My first trip since COVID, Denver, Colorado, and … wow. Just wow.

Let’s get this out of the way: it is still dangerous to travel, and if you don’t have to, then don’t put yourself, and more importantly others at risk.

While everyone is hurting, and tourist destinations especially feeling the brunt of this lock down, it is a double edged sword to even mention tourism these days. Yes, the economy is important for people to survive, but so is their health. That said, what I found in Denver was inspiring; everyone very conscious of the world condition and doing their absolute best to minimize risk, while still being able to offer access to this amazing city. Open air electric tour busses, timed museum tickets, and tons of fantastic outdoor dining all offer some protection that allow tourism to happen safely.

Denver, the city with the least oxygen but the most love in the continental United States is definitely a magical place. I recently got to explore this and a few other Colorado gems, so lets get to the highlights.

First we descended upon the prim and polished Cherry Creek neighborhood which is full of shopping, fun eats, and our hotel, the Moxy.
This hip little Marriott owned boutique play-and-stay is a faithful rendition of your favorite hipster hotel right down to the reproduction vintage phot booth in the lobby.

One thing that you’ll notice (but not remember) is that the check in desk is actually the bar, a feature that I suggest be standardized in all hotels, and DMV locations. You immediately get that Denver is a beer town as the hotel is attached to a beer garden, you get beers in the elevator, and even beers waiting in the room for you. The rooms are cool and modern, with great views and great loo’s. There is a definite nod to being funky fun,
from the bath product, to the verbiage and even the funky windows. It’s a functionally smart hotel that makes maximum use of it’s minimal footprint with a surprisingly ingenious array of furnishing trickery.

Overall we were super comfortable in our new lil’ home but it was time to explore this cool city, so we headed to the famed Union Station in the heart of downtown Denver. Truly a charming and stylish building inside it’s art deco / beaux arts beauty will impress you making it a great place to chill out or check out the fun and funky art. One fun fact is that there used to be a great big arch at the entrance that said Mizpah, or welcome in Hebrew, and while the arch is no longer with us, Union Station now has Snooze, a must brunch place for anyone visiting Denver.

In this colorful-retro-casual brunch hot-spot you will find long waits for one of their coveted outdoor tables, and for good reason. The breakfast here is an event from their decadent flavor bomb pancakes to their elaborate savory eggs benny which require, for health reasons, one of their loaded Bloody Mary’s to make it all go down right.

Completely stuffed, we decided to be carted around in style while not leaving even one carbon footprint. Introducing ETUK Denver’s premiere fully environmentally friendly tour company sponsored by Bud Light Selzer which is White Claw for people with day jobs. These Denver made, fully electric Tuks come with heated seats and fantastic views of the city. In no time we were whipping around downtown taking in all the sites as our guide pointed out some of the finer features Denver had to offer, like the Cherry Creek pedestrian bridge perfect for morning runs, the decadent Cruise Room located in the Oxford Hotel, the lovely Larimar pedestrian mall and the opulent Performing Arts Center, which proudly showcases two giant Botero sculptures (which are miniscule compared to Denver’s giant blue peeping tom bear who’s origin story is so long winded and wildly convoluted I wont bore you with it but look it up).

Then across the street from a legendary house of ill repute, we got to adventure into the Brown palace. Despite a very unfortunate name, the Brown Palace is a very cool place to take in, with a simply cavernous atrium that will leave you spellbound. Denver’s old world origin charm drips from the walls to the floors here as you can see in every aspect of the lobby’s attention to architectural detail meant to impress even the most snobby of Easterners. Here’s a pro tip: head up to the top floor to get an entirely different view of the Brown Palace and test to see if your brunch at Snooze is still in your stomach. Perhaps the most interesting facet of the palace is its water fountain, where you can drink, get this, actual Denver artesian water from the original 1892 well dug 750 feet below the hotel. That’s something.

