Wednesday, November 22, 2017

The Best Ramen in Denver: Sushi Tazu

Two summers ago on a sunny day, I took the subway a few stops over with Brian to find a location for his outdoor watercolor painting class in Seoul. We departed the train at a subway station that was connected to a department store. In search of food, we made our way to the basement food court where people doing their shopping were bustling around as they sought out lunch or snacks to sustain them while they browsed. There were a lot of different types of food to choose from, but we settled on a little Japanese restaurant where we sat at the counter and slurped down a very satisfying bowl of ramen.

Ever since then, that ramen restaurant in the department store basement in Seoul has been our benchmark for good ramen. I'm sure that I did have better ramen while I was in Korea, but that summer day on our way to the park stands out in my mind for one reason or another. Soon after moving to Denver, we realized that there wasn't much variety of restaurants here. There are more than enough sports bars, breweries, and hamburger joints. There are plenty of breakfast spots and pubs. But what we were looking for was good ramen, and after a year of living in Denver, we still hadn't found anything that came close to what we had in Seoul.

It's not really fair to compare the Asian food in an old west American city to Asian food in Asia, but we found the choices in Denver lacking, and we were determined to try them all until we found what we wanted. After visiting a few stores in the shopping center in Cherry Creek, we passed by Sushi Tazu as we left the neighborhood. The exterior caught my eye. It looked like a more relaxed and cozy place in a neighborhood with a shiny new shopping mall and fancy chain restaurants. I stored away the location in the back of my mind and waited for the next time we were in the area.

We were in Cherry Creek again running errands or coming back from somewhere else when we got hungry and needed to find a restaurant. I remembered Sushi Tazu and suggested that we go there. I had in mind that I might have a pork cutlet or some sushi, but as we walked up I saw the sign for ramen and tried not to get my hopes up. We both ordered the pork belly ramen. It was everything we had been hoping for. It definitely lived up to our expectations. We had finally found the best ramen in Denver. Maybe we'll find an even better ramen someday, but for now, Sushi Tazu is where we go when we crave that belly-warming bowl of savory goodness.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Sweet Action Ice Cream

The sun shines often and brightly in Denver. Stepping into the light sometimes feels like stepping into a microwave. On a hot summer day, it can feel much, much cooler in the shade. But the sun is oh so beautiful, and the skies are oh so blue. Walking around outside in Denver in the summer leaves me feeling happy and alive. Everyone is out walking their dog, going to the park, having lunch on a patio, or enjoying an ice cream with friends or family.

In my last post, I mentioned that there are an abundance of cafes, restaurants, and shops in South Broadway. This is one of the first neighborhoods we visited. I didn't see its charm right away, but I still had on my nothing-will-ever-beat-Seoul goggles. Now that I have been away for longer, it's easier to separate myself from that bustling city of neon lights and towering high rise apartment buildings. I still miss it dearly, of course, but now I am free to appreciate Denver without having to compare the two (although I still do, sometimes).

Sweet Action Ice Cream is just one of the many little stops to make along Broadway between 1st and Alameda. The front of the shop opens most of the way, which provides a nice place to sit and stare at the dreamy summer scenes and the people walking by when the weather is hot. And honestly that could be in the middle of February just as much as it could be in August. Well, maybe not just as much, but we definitely had a couple of hot days in winter last year.

They have many wonderful flavors such as salted butterscotch, vegan chai, nerds, brown bread molasses, sweet potato casserole, and PUMPKIN PIE. I have to admit that I haven't thought about getting pumpkin pie ice cream from a local ice cream shop until just now, but I am so glad that I decided to write this post today so that I could see they have that on the menu. We're going out to run some errands today, and you can bet your britches that we'll be stopping for a pint of pumpkin pie ice cream on our way home.

Friday, November 17, 2017

The Art Students League of Denver

There are an abundance of art events every week in Denver. That's probably true of most big cities, but I do appreciate the enthusiasm of the art community here. Whether you want to walk around a quiet gallery with a glass of chardonnay and a muffin liner full of nuts, visit a historic building where art is being shown and classes are still being held, or hit up a few breweries while popping into a gallery here and there, Denver has a lot going on.

