Beans and suds is back!! I hope you missed me as I have missed you, faithful readers.  I’ve given you all time to start (and finish) your kick-off-the-new-year-right detox programs.  Hopefully you had enough time to clear out the sins of the holiday season and your break from toxins is over, so we can get back to the business of caffeine, alcohol and food.

There’s a local gal I know who started a business called Local Table Tours.  It’s not her only business, so if you know anyone who needs help with their espanol, check out her “Spanish by the Hour.”  The fact that Megan also offers “Cocktail Tours” and “Coffee Tours” may leave you wondering why it’s taken beans and suds so long to write about her. It’s a match made in heaven, clearly.

Table Tours also run in Denver, but it’s unlikely any of my Boulder peeps would venture that far outside “the bubble,” especially given the reactions I get when I tell people I go to Denver to get my hair done.  WHA?! Yeah, you heard me. I go ALL the way to Denver to get my hair cut. And I don’t think it’s crazy, though I will admit that the fact that I take my favorite 10 year old to Denver to have HER hair done may be…..

But I digress yet again. For more information on my rockstar stylist (that’s what we call them in the city) contact me directly or leave word in the comment field.

Megan Bucholz is the owner of Local Table Tours, and she is great.  So, for an end of the year holiday thank you to a few of my friends who were really awesome to me in 2011, I scheduled a private Table Tour for six.  We met on Pearl Street at 3pm one Friday afternoon, not sure what to expect and with no idea where Megan was going to take us.

First stop:  Kitchen Next Door

(So far, so good.  And the little sign on the table was for us. Good news! I hope we get kale chips)

Sidebar: I love kale chips.  I started making them a few years ago and thought “Wow. This town is really starting to rub off on me,” and I imagined any one of my friends back home thinking (read: saying), “What the F is a kale chip? Seriously? I don’t even know who you are right now.” So I don’t talk to them about kale chips. Their loss, because they are sooo good. And good for you!  I make mine by tearing the kale into large pieces (leave out the tough middle and bottom stem), tossing the pieces with plenty of olive oil and sea salt, laying the pieces in a single layer on a cookie sheet and baking them at 350 until crispy and delicious.  Use lacitano kale for best results.  Or dino kale, which may well be the same thing. You’ll love them, and you’re welcome.

But the Kitchen Next Door takes the kale chip to a different level.  I wanted to know why theirs are so much better than mine, so I asked.  Turns out, the “KND” flash-fries theirs in peanut oil. Yes they do.  If you go to the KND, order the kale chips.  For reals. They are amazingly crispy, salty and delicious. But be warned, if you are on a date or with someone you are otherwise trying to impress, these crunchy bites of salty deliciousness disintegrate in your mouth, so it’s possible your teeth will be covered with dark green flecks. Now you know, but I say live on the edge, and order them anyway.

(Funkworks beer and a glass of the Kitchen’s own red)

Back to our Table Tour.  The KND did serve us kale chips!! And some other amazing delights, such as ham and cheese fritters (the grown up and way more delicious version of the ole mozzarella stick) and grilled rosemary lardo flatbread.  Our server also brought us a Funkworks beer, from a new brewery in Fort Collins, and a glass of the Kitchen red, blended by their ownselves in Napa. He also described the preparation of our vittles in some detail, which I must now admit I did not fully absorb because I was too busy absorbing all the heavenly food and drink, and doing that eye roll thing that translates roughly into “OH MY GOD, can you believe how good this is? Because I’m in heaven.”

(I did not move fast enough to take pictures of the kale chips, lardo flatbread or the fritters. This picture shows how much we loved them, though)

As if that were not enough, they brought us a plate of beet sliders with arugula and goat cheese. And a plate of mini lamb burgers. This cat can’t deal with lamb, unless it’s in gyro form, as it evokes memories of Sunday dinner at my irish grandmother’s house with a huge, overcooked, grey, rubbery roast lamb with mint jelly. Awful. I’ll get over it some day, but that day has not come yet.  People dug the lamb burgers and the shredded beet sliders were pretty tasty as well! It helps to like beets, which I do. Unlike the lamb thing, I have recovered from the sliced up boiled beets my mom used to serve. You know what I’m talking about, the kind that drooled their juices all over everything else on your plate.

(Not the lamb and beets you hated as a kid)

At this point I am having such a fabulous time with our guide Megan, filling us in with interesting tidbits, great food and drink, and awesome friends.  I’m also thinking I can’t eat anymore, which is a problem, as this is only our first stop.

But then our server appears with some house-made chocolate chip cookie sandwiches filled with vanilla gelato. Read that again.  And then ask yourself if you could make room for that kind of thing. We did.

