In February of this year, my beautiful 24 year-old daughter, Ashleigh, moved from Knoxville, Tennessee to Denver, Colorado to start a new chapter in her life and to be closer to her incredible boyfriend, Hunter.  If you know anything about our family, you know that we are extremely close and this was going to be a hard transition for not just me but my husband, Jeff, and my son, Jarrod, as well.  However, we knew that no matter what the distance there was between us, we would always keep that bond and what better way to do than a birthday trip to Denver!

Ashleigh and Frankie
Ashleigh and Frankie

Our little adventure started off a little bumpy with the plane having mechanical problems so we had an hour delay.  After losing about 20 more minutes to avoid a thunderstorm, we landed in Denver at approximately 9:45 Mountain Time…a little late but we were so excited to see our baby girl!  (I might have shed a few tears when I saw her at the airport…ha, ha.)  Ashleigh, very much like me in this way, is a planner so she already had our first stop mapped out!

Everyone was hungry and being that it was so late and on a Thursday night, we didn’t have a lot of options to get a quick bite but Ashleigh had that all figured out.  After checking into our hotel, The Grand Hyatt Downtown Denver, we walked to a beautiful outdoor mall on 16th street and went to a very lively restaurant/bar called Appaloosa Grill.  The bar menu was our only option and primarily Mexican but it was perfect for a late night bite!

Ashleigh and I had the Roasted Poblano Quesadillas (I added chicken to mine) delish!
Ashleigh and I had the Roasted Poblano Quesadillas (I added chicken to mine) delish!
Jeff got the Carne Adobada with Pork
Jeff got the Carne Adobada
And Hunter had the most unique dish...Buffalo Empanadas
And Hunter had the most unique dish…Buffalo Empanadas

On Friday morning, my 49th birthday, we awoke to start our culinary quest!  First, we walked a few blocks to Union Station.  This was one of the coolest places I have ever seen!  It was an actual real operational train station full of the most incredible restaurants and shops set in the most beautiful historical building…It was the perfect place to start our day!

Union Station
Union Station

Ashleigh’s plan for us was to have breakfast at a popular spot called Snooze.  It was obviously very popular because there was about a 45 minute wait so after going on a stroll to an old bookstore in the station, we settled in at a little restaurant bar called Mercantile Dining and Provisions.  Jeff and I had Bloody Mary’s that included a locally made hot sauce called “Bliss” and pickled vegetables.  It was much lighter than most Bloody Mary’s and was so delicious!

Bloody Mary's at Mercantile Dining and Provisions
Bloody Mary’s at Mercantile Dining and Provisions

Finally, we got our notice that our table was ready at Snooze.  It was a sunny day and the temperature was a perfect 65 degrees so we had a nice little table on the outside patio.  First, came the drink menu and it was quite different than most in that it actually featured a Bloody Mary called “Pickled Green Tomato Bloody Mary”.  This I had to try…ummm, as much as I love pickles, this wasn’t my favorite but it was pretty!

Pickled Bloody Mary at Snooze
Pickled Bloody Mary at Snooze

Breakfast isn’t usually my favorite meal of the day but the menu at Snooze was incredible and everyone got something different.  We were all pleased and if you are ever in Denver, this is a must stop!

My spinach, swiss, and tomato omelet..perfectly cooked
My spinach, swiss, and tomato omelet..perfectly cooked
Ashleigh's Bella! Bella! Benny with prosciutto and Taleggio cheese with poached eggs
Ashleigh’s Bella! Bella! Benny with prosciutto and Taleggio cheese with poached eggs
Hunter's Benedict of 2:  Ham Benedict and Chile Verde Benedict
Hunter’s Benedict of 2: Ham Benedict and Chile Verde Benedict
Jeff's B.E.A.T Sandwich with Pork Belly Bacon, Fried Egg, on Ciabatta Bread with bacon-tomato aioli
Jeff’s B.E.A.T Sandwich with Pork Belly Bacon, Fried Egg, on Ciabatta Bread with bacon-tomato aioli

Needless to say, we were stuffed after such a huge breakfast so we headed on foot to see Ashleigh and Hunter’s new place about half a mile from Union Station. Along the way, we passed Coors Field where the Colorado Rockies play…it was such a beautiful building!

Coor's Field
Coor’s Field

Their apartment was amazing and reflected each of their personalities so well!  It was a very “industrial” look with concrete walls, open beamed ceilings, and a very open floor plan.  The best part about it was that it was all theirs and the love that was put into decorating it was very evident.

Afterwards we headed back to explore Denver’s 16th Street Mall and had a little light pub fare…it was the perfect day!

