Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Colorado: We Drove, We Hiked, We Ate!

I have to admit, it's pretty intimidating to try and come up with the perfect thing to post after an - ahem! - almost 6 month blogging hiatus.

There's all of this pressure to come back with something utterly amazing. Something worthy of such a long absence. Something so great that my readers (are you still out there?) will nod knowingly when they see my post, immediately understanding that my MIA status was the result of months of hard work and preparation in completion of the very post they are reading right now.

I mean, will my prose be witty enough? My pictures stunning enough? My recipes and repartee lovely enough?

Probably not. And honestly, I didn't spend the last 6 months working on this post (which is likely pretty clear). I spent them cooking, traveling, going to concerts and ball games, spending time with loved ones, and working, mostly.

So, although this won't be "The Greatest Blog Post in the World" - who do you think I am, Hannah?! - I'm happy to be back, and I've missed you!

Over the summer, CH and I decided to take another road trip. This time we set our sights on the beautiful (and very far away) state of Colorado...

On the way there (and on the way back, if you must know!) we stopped at the most delicious burrito place ever. It's called Bandit Burrito, and it's located in Johnston, Iowa. Not only was the food amazing - they had tons of fresh salsas, guacamole, veggies, and even home-made vegan chorizo! - but the employees were fantastic, too. If you're ever even remotely in the area, you should definitely stop by and support this place. The food is fantastically healthy, home-made, and surprisingly inexpensive...

Pictured, below (on the top, right), is CH's vegan chorizo burrito. My vegan bean burrito is featured in the bottom two pictures of the group, as well as in the stand-alone pic, seen further below.

Once we finally made it to Colorado, we spent a few days in Denver, exploring the city and checking out the local fare. I was really excited to visit Tocabe, which bills itself as an "American Indian Eatery," especially since their famous fry bread was vegan! The concept of the restaurant is a lot like Chiptole - you pick your "base" and add various toppings to it - which is obviously nice for those of us who aren't inclined to eat animal products. Overall, I really liked the idea of the restaurant, but I wasn't blown away by the food.

What I was blown away by in Denver, however, was the Great Divide Brewing Company. In case you haven't noticed, CH and I are pretty big beer buffs and are pretty picky about our libations, but this place surpassed all of our expectations. Everything from the tap was fantastic, although the Hoss rye lager was my personal favorite.

You can see two of our Great Divide beer selections in the upper left-hand corner of the picture below. There are shots from three other breweries that we visited during our Colorado trip in this group as well.

Another Denver "institution" that we visited was "Watercourse Foods," which is a well-known vegetarian restaurant with a laid-back, cool-kid, kinda vibe.

When I travel, I often find myself craving some of the low-key things that I prepare for myself at home (like beans and rice or a simple salad). As a result, I settled for a create-your-own salad with curry dressing at Watercourse, 'cause I was just in one of those moods. CH opted for the tempeh Cuban sandwich, which he enjoyed. We also shared a plate of fries, which are just too hard to pass up sometimes...

One of my favorite "finds" in Denver was Mr. Lucky's Sandwiches. It's a pretty unassuming little place, but the owner was super nice and he even offered a creative twist on the typical veggie sandwich. It's called the Avocado Almond, and it's made with avocado, toasted almonds, lettuce, tomato, cucumber, sprouts, and Dijon mustard (minus the mayo!). The owner told us that he ate a sandwich with almonds on it at another restaurant and couldn't believe how great it was, so he "stole" the recipe and made it his own. Toasted almonds with avocado, who knew?

Boulder, Colorado was the next stop on our nearly state-wide tour, but before we left, we had to get a picture of the big, blue bear that peers into the windows of the downtown Denver Convention Center.

In Boulder, I was super-excited to visit VG Burgers, which is a 100% vegan, organic, locally-sourced, wind-powered, fast-food spot. Although the food was a little pricey, and, admittedly, it upset my stomach a bit, it was definitely worth it. I got the black bean burger and a side of fries, while CH got the "bacon cheeseburger" and a side of onion rings. Go big or go home, right?

Delicious Colorado "find" #2 was Nepal Cuisine in Boulder. It's a Nepalese restaurant whose adorable owners offer a VEGAN BUFFET on Mondays. And although we weren't able to take advantage of the all-vegan buffet (we weren't in town on Monday), CH and I did enjoy the regular buffet, which had scrumptious vegan offerings such as alu gobi, chana masala, veggie samosas, pyaji, veggie curry, and daal. Not only was the food fantastic, but the prices were fair and the atmosphere was lovely.