A few weeks ago, Brian met me after work and we walked to the Art Students League of Denver where they were showing work by established and up-and-coming Colorado artists. The Art Students League holds classes for anyone interested in learning. There are opportunities to get involved for established artists or for those who would like to learn, but have no experience at all. There are also volunteer opportunities for anyone who appreciates art and just wants to be a part of it all. Brian volunteered last year for a silent auction fundraiser.

We walked around looking at the art and making the old floorboards squeak. There were a few paintings that I enjoyed, but my favorite piece was the diorama of a 50's housewife multiplied and doing all of the chores at once while her husband sits at the table with his coffee and newspaper. First of all, I love miniatures. Did you know that Denver has a museum dedicated entirely to miniatures? How have I not been yet? Believe me, it's next on my list.

Maybe I'm getting it completely wrong, but the diorama seemed to be drawing attention to the work that women do for their household in a traditional heterosexual marriage. It's a worthy topic of discussion. We haven't left that world behind entirely, yet. There was a button that you could push and it would play a clip on the black space at the back of the room from what I am assuming is a1950's TV show or film.

It would be interesting to find out who the artist is and what they meant their work to portray. Is the viewer's interpretation less important than the artists? Should we always have pamphlets to read to give background on artwork? I don't know the answer to these questions, but I do enjoy thinking about how a piece of art might have a different meaning to the one that I assign it. In the end, all art is seen differently from our endless perspectives.

I was a little tired the night that we went to the Art Students League. I didn't note the names of artists and I barely glanced at the pamphlet. There was less to see than I was expecting, but it was still a nice way to spend a Friday night. When we were done exploring the different rooms of this historic building, we walked over to Broadway for dinner. We went to a restaurant called The Hornet in the South Broadway area. The food was good and the restaurant had a nice atmosphere, even though they had big TVs playing sports on the walls. I'm not a huge fan of sports bars.

There's a stretch of Broadway that is home to many shops, coffee shops, and restaurants from about 1st Ave to Alameda. The coffee shops I've enjoyed in the past are Mutiny Information Cafe and Metropolis. Our favorite restaurant in that area is Sputnik, which is next to a dive bar/music venue called Hi-Dive. We've only been to Hi-Dive once, but I'd definitely go again. There's a cute little plant shop that also sells tea and a craft store that is way too expensive for my budget. I'd like to try bowling at Punch Bowl Social and seeing an indie movie or foreign film at the Mayan Theatre. We haven't been back to South Broadway much lately, but thinking of all of the options has me wanting to go again soon.

Read about my art show at City, O' City here.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Art Show at City, O' City

City, O' City was one of the first restaurants we went to in Denver. I like to call it the Queen Restaurant of Capitol Hill. For those of you not familiar with Denver's nickname, it is called the Queen City of the Plains, which gives a clue to its geography. Before I moved here, I only thought of mountains when I thought of Colorado. And when I thought of mountains, I thought of a temperate rainforest rather than a high plains desert, which I can blame on growing up in the beautiful Columbia River Gorge in the Pacific Northwest.

After living in Denver for a year, I felt more comfortable and more settled. It was time to pursue something other than just surviving in a new place. For so long I had just been focused on making sure that I was employed enough to be able to afford life in the United States. I had four jobs in my first year of living at home again. Once I was hired for a full-time position, I felt that I was able to start thinking about making art again.

Once I decided that I was going to make art, I got in touch with City, O' City and Pablo's Coffee to see if they had any openings coming up. I emailed both of them and didn't hear anything for a long time. The email I sent to Pablo's Coffee was returned, as the email address I had for them was apparently wrong. I still haven't tried sending it to their main email rather than their art email, but maybe I'll save that for next year. A few months later, I received an email from City, O' City out of the blue asking if I would like to show my art there for the month of November.

I was a little hesitant, as I was becoming more focused on work and I hadn't actually made the art that I said I was going to make. Instead, I started working on knitting a scarf, weaving a wall hanging, and beading a medallion necklace in the Native American style, which my aunts taught me in high school. I knew that I had to say yes, and having a deadline would be a great way to motivate myself to make art.

Being asked to show my art made me feel much more at home in Denver. It made me feel like I am doing something here, like I am a part of this city. Two years ago in November in Seoul, I also had a solo art show at the vegan cafe Plant. It was a great coincidence that I should be putting my art up at a similar place in Denver.

