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Bang Up to the Elephant!

Last night, my sister and I popped over to Bang Up to the Elephant! to check out their restaurant week menu.

The latest from the creatives behind Double Daughter’s and Beatrice & Woodsley is a more casual, Caribbean-inspired restaurant in Cap Hill. The versatile addition to their repertoire serves breakfast, lunch, happy hour, dinner, and weekend brunch. Their website even boasts live music. If you want it, they got it!

Sectioned into three, the spacious front room is home to the hostess stand, a fountain, and a coffee shop with open, European café style seating flanked by the neon bar and conservatory dining room. It’s not exactly cohesive but I do like each space individually.

Once seated, you can finally slip out of the Denver winter and into something more tropical.

Although a bit gimmicky, our coconut cocktails were delicious and doubled as a good snack when the kitchen got backed up. Which is a very important feature for anyone suffering from chronic hanger like me.

We tried to pick a wide variety from the restaurant week menu and, for the most part, were not disappointed.

Mofongo – fried mashed plantains and potatoes in a spicy pepper, tomato, rum sauce. This was the real underdog. Based on the description, I didn’t want to order it but Breona convinced me. It’s meaty, vegetarian option that can be made vegan.

Scotch Bonnet-Tamarind Seitan Wings. The trini pepper sauce was so good, Bre even ordered extra to sneak home!

Pimento Wood Smoked Jerk Chicken

Bake and Shark – fried dogfish on a fried bun with slaw and sliced tomato. We didn’t realize this would be a sandwich and it was very pretty but completely bland. Skip it.

Cinnamon Toast Fried Ice Cream – Breona loves fried ice cream so she was living for this. It was good but not my favorite. The saving grace was that our water hadn’t been filed since we sat down and the ice cream was a very welcome relief from the trini pepper sauce.

Overall, it’s a fun space but with a little bit of an identity crisis, less is sometimes more. They also seem to be struggling a little bit with efficiency but that’s forgivable considering they’ve been open for about a month.

I’d go back but skip restaurant week and stick with the dinner plates, starters and drinks, or late night. I liked most of the food but wish we had done a little more menu research before ordering.

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Denver Restaurant Week Picks 2018

But for me, dinner at a fine restaurant was the ultimate luxury. It was the very height of civilization. For what was civilization but the intellect’s ascendancy out of the doldrums of necessity (shelter, sustenance and survival) into the ether of the finely superfluous (poetry, handbags and haute cuisine)

This quote from one of my favorite books, Rules of Civility by Amor Towles, sums up my obsession with eating out perfectly. Is there anything better than a slow, lingering meal in a beautiful space with great company? In my opinion, no.

Which brings me to the topic at hand, Denver Restaurant Week. The restaurant scene in Denver has been booming over the last few years. You’d have to eat out 3-4 times a week just to keep up! Which I am very open to. My heart says “yes” but my wallet says “b*tch, be cool!”

Denver Restaurant Week gives me an excuse to splurge and temporarily live that lux life. Plus it’s a great way for me to catch up with friends and family. I live for it.

Being the data psycho that I am, every year I put together an extensive spreadsheet with price point, neighborhood, passbook status (is it in the Denver Dining Passbook), menu notes, and a rating. I haven’t started using macros or an actual database yet but it’s really only a matter of time…

I don’t crowd source these ratings. I literally just make them up based on menu, my previous experience at the restaurant, and sometimes how hangry I feel at the time of rating.

Even being aware of this obscene bias, my friends and family still request copies of the spreadsheet to help them narrow down their restaurant options for the week.

My spreadsheet is ugly and can be difficult to decipher so this year I’m posting my top 5 picks for each price point to help you decide!

$25

  1. Bones – My go-to for steamed buns, udon, and other Asian fair. The small restaurant is located near Trader Joe’s in Cap Hill and has great cocktails too!
  2. Bang Up to the Elephant! – The newest opening from the Beatrice & Woodsley team is Caribbean inspired with a charming ambiance (Update: review here. Maybe skip it for DRW.)
  3. The Family Jones – I haven’t been to this LoHi distillery yet but I’ve been swooning over their interior and salivating over their cocktails on Instagram for months! Their DRW menu looks a bit eclectic but I want to try EVERYTHING. Plus, for $25 you’ll have plenty of extra cash for cocktails!
  4. Max Gill and Grill – I went last year during restaurant week and will most likely go again this year. It was one of my favorites and their menu this year looks fantastic! If you pop in on a cold or snowy evening request one of the tables by their fireplace. It’s one of the coziest places I’ve been in Denver.
  5. Crafty Fox – They have good pizza and wine + beer options but the real draw is the views. Request a table upstairs to have a casual dinner overlooking the Denver skyline.