At this point we really don’t want to leave the KND, but the boss says it’s time as we are already running a little behind schedule.  If not for Megan, I’m fairly certain we’d have grown roots and stayed drinking, if not eating, until they turned off the lights. Well done, Kitchen Next Door!

Next stop: Savory Spice Shop

I remember wondering why we’d want to go there, but this isn’t Megan’s first Table Tour, and I’ve been working with my therapist on my control issues anyway, so what the hell.

This place is awesome!

Spices, salts and seasonings….Oh my!

The owner of the Boulder store (located on Broadway just north of Pearl), Dan Hayward, gave us a short rundown of his business, which is essentially “to provide locals with a super fresh, yet affordable, option for high-quality spices and seasoning.”  This store is so chock full of beautiful displays, it makes you want to fill up your bag with goodies and rush home to cook something.  If you have a “foodie” in your life, or just someone who likes to cook, get thee to Savory Spice and choose from any of the gift sets.  I promise you they will not be disappointed.  I bought some “Black Truffle Italian Sea Salt,” and I sprinkle it on everything from popcorn to eggs to salads to a turkey sandwich.  It’s delightful.

We didn’t have long to shop, but most of us bought something and were pleasantly surprised to find the prices in line with what you’d pay at the grocery store….and for fresh and inspiring alternatives to the spice aisle!

But the boss says it’s time to go, again.

Stop three: Leaf Vegetarian Restaurant

We drank a very refreshing hibiscus cooler, which was really good even though it didn’t have alcohol in it. And a glass of white wine.

The food was unique, beautifully presented and delicious!  The little nibbles arranged on a rectangular plate were as delightful to look at as they were to eat.  The interior of Leaf is also very clean and soothing, almost like a spa.

We all loved the tempura fried avocado slice, served with mango atop a patty of black rice.  There was also a cashew ricotta lettuce wrap, which was great. And if you’re into dates, which I admit I am not, they had a big one stuffed with blue cheese.  These were all very creative and beautiful vegetarian offerings….and certainly nothing I’d prepare at home.  I’m so glad Megan took us to Leaf, and I will be back, especially if I cross paths with a vegetarian I want to impress……

But the time has come for us to leave this peaceful sanctuary…the Pinyon awaits.

Tour stop number four: The Pinyon

I’ve heard a lot about The Pinyon and its famous fried chicken.  I’ve been meaning to get here, and here we are!  It’s quiet now, as we are coming during restaurant downtime, after lunch (which they just started serving) and before dinner.  We sit at the bar, which our hostess assures us is the place to be.  Megan recommends coming in for a late dinner and bellying up to the bar to enjoy The Pinyon at its best.

And we are about to discover why…

Chef Theo Adley. That’s why.

Chef Theo is as charismatic and personable a chef as you’ll find anywhere. He explained The Pinyon’s philosophy as “we complicate simple dishes and simplify complicated dishes.”  I like it!  He also explained the process behind their famous, and rightly so, fried chicken.  “The chicken is a humble bird and the most under appreciated protein.  We elevate the bird.”  Yes you do, Chef.

The Pinyon starts with a local chicken and first they quarter it. They then apply an “aggressive amount” of kosher salt for the brining process. Stage two is a chili and garlic paste rubdown, after which the chicken is drowned in buttermilk, “like little bags of chicken tea” and left to steep for 18 hours or so.

They use potato flour for frying, to create “blooming florets of awesomeness,” which is awesome for those of us who are gluten-free. Next this Georgia-style fried chicken rolls around in a proprietary spice blend before landing “in the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow,” a boiling cauldron of clarified  butter (the expensive stuff on the top shelf of the fridge at Whole Foods, for those of us not in the know) and duck fat. The Pinyon serves this insane chicken atop a scallion pancake with house-made syrup.

(Chef Theo calls the signature fried chicken “the gateway drug to The Pinyon”)

Chef is from the east coast and came to Boulder to attend CU, just like me, though unlike me, he’s only in his late 20’s.  He is already making a name for himself and his restaurant- his first, I might add.

Oh and the fried chicken, which is why we are all here….

I am having a moment with this chicken.   And I was already full when we got here.  I don’t think I could eat another bite, but to leave even a morsel of this chicken on my plate seems very wrong.  We all agree on this, so you don’t have to take my word for it.  If you know what’s good for you…..well, maybe not good for you, but insanely delicious…get to The Pinyon and order yourself up some fried chicken.  I think in my euphoric state I may have asked for (and been granted)  a job at The Pinyon.  I may have to follow up on that, as the writing of this particular stop on the Tour is conjuring up such happiness for me right now. Maybe they’ll pay me in fried chicken. And I’ll work until I can’t fit through the front door anymore, or until I die of cardiac arrest.

