safta,” “Blah, blah, blah, blah, SAFTA, blah, blah, blah.” The night before our anniversary, I woke up to a soft whisper…SSSssaafta…. Riding into my very own bedroom on a unicorn was a handsome bartender, shirtless in his Safta signature apron with a Crystal’s Light on a silver tray…..Ssssaaafftaaa.
Could it be this good? Our expectations were high needless to say. We went, we drank, we ate, (too much of both) and pretty much loved it. I must admit though that it took one more visit to love, love it. The second time we even ate the bar, something I generally don't prefer; but well, as you can tell I love their bar and bartenders so it was amazing.
I did have the Crystal’s Light and while the bartender was fully clothed and no unicorns were present, it was still magical. It has many of my favorites (vodka) and things I didn’t even know I like (elderflower). Putting our faith in said bartender, we let him direct us on how much and what food to order. One mistake of our first experience was filling up on too many sides (salatim section of menu) and hummus dishes, both served with their infamous pita bread. The pita…. it’s easily the best I have ever had. With no willpower when it comes to carbs, I learned however, we needed to pace ourselves to enjoy some of the larger dishes too. The staff is generous with the perfectly cooked pita and it’s easy to accept their never-ending offering of the warm bread.
This time around, we started with the muhammara and the lamb ragu hummus, served of course with generous pita. The lamb ragu hummus is arguably the most popular and its easy to see why - the velvety, smooth hummus mixed with the flavorful lamb topping can only be described as delightful. I could easily have eaten this for my meal, but I would have missed out enjoying the larger dishes. Pacing ourselves with our pita this time, we next enjoyed the crispy eggplant (the only time I have ever seen my husband eat eggplant), and then ended with the Pomegranate Braised Lamb Shank. Considering that the man behind Safta named his parent company Pomegranate Hospitality, you just know this dish is going to be good. Paired with a whipped feta and fresh peaches, what could go wrong? Nothing. Sadly, on both visits we did not save room for dessert, but vow to return with a larger group to expand our culinary experience.
Safta in Hebrew means grandmother – you can see the touch of an older generation in the water glasses adorned with pink flowers, plates that would have worked in the 1950’s and even a portrait of the owner’s grandmother can be found hanging in the bar. Many of the recipes are inspired by his grandmother- someone all of us in Denver owe a thank you.
I am not the best traveller. I don't like cars or planes. I don't like boats or trains. I don't like strange beds or slowly dripping showers. I don't like friends having fun and staying up all hours. I don't like hiking or biking. There is not much to my liking. But I like Aspen. And channeling Dr. Seuss.
I also like eating and drinking.
I woke up early on day two to buy pastries. I bought all the pastries. They cost a billion dollars and were sickeningly good. Maybe the place was Paradise bakery? If not it should have been. I was not the only carb-obsessed traveller. We each brought snacks to share. Not many of these bags made the trip home. Particularly because they paired so well with the Green Chili cheddar dip.
In addition to carbohydrates day two featured the one hike I managed: Maroon Bells. Short and spectacular. Lets ignore the fact that we got there by shuttle and a large portion of the "hike" was navigated with ease by octogenarians. I didn't include the iconic lake shot because I am not one to follow the herd.
Except literally as I followed the herd around the lake.
After the hike we needed hydration so we headed the W hotel bar. We are attending to our hero, enjoying his Australian accent as much as our drink orders. Our priorities changed however when he dropped our drinks in the pool. It was a rescue mission befitting the great Australian wildlife expert Steve Irwin. But luckily less deadly. It had a happy ending:
The next morning those of us who were sane skipped the hours long almost pure vertical hike. We hit a local coffee shop. Shop local people. Just check the cup if you need a reminder. Which you might before your caffeine.
Then we headed to the art market/farmer's market, the John Denver Botanic Garden, and a walk to look at billion dollar houses.