$35

  1. Avelina – I LOVE Avelina. They opened just before restaurant week last year and I have been several times since. I’ve never had a bad experience and even recommend it to visiting friends and family. The food is delicious, the ambiance is crisp but cozy, and they have a great drink options for everyone.
  2. Beatrice & Woodsley – I, along with everyone else everywhere, have been singing B&Ws praises for years. The magical aspen grove of a restaurant on South Broadway always had a creative and delicious menu paired with equally divine cocktails. They haven’t published their DRW menu yet but in my opinion, they can do no wrong.
  3. Bistro Vendome – My favorite stop for French food in Denver. They have bit more competition in the French cuisine market now but I keep going back for the mussles, bistro ambiance, and location in the secretive courtyard of Larimer Square.
  4. Cuba Cuba – This has been a top Denver restaurant for me as long as I can remember. My mom’s hairdresser told her about it years ago and my family fell in love with the charming Victorian house in Golden Triangle. Once I turned 21, I started a lifelong affair with their flavored mojitos.
  5. Departure – This modern Asian Fusion restaurant in Cherry Creek is #interiorgoals with travel inspired twists on classic cocktails. Try the Departure wings, any sushi, Korean roast chicken, or Mongolian beef before heading to the alley out back for cocktails in the fabulous B&GC speakeasy (two separate reservations).
  6. BONUS: There… – I couldn’t narrow it down to 5 so you get a little bit more. I adore this quirky LoHi restaurant with their small bites and cocktails. It feels a little bit like your cool older brother opened a restaurant and got all of his good looking, hipster friends to work the bar. They’re DRW menu seems a little confusing but I’m looking forward to figuring it out.

$45

  1. El Five – In my opinion, this is the sexiest restaurant in Denver right now. Located high above LoHi, you get sweeping views of Denver along with beautifully arranged plates and unique cocktails. Their DRW menu is a bit limited but all the options look good and you can’t beat the ambiance for date night.
  2. Hearth & Dram – I celebrated my birthday here last year and our meal left everyone raving. The ambiance is crisp but masculine with shelves and shelves of whiskey options. Their menu looks incredible and I’m sure everything pairs beautifully with their curated whiskey cocktails.
  3. The Nickle – Another go-to for me, I love for their cereal White Russian brunch but they also have wonderful charcuterie, dinner, and cocktail options.
  4. STK – This restaurant has been on my list for awhile. In general, I prefer a more creative menu to a classic steakhouse but I’m intrigued by their sides, cocktails, and vibe. If you do prefer a straightforward, delicious steak, Palace Arms, Ruth’s, and so many others are also participating in DRW.
  5. Stoic & Genuine – I love the ambiance here and the delicious seafood options right in Union Station. Make a night of it with a reservation at Cooper Lounge after for a craft cocktail nightcap overlooking the bustle of US.

Denver Restaurant Week runs from February 23 – March 4. You can find more information and the full list of restaurants and menus on their website.

Are there any restaurants you’re looking forward to trying during Restaurant Week? Any good ones that I missed?

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Dillon Ice Castle

Last weekend, my girlfriends and I headed west to the twinkling, fairytale, winter wonderland that is the Dillon Ice Castle.

Allergic to photos and commentary? My tips and links for visiting at the end of this post.

Otherwise, follow me for the (virtual) grand tour!

Just over an hour west of Denver, you’ll find the massive, sparkling structure made entirely out of ice, it’s an instagrammers dream and the perfect weekend getaway.

Most of the visitors seem to be couples and it is very romantic. A perfect last minute Valentines Day outing plus, the punny captions practically write themselves. Think “love at frost sight”, “the snuggle is real”, or “I only have ice for you.”

That said, in my experience, girlfriends are going to be a lot more patient with you when you want a photograph of, or with, everything in sight and they are probably more likely to gasp with you when you find a hidden fountain or “ooh” and “ahh” over all the pretty lights.

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The Ice Castles are created by a Utah based company and can be found in several locations across the US and Canada. They use their patented technique to build the great structures entirely out of ice, including slides, thrones, coves, and fountains.

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During the day, the castles are a bright blue but at night they come to life with rainbows of light. If it hadn’t been so cold, we probably would have explored, snapped photos, and ridden the slides until they kicked us out.

Which may have almost happened when I, being a little too curious, tried to get a peak inside the fountain to see how it worked. Oops! The castle’s staff couldn’t tell me so I wanted to find out for myself!

If the castle alone isn’t enough for you, on Friday and Saturday nights, they have fire dancers and during the day, you might see Elsa and Anna.

When we arrived, the queue for the long slide was massive but we jumped in anyway.

There are two slides, one at a slightly less steep grade for those who are more risk averse.

You’re given a mat to slide on and a (more aggressive than necessary) shove from the attendant to send you flying down the ice slide.

By the time we all got through the line, it was empty and with a quick glance we raced up for another go.

