Hopdoddy Burger Bar & Denver Bloggers Club: Fun Times in Denver

Hopdoddy Burger Bar & Denver Bloggers Club- Fun Times in Denver

 

Two weekends ago, I got to attend my first Denver Bloggers Club meetup, which was graciously sponsored by Hopdoddy, an Austin-based restaurant with a hot location here in Denver at Union Station.

Ryan ordered the El Diablo: Angus Beef, Pepper Jack, Habaneros, Serranos, Caramelized Onions, Salsa Roja, Chipotle Mayo. Photo taken by Ryan Kane.
Ryan ordered the El Diablo: Angus Beef, Pepper Jack, Habaneros, Serranos, Caramelized Onions, Salsa Roja, Chipotle Mayo. Photo taken by Ryan Kane.

Now, let me back up the story here a little: I have a hard time describing myself as a blogger, even though I have been more or less blogging since the early 2000s (oh, Livejournal). Since the inception of this website and blog, I have tried multiple times to brand the blog in a certain way, starting with my creative writing and then branching over to a San Francisco theme to a Denver theme to a business theme…and on and on to where now I just consider this blog more or less my musings of the moment, which changes a lot as I grow older. I’m glad that Jenny Finke, the founder of Denver Bloggers Club, finally helped me figure out how to ‘categorize’ my blog: lifestyle! Yes, that’s it!

Even Hopdoddy's Kennebec Fries were delicious and Ryan actually liked them (he doesn't like fries usually). Hand-cut daily! Photo taken by Ryan Kane.
Even Hopdoddy’s Kennebec Fries were delicious and Ryan actually liked them (he doesn’t like fries usually). Hand-cut daily! Photo taken by Ryan Kane.

Anyway, back to the outing: I loved going to Hopdoddy, since I had been to one of the original locations in Austin in 2014 and really enjoyed the burger that I ordered while there; alas, I don’t remember the name of that burger, but I do know that the one I chose two weeks ago was just as tasty: The K-Town Belly! A diverse mix of Korean and American flavors mixed into this burger makes for a delicious and slightly spicy mix. Yum!

K-Town Belly: Grass-Fed Beef, Braised Beeler's Pure Pork Belly, Kimchi, House-made Gochujang, Korean Rice Crispies, Mayo, Basil Leaves. Photo taken by Ryan Kane.
K-Town Belly: Grass-Fed Beef, Braised Beeler’s Pure Pork Belly, Kimchi, House-made Gochujang, Korean Rice Crispies, Mayo, Basil Leaves. Photo taken by Ryan Kane.

The Denver Bloggers Club had the honor of listening to the Denver location’s general manager, Melissa Withem, talk about the history and craft of Hopdoddy, and we even got to view the meat-grinding room and learn what “Narnia” means for each restaurant location. What makes Hopdoddy unique is that they have a huge emphasis on freshly made ingredients, from daily-grinded meat patties, daily-baked bread, to made-from-scratch sauces. Melissa was excellent with her professionalism and vibrant personality, which just added to the overall enjoyable experience that weekend.

Me & Melissa Withem, the general manager for Hopdoddy in Denver. Photo taken by Ryan Kane.
Me & Melissa Withem, the general manager for Hopdoddy in Denver. Photo taken by Ryan Kane.

We bloggers also spent some time discussing about general strategies and tactics with one another about increasing blog traffic: I know I want to do more with my blog soon, so having this group will help me out a lot!

Yum. We had to end our meal with a Caramel Oreo milkshake. Great combination! Photo taken by Ryan Kane.
Yum. We had to end our meal with a Caramel Oreo milkshake. Great combination! Photo taken by Ryan Kane.

Thanks to Hopdoddy for the amazing hospitality and to Jenny Finke for organizing such a fun outing! I hope to stay motivated and active with my blogging through Denver Bloggers Club.

My Adventure into the World of Beer & #GABF

Urethra Franklin beer from Renegade Brewery at 9th/Kalamath in Denver.
Urethra Franklin beer from Renegade Brewery at 9th/Kalamath in Denver.