Oh Megan, please don’t make us go. I can’t eat anymore, I’m really enjoying this gin/beer concoction even though I don’t like gin, and I’m afraid I could not move from this barstool even if I wanted to, which I do not.  Important to note: since our outing, The Pinyon has started serving Sunday brunch, and, wait for it…. happy hour!  I was hoping that would happen!!

Well it is time to go. Nothing lasts forever.  I think Megan said something about cupcakes….

Final stop: Tee and Cakes

This has been an amazingly fun evening, full of laughter with a handful of my favorite people. I couldn’t ask for better food, drink, or company.   And to think, if not for Megan we would never have left the Kitchen Next Door.  So thank you, Megan. I apologize if I did any eye-rolling or sighing when you told us we had to move on….

The cupcakes are tiny, which is good because everyone is pretty full of fried chicken and all the rest.  I’m not a cupcake person, but if you are swing by Tee and Cakes to partake of some sweet, bite sized delights. Our holiday assortment included  peppermint, eggnog, gingerbread and black and white.

What a great time we had! I cannot say enough good things about Local Table Tours. I’m now anxious to get out there and try out a Cocktail Tour, and perhaps a Coffee Tour. I love all those things!! And Megan is fabulous.  I hope this blog has inspired you all to book yourself a “Tour”…. it was a highlight of my holiday season, and something I think I may make an annual tradition.  To get yourself on the guest list, remember to keep reading, recommend the blog to your friends, and my birthday is in April……


The first time I ever descended the concrete stairs to ‘Round Midnight was a beautiful, warm sunny evening in May.  I was meeting someone there, and as I walked by the throngs of people sipping cocktails and enjoying the restaurants, all with their windows and doors flung open to let in the late springtime awesomeness,  I wondered “Why would anyone want to go down there? And on such a beautiful evening?” Why would you want to go down into this dimly lit, subterranean bar, with its decidedly dingy, windowless interior?

Lots of reasons, as it turns out.

But before I get into all that, it is important to note that what is a regular old tavern when it opens at 5pm, with a few people playing pool and a handful of regulars at the bar, completely transforms into a full-blown, knock-down, drag out dance club with kickass DJs and throngs of sweaty, happy, drunk young people shaking their tailfeathers and crammed into the smallish dance floor in the back of the room. Coincidentally enough, this happens….around midnight.  It is my plan to never be there when this shift takes place. If you’re wondering why I put this self-imposed curfew in place, one look at the photos on ‘Round Midnight’s facebook page should clear up any confusion. It’s entirely possible that after a few cocktails, I would find the temptation of the dance floor difficult to resist. And I don’t want to be in any of those photos.

It’s been more than a few years since I graduated from CU. Long enough to not have a good excuse for being in the middle of a sweaty dance floor (in the town I live in) surrounded by a bunch of people half my age.  But I will say here, if you want to get your late night swerve on, there’s probably no better place in town to do it than ‘Round Midnight.  Their DJs are great….great enough in fact that one of them recently won some kind of DJ world championship.  There is another dance floor in town, but I did not love it when last I went there, liquored up and ready to shake it “like I was shakin it for some paper” as Ludacris would say.  But I found the interminable techno blend off-putting, and I am still unsure as to whether I was listening to one song for that entire hour. But enough about that, if you want to dance, head on down the stairs.

(The pictures are a little blurry. I did it on purpose. Adds to the mystique. And also it’s really dark in the bar and the flash was too much.)

But let’s talk about the bar. This is a blog about happy hour after all. Let’s leave the sweaty dancing craziness behind and go back in time a few hours to answer the question “Why would I go down to ‘Round Midnight?”

1. It’s a great place to escape the Boulder scene. You know what I’m talking about. I love to be shoulder to shoulder in a loud, crowded, noisy bar as much as the next guy. But sometimes I don’t.  And sometimes I don’t want to run into a bunch of people I know, which might explain why some of ‘RM’s regulars are the same people who wait on us all. The guy who makes your “140 degree extra shot rice milk wet cap” every morning may not want to run into you while he’s trying to forget what a huge pain in the ass you are. I’m just sayin’…

Reason #1: Lack of crowds. Finding a bar stool is not a problem.

2.  A ten dollar martini in a fancy glass with grapefruit bitters is delicious, and it will make you a happier (read: drunker) version of yourself, and I love them, too. But sometimes I don’t feel like handing over all the paper in my wallet for a buzz.

Reason #2: Cheap drinks. All the time. No need to rush out to make it to happy hour. And there’s also free pool. And most nights no cover if you decide you want to dance. That’s how they do.

(Artsy shot of people playing pool. Free pool.)

