Friday, October 14, 2011

Welcome to Colorado

I’ve been trying to remember how long it’s been since I’ve been to Colorado. I don’t think I’ve been there as an adult, but my memories from childhood are definitely good ones.

My family and I frequently drove around the country and though we took various routes so we could see as much as possible, I seem to remember that we always went through Colorado. I know the mountains are beautiful and the air fresh and clean, but I was racking my brain for awhile trying to figure out why it was my father always made Colorado a must stop. Then, I arrived and it hit me the minute I saw it. Coors beer.

You see, years ago, you couldn’t get Coors in New York. It was only available “west of the Rockies” and the Rockies were in Colorado. As much as my dad loved to drive through the Rockies, he also loved a good beer once in awhile and that’s why our yearly cross-country trip would almost always include Colorado!

Beer was only a small consideration in my trip to Colorado. The big draw was actual spirits. The state is still known for its craft breweries (and its Coors), but it’s now becoming known as the home of more than two dozen distilleries, with more coming . I had tasted a bit at the Colorado Harvest event in New York a few weeks ago, but I was excited about coming to Boulder and Denver to check out much more.

The day finally arrived and it started bright and early with a 6:00 am flight to Denver. Elysia, who represents Colorado Tourism, picked me up for the quick ride to Boulder. It reminded me a bit of the college town I lived in, but it had the added bonus of mountain views. After a quick and healthy lunch at Mode Market, Elysia and I headed to the Hotel Boulderado, a Victorian beauty I was looking forward to exploring later on, before we were off to The Bitter Bar with Kim Farrin of the Boulder CVB.

The Bitter Bar is the perfect showcase for Colorado Spirits as bartender (don’t call him “mixologist”) Mark Stoddard loves to mix it up with artisan finds. He’s also a fan of using alternatives to citrus so we hit it off immediately when he presented me with a selection of cocktails using everything from Cap Rock Gin (Hotckiss, CO) to Leopold Brothers Maraschino Liqueur (Denver, CO) that weren't going to make me itch. I also was able to finally taste Sombra, a Mezcal owned by master sommelier and Boulder resident Richard Betts.

I could have talked to Mark and the other bartenders at The Bitter Bar for hours about cocktails and ingredients. Before I saw (and tasted) what they could do, I was amazed to find out – in this small Colorado town – that three of these bartenders had one competitions all over the world, including the Cocktail Cup in New Zealand.

Elysia needed to get back to Denver, but Kim and I walked around Boulder for awhile, taking in the exceptionally warm weather. It’s definitely a foodie town and we must have looked at a dozen places I would have loved to eat before we settled in at The Med.

We had a great selection of Tapas made with fresh local ingredients, including Homemade Zucchini Bread with Concord Grape, Peaches, Kiwi and Peppered Boursin; Wild Boar and Goat Cheddar Cheese Empanadas with Tzatziki; and Crisp Polenta with Midnight Blue Cheese and Sherry Black Pepper Honey. Everything was delicious and we barely had room to left to share a yummy Chocolate Almond Tower with Caramel and Ganache.

Kim and I walked back to the Hotel Boulderado through the Pedestrian Mall, where people were shopping, strolling and enjoying the lovely evening. I was ready to put my first great day in Colorado to bed, and get ready for four more to come. 

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