Before I moved to Denver, I preferred wine or mixed drinks. Beer was rarely ever on my radar before Denver: my earliest memory of beer was when I was a kid and noticed one of my uncles loved drinking Budweiser. I snuck a taste of the beer and immediately went, “Blech!” So ever since then, I wasn’t interested in beer…

…until I moved to Denver. I didn’t know beforehand that Colorado was very proud of its craft beer culture, but once I started making more friends in Denver, I discovered the diverse world of beer. I met Adrienne Rinaldi, aka Beer Snob Chick, and started attending Brew Asanas (yoga & beer events organized by Adrienne); I gradually went to more networking events and experienced many more varieties of beer; and then finally, I met my boyfriend, Ryan.

Ryan enjoys a good IPA but loves trying other kinds of beer out as well. I discovered early last year that I, in fact, could not stomach IPAs as well as I’d thought, so these days, I stick to porters, lighter ales, and recently discovered sour beer. Yum!

I remember last year, Ryan had complained about how the tickets for the Great American Beer Festival (aka GABF, #GABF) had sold out within minutes of going on sale. He had wanted to go with a couple of his friends, but to no avail. When the ticket dates were announced for this year’s GABF, we banded together and attempted to get tickets. I sat at the computer at 10am in late July, ready to get tickets no matter what; after all, I love a good challenge! The Ticketmaster website was slow and it *seemed* like tickets were all gone, but I kept hitting ‘refresh’ and finally got to reserve two tickets. Exciting!

Hehe, Ryan with the Kane Brewing sign. Kane Brewing is located in New Jersey.
Hehe, Ryan with the Kane Brewing sign. Kane Brewing is located in New Jersey.

So as a belated birthday treat for Ryan, I bought the tickets for us to attend GABF. I didn’t think much about any ‘prep’ until the week before, and kept hearing about pretzel necklaces from others, but Ryan and I received mixed messages about whether we were to bring our own pretzel necklaces or to just bring our own yarn to string pretzels onto at the festival.

We attended GABF on Thursday, September 24th, which was the first day of the festival. Luckily we both had the day off (and the next day!), so we could enjoy the evening with no worries about the next day. We were already downtown pretty early and decided to start lining up around 3:30pm; as it turned out, many other people were already lined up for the doors to open as well. As the crowd grew larger, we realized we made the mistake of NOT bringing our own pretzel/food necklaces: we saw a large array of necklace combinations from other attendees, including necklaces with beef jerky sticks, cheese sticks, and even some fast food hamburgers!

Lots and lots of attendees at GABF! Photo by Ryan.
Lots and lots of attendees at GABF! Photo by Ryan.

Once the bagpipes started up around 5:30pm, we were one of the first attendees inside. Despite downloading the GABF app beforehand, we at first didn’t have much of a strategy and just approached one row of breweries and sampled all the beers down the line. After that round, we decided to be more strategic and hit up breweries from other states such as Virginia and Indiana before hitting up Colorado breweries. I definitely enjoyed a lot of the sour beers I tried! There were quite a few pumpkin beers and also chile pepper beers.

Some of my favorite beers from the evening:

Cannabis-infused beer from Dudes Brews Co.
Cannabis-infused beer from Dude’s Brews Co.

Of course, all the Colorado beers were fantastic. We even tried cannabis-infused beer from Dude’s Brews Co.! Alas, we couldn’t try EVERY beer there (we think it’s near impossible for ANYONE to do that, even if they attended all three days!).

Despite there being so many attendees, we ran into a handful of familiar faces as some of our friends were also attendees or volunteers pouring the beer samples. We were happy to finally catch our friend Jared at the name.com booth at the end of the night; he was busy filming video montages at the festival for name.com, such as this video about all the beards at GABF:

Overall, the night was so much fun! We were happy to have the opportunity to attend GABF and hope to attend (or volunteer) in the coming years.

Yay for beer!

I'm being a dork with Jared from name.com. Meanwhile, Jared looks relatively normal :P Photo by Ryan.
I’m being a dork with Jared from name.com. Meanwhile, Jared looks relatively normal 😛 Photo by Ryan.

Memories of Baking Cheesecakes

A cheesecake at high altitude; just baked this today. Fingers crossed!
A cheesecake at high altitude; just baked this today. Fingers crossed!