3. There’s nothing more frustrating than being in a crowded bar, trying your best to make eye contact with the bartender, so you can overpay for a drink in which your inebriate of choice was first carefully measured into a silver thimble before landing in your glass. Yeah, none of that will happen at ‘Round Midnight. Well, the guy behind the bar may ignore you, but he’s doing it on purpose and he will be with you soon enough, don’t you worry. The bartenders may not be the most chatty, warm and fuzzy practitioners in town *see note* but they know how to pour a cocktail, and they are not afraid to put a meaningful amount of sauce in your glass.

*note: Don’t get me wrong here, as I’ve stated before I am from the east coast and do not need the people who wait on me to shower me with sunshiney friendliness right out of the gate, especially if it is not in their nature to do so.  And some of these ‘RM tenders of bar, once they get to know you a little, are very engaging. And some are less so. You shouldn’t take it personally…..or maybe you should. I haven’t figured that out yet.

Reason #3: Well-poured cocktails.

4. I….and others with whom I have spoken of this inexplicable phenomenon….appear to be impervious to the effects of alcohol down there. Tequila shots? Oh sure! Infinity vodka sodas? Not a problem.  This does not happen anywhere else. I can usually tell when it’s time to pump the brakes or switch right over to a non-alcoholic beverage. Not at ‘Round Midnight.  I’m not at all sure what this is about. Could be something as simple as the small drop in altitude, the darkness, or maybe it’s just when you’re down there, away from the hustle and bustle, you don’t see any sober people walking around going about their business. Nothing to compare your drunk self to.  I can’t know. What I can know is that the effect wears off immediately upon climbing the stairs back to street level.

Reason #4: Perceived imperviousness to alcohol.

I’m pretty sure “imperviousness” is not a word, but you know what I mean. And if you ever find yourself in need of a drink and also weary of the crowds, the hassle, the expense, and well…the sunshine in Boulder head down to ‘Round Midnight.  Or if you find yourself out late with a package on and the desire to bust a move, head down those stairs……..

When I saw that a coffee shop opened in the Safeway strip mall on Iris and 28th, I thought “Hm. What a weird place to put a coffee shop. Who would ever go there?” I would, as it turns out.  Red Rock is a chill place, clearly off the beaten path and with much less hustle and bustle than you’d find at a coffee shop on Pearl Street.  It’s quiet, clean and filled with people working on their laptops or talking quietly amongst themselves. There are even a few comfy leather chairs up front.

This is a great place to come and chill, or have a conversation you don’t want half of the city of Boulder to overhear. You probably won’t run into anyone you know at Red Rock.

That said, I saw three people I know today…but I was there for a long time.

They make a very good cup o’ Joe, too. And I know the difference now, as I can no longer doctor it up with cream to my heart’s content. Red Rock has all the weird milk you desire, too. Soy, almond and rice for an extra charge, which is fine by me. And bonus points for the “Truvia” sweetener.  And lots of other sweeteners, as luck would have it. This is an impressive selection, even by Boulder standards.

(Truvia, Organic agave, simple syrup…oh my! There’s also honey, sugar, raw sugar and splenda. How sweet it is!)

The people who work here are very friendly, they usually have a pretty good Pandora channel on the small stereo on the counter, so the music is on in a background kinda way. Red Rock also features beautiful photography on the wall….like these:

I also like the large selection of gluten free goodies. More than most. I tried a slice of the poppyseed bread….pretty good, not too dry and crumbly and it actually resembles a tasty treat and not something you’d put in a birdfeeder.  Not bad, considering it’s gluten and dairy free…..

Another thing I like about this place is they seem to be very supportive of local companies, such as Mix1, Breeze, Breadworks and such…. Nice. And don’t forget to shop at your favorite small business on “Small Business Saturday” after Thanksgiving, by the way. Easy to do in Boulder.

(Red Rock doing its part to support local business!)

Red Rock also features a variety of loose teas for your sipping pleasure. Lots of them. And some come with suggestions on the best way to enjoy them. “Great with cream and a little sugar” says the canister of Assam, a black tea from India. Good to know. My favorite is this one, though. I’ll have to try it one of these days. Just so I know what a “monkey picked white tea” tastes like.

(Names as clever as any local dispensary….or so I’ve been told)

I’ve been here with a couple of sidekicks, both of whom had a few critiques. My chai-drinking friend says her chai was mostly a glass of milk. Another pal ordered a breggo and was disappointed when they threw it in the microwave. He prefers the press thing. Can’t say I blame him as I am sure breggos, like anything, get a little mushy in the microwave. He was also bummed out there was no blender. To this I say “Sorry bud, but I refuse to go to a coffee shop with a GUY who wants a blender drink. Get your frozen frappuccino at (gasp!) Starbucks and leave me out of it.” I’ll pay for that sass, but I stand by it. If it’s a smoothie you want, there’s a Jamba juice in the Safeway right around the bend. If it’s a blended frozen coffee drink you’re after, I won’t be a party to that. I’m sorry.  I don’t love it. If you want a milkshake, go to Glacier. We are drinking coffee here.