Despite all of my food-talk, the best thing about Colorado is clearly the gorgeous scenery and stunning wildlife. And, even though I have about 1 million pictures, I've decided to share just a few of my favorites, for fear of scaring you away from my blog for another 6 months!

Below, you'll find: a beautiful lake in Nederland; the flatirons at Chautauqua Park in Boulder; a shot from the Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs; and a lone tree in the Rocky Mountain National Park in Estes.

And what about all of those rumors regarding the beautiful Colorado wildlife? Too many pictures, too little time, but here are a few of my favorites...

The first pair of shots shows an elk that we discovered at a camp site in the Rocky Mt. National Park. I took two pictures in quick succession, and couldn't believe my eyes after reviewing them. It appears as though the elk was making a funny face at me, and then smiling and laughing about doing it afterwards!

The pair of pictures, below, is of a marmot that we encountered while hiking on a mountainous trail in the park. On the left side is the marmot as he was when we saw him - on the right is a picture of a marmot sign that we saw later during our hike. I love this pair of pics because it looks like the live marmot was posing for the camera, so he'd look the same as the sign bearing his name!

The final pair of wildlife photos shows a beautiful elk grazing in the woods. Even though he's not hamming it up for the camera like the previous two animals were, I really liked these pictures anyway...

The last stop on our trip was Ft. Collins, where we visited the New Belgium Brewery. Not only was the brewery tour one of the best that I've been on - it was both informative and delicious! - but New Belgium is also home of 1554 (the "enlightened black ale" that's been on my Top 10 Beer List for ages).

Pictured, below, are the bikes that New Belgium gives to each of its employees after they've been with the company for just one year. Not a bad way to encourage two-wheel commuting if you ask me...

And now, for my favorite restaurant of our entire trip: Tasty Harmony, in Ft. Collins. It's a completely vegetarian/mostly vegan restaurant, and it was so good that we ate there for dinner on one day and lunch on the very next! I honestly can't put into words how amazing the food was - suffice it to say that their vegan cashew cheese swiftly turned this faux-cheese-hater into a serious "cheese" convert.

Below, you'll find the tastiest vegan nachos known to man, as well as the very best vegan sandwich I've ever had. Sprouts, cucumber, basil, tomato, onion, home-made hummus, and cashew cheese... it truly doesn't get better than this!

The last thing I'd like to share regarding my meal(s) at Tasty Harmony is this: while there might not be a secret vegan handshake, there is definitely a secret vegan shaker! See that yummy looking shaker in the photo below? Well, the major lesson I learned on this trip is that if you see one of these gomashio shakers on the table of a restaurant, it's a super secret sign that mouth-wateringly-good vegan food awaits you.

You heard it here first!


  1. Glad you are back! It looks like you have had a great adventure. :)

  2. Welcome back. I love this post — so many great pictures of food, wildlife and scenery. It's like a little vacation without leaving home.

  3. Good to have you back!
    It sounds like you had a great time this summer. I remember Garden of the Gods, I lived in Colorado Springs for 1 year as a teenager.

    I'm totally going to try toasted almonds on a sandwich. All your food looks so tasty. It's nice to see so many more vegan options out there.

  4. For not being "the greatest blog post in the world" this one was sure pretty epic! Welcome back and thanks for making me hungry at 7am :)

  5. I was at watercourse on Saturday!

  6. Ah memories! Gotta love Fort Collins with their Tasty Harmony and New Belgium Brewery. I could go for a Fat Tire right now.

  7. Wow - looks like a great trip! I love that first photo - so cool! Thanks for all the restaurant reviews too. I think we need a roadtrip to colorado now too!

  8. Welcome back! The post is perfect to end your hiatus, such wonderful photos.

  9. Wow! What a fun vacation and some amazing food choices. I had to take a few glances to realize the photos weren't here in Utah. I live on the Utah Wasatch Mountains about 1,000 feet above the valley. Love your blog~just added myself as a follower:)

  10. Looks like a really fun trip - great looking food and beautiful scenery! :-)

  11. I LOVE that you incorporated a "food road trip" into your adventures. I pretty much NEED to add all those places to my forever growing list of must try places :D

    Great pics - I think your post is awesome for a come back post :D

    thanks for sharing & welcome back :)