Today was the first time in over ten years that I baked a cheesecake. I remember when I first learned this recipe, my oldest sister helped me with the whole process: mixing the cream cheese and sugar together, beating the eggs, combining ingredients for the sour cream topping, etc. I was a teenager and I wanted to learn how to bake, so this was what my sister taught me for my first baking lesson.

I have kept this recipe with me over the years but never really thought to try baking the recipe again until Ryan and I met: Ryan’s favorite dessert is cheesecake! Last year I attempted this cheesecake recipe with three mini spring pans and that failed miserably; didn’t really help that the oven at my old apartment was quite finicky, so we ended up tossing those failed mini cheesecakes. 🙁

But today, I decided to tackle the recipe again and actually added in the lemon zest (I never added lemon zest as a teenager). Here’s hoping the cheesecake tastes as heavenly as I remembered it!

Cafe Max: Bringing Europe & the US Coasts to Denver

Flourless chocolate cake with raspberry coulis
Flourless chocolate cake with raspberry coulis

I first discovered Cafe Max back in mid-March on my way to get a pedicure. I do not remember what was there before the cafe; I just know I walked by and looked up and realized the cafe was there. I went on to my pedicure and asked the staff if they knew of anything about their new neighbor next door. “Oh, it’s a nice place; they have sandwiches, coffee, and other things.”

After the pedicure, I decided to scope out Cafe Max…and the rest is history (haha). I met Max on that first visit, and since then, we’ve become close friends along with his partner, Yuki. There was a period of time in late summer/early fall where I was at the cafe nearly every evening, doing work or keeping company with Max and his employees. I have joked that I am Cafe Max’s “biggest investor” because of the cash I have spent on the cafe’s offerings.

View of Cafe Max from the back table.
View of Cafe Max from the back table.

When people first walk into Cafe Max, they immediately feel transported to another place in the world: I have heard patrons call Cafe Max a “European-style cafe”, or “This reminds me of San Francisco/New York City.” Max will take any of the above: he wanted to bring a different concept of a cafe to Denver. Raised in the Bronx, Max has lived all over the country doing public relations and working at restaurants, so he has experienced a lot of different business environments. Cafe Max’s mission is to “provide nourishment and inspiration, inside a stylish environment that balances eclectic worldliness, with a welcoming sense of place. ”

At Cafe Max, patrons experience a cozy, almost “living room”-like environment: there are magazines and books available to peruse while patrons wait for their food or drink. The menu itself is different from what folks would expect in Denver: instead of the same ol’ pastries, Max has all unique desserts, either made in his kitchen or from local businesses (e.g., Humble Pie). In addition, Cafe Max’s menu has breakfast items (served all day!–my favorite!), continental plates, and coffee products (French Press, Cappucino, *authentic Cafe con Leche, and strong, bold cold coffee from La Colombe). If coffee isn’t your preference, there are also teas from all over the world to choose from; both caffeinated and herbal teas are available. Cold drinks include San Pellegrino sodas and sparkling water, organic juices, and unique offerings of beer and wine.

prezzolini prosecco at Cafe Max; what a cute little glass!
prezzolini prosecco at Cafe Max; what a cute little glass!

Cafe Max’s menu items are also accommodating to those with a gluten intolerance, having dishes and desserts gluten-free. Some items are also lactose-free.

I have practically eaten my way through the whole menu over the course of the past nine months: my favorite dishes are the Frittata w/organic greens, the Organic Salad w/goat cheese, and the Prosciutto Panini (also served with organic greens). The entrees are light and prepared to order. Cafe Max is not a place to grab-n-go quickly; Max and Yuki want patrons to linger, take some downtime at the cafe between business meetings, errands, etc.

Cafe Max is open on Mondays thru Saturdays from 8:30am to 10pm. On Sundays, the cafe closes at 6pm.

When you get the chance, Denver, come visit Cafe Max and experience the place firsthand. If you are lucky, you will have a chance to meet Max; he is very approachable and kind with an interesting sense of humor. You can visit the cafe on the corner of East Colfax Avenue and Josephine Street: 2412 E. Colfax Avenue, Denver 80206.