Leaving the old-school charm of downtown Denver we popped over to the River North or hip RiNo district famed for it’s abundant world class street art and super hobo-chic restaurants and cafe’s. A trip to RiNo isn’t complete I’m told without hitting up the Denver Central Market which is located in a beautiful reclaimed warehouse. Chuck full of anything you could possibly want to eat or drink, this is a great place to explore and even throw back a few before picking something up for dinner. Don’t forget dessert either. I mean look at these things! Do you eat them or wear them?

From RiNo We headed cross the Platte River to the hip Highland district, which has some very photogenic spots, like Happy Camper,
which is like an Instagram post that serves food. With its giant disco ball, garden nooks, and dripping bokeh it’s hard not to get a bunch of likes. There is also little man ice cream, which besides mixing up the craziest flavors, is housed in the largest milk pail I’ve ever seen. Photo ops aside we were here for lunch and to check out Avanti which is a collective eatery.

What’s a collective eatery you ask?

Well its like you die and go to comfort food heaven. This place is a foodies paradise, with amazing dishes from around the world to make it super easy to forget about your diet. Add in a killer space with lots of seating both indoor and out to nosh on you new favorite nibbles and you got it made. South American arepas, Kimchi scallion pancakes and Southern spicy fried chicken all washed down with local amazing beer will definitely satisfy.

Full on good eats, we decided to take in some culture at Denver’s world class art museum. This institution boasts some of the most outrageous exhibitions, this one was called simply Light which allowed for some
amazing artist interpretations of what light means to them. From Keith herring triptychs to skull riding cryptic this was a visual wonderland that gave good cause for Colorado’s stance on legal mamajuana. Minds properly blown it was time to take a quick trip out of the city to visit the infamous Red Rocks Amphitheater, which is by far the most
beautiful naturally occurring theater I’ve ever seen in my life. When not rocking out, locals use this breathtaking location as a giant gym. Try
that at Madison Square Garden.

It is a truly stunning place that will simply take your breath away, so unique and majestic, and when you consider its just a 20 minutes drive from downtown, it’s a no brainer to fit it into your itinerary.

As the sun set on the queen city of the plains, we submerged ourselves once more into downtown for dinner. Sure you could keep it low key and hit up Duffy’s Cherry Cricket who’s no frills charm is overturned by their delicious burgers and boozy milkshakes but we decided to class it up a bit and check out Rioja on Larimer. This class act of fine dining is one of the best restaurants to experience Denver’s cultured cuisine.

From delicate amuse bouche, to savory pork belly appetizers, and perfectly grilled Colorado rack of lamb to decadent deserts this my friends is the perfect way to end a perfect trip to the great city of Denver Colorado. Onward onto Telluride, possibly the best place to visit during COVID!


Rs

DT LA Art District GUIDE.

Lotsa people think LA and think beach but one of my absolutely favorite places to explore is the downtown Arts District. Consider it one stop shopping for all your hipster pleasures. From dope breweries, to couture clothing, to black as night soft serve, you can pretty much fill a fantastic day walking around this conglomerate of cool.

A few of our faves are the Pali Wine Co. where you can get your grape on in an unpretentious, sexy Scandinavian vibe. Cheap flights and a fun staff awaits: paliwineco.com

The best dogs are at Wurstkuche which is just fun to say. Crazy flavors and a riotous back room will leave your belly full and your voice lost: wurstkuche.com

Desert will bring you to the LA institution Pie Hole, again, offering anything out of the ordinary for discerning pie aficionados. thepieholela.com

By now you need to ease into the afternoon with a cold brew, so why not have 8 of them. Angel City is one of our absolute favorite in LA and their flights are legendary. angelcitybrewery.com

Ok so now you are sh!#@faced which is the appropriate time to eat black charcoal soft serve at Bae. Much more than an instagram darling, this soft serve is delicious as it’s activated charcoal soaks up all that liquid regret in your tummy: BAE

Finally finish out your banner day with a little retail therapy to perhaps buy that one-of-a-kind gift for that friend you just ghosted their brunch on. A unique store that is like an authentic Urban Outfitters, if Urban Outfitters sold real stuff. poketo.com

That’s the size of it folks, definitely head down to downtown to get some real LA living.