My girl has a point on the way diluted chai, and I agree the microwave is not a perfect heating option for your breggo, but I’m ok with the lack of blender on the premises.  That’s what is so great about being the author of this blog. Editorial power.

I like Red Rock. It’s quiet, chill and clean. The bathroom is spotless. The coffee is tasty, milk, sweetener and gluten/dairy free options abound.

Oh I’ll be back.

I’d like to take a moment to discuss a ray of sunshine on an otherwise dark and dismal day in college football last Saturday. While most of the news was sensational, shocking and sad, the happenings at Folsom Field deserve a mention. I was there in the wind. And I HATE the wind…more than most people do. But I was out there freezing my tailfeathers off and cheering the Buffs on to an awesome victory over Arizona! Well done, Buffs!! And congrats to all the seniors, including tailback Rodney “Speedy” Stewart who had an amazing game and even threw for a touchdown.

Proud to say my favorite 7 year old Buff fan knows ALL the words to all the cheers and chants, including the fight song. And yes, I even taught him the one with the F bombs in it…nothing he doesn’t hear at home on a fairly regular basis…though he is forbidden to yell it out unless and until he finds himself in the student section. Big congrats to the Buffs, coaches and fans….and of course Ralphie….for a great victory on Saturday!

Beans and suds is so happy to be back after an unscheduled hiatus. My apologies to those who have been waiting patiently for my take on all things caffeine and cocktail, but sometimes life has a way of keeping you from things you’d rather be doing.  I will not bore you with the details.

Since you heard from me last, I have discovered I am allergic to both gluten and soy. If that were not bad enough, add dairy to the list.  On the upside, I feel my dietary restrictions make me much more “Bouldery” than I was a few weeks ago. And while the gluten ban puts the brakes on my beer consumption, I am happy to announce that tequila is NOT on the restricted list! Nor are tortilla chips, salsa or guacamole. So all is not lost.

And I can drink milk. As long as it’s not cow’s milk or soy milk. Almond milk works. So does coconut milk, if I can figure out how to get the off-putting lumps out of it. Ideas, friends?

Folsom Street Coffee has almond milk! And whatever this is that I’m eating.  A gluten and dairy free millet triangle of some kind or other.

My point here is while I’d rather be eating any one of these….

…or sharing what my sidekick is eating….

Folsom Street has you in mind, my food-restricted friends!

I like this place, even though it is virtually IMPOSSIBLE to head north out of the parking lot most times of the day.  Do not be put off by it’s unimpressive exterior, it’s full of good stuff!

Folsom Street is a great place to come and enjoy a quinoa crumble with a pal, who is enjoying his sour cream coffee cake even more.  Also a great place to come get some work done, read a book or just look around at all the cool stuff on the walls and hanging from the ceiling.

Like this….

Which, if you believe the lady who told me so when she asked why I was walking around a coffee shop taking pictures, are creations of a local artist who once lived in the building in the alley behind Folsom Street Coffee (a building I was also told is in danger of being torn down). Amazing the things you learn when you wander around with a camera in your hand. (Note to self: this could be another blog idea….I just take the camera around town with me and take pictures of things most people don’t. Like the insides of coffee shops. Imagine the possibilities…..)

Water pitchers. And glasses. Nice touch, Folsom Street. Eating baked goods is thirsty work indeed. And this saves me from: a. having to bother the barista, b. having to buy a bottle of water, c. listening to my sidekick tell me about how he’s dying of thirst and could I please get back in line and get him some water?….see what I mean?

Speaking of baristas, these guys are way friendly. I told them about the blog and they thought it was cool….or they made me think so anyway, which is really the same thing as far as I’m concerned…. AND they didn’t make me feel like a jackass for ordering almond milk. Thanks, guys.

And I do feel like a jackass. I’m sorry, but I feel like the guy on “LA Story” who orders a “half caf, double decaf with a twist.” And I guess now that I’m ordering milk made out of nuts I can no longer roll my eyes when my brother orders his “wet cap with extra foam and caramel sauce” and I should probably stop asking “what is wrong with you?” Because it seems hypocritical of me now. And I guess I’ll have to stop my aggressive sighing when the person in front of me orders “a 150 degree soy mocha with an extra shot and lotsa whip”….which I still, for the record, think is a little silly.  The problem is I am no longer the guy on the moral high ground who orders an “americano with room.”