One of our group calls the Hotel Jerome her happy place. Or something more soulful. That said we decided to pop in around lunchtime. You can do some deep reading about the architecture and amenities on their website. We walked through the excellent lobby, checked out the closed bar and then settled in for burgers at the J Bar. Although I don't remember prohibition I have decided to add the word fiasco to my life. It is a fiasco that I have been ignoring it for so long. Was that as forced as me at Maroon Bells. Maybe.
That night (our last one) found us at Monarch Steakhouse. Eat local. Here I followed the martini rule. Martinis are like breasts. One is two few. Three are too many. Except that I didn't actually follow the rule and had three. Hence the un-fun drive home.
Another highlight of Aspen? The bathrooms! I am not talking about posh bar bathrooms. I am talking about outdoor bathrooms.
Here's to Aspen: full of hikes, bites, drinks and billionaires. And snark.
Wander down to the South Pearl Street Farmers Market any Sunday from May- November and it’s easy to see why Coloradans consistently rank as most fit population in the entire U.S. Our family of five headed down to the market one Sunday, armed with our reusable grocery bag and 10 year old boxer- trying to fit in with the ever growing crowd of young hipsters that regularly eat vegetables I am still googling. Platt Park was our first neighborhood as a young married couple in Denver and while it’s been ten years since we moved, it’s still a favorite spot. It helps that the Old South Pearl Street has maintained amazing restaurants thanks in a large part to the sushi empire I need not name (but love and will write about another time).
On this Sunday, it’s a beautiful day and quite warm. We are welcomed with a sign stating the pavement may be too hot for paws and best to leave our furry friends at home. Major hipster fail here, but at least I am not holding a Starbucks (already finished it). We take turns walking our boxer in the shade of the storefronts and hanging by the water bowl (even this display is cool!) which is fine since the main street is……packed.
The South Pearl Street Farmers Market has been running for almost 20 years and has grown considerably. Added to the mix of fresh produce are a handful of food trucks, booths with sauces and soaps, booths with healing tinctures and CBD products, and plenty of fresh baked goods. Much though is the same and we head to our favorites like the fresh peaches and the everlasting fill-a-bag for $10 stand. The face painter and balloon lady are still set up by the live music, but sadly our crowd has outgrown them. After our produce haul, we wander over to The Honey People. We ask for more information on the varieties of honey, but apparently, they are best tasted and little explanation is offered. I can’t tell a huge difference, but my son picks his favorite- Orange Clover.
Even with the heat and the crowds, usually a recipe for disaster with kids, the experience is surprisingly pleasant. Free samples help and our kids each piece together a full cookie through freebies. Seeing this, we make one final purchase of baked goods out of shame for our disproportionate amount of samples. These of course are the first of our purchases to disappear when we get home….still have plenty of beets though.
Fetch is nothing like that.
Fetch is the re-brand of Denver Flea. Located in Rino it pops up a few times a year with DJs, food trucks, and local products of all sorts. If I was the kind of person who would use the words curated, artisan, and maker I would for sure be using them here.
I visited Fetch April 13th on its opening day. It was cold, grey, and spitting. The weather, not the flea market. After paying an entrance fee my group wandered the outside parking lot amongst the trucks talking about how nice it would be in the sun. Instead of looking around at vendors our hands were shielding our faces and we almost missed almost all of the 150+ booths in the garage.
Here are a few images from amongst the excellence inside.
Another difference between Fetch and the Wellfleet flea Market? Fetch features dogs not kittens. This is Denver after all.
Want to learn more... follow this is Fetch on Instagram.
After a few gatherings we realized that we needed to add some of the Truffle meats to our spread. It seemed that no one wanted to leave for dinner and we needed to beef (and pork (get your mind out of the gutter)) up our offerings. Just take a half step from the cheese cooler over to the meat cooler and have them slice you meat to become the main part of the meal. Two bits of advice: avoid the duck prosciutto (so very expensive) and act confused about which things you want to purchase. The Truffle is VERY generous with their tasting samples.
Here is one of MANY MANY cheese offerings our counter has hosted.