Denver has become a hot spot stop in my life in the past year. One of my best friends moved there from Las Vegas, so it has been on my list for some time—plus, cross that city off my list of places to visit! This was my second time visiting since 2017 started; the first time was in February.
I was currently without a job so funds were limited, HOWEVER, because I have a Southwest credit card and accumulate points with every purchase I make, I managed to essentially get both flights to and from for “free.” By using points, I didn’t have to spend any actual dollars (except for the taxes, which was only about $7). I use my Southwest credit card all the time, so it helps build points faster to reap the benefits of free flights! Next to that, my lodging would be free cause I was staying at my best friend’s apartment, duh! Free lodging, free air fare? Let’s do it!
The first pit stop after landing was dinner at Cuba Cuba Cafe & Bar, where they serve fresh cuban sandwiches. It was a quaint little mom-and-pop vibe shop and the wall/window space facing out toward the parking lot actually opens up so you can see the sky as you eat, which worked out well for us since the sun was just setting and the sky was beautiful.
Prior to this, I had never had a cuban sandwich but had always heard about them. For anyone who’s never had one themselves, basically a cuban sandwich comprises ham, roasted pork, Swiss cheese, pickles and mustard, packed and grilled between two flat cuban bread slices. Normally I would order a sandwich without pickles and mustard, but since this was the first time having it, I kept everything on it to get the full taste bud experience.
The sandwich was quite yummy—and quite large at that! I could only eat half of the sandwich, but oh man, the half I ate was devoured real quick. Maybe cause I was famished or it was that delicious—or even both. The best part of the sandwich was probably the meats and mustard, honestly, leaving a great savory aftertaste in my mouth. For the rest of the night, my best friend, her boyfriend and I chilled at their apartment watching music videos and some of the pre-coverage for upcoming UFC fights.
We woke up bright and early the next morning to go on a hike! Elk Meadow Park is in Evergreen, CO and we took the short route, which was about an hour long in length. We didn’t push ourselves too hard because my best friend’s dog is still a puppers, and we didn’t want to tire him out too much by the end. The trail was pretty flat for the most part, narrow also. The weather was also pretty perfect. Sunlight but not high noon beaming—around 9-10am in the morning—and I thought I was going to be chilly, but it was a nice warmth with breezy winds. When we first started trekking, everything around us was still, green and quiet. If I lived in Denver, I’d probably walk this trail every Saturday or Sunday morning to get some peace and serenity.
Surprisingly, the trail was pretty popular, even this early in the morn. We saw a lot of walkers of all ages—we saw this older senior couple with walking sticks and sitting on a bench, aww—as well as various dogs! My best friend’s dog is very friendly and curious so every dog that we passed by, he would go investigate and try to socialize with them. There were a lot of bikers riding toward and from behind us—how they manage to stay balance on such narrow road is beyond me, ha!
Another one of my dear friends moved to Denver from Dallas, TX, so this weekend was a great opportunity to meet up and catch up after years since we last saw each other. We met up for lunch at Ophelia’s in downtown Denver. One thing I had no idea was happening this particular weekend was that it was Denver Pride! Streets were closed down and there were parties going on everywhere—including Ophelia’s. My best friend told me she heard this place was pretty chill and the food was good, but when we arrived, it looked and sounded like a club from the outside so we almost didn’t go in. But we realized it was indeed Ophelia’s and it was a 90s dance party inside, which, hey, as a 90s kid I was not complaining about.
They sat us upstairs, which overlooked the downstairs stage and dance floor where they had people dancing and jamming to 90s tunes—Cher’s “Believe” and Snap!’s “Rhythm is a Dancer” for example. We were feeling the vibes in Ophelia’s so we started with bottomless mimosas, which were served to us in pretty large cylindrical glasses, holy moly. Ophelia’s still had the brunch menu for grabs, so I ordered a classic for me—a breakfast platter with bacon, egg, potatoes, avocados and toast—and it was mighty tasty; licked that plate clean. A lot of the dishes on the menu are gluten free and I could tell in the way I felt afterwards—I was full, yes, but didn’t feel sick to my stomach, gross or anything.
When we got back to the apartment, we took an afternoon cat nap to sleep off the alcohol we had consumed and be ready for a nice dinner out that night. We went to Angelo’s Taverna and ordered everything off of the happy hour menu. We got a bottle of red cabernet sauvignon for the table, and we each had about three glasses. The idea behind the happy hour menu was shareable tapas so we ate a lot of those: fresh oysters, various meatballs, salad, etc. For my entree, I ordered what shoulda been an appetizer dish—rack of lamb—but it was a good meal for me. Lamb is one of my favorite dishes and I love tasting different recipes of it, and this one did not disappoint. The marinade had a nice balance of sweet and savory and the meat was tender and cooked to juicy medium rare perfection.
The next morning, my best friend and her boyfriend were so gracious to cook breakfast for all of us. They cooked my favorite: avocado toast. It’s so interesting to see how people cook the simplest of dishes differently, what their processes are. For example, her boyfriend used a specific oil (the actual name escapes) to cook the eggs and he let it sit on the pan much longer than I usually do, but the consistency and flavor of the egg was superb.
For the rest of the day, we went to the grocery store for them to get their food for the week and we planned on having steak and cookie+cheesecake dessert before I left to fly back to LA. They have a water bath for meat, so the boyfriend wanted to cook the steak sous-vide style, and my best friend and I made desserts from scratch. It was fun to cook in their kitchen—they have so many cooking gadgets and I’m not used to using proper tools like this (namely the heavy duty mixing bowl). I apologize for the lack of photos for these dishes—we just got so invested in what we were doing that I didn’t think about it. Plus, we put the movie Chef on and I had never seen it before, and it captivated me for the rest of the time.
In a nutshell without giving too many spoilers, Chef stars Jon Favreau as a high-end chef who has to find a new venture for his cooking after certain events that put him in a predicament (if that isn’t the most vague description ever). In the movie, he even makes cuban sandwiches, crazy coincidence! Anyway, the movie really affected me and inspired to do more cooking in my life. There are so many dishes out there to be conquered and we have so little time. I had heard that Jon, not normally a chef by trade, actually trained and learned how to cook, techniques and all for this role. That, too, actually inspired me to bring a “chef” experience for my sister’s birthday, which you will read about later.
Waiting for my flight back, I was genuinely sad to leave—I didn’t want to go back home to LA, so this definitely wasn’t the last time I’ll be in Denver, not by a long shot. From the past two times I’ve visited, the vibes in Denver remind me so much of Austin, TX, where I lived for when I went to college, and the air and atmosphere there is so clean. I’ll definitely be back cause I’ve only seen a glimpse of it and there’s still more to see.
Original date: June 16 – 18, 2017