Springtime Walks and The Farmers Markets

Every few weekends I like to take a long walk through the Highlands-- it's a big section of the city and it's where I live and play. I usually start the walk around Potter Highlands Historic District, grab a coffee along 32nd Avenue, and then cross over the 3 pedestrian bridges that link the Lower Highlands (LoHi) with Downtown, by way of the Platte neighborhood. I like the fact that there is no car needed for this excursion. 
Each of the three foot bridges cross a thoroughfare that's impossible to traverse by foot: the I-25 highway, the Platte River and the train tracks that carry coal, freight and the light-rail commuter train. It's an incredibly smart way to connect downtown with some of the surrounding residential communities and it was all done relatively recently. Kudos to the designers behind this green, urban idea.
Since Otis seemingly has an unlimited amount of energy and can pretty much walk/run anywhere for any amount of time, and Theodore is super happy in his umbrella stroller, this (very) long walk is a really nice way to spend a couple of hours. Sometimes we sit on the grass at Commons Park, sometimes we watch kayakers at Confluence Park, and sometimes we stroll along the busy streets of the Platte. But no matter what, we always seem to wind up at Little Man Ice Cream...and usually it's when they've stocked their Salted Oreo flavor. Coincidence? Maybe. Or maybe not!  
The Highlands Farmers Market is now open on the weekend, so if I do this walk on Saturday, I stop by. I love market season! 
What flavor should I have today?

And after walking, it's time to hit the farmers market...
The Highlands Market is a block long and much smaller than the Cherry Creek market. But there is something really nice and local about it-- there's that neighborhoody-feel. There are a few stalls dedicated to produce and I picked up some scallions, baby lettuce, beets and a whole bunch of herbs including dill, thyme and basil. Many vendors sell other edibles such as fresh bread (I picked up a delicious foccacia), cheese, fresh pasta, and locally-sourced honey. And there are food trucks (big, big exclamation mark!)! So far I've tried:
Arepas de Domino (black beans and cheese) from Quiero Arepas. Yum!
Quinoa Salad from Eat Eatcletic. Perfect!
A Watermelon-Orange pop from Aikopops. Delish!
Today I also picked up a Chocolate Pecan Pie from the Denver Pie Truck and it was AMAZING! Lip-smacking good. 
Next week I'll be sure to try some latkes from Latke Love-- "Potato Latkes Piled High." I'm going to start with their traditional latkes to see if they remind me of home. (For the meat-eaters, there's also "The Confused Rabbi"-- a latke meat and dairy combination that may or may not have pig product inside, I can't remember. I dig the title though I won't be trying it for obvious reasons...and it's not because I'm kosher.) I'm also going to leave room for a(nother) pie from The Denver Pie Truck. And I'll have to try some more of Eat Eatclectic's treats. Of course it should go without saying (but I'll say it anyway) that I'm 100% certain that by the end of the summer I will have eaten at every stall/food truck at the market. I'm a big fan of street food-- it's just how I roll! I'll be sure to report back. 
Now I just couldn't wait for the next Saturday market (a painful 7 days away), so I went over to Old South Pearl Street which has a market that is open on Sunday. Flowers, produce, antiques, food trucks, and pops...the whole gang was out.
Strawberry-Rhubarb pop hit the spot!
These are the recipes that I'll be making this week, inspired by the Farmers Market:
Black Bean (Domino) Arepas, Courtesy of Hungry Sofia
Chilled Cucumber Soup, Courtesy of Ina Garten
Quinoa Salad, Courtesy of TasteSpotting
Garlic Scape Pizza, Courtesy of Three Clever Sisters
Baby Lettuce with Strawberries, Feta and Almonds, Courtesy of Food & Wine Magazine (scroll to the end of the post)
Strawberry-Rhubarb Pie with Crumb Topping, Courtesy of My Trash and Treasure

See you next weekend...and happy cooking/eating!

Morning Walk, Park II: Historic Lower Highlands (and Some Italian Sweets)

This is becoming a great ritual: an early to mid-morning walk through one of Denver's neighborhoods, followed by some local eats. I firmly believe that the best way to explore a city is to visit one neighborhood at a time and then spend an hour or two on foot, checking things out. So many details get lost from a car window.

Today's plan was to walk around the Platte River neighborhood, but I kind of got lost en route.  I found the Riverfront Park area, but couldn't seem to find the shops that I wanted to check out on Pearl Street; I quickly realized that I was in the wrong place. Instead I stumbled onto the Flour Mill Lofts, an amazing building that was converted from an old flour mill into an urban residential building. (I'm a big fan of converting defunct existing structures into living spaces.) Then I passed the Denver Skateboard Park. A few minutes later I somehow wound up on a little bridge that took me up to Speer Boulevard, a major thoroughfare in the city.  Before I knew it I had crossed the river and was back in the Highlands-- where I live, but in a part of the Highlands nicknamed LoHi (Lower Highlands) where I haven't really explored.  The sun was shining and the weather was gorgeous.  Not wanting to waste more time, I decided to unload the troops and walk around.
There's great historic architecture in Denver, which is something I hadn't expected (I'm not sure why). There's Foursquares ('Prairie-Box' dating from 1895-1930), Mission Revival, and Victorian styles built before the silver crash of 1893. Later examples of architecture include Colonial Revivial, Dutch Colonial Revival and the ubiquitous and quaint Craftsman-style bungalow homes. Today we saw tons of Victorians in the Potter-Highland Historic District. We walked around for a long time and before I knew it, it was well past noon and it was time for a snack. We walked over to 32nd Avenue and the hunt was on for a coffee shop or a little bakery. At the corner of Clay, I saw a place called 'Spuntino' and I had a feeling this was going to hit the spot. (This 'Spuntino' is not to be confused with Frankie's Spuntino, the Brooklyn eatery, which has also been mentioned on this blog. It also shouldn't be confused with 'spumoni'- that's an ice cream with layers of colored flavors and candied nuts.) 

