TIO Denver: Weekend Getaway
Our recent weekend in Denver proved that getting high in the Mile High City does not necessarily twin with cannabis and vaporizers. At the end of the cultural banquet that defined our romantic getaway, we did indeed inhale – the pure oxygen of gratitude.
Home base was the Crawford Hotel, the newest place to rest weary bones downtown. And hip? Let’s just say the company car is a Tesla.
The Crawford is housed in the storied Union Station, restored to its former grandeur as a center of commerce and transportation and now with its eclectic mix of eateries and shops, a social hub. Our edgy, urban, modern room featured touches of the Victorian style of the old building, including exposed beams, vaulted ceilings and original art.
For dinner, a friend recommended Mercantile Dining & Provisions, which fits seamlessly into the laid back elegance of the Station.
Chef Alex Seidel apparently got a jump on the farm-to-table movement because he operates his own farm to supply the meat, dairy and produce he serves. The room has a come-to-the-neighborhood feel, but the seasonal local and foraged ingredients were allowed to speak eloquently for themselves in foreign accents and unfussy platings, from the Bang’s Island mussels served with fennel sausage in tomato butter; to broccoli in a yogurt curry, sunflower seeds and black currents; and the main course of Spanish octopus on a bed of fingerling potatoes in a saffron tomato broth. As in the hotel, the well-trained staff at Mercantile served us with nonchalant ease and grace.
The vibe at the Mercantile is sophistication without affectation. But if you are looking for quiet romance, go elsewhere: the Mercantile is very bright on Saturday night.
We sold our Denver townhouse about a year ago, but when Lawrence Street was our second home, one of our favorite stops was Snooze, whose original location about nine years ago was 22nd and Larimer. In under 10 years, the Schlegel brothers managed to build and sell their Snooze empire for millions, but the quirky eatery with a twist on breakfast standards that include endless variations on the theme of the classic Eggs Benedict, is still hopping in its latest Union Station location.
After Sunday brunch (and stuffed like Snooze’s signature pancakes), we headed for the Denver Art Museum.
Once upon a time a Spanish artist named Joan Miro, (born, Barcelona, 1893) cut loose with what became his well-known balloon forms, raw colors, and meandering automatist lines. His tightened and tweaked reality continues to speak in code: women represent fertility and creation; birds symbolize poetry and freedom; and stars, mysticism and a cosmos of infinite possibility.
The man’s brain ticked loudly until it stopped in 1983, at the ripe old age of 90. And Miro produced some his best work in the last two decades of his storied career, as evidenced in a sprawling show of his work, paintings and sculpture, now on display at DAM: “Joan Miro: Instinct & Imagination.”
“Trespassing” features the work of artist William Matthews, primarily known as for his iconic paintings of cowboys. But Matthews himself is not a cowboy; he was an interloper in that world of rugged individualism, a guest of a rancher (now a close friend) from Elko, Nevado, a “trespasser.”
Turns out the Denver native is not a one-joke actor: the tight show presents 27 selected works from the artist’s early career as a graphic designer to mature observer of the American West, yes of course, cowboys are featured, but also ranch life, rural architecture, and boundless landscapes, some with typeface added to the imagery. Matthews looking in the rear-view mirror.
And artist Sandy Skoglund’s famous large-scale, surrealist installation, “Fox Games,” a hell populated by creepy grey foxes, originally executed in 1989, was reinstalled at DAM in 2008.
(Skoglund’s photographs of that and other iconic installations are now on display at the Telluride Gallery of Fine Art, celebrating its 30th anniversary this year. Matthews, part of the gallery’s original stable, will be one of the featured artists this summer.)
The orisha (spirits) of Yoruba, people of West Africa, visited us in the form of actors in Curious Theatre’s mystical, magical production of “In the Red and Brown Water.”
“Water” is part of “The Brother/Sister” trilogy by emerging superstar playwright Tarell Alvin McCraney. Directed by Dee Covington, the play echoes August Wilson’s granular attention to life in the myopic world of dirt-poor ghettos, where McCraney grew up and few escape standing:
“I lived in the other America; the America that doesn’t always get depicted in the cinema. The America that we are told to pretend isn’t there. And in an attempt to create theater that told untold stories, that gave voice to another half of America, I created ‘The Brother/Sister Plays,” explained McCraney.
McCraney is Wilson, (who was his professor at Yale), but updated to the rhythms of today and reflected in the idiosyncratic language and movement of mean streets.
“In the Red and Brown Water” raps and moves as much as it actually tells its sad story.
For a full review, read what Telluride Inside… and Out’s Denver critic Mark Stevens had to say here.
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