Saturday, April 29, 2017

The Weathervane Cafe

The Weathervane Cafe is one of the most charming cafes around. Actually, I think it might just be the most charming cafe in Denver. It lives within an old house on a commercial street. The house itself brings boatloads of charm that you can't get in any other way. There's a front porch with outdoor seating, a narrow stairway that leads to upstairs seating, and the nooks and crannies that you'll only find in a single family home that didn't know it would someday become a coffee shop.

The owners of the cafe have obviously put a ton of thought and care into every single decision in regards to the decor of this place. Either that or they've lived a charming life where whimsy and quirkiness come naturally with anything they touch. The lighting, wall colors, art, furniture, plants, and even the items for sale are a dream for someone wanting a cozy space with its own unique character. The fact that you feel like you might fall through the couch when actually sitting on it is made up for with the feeling that you might just not mind being stuck in that particular couch--and a few extra throw pillows to prop you up as you sip your lavender latte.

This place is actually my dream house--and this includes staff to make me coffee and amazingly delicious, but healthy food. It's a good place to study and stay for awhile. You don't get the feeling that you need to leave right away. The downstairs is obviously not meant to be a place where you stay a little longer to study for that exam or write that lengthy blog post. It's a good space for those who are just in a for a quick cup and tasty bite. But upstairs, if the space is not already taken up, you can find a cozy alcove to study, read a book, or knit a scarf. It would be a good space to meet up with a small group or find a seat at one of the chairs at the bar-like wall table and ignore everyone around you.

I want to live in the Weathervane Cafe and I also want to take it with me when I leave Denver. It's not often that you come across a cafe that does a better job with your own personal aesthetic than you do. I foresee myself spending hours here and the only reason I would refrain from doing so is to save money and have my coffee at home. But for the occasional treat and meetup with friends, this is the place for those old quirky souls in Denver.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

City, O' City

Last summer I stopped by City, O' City after an interview to reward myself for a job well done and to get lunch before heading to work at the Museum of Contemporary Art Denver. It was the best interview I've ever had--which is odd since the interview I recently had for my new position in the same department was the worst interview I've ever had, but more on that later. I ordered a red wine & cola drink called the strummer. It was delicious. I tried to recreate it at the MCA Cafe & Bar later that night with no such luck. We must not have had the right kind of red wine. I had heard of this drink before from a friend who spent some time living in Spain. I now dream of someday sitting outside of a cafe on a sunny street in Madrid, sipping a kalimotxo with Brian and our dog, Kiki.

City, O' City is a vegetarian restaurant with kombucha on tap. It strikes me as the type of place that even a strict meat eater would enjoy--as long as they could let go of that need for meat long enough to embrace the creative and varied menu. One of my favorite things to order is the City, O' burger with sauteed mushrooms and onion rings on the side. They have the best onion rings that I have ever had. They're the perfect amount of crispy with just the right amount of grease. Every time I order this, I forget how much food it really is and remind myself to just order the onion rings or the burger with a side salad the next time I'm there. There's a lot on the menu that I still want to try. They have noodle dishes, waffles with fried "chicken", kimchi stew, a cheese plate, and much more.

City, O' City is often very busy at night and on the weekends, as you would expect from a popular restaurant in a booming city. However, it is sometimes uncomfortably busy. It's still worth going, just expect a wait and be prepared for it. If you are with five or more people, make a reservation. City, O' City has a certain amount of quirkiness and people are drawn to that. The front part of the restaurant feels more like a diner with futuristic lighting features and an impressive window shelf full of plants. To the right of the entrance there's a seating area with a cozy couch and armchairs. The back of the restaurant is reminiscent of an old-timey bar. We've found quite a few restaurants with a good atmosphere that we enjoy so far in Denver, and we're looking forward to finding more in the future.

One thing that I appreciate about City, O' City is that it supports the local art scene by hosting monthly art shows. Whenever I eat there, it makes me want to make more art, frame it, and hang it up. I had my art in a solo show at a vegan cafe in Seoul two years ago. I haven't made much art since then--the move to the US has been stressful and chaotic enough to make me question whether I have any art left to make. Maybe it's time to start again. We'll see. I didn't take any pictures of the art on the walls while I was at the Queen Restaurant of Capitol Hill, but I did appreciate the colorful graffiti in the bathroom. It reminds me of the bathrooms at the park in Hongdae, Seoul which were just as covered in graffiti, but way less clean.


Saturday, April 15, 2017

Dae Gee: A Korean Restaurant in Denver

Last night Brian and I went to a Korean restaurant called Dae Gee. It really does remind me of Korea with its glass garage door and posters for Korean beer, as well as the general design of the restaurant. It brought back memories of eating barbecue on the sidewalk outside of a restaurant, sitting on plastic stools around a plastic table with the grill on top. I've been feeling very nostalgic for Seoul lately and would love to fly back for a week of eating and sightseeing. There were so many good nights gathered around a table with a dozen good friends and countless bottles of makgeolli, soju, and Cass.