Spuntino is an Italian snack-- and this place has small plates, paninis, gelato, piadine and soup. They also have homemade popsicles, which are apparently fantastic, though I didn't try them personally. (Next time.) The menu is well thought out with dolce (sweet) and salato (savory) options.  I got a pastry, a cup of coffee and some gelato-to-go. When I got home I portioned out the gelato, a Chocolate Covered Sea Salt Caramel.  Seriously. It was delicious and authentic. Apparently the owners had flown in an expert from Italy to train employees on the gelato making process. It was spot on. 

A few blocks away is Little Man Ice Cream.  Their 1,400 lbs. milk can/store is fantastic and their ice cream is delicious.  Not for today though. Maybe Wednesday!   
Next week I'll be heading over to Park Hill and SoBo. Stay turned!

time for a snack...
back to our walk...

back at home...

A Snowy Saturday and A Shout-Out to Brooklyn (Dumac and Cheese)

I love snowy days here in Denver, Colorado. Unlike the Northeast, where snow is a harbinger of cold things to come and you really don't thaw out till mid-March, the snow here will likely melt in a day or two and then temperatures will go back to 50 degrees. The sun will be out shining until the next snow fall. There aren't huge berms of snow (like the 4 foot mound that stayed on my old corner in Brooklyn for months) and you never get to know just how many dogs actually live on your block (know what I'm talking about?). Here, the strong sun and high altitude causes the snow to melt, seemingly without any puddles. Evaporation is a powerful force of nature around these parts.  
So today, the morning after it snowed about 6 inches, I took the boys out for a little morning ride in our new (pink) sled. One man who was shoveling his walkway shouted, "looks like she's having one helluva time." By 'she' the man meant Otis, so I explained that pink was the only color sled left in the store. Otis loved it. Theo, not as much...
We live in the Highlands section of Denver, at least for the time being. The neighborhood has an awesomely quirky housing stock and an eclectic collection of architectural styles- everything from American Craftsman and bungalows to hyper-modern pre-fabricated design. It's fun to walk around because there are so many great details everywhere you look.
We were outside for about an hour and a half and then I started getting hungry. I mean it's a real workout carrying a 14 pound infant in a sling and pulling a 28 pound toddler. So we turned around and headed home.  
Knowing full well that a salad or 'something light' just wouldn't cut it on a day like today, I decided that I had to make either: a stew, a hearty minestrone soup or some macaroni and cheese. I went with option number three. I thought about my favorite mac-n-cheese from Martha Stewart, but I wanted to try a different recipe. I had one for DuMont's Dumac and Cheese (by way of The New Brooklyn Cookbook)...and I conveniently had Gruyére and heavy cream in the house.
It seemed so appropriate that I make this Dumont dish today because tonight one of our closest friends is having her Supper Club debut in Brooklyn! So shout out to Kathyrn of Cooking Inside the Box and Whiskey & Salt Supper Club. We'll be thinking of you. Good luck. xo 
* * * 
About this Mac-and-Cheese: 
"No truffle oil, no weird stuff.  Make a good sauce, buy good cheese.  That's it." 
- Polo Dobkin, Dumont
DuMac and Cheese (Courtesy of The New Brooklyn Cookbook)
Serves 6
• 1 pound radiatore, elbow macaroni, or fusilli
• 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
• 2 cups whole milk
• 2 1/2 cups heavy cream
• 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter
• 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
• 1/2 pound Gruyère, grated, divided
• 1/2 pound sharp white cheddar, grated, divided
• Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
• 1/4 cup unseasoned bread crumbs
1. Preheat the oven to 400° F.
2. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook the pasta al dente, according to the package directions. Drain, toss with the olive oil in a large bowl, and set aside to cool.
3. Meanwhile, combine the milk and cream in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat; bring to a gentle simmer.
4. Melt the butter in a large, heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat. Add the flour and whisk until the flour is fully incorporated and the mixture is smooth. Continue mixing with a wooden spoon until the mixture is a pale golden color, about 4 minutes. Slowly add the hot milk and cream mixture to the flour mixture, whisking constantly to incorporate. Bring to a simmer, whisking occasionally to keep the mixture from burning. Add half the Gruyère and half the cheddar and whisk until the cheese has melted and the sauce is smooth. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
5. Add the cooked pasta and toss well to combine. Pour the pasta into a buttered 9 x 13-inch baking dish or a 3-quart gratin dish. Top with the remaining Gruyère and cheddar and sprinkle with the bread crumbs. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until golden and bubbly. Allow the mac and cheese to rest for 5 minutes before serving.