JOIN THE CLAST! YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/c/travelclast Instagram: @TravelClast Twitter: @ClastTravel Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/TravelClast Blog: http://www.cineclast.com

Very Old NYC

Found a quirky cool little blog if you are a NYC lifer like me … it’s lovingly called “Stuff Nobody Cares About” and there are some gems. For instance:

NYC’s first female cop. 1908 people.

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Or perhaps the first “Hop On Hop Off” sightseeing bus … in 1906:

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Or Macy’s before Macy’s … Herald Sq. in 1895:

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AMAZING AMAZON

As a native New Yorker, I am no stranger to long commutes, however, 8 hours traveling up-river on a flat-bottom diesel boat to the heart of the Peruvian rainforest was a test of endurance even for a experienced G train rider. Once at our destination however, it became immediate clear to me that I was in a world untouched by any human about to have my mind blown, and definitely would find it near impossible to find a good slice.

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The Tambopata Research Center (TRC) is located deep within the Madre de Dios province of the Peruvian rainforest, a protected wildlife area founded in 1977. It is home to tens of thousands of animal and plant specie, from macaw to monkey, Jaguar to giant turtle. It is so prolific in fact, that while I was there, two new specie of spiders were discovered … walking from the boat to the lodge. It’s basically like God’s test kitchen that you can visit.

Getting there is not the easiest, which is why I absolutely love it. Upon flying into Puerto Maldonado, you are met by your personal guide, and brought by bus to the aptly named “town” of inferno, which seemed to consist of a bodega, bathroom, and small dock. There my personal Virgil (who’s name was Ramón and amazing) and a dozen other travelers jump on a 3-hour cruise to our first lodge, the Refugio Amazonas.

This remote outpost, with its shellacked dark wood, thatched roofs, and tall, cool drinks awaiting you upon arrival, echoes the romance and adventure that you would find in a Hemingway novel or an early Cary Grant film. After a warm reception, you are given the key to your room, which to me was curious considering you only have three walls; one wall is completely missing allowing the surrounding nature to engross you, which it does. The materials the lodge is composed of, the gently swinging hammocks, the fresh meals prepared for us, the fact that power is only offered for a certain number of hours a day, all truly thrust you into this beautiful experience without any delay. You are immersed in pristine nature, and you are only a third of the way to your final destination.

The next day you spend with your guide exploring the backcountry, trekking to an observation tower, which if you have the testicular fortitude to climb you are rewarded a sublime view of the 40 meter high Rainforest canopy. Traveling back you stop at a large lake, where a small man powered boat takes you across to view dozens of species of birds that make the watering hole their home. “Shall we fish for piranha?” our guide asks which of course the answer is “hell yes”. Soon he is carefully affixing a small morsel of meat on the end of a hook and line that look like Huckleberry Finn had just put down. “Here, just drop it in. Gently.” He handed it over to me as I placed it in the water cautiously having watched Shark Week one too many times, and before I knew it I had a small piranha on the end of my fishing pole. Our guide grabbed it and removed the hook, and let us all get a close look at the sushi that eats you back before returning it to the lake. I will have to switch to a California roll.

The next day we made the next leg to our final destination, the TRC, one, if not the most remote Amazon lodges in the world. As our repurposed truck engine blended us deeper up river, the nature completely took over. On the banks we saw Jaguars and Peccarie and Caimans, trees that came right to the river’s edge, their root system grasping on to whatever land the river allowed them to take. At times we would pass small barges with pumps on them shooting river water through a giant slanted sieve. “Those are illegal gold miners. This river is rich with gold.” Dangerous work, but apparently very well paid if you are lucky and not caught. About three hours in there was a fork in the river, and we docked at a weathered old landing that jetted out into the Tambopata River. We were at the Malinowki River Control Station, which looked like something out of the film Apocalypse Now. Screened in shacks strewn together, with bottle caps nailed into boards for traction, and a make-shift basketball hoop that defied attrition hanging on the side of a slanted tree, this was a mandatory control stop to enforce legal river traffic. In the small office, lined with weathered maps and young men with firearms, I had them stamp my passport to memorialize the event. I figured I’d never be this deep again in the rainforest; best have some ink to prove it.

