Every September, the SF Giants host a two-for-one Virgin America flight promotion; I’m always fortunate enough to score at least one voucher, but 2016 was an absolute windfall, resulting in four golden tickets equaling eight constrained seats. The only caveat is, travel must be booked and completed by the end of February. We choose a city at random, and, off we go. This year, that city was Denver (the second set of tickets triggered a forty-eight hour gorgefest in Portland).
Legend had it, the Denver landing was a bumpy and turbulent undertaking; an aerial representation of the 2016 we were struggling to leave behind. Me, I was pleasantly detached from the stomach dropping plunges and staccato bumps, thanks to the calming salve of Stoli, applied surely and steadily throughout the journey (side note, Bloody’s are always my drink of choice in flight; it turns out, there is a physiological reason for that. Tomato juice literally, scientifically, tastes better at altitude. You’re welcome). Another warning of logistical import; Denver international is one long, lonely, desolate and public transportation-free ride from the city proper.
Our home base was a cheaply finished, “Ikea-modern” house in LoHi (Lower Highland). where an odd jumble of similar, contemporary, cookie-cutter cubes, sit side by side with debris-in-the-front-yard bungalow’s. No time for that on this night; we had business in Westminster, another sad, long, cab ride away. Westminster, it turns out, is a mall laden suburb, where one “Rusty Bucket,” waited to receive us, an Applebee’s style shithole located in, you guessed it, a mall. http://the-rusty-bucket.com/
Our friend (and Rusty’s employee) suggested the peel and eat shrimp bucket, an item best avoided in a landlocked state, though a dip into the industrial freezer was impossible to avoid in such a setting. We pivoted from mealy shrimp to all things deep-fried, because, well, even faced with the most hideous of options, our appetites do not wane.
I was certainly in need of this handy reminder:
As indigestion set in, we headed back to Denver for a rendezvous at Ace Eat Serve http://www.aceeatserve.com/, one of those ping pong-cum-bar-cum-restaurants that I disastrously picked based on (positive) assumptions that proved to be untrue. I envisioned it as spacious and somewhat unpopular, perfect for our large group of disparate local friends who had yet to meet one another. My plan was to mingle and slowly order snacks as the night progressed, without committing to a full sit down affair. The reality was far more frat party than get-together; loud and crowded, faintly scented by axe body spray, weed, and testosterone. Our meal did, indeed, have to be taken sitting at table in the dining room, after a two hour wait at the bar (and a long, exasperated sigh from the hostess upon our acceptance of said wait).
A few scorpion bowls later and we were in business, picking over the small plates “Asian menu”, which in Denver, is code for “candied”. The kimchi fritters were the only dish with a hint of nuance, the only tidbit that didn’t taste of one, simple, sugary, note
a flimsy life preserver thrown into a sea of candied beef, candied brussels sprouts, gyoza with candy sauce, and $10 thimbles of fernet.
Our night-cap commenced at a dance club called “Milk” http://coclubs.com/milk/ where I was promised a night of 80’s dancing at their “retro night”. I’m the antithesis of a club goer, but, I do find the combination of scorpion bowls and Michael Jackson proves irresistible, and I challenge any damn of one you to disagree. However, should you find yourself in Denver, with a similar itch, do yourself and solid and don’t go to Milk to scratch it. Friday night at Milk was not drunken synth pop fab, but rather, coming down off ecstasy, late morning hours, 90’s rave. Retro indeed.
Denver’s kickoff was a bit of a head scratcher, but, there was a lot of game left to play, and plenty of mistakes left to be made.