I’m really going to have to figure out how to drink my americano black, to spare myself the humiliation of putting some poor barista through this “Yeah, hi. Ummm, after conferring with my naturopath, my acupuncturist, my intuitive, my therapist, my trainer, my astrologer, my cranial sacrial worker, my yoga teacher, my meditation instructor, my guru, my hairdresser and my tea leaves reader, we have all come to the conclusion that I simply cannot make due with your milk offerings.  I am actually my best self when I stick to kangaroo milk.  It’d be awesome if you guys had that for my americano.” It doesn’t matter that none of that is what comes out of my mouth. It just sounds like that in my head.

Important note here:  do not think that if you can’t drink regular milk I view you in this way. The voices in my head judge me by a much, much different standard they do outsiders. If you’re cool with ordering your fairly high maintenance drink with a nonconventional milk, my hat’s off to you. I just can’t do it.

Black americanos from now on.  I’ll give extra credit to coffee shops that carry “Truvia,” which is  a sugar substitute made from the stevia plant. Hahahahaha!! Oh my God! Now even my sweetener order is getting difficult. Sugar? No can do. Artificial sweetener? Ew. Why don’t you just offer me a “Tab” while you’re at it? It’ll kill me faster.

My apologies to Folsom Street Coffee for my rantings, but I think  it’s a side effect of bread and cheese withdrawal……

In short, Folsom Street is a great little place to get your fix. I’m going back for sure…because there I don’t HAVE to drink my americano black. This funky place has a chill vibe and friendly baristas. And good food and drink options. I like it so much I’ll even think of something to do to the west, east or south of here when I’m done!

Oh yes. And I finished “War and Peace.” Yes I did.

And I have also started “An Ideal Husband,” because I LOVE Oscar Wilde.  He is definitely tops on my list of “people dead or alive that you’d want to have coffee with.” I imagine our time together would be full of witty banter, he’s a pro. And there’s nothing quite like an Irishman with an audience. I think happy hour would be better for us two, though….

We are going to do things a little differently this time.

“A picture is worth a thousand words,” the saying goes and it’s very true when it comes to “Piece Love and Chocolate.”  So this blog will feature bigger pictures and less words than usual, but don’t worry I’ll be back with all my snark soon enough.  I took a lot of pictures to give you a sense of the sinful bits of heaven you’ll find inside the walls of this little shop on West Pearl.  Taking up space with words would ruin it. I gotta say, I like the bigger pictures….might have to go with this from now on…..

The only thing better than looking at all these goodies is tasting them….

Scrumptious truffles filled with delight not your bag? No worries…Piece Love and Chocolate has a pastry chef as well…..feast your eyes on these….

Yes. Mousse. Filled. Cupcakes.

This is most assuredly not your average, every day coffee shop. It’s like some little fairies decided we didn’t have enough decadence in this town, so they flew down and created Piece Love and Chocolate while we were all asleep one night.

(Evidence that fairies were somehow involved)

Turns out chocolate is like wine, or cheese….and these are a few of my favorite things…there is an entire process behind the making of these delights. And apparently your palate can be trained to know the difference between them. And how to pair them properly with different wines for maximum tastebud joy and seratonin optimization.

(It is an amoire filled with exotic chocolate bars)

And the people who work at “Piece” are happy to show you around and describe the display case full of truffles, many of which look too good to eat….but eat them. Because they are AWESOME.

I chose a salt caramel, which is one of my all time favorite treats. I told the helpful gal behind the counter to pick another one for me. She chose one of her faves, a basil truffle. Told me to put it in my mouth and just let it melt. Wow. I can’t even explain how basil and dark chocolate come together in this little candy, but it works. Bigtime.

(My assistant showing you the inside of a salt caramel truffle…just in case you’re not yet sold on this place)

Oh and if you’d like to place a custom order for baked goods or cakes, Piece Love and Chocolate can make that dream a reality.  And I think they serve coffee and tea…and mocha.

And if anyone out there is still undecided on what to get me for Christmas this year, how about this? You know I’ll love it….

There are three Brewing Markets in Boulder. The original is on 13th by Conor O’Neill’s, there’s one in The Village Center by McGuckins, and another in the BaseMar shopping center on Broadway and Baseline. But sometimes I have to get out of Boulder, if only for a couple of hours, so I decided to go to the Brewing Market on 95th and Arapahoe in Lafayette.

I discovered this little gem when I came out here to watch my favorite 7 year old play flag football one Saturday morning after a Friday night happy hour outing.  I was hoping the caffeine would help. It did not. Never does, actually. I couldn’t hang that day, but I vowed I’d come back. Soon. To hang.

Wow! This place is so totally worth the trip. I am adding it to my regular rotation.