Thoroughly frozen and giddy, we headed to the condo for snacks, games, and a good nights sleep before skiing the next day.

To plan your own visit and buy tickets, head to the Ice Castles website. I couldn’t find an official end date but tickets are currently only available through February 24. They do sell out so don’t hesitate!

TIPS:

  • Dress warm. You’re thinking “Obviously. Thanks for the great tip, Charissa.” But hear me out. It’s dark, in winter, and literally everything around you is ice. The slide? Sitting on ice. Slip on the sidewalk? It’s made out of ice. The walls? A foot thick and made out of, you guessed it, ICE! Dress for what you think you need, then add a layer for good measure.
  • Wear your grippy winter boots. Like I mentioned above, the walkways are made of snow on top of ice. They groom the walkways but a few of us left with some bruises and minor injuries from slipping.
  • Make a night (or day) of it. It’s easy to pop into the castles and move on but there are several great restaurants nearby and Lake Dillon is stunning, especially at sunset. I recommend Adriano’s Bistro for sharing pizzas or Cafe Profusion for a casual date night. Both are very close to the castles so you can park once and walk.
  • Plan ahead. We were rushing to arrive and almost missed our timeslot. Give yourself plenty of time to eat dinner, get to the castles, and get to the ticket office. If you’re going to do it as a day trip, give yourself plenty of time to get to Summit County, we all know I-70 can be completely unpredictable these days.
  • Find a place to stay nearby via a friend, AirBnb, or VRBO. This is more of a suggestion than a tip. I recognize that we were very lucky to stay at a family vacation home for free and that this can be out of reach for a last minute trip or for those of us ballin’ on a budget. But like I mentioned above, the conditions on I-70 can add several hours to a normally quick trip. Save yourself the stress and make a weekend out of it.

Have you guys been to the ice castle yet? What are your tips?

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Downward Facing Drizzy

How do you get your whole squad to agree to a yoga class? Set the entire thing to Drake.

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Every Sunday at 9, 10, and 11 AM, Kady Lafferty of Big Booty Yoga partners with The Walnut Room in RiNo to host yoga classes set to some of your favorites like Rihanna, Justin Timberlake, Beyoncé, and Drake.

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Kady’s funny and endearing demeanor along with the playlists makes this a great introduction to yoga or a fun break from the very serious practice many of us get stuck in.

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Like she said in class, “Every time you start to feel like your Warrior Two isn’t perfect or you aren’t doing something right, remember, you’re doing yoga…in a bar…listening to Drake…to get a beer or mimosa at the end.”

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The class costs $15 and includes a drink ticket to re-hydrate with a beer or mimosa while catching up with other yogis.

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It’s the perfect way to kick off a girls day! You can always continue your Sunday Funday with brunch at any of the neighboring restaurants like The Preservery or The Denver Central Market.

You can find the Big Booty Schedule here. Make sure you pre-register because her classes do sell out.

 

 

 

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Hey Charissa Blog

The Hey Charissa blog is back! This doesn’t mean much to many people, mostly just the family members who followed my adventures while I was living abroad in 2015.

For now, most of the content is highlights I’ve pulled in from my previous blog but I am working on sharing a few new adventures!

You can read all about it on my About page but here’s the Cliff’s Notes:

I want to inspire other young women to explore their cities or travel the world solo. I’ve been told so many times “You’re so brave! I wish I could do that.” So I’ve brought back the blog to create inspiration, templates, and tips for single girl adventuring.

To help you get started, the blog is organized into four categories.

  • Mini – Day trips or activities around Denver.
  • Small – Light travel around Colorado or stay-cations near Denver.
  • Medium – Adventures leaving the state of Colorado, typically requiring an airplane.
  • Large – International travel.

Happy adventuring!

 

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Lisbon Mornings

In mid-October, I met a friend from the US in Portugal.

Being accustomed to the same timezone, I snuck out early while my jet lagged companion and the rest of Lisbon slept.

 

 

 

While in Lisbon, we stayed at the Traveler’s House Hostel. Now, I’ve told you about my dislike of hostels but this was a completely different experience. I’ll get into that more later but for now LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION.

It’s located right on the Praca de Comercio so I rolled out of bed and right onto the empty street.

 

I made my way down the mosaic tiled boulevard toward the plaza and the sea.

 

I love early mornings in any city. It was so still and calm compared to the normal bustling crowds.

Wonderfully relaxing. I temporarily had the city all to myself.

 

I made some new friends when I made it to the water!

 

 

Just be aware of your volume when you shout “bom dia!”

They’re still waking up.

 

 

Just then, the clock struck 9 and you know what that means? BREAKFAST.

I joined the slowly emerging Portuguese and headed home for fresh crepes.

 

By the time we finished our breakfast, the streets were bustling with tourists and locals enjoying the sun. I had my moment of peace and now I was ready to join the crowds and experience Lisboa!