Another two hours up-river and we finally reach the research center. Porters run out to grab our sacks, and we make our way through the lush forest, which is alive with noise. Boar-like peccaries bark at each other and shuffle through the low-lying bush, while howler monkeys scream to a rival tribe across the treetops. Graced with the grand entrance to the TRC lodge, it is even more majestic and beautifully organic then the last lodge, and would make for a fine base for the next three days where I would have the pleasure of exploring one of the most remote portions of the rainforest with some of the worlds most interesting people.

What Rainforest Expeditions offers that separates it from other tours is that you are in a functioning research facility staying with actual researchers and field scientists. This is more then eco-tourism, this boarders on getting actual college credit to go toward your doctorate. In the morning we visited one of the more active salt licks where my guide said we might see a few specie of Macaw feeding. By a “few” he meant a few hundred, and the colors, reds, blues, greens and yellows blurred before me like a Gaspar Noé titles sequence (Enter The Void, look it up). The shear volume of bio-diversity here is mind blowing, beyond any zoo, any safari on earth, and no SD card in the world has enough capacity to capture it all.

Dinners were exceptionally exciting as this was a prime time to mingle with not only the other travelers, but also the researchers and scientist that also stayed at the lodge. Here they would swap stories of what animals were seen, or new discoveries were made, or secret locations to best capture that perfect photograph. It was here I a young researcher and photographer, that invited me on what they called a “rainforest rave”.

“We go out at night, with UV lights, and discover bioluminescent insects. It’s a riot.” Basically this was the equivalent to telling a frat boy that there was a well-organized pub-crawl planned. After dinner we made our way out with blacklights in the pitch of night and let the forest put a show on for us that would have blown the mind of any burning man participant. Spiders that look like the 80’s puked all over them. Frogs that radiated pink and green like a neon sign. Did you know scorpions glow bright blue in UV light like a toy out of one of those grocery store vending machines? No. I didn’t think they could be any cooler either.

During the following days we explored riverbeds and trekked inland to natural waterholes, seeing all sorts of bats, turtles, barking caterpillars, and dozens and dozens of butterflies. 600 specie of bird, 200 of mammal, 1,000 of butterfly, and thousands of insects definitely keeps your neck loose as you constantly turn to see something new and amazing. My guide and I would travel downriver to a “Spiritual Retreat” that was being built for Ayahuasca ceremonies among other things. We met with the shaman, and saw the massive construction, and even took a tour of the jungle “garden”, getting face to face with the mind-altering hallucinogenic vine itself. Perhaps the most interesting interaction I had was after having met three young post-grads, I helped climb a 30 meter tree to hang an Macaw nest with a camera in it so that they could research the nesting habits. Of course assisting the researchers with manual labor is not something on the planned itinerary; it is something that was amazingly rewarding for me, and indicative of the type of immersive experience that only Rainforest Expiations can provide.

After 5 days deep in the rainforest it was finally time to say goodbye. We made our way back downstream to lovely downtown Inferno to reunite us with civilization. I had been to remote, wild places on earth before, but this however had changed me in a way that was wholly unexpected; the combination of sublimely, comfortable accommodations while being completely submerged in the most bio-diverse locations on the planet, surrounded by people who’s knowledge was so vast, that their entire existence was dedicated to the cultivation of yet more knowledge, was too much for my city forged mind to handle. I returned to my small apartment, 24 hour electricity and high speed internet a bit shaken, a bit more skeptical of packaged food, and much more enlightened. It would seem that Rainforest Expeditions doesn’t just take you to one of the most remote places on the planet, they take you deep down into your own soul, to places you might not have known even exist.

Go to www.getlostmagazine.com right now to continue the adventure and read more great places to go explore. Also, here is a little video postcard I put together for you. Enjoy;)

Rs

 

Edmonton under the radar.