I still had some of the DNA/RNA agarose gel prints from a lab at a university in Seoul that I had in an art show with Crazy Multiply. I bought some embroidery thread and got to work. Once I started making art again, I realized how much I had missed it. Even now, I just want another project to work on. I also drew some of the drawings that I had made in Seoul again, as well as a few new drawings. Some of them started coming out differently, which is fun to see. Even though I am the one making the art, it sometimes feels as though I don't know how I am going to do it and each new piece is a surprise.

For the opening night, I had three tables reserved where I gathered with friends. We enjoyed the many unique drinks and food offerings that make City, O' City one of my favorite restaurants in Denver. I chose the Pensieve cocktail and BBQ tofu mac & cheese for dinner. At least four people ordered the BBQ mac & cheese--it's definitely a favorite. It was a fantastic feeling to have those I'm closest to and a few newer friends in Denver there to support me. It has been a struggle to go from having a large yet close-knit community in Seoul to living in a new place where I don't know anyone, but I have made some good friendships over the past year and a half and I look forward to what the future brings for all of us.

Even though there is a part of me that wanted to keep going full force with art, I am choosing to focus on my career right now and training opportunities that are coming up soon. While I start an online class for work and look forward to learning more at in-person classes next year, I will always have my sketchbooks to jot down ideas for future art endeavors. I am sure that the time will come again when I just need to make art, and I will have more capacity to do so. I am happy that I was able to have this show, and I know that I will never stop making art completely.

Read my first post about City, O' City here.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Halloween with No-Face

Every year around Halloween, I start thinking about what I want to be just when it's too late to put a costume together. Every year I say, "Next year I'm going to make such a cool costume!" But I never do. Last year, Brian and I both painted our faces as skeletons. It was fun and easy because you didn't have to worry about anything but your face. This year, I bought a headband with a bat on it and a cape that was too small. It didn't even look like it was meant for Halloween.

I wanted to put in a little more effort, so I asked Brian to pick up some face paint during the week. I guessed I could be a general Halloween-y type character again. I decided to just do what I did last year and paint my face as a skeleton again. However, my face had different ideas. The minute I started putting it on I knew the face paint was too much for my sensitive skin, even though I layered on the lotion to create a good foundation. I kept painting my face anyway. I covered my face with thick white paint and immediately washed it off. At least I made a little effort with the cute bat headband and the nondescript cape.

Brian, on the other hand, had been working on his No-Face mask for hours. He started it a few days before Halloween weekend by layering paper on cardboard with glue. He kept adding layers and shaping the mask as he went. The Saturday of Halloween weekend was spent putting on a few more layers of paint and finishing up the mesh for the eyes and mouth.

It turned out really well, and I wished that I would've put more effort into my costume. As we were walking down the street to our friends' apartment, he got a compliment on his mask. A man asked where he bought it from or if he had to order it. Brian proudly answered back that he made it himself.

We walked to Tony and Amy's apartment from ours and rode with them to the first bar/brewery of the night. It's called Trve on South Broadway. It's a nice little place with good seating and music at a volume where you can still have a conversation with your friends. The beer was good. After Trve, we headed over to Rino, home of the River North Arts District, and went to Finn's Manor. This place has been a favorite of mine since we first moved to Denver.

Finn's Manor is surrounded by a wooden fence decorated with colorful large-bulb Christmas lights. Inside the fence, there is a courtyard outside of a bar with different seating areas. One of the seating areas is more enclosed than the others, giving a little bit of an inside-outside feel. Surrounding the courtyard, there are always delicious food trucks to choose from, and an outside bar in a shipping container decorated with intricately carved wooden tiles.

There was live music that night and a complementary photo booth/stand (you were emailed the photos after you took them). I ordered gourmet tater tots after seeing how good they looked when a friend ordered them. Brian and I had eaten earlier, but if we hadn't, we would have been able to choose from BBQ, Thai food, Peruvian food, and a few others. The beers were top notch, and the selection included a $30 and $40 bottle. I opted for the cheaper options, but there was nothing cheap-tasting about them.

After Finn's Manor, we went across the street to a brewery that was too crowded to move. Brian and I decided to head home early. Overall, Halloween was good and fun. My only regret is my lack of participation in the tradition of dressing up as something with more thought and care. I might have let it slide this year, but I can tell you--I'm going to have such a cool costume for Halloween next year.

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