Sunday, July 29, 2012

Here's to the Ladies Who Lunch!

Summer is winding down.  Try as I might to remain in denial, there are just too many signs indicating that the end is near. I can no longer ignore . . .

the later sun rises
the earlier sunsets
the back-to-school ads in the newspaper

and the biggest wake-up call  . . .

the back-to-school email from my principal (ugh!)

As panic begins to set in, I find myself trying to cram in as much social time as possible in these last few weeks of summer vacation.  That includes having lunch with girlfriends!  Over the past several weeks, I have had the pleasure of "doing lunch" with some amazing ladies (and a gentleman or two!) and trying some new restaurants in the process.

The lunch frenzy began with . . .

Lauer-Krauts with Mom

Lauer-Krauts is a cute restaurant in Brighton, and it happens to be one of the restaurants featured on Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives.  I could possibly have become obsessed with that Food Network show, and I secretly dream of following Guy Fieri's red '67 Camero around the country and trying all the restaurants he frequents!  (see post about the one I tried in Santa Fe)  Lauer-Krauts did not disappoint.  Their specialty is the Lauer burger, which, for my Nebraska friends, is very similar to a Runza--bread dough stuffed with seasoned ground beef, cabbage, and cheese).  It was delish--so fresh and hot from the oven.  Mom also tried their green bean soup, and she said she would go back just for that.  The restaurant itself is very small.  There were only three or four tables inside, but there was a large patio outside that was full of satisfied diners.  What I loved so much about this place besides the food was the personal and friendly vibe.  Robyn, the owner who was featured on Triple D, came to our table several times to chat and make sure we were loving everything.  She indulged me as I asked her about the whole filming process of Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives and how she got selected, and she posed for a picture.  She has such a beautiful spirit, and it definitely shines through in the food, the decor, and the atmosphere of Lauer-Krauts.    I will definitely go back and dine again!

Shortly following Lauer-Krauts, I had the pleasure of visiting. . .

The Brown Palace with Judy
Afternoon tea at the Brown Palace  was the perfect place to celebrate Judy's birthday, and since I already posted about how amazing it was, I will just re-iterate what James Joyce said in A Portrait of a Lady:

"There are few hours in life more agreeable than the hour dedicated to the ceremony known as afternoon tea.  "

Next up . . .

Cafe|Bar with Kari
Cafe|Bar with Kari--exactly what the doctor ordered!  It's kind of funny, but at the end of the school year, I always find myself saying goodbye to my colleagues, telling them to have a nice summer, and knowing that even though I will miss them, I will be seeing them in a few months.  But with Kari, I just know I can't go months without seeing her.  She is one of those women who just lights up a room upon her entrance and truly makes the world a better place.  And so, at the same time we hugged goodbye last May, we made plans for getting together during the summer.  Our friend Hannah suggested Cafe|Bar, and she was right on with the suggestion.  It is a quaint restaurant in the Washington Park area with a gorgeous patio!  Never mind that the temperature was in the upper 90's--we headed straight for a shady spot outside!  The food was delicious, although I must say that I was so engrossed with our conversation that it could have been horrible, and I wouldn't have cared.  Kari ordered and raved about the trout cakes while I munched on the avocado dip with homemade potato chips and a salad with a fresh and zingy lemon vinaigrette.  We both ordered some kind of summer cocktail (I can't remember what it was, but it was PERFECT!)  Time flew by as we caught up with summer news.  I could have whiled away the afternoon enjoying the peaceful patio at Cafe|Bar and the beauty and comfort of my dear friend Kari.

Moving right along . . .

Johnny Rockets with Karina
 Johnny Rockets at Cherry Creek Mall is a fun place to take kids.  It is a hamburger joint fashioned after drive-ins from the 1950's, complete with a soda jerk and waitresses in bobby socks and saddle shoes!  Karina is a former student of mine whom I continue to mentor as she progresses through high school.  I taught her as a 7th-grader, and now she is going to be a junior!!  She amazes me with her positivity, her energy, and her beautiful spirit.  Karina and I spent a little time shopping at the mall before we had lunch at Johnny Rockets.  We were famished when we sat down to order, and I think we might have ordered a little too much (burgers, shakes, cheese fries, salad!) but we ate what we could.  The food was fine, but the real joy was spending time with an amazing 16-year-old.  I am so proud of Karina and look forward to many more outings with this young lady!

and finally . . .