“Now you know how the ham feels,” the young kid behind the bar with the Shaggy goatee said over my pour, “you’re smack in the middle of it.” It is perhaps the closest way to explain how it feels to be in Edmonton, a city so smack central in a continent not many people make the trip to, or escape from. While it’s wholly inconspicuous remoteness might keep Edmonton off travelers radars, it was exactly what was attractive to me to her. What I came to find is that little ol’ Edmonton holds the record for some of the largest and most prolific attractions of any city, in the world. Where is the largest mall in North America? What city has the largest urban parkland? What city has the most music festivals? What major city has no rats, whatsoever. Always Edmonton. As a native New Yorker, I needed to see this ratless, wunderland for myself.

The first thing you notice about Edmonton is a strange dichotomy between city and nature. Here you will find two diametrically apposing wonders of the world; the largest shopping mall in the Western Hemisphere, and one of the largest natural reserves in the country.

As the morning weather was perfect, I headed to Elk Island National Park which is ironically chock full of wild buffalo that practically overrun you as soon as you enter. Thankfully they were Canadian Buffalo so they were very polite and allowed us to watch, photograph, and even say hello through the open window of our car. The rest of the park with its long hiking trails, lakes and public areas is a fantastic way to spend a morning, and brings you into the raw and beautiful Canadian wilderness instantly.

Having gotten my full of nature I was excited to see what the largest shopping mall in North America would look like. At first glance of the West Edmonton Mall, I was wholly unimpressed. Roosevelt Field in Mineaola, Long Island. The Dauphin Mall, in Kendell, Florida. Fox Hills Mall in Sherman Oak, California. These were Malls. Mecca’s to commerce, Cathedrals of capitalism, temples of teenage angst. From the lifeless, beige exterior I was so far not impressed.

Until I entered and fell gently to my knees.

Edmonton the mall10

This mall isn’t just huge, it’s epic. Epic like a very long poem written by a beardy Greek fellow. Epic like being sent on a ship to a continent that doesn’t exist yet. Epic like a Jerry Bruckhimer film. Yes. This was the Independence Day of malls.

55 city blocks long this small city of stores houses hundreds of shops and restaurants, and more then a dozen bathrooms. That’s over 120 urinals, which is more then the population of some Swiss towns. This might all be impressive but when you realize there is a full beach with wave park, amusement park with roller coaster, mini-golf, a full scale pirate ship and a seal tank you basically realize you are no longer in a mall, you are in the worlds most entertaining city. I mean there is a live seal, in the mall, doing tricks for you, as shop. Oh Canada!

Strangely I did not see a hotel in the mall, or I would have stayed there, so I closed my gaping jaw and headed back to the city center. As dusk settled in I found myself in Old Strathcona, the wonderfully hipster historic center of Edmonton. Strath is full of funky shops, crooked bars, and artsy scene that echo Haight-Ashbury in San Francisco. Skateboarders and kids in need of showers give this bohemian center a charming, relaxed atmosphere, which is a perfect place to wind the day down. Strolling through the streets you can see some fantastic murals, a few antique trolleys, farmer markets, and street music. Best of all no matter what time of year you come you will always be treated to some epic event, as Edmonton has over 30 music festivals a year, and one of the largest Fringe festivals, which is more then any other city in the world.

A few pints of the local Yellowhead lager in me I headed back downtown over the High Level Bridge, where I ran into a nice lady who was painting on the walkway. “This bridge use to be completely dark. We put lights on it. Now it shines all year round.”

“Who put lights on it?”

“We did. The people who live here.” And it was true. Maybe in the best sign of proud city unity the inhabitants of the city funded to have LED lights placed on the bridge, by themselves. I thought having a co-op in my neighborhood was cool. This was next level hipster, on a city scale.

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Photo courtesy of the Edmonton Journal

Famished from my walk, I marched directly to the Hardware Grill, where Chef Larry Stewart transforms the traditional into the sublime. There were cocktails that leave you elated, lightly battered KFC (Korean Fried Cauliflower) that floated down from heaven, and a piece of Bison that was so tender, I completely forgot I saw these majestic beasts just a few hours ago wandering alive and free. It’s a fantastic place definitely not to be missed.