Caveman Cafeteria, Feeding a Revolution Paleo-style

Besides the incredible taste, did you know that Caveman Cafeteria's lamb is also 100% GRASS-FED?!
Did you know that Caveman Cafeteria’s lamb is 100% GRASS-FED?!

I first came to know about Caveman Cafeteria from their mobile food stand at 16th and Larimer back in May. I was on my way to the Market Street Station to ride a bus to DIA and saw the stand firmly anchored on that corner of the 16th Street Mall. I took a kale and wagyu beef dish with me to Market Street Station; satisfyingly much tastier than any food I could grab n’ go at the airport.

Since then, I have been following the Twitter account, @DenverCaveman (now @FeedARevolution) and have learned a lot about the Paleo Diet through the business. When they first announced their meal plans, I was intrigued: Monday thru Friday lunch and dinner for a full month? Sign me up (because I am lazy, ha). However, I did not want to commit to a full month without trying out some of the meals first. So, I waited…

And then, Caveman Cafeteria announced 1-week trials of their meal plans. I immediately signed up, justifying the cost as almost equivalent to a week’s worth of groceries (the meal plans cost a little more than my usual grocery trip).

Delicious 100% #grassfed WAGYU steak w/ #Organic golden yams, brocolli & demi-glace.
Delicious 100% grassfed WAGYU steak w/ Organic golden yams, brocolli & demi-glace.

I tried the Cavemean Meal Plans out during the week of October 14-18. First things first: pick up my lunchbox for my Monday and Tuesday meals (then I went back for my second lunchbox on Wednesday for Wed-Fri meals). Members have a choice of where to pick up their meal boxes at several Crossfit and other locations in the Denver area. I opted for pick-up at the Corepower Yoga on Grant/13th.

From the first bite, I was definitely enamored with Caveman’s meal preparation. I went with the 3-block medium portions and that was just the right amount of food for me that week. Grass-fed, organic meat with steamed vegetables was on the menu for the week; of course, various meat and vegetables were in each separate meal. My most favorite offerings that week were the wagyu beef (so tender! so juicy!), lamb, and the roasted yams and radishes. Yum yum.

Also, during my trial week, I had two delicious paleo salads–so many delicious nutrients with a light dressing. With the hot dishes, all I had to do was microwave them (or I had the option of baking the dishes, too) for a few minutes and voila~ meal, complete!

Alas, during my one-week trial, I forgot each time to take a photo of my meals for this post; instead, I contacted Will White, the Founder of Caveman Cafeteria, to get me some photos from his own collection.

100% #GrassFed Wagyu beef meatloaf w/ #Organic criminis, broccolini, fresh herbs & demi-glace; YUM!
100% GrassFed Wagyu beef meatloaf w/ Organic criminis, broccolini, fresh herbs & demi-glace; YUM!

After my trial week, I had the option of signing up for my monthly fill of meal plans. The smallest (medium portions) option is $499 for four weeks of meals during weekdays. This is the plan recommended for most women. There are also options of 4-block (large) portions for $599/month or 5-block (XL) portions for $699/month. The fees vary depending on how you pay for the plan. There are also options for couples and families.

Now here’s a disclaimer: I myself do not subscribe to Paleo principles, but I thoroughly enjoyed my meals from Caveman Cafeteria. Their meals are well-balanced and filling, no matter the size and no matter which diet (outside of Paleo) you work with. I would like to sign up for monthly meals sometime in early 2014; as of now, my funds are tight so I have to forgo the monthly option for the rest of this year.

My interactions with Will have been nothing but kindness and accommodating; Will built Caveman Cafeteria with the philosophy of being a YES company: whatever the customer wants or needs in meals, the business will get that request fulfilled. For example, with the meal plans, Caveman Cafeteria is willing to work around travel schedules. Don’t see many businesses like that doing the same thing. Will is very approachable and always willing to help and answer questions.

I highly recommend Caveman Cafeteria meal plans for those of you who have busy weeks/no time to cook! My weekdays are usually not too busy, but I admit that I usually avoid cooking meat for myself as the process always seems too laborious for just myself.

Try out a week and tell me what you think!

(And follow Caveman Cafeteria via FB or Twitter!)