Steuben's with Joy (and Mark and Mom)

Steuben's Food Service is (and I quote from their webpage!)  a Denver restaurant recreating American Regional Classics. Eat at Steuben's. Take-Out at Steuben's. Drink at Steuben's. Feel at home at Steuben's.  Yes, indeed, but it is also another restaurant featured on Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives!  (that's three now out of over four hundred!) My sister-in-law Joy and I have been dying to try Steuben's for over a year now, but it seems that every time she is visiting, we never make it.  This last time she and my brother came to Aurora, we decided that we were going no matter what.  And go we did! She and I both felt like groupies as we gazed at Guy's crazy signature on the wall and exclaimed over every menu item, especially the ones we saw on Triple D.  Everything we ordered (and we ordered A LOT!) was delicious!  We started with gravy fries (not really smothered in gravy but rather cheese!)  Joy had the lobster roll, which she had been craving, Mark had fish and chips, Mom had the Monte Cristo sandwich, and I had the Southern fried chicken (such healthy choices, but hey--this is Steuben's!)  We didn't come close to cleaning our plates, but that didn't stop us from ordering dessert!  I think Steuben's Key Lime pie was/is the best I have ever had!!!  We also had a rich, chocolate brownie a la mode that was also delish, but my fave was the key lime pie.  
Experiencing the incredible food at Steuben's with Joy has been a highlight of my stay-in-Colorado summer.  She and I have such a history of doing silly things together and taking away vignette memories and quotes that nobody else gets.  We have been building up to this for so long, and neither one of us was let down.  Now we are planning our next excursion--meeting at the Wizard of Oz museum in Kansas!  (stay tuned!)

I know I said "finally," but does doing lunch ever end??  I can't end without including pictures from some last-minute lunches with beautiful women:

Racine's with my niece Ana and Ashlie
Eileen and Jess-- Mango Mojitos, Mocktails, and Magic!
Ted's Montana with Grams and the Fries
ETHAN--couldn't have planned a better end-of-summer lunch date!

As I get ready to say goodbye to summer and begin thinking about a new school year, I'll hold on tight to the strength, the energy, the hope, and the LOVE that my beautiful friends and family give me every single day!  I can't think of a better way to wind down summer and bring on a new year of learning than this:

Ethan and hearts--reasons to believe!

Monday, July 16, 2012

Afternoon Tea at The Brown

"There are few hours in life more agreeable than the hour dedicated to the ceremony known as
 afternoon tea."
 Henry James, The Portrait of a Lady

I recently had the opportunity to discover exactly how true the words of Henry James are when my beautiful friend Judy Gordon and I celebrated her birthday.  This summer has presented some challenges for both of us, and we wanted to go someplace where we could chat, relax, and feel pampered.  The Brown Palace was the perfect choice!

Just driving up to The Brown had me saying, "Toto, I have a feeling we're not in Aurora anymore!"  We were greeted by valet attendants and door men in black coats and white gloves ready to whisk us to our little tea party.  We both immediately felt like princesses as we entered the elegant lobby where afternoon tea is served.  From the rich, luxurious-yet-chic decor, to Roger, the pianist, everything about Tea at the Brown was sheer perfection!
1.  our tea lunch 2. Roger, the pianist 3. friends

There's something about having someone pour tea from a silver teapot into a china teacup that can melt the stress away.  Judy and I sipped our tea and champagne, ate scones with Devonshire cream, little sandwiches, and chocolate truffles, and we just sort of dissolved into a state of tranquility.  

Celebrating the birthday of a beautiful friend is delightful in itself.  Afternoon Tea at the Brown Palace made the celebration unforgettable.  Judy and I both left feeling renewed, blissfully happy, and very much like royalty.  

Tea, champagne, friends, and The Brown Palace--reasons to believe indeed!