Sated beyond belief, I opted to walk back to see what Edmonton had to offer the night owl. I was pleased to find a bright and colorful city, fully of youth, gourmet poutine food trucks, and lively bars. Passing Churchill Square I stopped to watch a bit of a free screening of Pitch Perfect 2 that the city put on, with hundreds of people out enjoying the open-air theater, laughing together like it was a bunch of friends over someone’s basement. Edmonton had the feel of a small town packed into a modern city, as if you become instant family by just arriving there.

It was so friendly that it was hard not to strike up a conversation every time I stopped moving for a minute. People were chatty and excited to offer suggestions of what’s best in the city. I had already seen so much and been unexpectedly impressed by this unknown metropolis that I found it truly surprising to discover what was possibly the only reason to come to Edmonton: The Green Onion Cake.

“You haven’t had a Green Onion Cake?!” the girl in the Canadian flag wrapped folding chair said looking at me as if I said I never heard of Justin Bieber. “It’s our national dish! How long have you been in town?”

“About 8 hours.”

“What have you been doing?!” Apparently the largest mall, a natural Bison petting zoo, and a meal I will judge all other future meals against was a huge waste of time when facing the Edmonton Green Onion Cake. “Go to The Underground. Right now. It’s around the corner. No sign. That’s how you know you’re there.”

There are some foods whose origin are truly shrouded in mystery; bird nest soup of south east asia. The Surströmming buried Fish of Northern Sweden. The Chicken McNugget. This was another mystery that I was hoping to solve at The Underground, a gastropub that indeed doesn’t look like it should be there. Inside a commercial building and down a very poorly lit escalator you are birthed into a warm, dimly lit cavern of beer heaven. More taps than members of parliament, I saddled up to the bar and lent in close to the barkeep. “Do you have…” I paused… for dramatic effect, “Green Onion Cake?”

“Yep. With Pork?”

“If that’s what one does.” He nodded. It came. It was not what I expected.

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Basically a what a New Yorker would call a Scallion Pancake at a Chinese restaurant, but much larger, and with a large bialy like hole in the middle. It is then stuffed with tender pulled pork and special sauce which you then immediately shove into your face as if it were air, and you had been trapped underwater most of your life. It is delicious, but was a dish with an origin as unique as Edmonton itself. I was entirely confused. How was this Edmonton’s National dish, I queried my new friend behind the bar.

“Well, it’s hard to say. Lots of people have different stories, but I think the consensus is that there was this Chinese couple, from China, that made it originally. They have a restaurant that’s been around since the 70’s. They were the first. But I read that the restaurant just closed down. Like it closed today. A real shame. History. Gone. But hey, at least we still have the Green Onion Cake, amairite?”

In a way Green Onion Cake is a perfect symbol for the city of Edmonton; here is something foreign, that has traveled a very long way, and has not only been accepted into Edmonton life, but Edmonton made it its own. Be it the shopping mall, nature, or even it’s own heritage, Edmonton seems to have the wonderful ability to take whatever it has, and truly make it an original article unlike anything else out there.

-Rs

Roberto Serrini is a professional traveler who records his adventures in word, photography and film. He is a staff writer for Get Lost Magazine, a senior contributor to Trip Advisor, as well as a commercial film director and drone pilot. His work can be seen at www.robertoserrini.com where he can be contacted as well. 

a safari with a mutual happy ending.

Not that kind of happy ending. Although, it kinda is, but the happy ending is a hand job for a country that severely needs release.

Too early for a hand job metaphor?

So … segue … 

This is Symbi Safari. The Symbi stands for Symbiotic (one of my favorite words right behind homunculus and catholic with a lower c). Symbi is the genius idea from two amazing guys Danny Noval and Kirk Summers. The idea is that an African safari should work in tandem with nature. This means a few things:

• Ecologically conscious building materials and transportation. Think Euell Gibbons meets Tesla.
• Fair wages and education for the locals who work the safari. Think Rosie the Riveter  meets Obama.
• Protecting the wildlife and the environment. Think Jane Goodall meets Twelve Monkeys.

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Jane Goodall meets Twelve Monkeys? Hello?! Hollywood? Are you reading this?