This place is so full of fab, I almost don’t know where to begin.  Let’s start at the beginning. I’m sitting here.  There are big, comfy chairs and couches…a lot of them so you don’t have to fret about not getting “the” comfy seat.

The choices for coffee/tea drinks are numerous. Hot or cold, you name it, they probably have it here. They also have five or six kinds of chai….I have a friend who loves a good chai, and now I have a good excuse to get her out for coffee. I’m feeling inspired to branch out from my usual iced coffee/hot americano thing and try something different today.  I order a “cambric,” which is essentially a latte made with tea instead of espresso.  (Pekoe makes these, too and they’re really good).  But not so fast…do I want black, green or herbal tea in that? Herbal is out, I need caffeine. I opt for green tea, thinking I’m done making important choices. But alas, there is “regular” green tea, or other kinds of green tea…like plum or cherry.  Straight up green tea sounds good. And it is!! Warm and creamy and a little less aggressive than the caffeine kick you get from the espresso version. Don’t get me wrong, I love that as well, but sometimes I can’t handle it. Like when I have an empty stomach, like I do now.

This is not a problem. If you’re hungry, The Brewing Market has you covered. Well covered.

There are glass containers full of very homemade looking sweet things…biscotti, cookies, etc.  Also on top of the display case full of lots of other awesome looking food is a selection of “Bobo’s Oat Bars” such as I have never seen. Who knew they had 8 different kinds to choose from?

And bregos. If you like bregos…and who doesn’t, really? The Brewing Market has lots and lots of bregos. Five different kinds, to be exact.  Normally I don’t, but I may have to get something to eat here today.  Something with gluten in it, because on Thursday I’m meeting with a holistic nutritionist who is going to change my life, fix what ails me, and right things I didn’t even know were wrong.  Based on our initial consultation, I fear the first thing she’s going to say is:

“No more gluten for you, sister.”

She might not say the “sister” part, but I plan to eat as much gluten as I can between now and then, possibly making myself sick in the process, so that when she utters that directive I’ll be ready to commit to it.

Where was I?

Bregos, burritos, hummus wraps and sandwiches, all cozied up to another fave…Noosa yogurt.  They have all kinds of pastry too….scones, zucchini bread and lots of other “loaves” and muffins, too. I’m getting really hungry, and it’s past lunchtime. I opt for the turkey sandwich with lemon dill aoli, crunchy red peppers, cucumbers and lettuce.  And yeah!! It comes on bread, so I’ve got that going for me as well.  I love that about sandwiches.

Got chocolate?

(So much chocolate I almost couldn’t fit it all in the shot)

Oh yes. Yes they do. Massive selection.  Good chocolate, too….everything, from Lindt, Chocolove, Perugina, Drost, Sharfenberger and many more…if it’s chocolate you want, they’ve got it for you. And truffles. I’m not a fan, but if you are this should put a smile on your face….

(Love that they tell you what’s inside each one, so you don’t have regrets after the first bite)

I had a chat with the barista, mostly to explain why I was walking around with a big camera taking pictures of the chocolate, and he told me how they make their pumpkin pie latte. If pumpkin pie latte sounds like something you like, I will explain how the Brewing Market makes theirs, and perhaps you’ll be compelled to try one!  So they actually make pumpkin pie filing and reduce it down to its spicy essence and use THAT in their pumpkin pie latte. Get one and report back to me, I am not a huge fan of pumpkin but I’m dying to know if it’s as good as it sounds.

If syrup is more your style, they have plenty of that, too, The Brewing Market does.  If you’re a do-it-at-home kinda cat, they sell virtually everything you’ll need. Bulk coffee, teas, teapots, presses, mugs…..

(Syrup. I wasn’t kidding)

They also have cards in case you just realized it’s someone’s birthday you care about….or if you just wanna pen someone a letter…old school. Who wouldn’t love that?

And who wouldn’t love this place? I’ve been to the other Brewing Markets, but usually just to grab a drink and go. I think I’ll loop back and check them out again, too!

Bravo, Brewing Market!

I don’t have much time before I have to leave here and get back to the real world.  I’ll read a little War and Peace. I only have 150 pages left, but it feels like the closer I get to page 1388 the further away it seems. Like it’s mocking me. I don’t know if I’m going to make it, but I will die trying. I’ve committed way too much of my life to this book over the last year to quit now.

Damn you, Tolstoy and those long Russian winters!

We walk in to Mateo at 5pm, as their happy hour is 5-6:30pm and it’s Friday night. We are professionals, after all.  There are a bunch of people assembled at the middle of the long bar and when we walk in they all turn and look at us like we just walked in to a private party we weren’t invited to.  It probably didn’t happen, but I could almost swear I heard the sound of a needle scratching off a record.