When we went to Dae Gee for the first time last summer, I was happy with the atmosphere and Korean alcohol, but disappointed with the food. We ordered the all-you-can-eat meat dinner. It came with marinated chicken, thinly sliced beef, and other kinds of barbecue. I had a hunch that it just wasn't the type of meat that I was looking for. Maybe if we came back again and ordered something different, we would satisfy our craving for the food that was so readily available to us during our time in Korea. We knew that it was unlikely that Korean food in Colorado would live up to our favorite restaurants in Seoul, but I was hoping for more.

I decided to give Dae Gee another chance, this time with lower expectations. We ordered just one type of meat that we knew would be closer to what we usually ordered in Seoul. The L.A. Galbee was thicker and more like the BBQ I was craving. The fish cakes, cucumber kimchi, pickled radishes, seaweed crumbles, and other side dishes really hit the spot. They give you unlimited refills on side dishes when you order two entrees. We also ordered a bottle of magkeolli to go with the meal, although it pained us to pay $13 for what would've cost about $4 in Seoul. It was served in a big black bowl with a ladle and we were given traditional metal cups to drink from.

Sitting and sipping our makgeolli as we waited for the meat to cook, we reminisced about our time in Korea. We talked about our trip to Seoraksan and the little cafe where we stopped after the hike on the side of the mountain. I thought about meals with friends in Korea and how much more of a community I had there than I have here in Denver. It's easy to relate to people when you are all going through the same things and living in the same type of situation. We all had a lot in common in the expat teaching community. After years of becoming comfortable in Korea, I now feel like I am in a new foreign country. I miss the restaurant culture of Seoul. I miss walking down a busy thoroughfare lined with restaurants and people eating and having a good time. Everything seems more spread out in Denver and less connected. Even on the 16th Street Mall, the atmosphere just isn't the same. 

Although this meal at Dae Gee was more enjoyable than the last, it still pales in comparison to the two-story samgyeopsal restaurant on that one side street off the parking lot street in Hongdae. It was a traditional-looking wooden Korean building with the most delicious Korean pork belly I've ever had. If you've ever been there, you might know the one I'm talking about, or you might have your own favorite Korean restaurant tucked away down a side street that was just as good. I'm sure we'll go back to Dae Gee sometime and try their kimchi jjigae and bibimbap. We'll probably even give Seoul BBQ in Aurora another chance, but for now I plan on making a trip to H-mart for high-quality samgyeopsal to cook at home, side dishes galore, and a few bottles of makgeolli to wash it all down.

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Garden of the Gods & Dry Creek Park

Last week I surprised Brian by having his family secretly fly out to see him for his birthday. I planned our morning to allow for us to leave the house just when his parents arrived. We went downstairs to find his mom and dad waiting for us on the sidewalk. He couldn't believe that they were there at first. He kept saying that he couldn't believe they were there that whole day and throughout the weekend.

We planned two day trips to Red Rocks Park and the Garden of the Gods. The drive down was rainy and most of the landscape was covered with mist. This was a rare occurrence in Colorado--I enjoyed the weather while I could. But of course it would be rainy the one weekend we wanted to show off the Colorado sun since his family was flying in from Chicago and Maine where it was still a little dreary. 

It was actually neat to see Colorado in the rain. We thought it might make the trip down to see the Garden of the Gods a waste of time, but the massive rocks and tree-dotted grasses actually looked quite magical in the rain. We knew we would be able to go back and see it again in the sun if we wanted to, and at least there weren't too many people around.

After the two days that we spent with his parents, Brian still had no idea that his brothers were going to show up. We pretended that his dad needed to go take a nap, and when we went back to where they were staying, Brian was surprised with one of his brothers and his family. Later that night, we finally just told Brian that his other brother and his family were arriving at the airport soon and that he had to go pick them up with his dad.

We took them to places around Denver that wouldn't be too hard to navigate with a six-month-old and one-year-old. We went to Union Station for coffee and to enjoy the architecture. After that we walked over to the Museum of Contemporary Art Denver and showed them the view from the rooftop cafe. That night we had a birthday dinner for Brian, and we headed over to Dry Creek Park the next day.

The last day that they were here was almost unbearably sunny and hot. When you stand in the Colorado sun, you can feel the radiation burning your skin--you can feel the sunburn as it is happening. Despite the heat, we strolled around the park and enjoyed a view of the mountains. With only a few days to work with, we felt that we gave our guests a good introduction to the Colorado that we've come to know. There is much more that we haven't seen, but we have enjoyed our time here so far.

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