Continuing on…

What I didn’t consciously realize was that safaris could be so cancerous to their environment, ironic since it’s the environment that they are celebrating, but they can be truly awful. Pollution, garbage, and extremely poor working conditions can make them some of the most vile businesses out there.

Danny and Kirk have a different idea, which could only come out of two award-winning New York creative directors. It’s about upping the safari game a bit, adding a bit of style and sophistication, while doing what’s right, so you can really feel good about seeing one of nature’s most amazing gifts.

Of course the other safari’s probably aren’t happy about them paying their people and honest wage, and giving them basic worker’s rights and benefits that we take for granted here, but are non-existent in developing nations. Basically they don’t want anyone rocking the boat, so it’s gonna get like West Side Story over in the jungle in a second.

So, like any other good, socially conscious, media savvy creatives they started an indigogo campaign to help get this fab idea off the ground. They have some important people backing them already, the materials and personnel in place, and a *KILLER PROMOTIONAL VIDEO THAT WILL MAKE MINDS EXPLODE. 

They just need some cash to pull the trigger.

If you don’t like to kill elephants for their teeth, or to steal hungry people’s food, or if you hate genocide, or if you hate setting kittens on fire, then you should donate a few bucks because if you don’t you’re basically adding to the problem.  

Advertising rule #1: Sex sells, but guilt donates.

In all seriousness, this is a no brainer. It’s a fabulous concept, that should be the norm, and it’s taking an enormous amount of testicular fortitude to try to change a damaged system that’s been in place for over a hundred years. This is real change, and in the best way possible.

Good luck guys. No one messes with Brooklyn!

Rs

*Full disclosure: I made the video for them. pro bono. Because it really was for the good of the people, the definition of pro bono publico. Pro bono is my 4th favorite word out there btw.

denver. eat it.

Continuing on our series about Denver (sounds so very 60 Minutes right?) we come to a very important segment (for an Italian)… foods. When someone says Denver, the first thing I think of is John Denver. The second thing I think of is John Denver eating a Denver omelet. The third thing I think of is him ordering it saying “Bring me my omelet!” and the waitress rolling her eyes, and Cookie, the fry cook saying “is that Denver acting a fool again?” and them having a good laugh, perhaps wading in each other’s eyes a bit too long, and in that precious moment living a life of love together unreclaimed, only to go back to the steam and grease that binds them to this unfair world. But the food in Denver is actually really good.

The first night we hit up Williams and Graham, a dope little speakeasy with a simple, delicious menu and a vast libation selection. Just like we like it. When you arrive, you are greeted by a dandy pair, that pushes a faux bookcase aside to walk into the back room. Kitch and fun, this place is designed within an inch of it’s life, but done perfectly so you feel like you are having an experience, rather than experiencing something at Disneyland. Our barkeep was a fine gent, who used ice that was seemingly mined by an Eskimo Michelangelo, hand-picked and polished. Usually I tend to like my drinks liquid and in a glass, but do appreciate the care taken here. What’s more I had the Pork Chop, and when done right, juicy and full of flavor, it is a magical thing. We were certainly off to a good start, so good in fact, we didn’t take any pictures. Those ice cubes went right to our heads. I did take one shot, in the bathroom, which was of the wall of comments; basically a very lo-fi version of Yelp which I adored.

williams and graham yelp

W&G is up in the Highland section of Denver, which is, as far as I can discern, the Williamsburg of Denver. Yes, as a New Yorker I have the right, and the duty, to compare every city to my own as a point of reference. What I guess that means is that you will find chic, hipsteresque places and well-funded artistic types in your ranks when traveling these streets. We did. On our way back we got a fine view of downtown as Highland lives up to its topological name, and stumbled into a swank rooftop bar named Linger which, again, looked like we were in a Edward Hopper painting…

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The next morning, feeding a well deserved hangover, we went to Snooze, which is a bit of an institution in Denver. It’s the kinda place that bellmen hate to recommend, and you know you’re there a block before you’ve arrived as there is a healthy line for pancakes. I will say this – it’s worth whatever wait you may have to endure. Having lived in both LA and NY I can say with certainty that I have a PhD in Brunch, and this brunch would have been a Breakfast Rhodes Scholar. May I offer exhibit A to the jury: their pancake menu.