Denver's 16th Street Outdoor Mall
Denver’s 16th Street Outdoor Mall

We ended what I would call a perfect birthday at The Vesta Dipping Grill for dinner.  The atmosphere was so welcoming with its low lighting and exposed kitchen grill…very much like a “gathering place” for family and friends.  The menu focuses on grilled meats served with served alongside several varieties of sauces.  You can go with their “suggested sauces” to compliment the meat you have chosen or you can just wing it and choose a couple of your favorites.  We started out with a tray of cured meats and cheeses…Ashleigh and Jeff’s favorite appetizer of all!  The picture isn’t that great because they couldn’t keep their hands off of it before I could get the shot!

Cured meats and cheese tray with a sauce sampler
Cured meats and cheese tray with a sauce sampler

The rest of our menu choices…

Jeff and Hunter got the Madras Grilled Venison
Jeff and Hunter got the Madras Grilled Venison
Ashleigh had the Garlic Grilled Scallops
Ashleigh had the Garlic Grilled Scallops
Finally, I had the Grilled Beef Tenderloin.  It came with caramelized onion mashed potatoes, with roasted tomatoes and sautéed mushroom.  The sauce next to the steak is a veal demi glas
Finally, I had the Grilled Beef Tenderloin. It came with caramelized onion mashed potatoes, with roasted tomatoes and sautéed mushroom. The sauce next to the steak is a veal demi glas

If you thought the food was good on Friday, Saturday took it to a whole new level with a late brunch on Larimer Square.  Larimer Square an shopping and dining district that is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.  It is one of the oldest blocks in Denver and now utilizes the historic buildings for distinctive shopping and dining.  It is supposedly even more beautiful at night lit up by strings of tiny lights going back and forth across the street.  2

Our brunch was at a restaurant called Tamayo which serves modern style Mexican dishes “tapas” style.  I love Tapas because you get to try so many things on the menu and share them!  They were incredible tasty and the presentation was simple and elegant.  These are the dishes that we tried (and loved)…there were more but I was too busy eating to remember to take pictures..ha, ha!

Mahi Mahi Ceviche
Mahi Mahi Ceviche
Chicken Enchiladas
Chicken Tamal
Squash Blossom
Squash Blossoms
Chicken Enchiladas
Chicken Enchiladas

After a visit to Denver’s Botanical Gardens (It was stunning and I can’t wait to go back), it was time to head to a place that Ashleigh could not wait for me to visit…The Retro Room!  Apparently, they serve Dill Pickle Infused Vodka and Ashleigh had recently had it and LOVED it!  Now, I will admit…I do love my dill pickles and I love to drink pickle juice straight but I’m not a huge vodka fan (I prefer my light Chardonnay) but Ashleigh convinced me I had to try it.

The Retro Pub with various typed of Infused Vodkas
The Retro Pub with various typed of Infused Vodkas

So as I stated, I’m not a huge Vodka fan but especially not of straight Vodka on the rocks and that is basically what this was…One part pickle juice to two parts vodka.  It was one of the best things that I have ever put in my mouth…Ummm, I had 3!  As soon as I got home, I got the recipe and have some brewing as we speak…blog coming soon!  I can’t wait to try it in a Bloody Mary!  Jeff had Jalapeno Infused Tequila and that was good, too!  This is a must visit place when you come to Denver (good for people watching, too!).

Dill Pickle Infused Vodka
Dill Pickle Infused Vodka

Finally, it was time to head back to the shower and get ready for our final Denver meal.  We headed back to Union Station to a very unique and innovative seafood restaurant called Stoic and Genuine.  A note on this…reservations can be difficult to come by but somehow Jeff, knowing how bad I wanted to go there, got American Express Concierge service to get us the perfect table for 4 in a quaint corner at prime time dinner hour…What an awesome husband!

Outside Stoic and Genuine waiting for our table...Ashleigh, Hunter, and Jeff
Outside Stoic and Genuine waiting for our table…Ashleigh, Hunter, and Jeff

We started off with a Fresh Uni Dish per Jeff’s request (not my favorite but a must try at some point in your life)

Fresh Uni with miso-cured and charred fatty beef, kimchi granita with a shiso emulsion!
Fresh Uni with miso-cured and charred fatty beef, kimchi granita with a shiso emulsion!

and 2 Dozen oysters that Ashleigh took out pretty quickly…(they were amazing)

Oysters on the Half Shell
Oysters on the Half Shell

For our entrees, we all chose different things; Once again, however, Ashleigh chose the most unique dish, Crispy Whole Haddock.

Ashleigh's Crispy Whole Haddock
Ashleigh’s Crispy Whole Haddock

The rest of us stayed pretty basic…

Jeff's
Jeff’s Fried Oyster Sandwich
Hunter's
Hunter’s Paella…Stoic and General style
I had Crab Legs
I had Crab Legs
with a side of Crawdads and Grits...so yummy!
with a side of Crawdads and Grits…so yummy!

Denver is a great place to visit and if you are looking for a true culinary adventure, this is your place.  I’m going back this summer so stay tuned for Part 2!

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