At this point it’s just me and “T” but we are expecting three more sidekicks, so  after standing there for a few minutes feeling awkward, we wandered over to the high table in front of the picture window, a perfect spot for happy hour for five!

Several very good looking guys…waiters? busboys? both? come by to inquire about our water preference. We opt for the filtered tap variety, in case you’re curious.  “T” orders the house sparkling wine… a prosecco, great at $6 a glass, and I choose the featured sparkling rose for
$5 and it’s delightful. Also available are the house red and white wines for $4 a glass, and the daily beer for $3.  Something for everyone.

Now what to eat? We start with an order of the frites (an absolute MUST at Mateo, as they are known for them. And for good reason. The frites are amazing!!) We also get the charcuterie plate….a selection of cured meat, cheeses, marinated olives, pate and grilled bread to deliver it to your mouth, which will be much happier for the experience. We were also given plenty of delicious bread with some kind of herbed butter, which the sidekicks said had a nice, sweet flavor.  And there’s more….

(Mateo’s happy hour menu. So much deliciousness, so little time)

The rest of the gals arrive. We proceed to have a great time, great drinks, great food and quite possibly the perfect table for conversation and food sharing.  I realize another thing… I’m surrounded by TLC (sidekicks “T,” “L” and “C”…two “C”s, for good measure). TLC. Really. Beautiful and amazing girlfriends who love and support me, and make me laugh (as I hope I do them).  Even if the refreshments were bad I’d be happy.

But they’re not, so back to the goods. “L” very smartly orders up another of Mateo’s signature dishes, the mussels.  They are steamed to perfection in a tomato and white wine concoction of almost indescribable goodness….avec frites, s’il vous plait.  And yes, we’ll need a little more bread to soak up the broth left behind in the crock.

(Delicious. That’s all)

Mateo’s food is very good and happy hour pricing is, too.  This restaurant has a beautiful interior, cool lighting, and some really beautiful art hanging on the walls.

The one thing that wasn’t awesome was the service.  Before I go any further, I must admit that I am from the east coast and worked for years as a waitress, so my threshold for poor service may well be lower than yours.   Our waiter was really nice, but we waited a long time staring into our empty wine glasses for him to come back and check on us, and waited again for our drinks to be delivered.  And it wasn’t just me who noticed. One of the sidekicks observed, “It’s like they realized we were here just for happy hour, and so we aren’t a priority.” Clearly, they don’t know us very well, as our every other Friday night “happy hour” often lasts until nearly midnight. I digress.  We also had to look for him to get our check. We quickly threw down our cards to pay, but he was already gone. “C” called her sweet thing for a ride home and we were still waiting for our waiter to come pick up our cards when her ride showed up.  “C” ended up taking her card back and paying with cash so as not to keep her designated driver waiting.

Maybe the service is better in the dining room.

If you enjoy good food and drink, by all means get yourself down to Mateo. In fact, they are celebrating their 10 year anniversary this coming Sunday, October 23rd with hors d’oeuvres and cocktails from 5-8pm. Call them to rsvp if you’re interested.

I’d go to Mateo for dinner, but not for happy hour. As one sidekick said “not sure it’s worth the trip for great fries. It’s much more a dinner place than a fun happy hour hang.”

Our crew was whittled down to the usual suspects after Mateo, and we strolled west on Pearl looking for inspiration. After a quick beer, we headed back to east Pearl and “Pizzeria Locale,” because they have amazing “spritz” cocktails….and I wanted the sidekicks to try their “Arancino.” The Aracino are essentially risotto balls with a little melty bufala mozarella inside, dipped in batter and fried for just enough time to make them one of the most delicious things we three have ever eaten. We got two rounds. Of cocktails AND Arancino. And it wasn’t enough, but we’d been out for hours so it was time to go home.

While there, however, we witnessed something that made us think of a great new iphone app.

“Take Me Home Tonight,” the virtual wingman.

The app will somehow know when you’re out on the town, perhaps one of your friends will alert it remotely.  It will periodically take an involuntary blood alcohol reading and text it to said friend (or two, in our case) along with a GPS reading.  If they find it’s warranted, your friends can take a stroll by your location and observe your behavior firsthand. If it’s anything like that of the woman we saw at the bar last Friday night (and suffice it to say she was old enough to know better) who inspired the app, your friends will be there to rescue you from your ownself. The app will also come equipped with a taser or some kind of stun gun, in the event that you are not happy to see your friends, and become belligerent when they tell you it’s time to go home.  I know a really good software engineer, who knows a couple of other really good ones, and I’m sure it’ll be tricky, but if we build it they will come.

And they’ll thank us in the morning. Of that, we are sure.