Pineapple Upside Down Pancakes Buttermilk pancakes with caramelized pineapple chunks, housemade vanilla crème anglaise and cinnamon butter

Sweet Potato Pancakes Our signature sweet potato buttermilk pancakes topped with homemade caramel, pecans and ginger butter.

BanaNutella Pancakes Our Buttermilk pancakes filled with a molten, Nutella center and topped with caramelized banana cream and candied hazelnuts.

Literally cakes made in a pan. and you can get all three. On one plate. All three in your mouth if you want. Yes. Have your pancake and eat it too. They have an entire section entitled “The Art of the Hollandaise”. Finally, someone gets it. I had the Havana Benny which is shaved ranch ham and slow roasted pork served over a savory Swiss cheese bread pudding, topped with poached eggs, Dijon hollandaise and diced house pickles.  After I finished slowly rubbing my face in it (as I was making out with my brunch), I ate it, and was in heaven.

Denver_serrini-3256

That evening, looking for something a little more posh to see how eclectic Denver dining went, we checked out Beatrice and Woodsley (what is with the double names Denver? Everything sounds like a hipster folk band. Mumford and Sons much Denver?). We went down to the Washington Park area of town which harbors lots of cool vintage shops, bars, and tattoo parlors, which made me feel like we were in the right place, although, we couldn’t find it to save our lives. We walked up and down the block, three times, once through an alley, and nothing. Finally, we realized the place we passed 4 times was it; a yellow windowed restaurant that we didn’t even notice. Inside, past the Hunter S. Thompson window treatment, is a wood and linen dining experience that would be more akin to South Beach then Denver, save the amazing chainsaws stuck in the wall.

The service was impeccable and the food fit the service. Pimento Cheesecake (have you ever?) and Crawfish Bignets (have you ever?) were followed by Butcher’s Steak and fresh Chicken Pasta. A fine meal, and great wine to boot.

After this delightful dining experience we cruised down the street hitting up all the bars and finally ending at a place called the Punch Bowl. What to say about the Punch Bowl…. hmm… its like a 20-year-old with unlimited funds built a place to hang out with his closest 500 friends. And yeah, there is a doorman, at a bowling alley. Gigantic, full of games, bowling, darts, archery, video games, hidden bathrooms, several bars, and Jägermeister comes out of the walls. It’s a mecca to making poor choices. And no, there are no pictures from this portion of the evening.

The next morning (afternoon?) we needed some greasy spoon surgery, so we headed over to Sam’s No. 3 which is like a Denny’s on steroids. Not sure what happened to Sam’s No. 1 and 2 but I have a feeling Sam’s  No. 3 beat the shit out of them, stole their woman, and their car, and came to Denver. This place was epic, the wait was a bit long for a greasy spoon, but the pot edibles were kicking in so all was good. Besides, they had crayons. Score.

Sam's No. 3

When we got to the table we ordered the thing in the middle of the menu with a big starburst around it. After years of professional drinking I have learned that whatever is in that starburst is the answer to all our problems. It was basically a wave of fried, fatty foods meant to numb and comatose your problems, and yes, they did. Of course the Bloody Mary had a full plate of food in it as well. Seriously in heaven.

One of the highlights of the morning was when I told Tom, who had all the pot we bought earlier in his pocket, that there were two big cops right behind him. Brilliant. In my head it went something like this:

priceless-pot

To go out with a bang for our last supper, we decided to find a fantastic steakhouse and just be men about it. We settled on the Chophouse, which could not have been any better. Of course, like any other business in Denver, the Chophouse brews their own beer, which was delicious and cold, and helped sooth the amazing cuts of meats down our gullets. One of the highlights was the onion rings, which required scaffolding to serve to the table. Like any fine steakhouse the service was amazing, and it made it a perfect last meal in the mile high city.

With bellies full, and hearts open, we left that night 12 pounds heavier but with a spring in our step. Denver, our stomachs thank you.