Let’s face it, many people who grew up on Colorado’s Front Range tend to think of Grand Junction as that far away cowtown town that’s practically in Utah. Of course, that reputation has slowly been changing thanks in part to the growing popularity of and interest in local food.
Colorado’s western slope is a place where local food has been a way of life long before it became trendy. It doesn’t hurt that food grows relatively easily here when compared to other parts of Colorado, so sourcing locally is a little less complicated for chefs.
On our trip earlier this summer, we had the delicious pleasure of dining at two of Grand Junction’s most foodie restaurants. These two eateries, 626 on Rood and Bin 707 Foodbar, have set the bar high for farm-to-table cuisine (and for cuisine in general).
Our first dinner stop was Bin 707 Foodbar. On a 2013 trip to Grand Junction Bin 707 Foodbar was my first encounter with a restaurant that worked so hard to serve local foods and that experience blew my mind. My second local food experience was at The Living Farm in Paonia, another amazing spot for anyone seeking a local food experience.
Bin 707 Foodbar may have foodie cuisine, but it is far from pretentious. Here, it’s truly about the food and asking your waiter to suggest a wine pairing is super smart as they serve a nice selection of local wines. Of course, Ryan ordered a beer (the beer list is high end and it took him an age to decide on one).
I paired a Colterris rosé with several appetizers including an outstanding tomato salad with Blaine’s heirloom tomatoes, cucumber vin, eggplant miso flan and strawberry/barley furikake. For my entree, I chose the Maple Leaf duck breast and Ryan went with the fish.
While the duck and fish aren’t sourced locally, all the accouterments are and it’s these hyperlocal ingredients that made both dishes what I like to call “write-home-about-good.” (I call a dish “write-home-about-good” when I know I will write about it more than once).
The next evening we got to experience 626 on Rood, a modern American restaurant and wine bar that just so happens to be the favorite of our friends, Matt and Lisa, who live in Palisade. They are regulars at this downtown Grand Junction restaurant.
626 on Rood definitely has a fine dining ambiance and serves up local cuisine alongside some of the best offerings from around the world such as the dish I had for dinner — Marlin flown in from Hawaii paired with tender mushrooms from Alpenglow Mushrooms in Ridgway, Colorado — an unforgettable meal.
Wine is a big deal here. Guests can enjoy regional Colorado wines, French varieties or California gems. The selection is always changing so start by consulting your server. The wait staff at 626 on Rood are incredibly knowledgeable and love helping guests pick the perfect glass, bottle or flight. I started with a Bordeaux flight while Ryan excitedly ordered a Mezcal flight (he’s more of a beer and tequila guy).
While they won’t always have marlin, the Sticky Peach Habanero Calamari is a staple on this menu and not-to-be-missed. I’m craving it right now.
A foodie update from Grand Junction: The owners of Bin 707 Foodbar recently opened Taco Party, a 50-seat restaurant serving a menu of six kinds of tacos with local fillings. Dessert options include soft-serve ice cream in uniquely Bin 707 Foodbar flavors of roasted beet and sweet corn. Next up, they plan to open Dinner Party, a private dining space that will be used for the Western Slope Supper Club which serves pop-up dinners highlighting local foods.
Thank you to the Grand Junction VCB for hosting us on this trip. While we did receive comped meals during our travels the opinions here are 100% honest. The food at these GJ restaurants is exceptional.
If you think sheepdog trials involve dogs chasing sheep around, you’d be a little right, but not entirely right. Sheepdog trials are much more involved than I ever realized and our weekend trip to Meeker, in Northwest Colorado, was an eye opening experience. I liked it so much that I’m hoping to sponsor a dog/handler team in 2018.
When I set out on this trip, I didn’t really intend to write specifically about the sheepdog trials, after all, I was there to judge and help promote the Jammin’ Lamb Festival, a lamb cook off in downtown. However, after watching the competition, I really wanted to write about it.
So what are sheepdog trials? In a nutshell, it’s a competitive sport in which herding dogs, under the command of their handler, move sheep around a large field, through fences and gates and into enclosures. The sport is mimicking the work that many of these dogs do at home on the ranch, although some of these dogs spend most of their time competing.
For a complete history of dog trails, go here.
The trials in Meeker have been occurring for 31 years, and this is a serious business with $22,500 in prize money at stake this year. The organizers hosted 130 dog/handler teams in Meeker this year and, as always, the public is welcomed to attend.
This five-day event features three days of preliminaries with a semifinal on Saturday and a final on Sunday. In addition to the trials, which start at 7 am and go all day with a break for lunch, there are lots of other things on the agenda too.
We arrived on Saturday to a sea of tents and were greeted by the smell of fair food, one of my favorite scents. For lunch, we ended up wolfing down delicious meat pies from an Aspen pastry vendor, but we could have picked from a variety of delicious foodstuff including barbequed ribs or Navajo tacos.
We made our way to a bleacher seat where we sat, alongside a couple of handlers and their dogs, and watched several teams run the course. As an aside, I loved watching the handlers interact with their dogs off the field of competition. There’s a lot of love in these partnerships.
The more we watched over the course of the day, the more we grasped the nuances of the sport. Each dog and handler seem to have a little different style; for instance, some handlers talk to their dogs a lot, while others only communicate via the whistle, and even the dogs have differing styles. During a Lie Down command some dogs actually lie down in the grass, becoming just a pair of ears above the green, but other dogs simply stop in their tracks and resemble a border collie statue with a pink, lollygagging tongue.
It’s no secret that I’m a dog person. I grew up with German Shepherds and currently own a 14 ½-year-old spoiled female GSD. I am a huge fan of working breeds because I love their intelligence. I’ve always admired border collies and would love to own one when I have enough property to let them run.
I wrote the preceding paragraph to explain that while the sheepdog trials are interesting, I think that dog people may find them more entertaining than non-dog people.
In addition to the competition, there’s other stuff on the Meeker Sheepdog Trial agenda. As I’ve already mentioned, there’s a good number of food vendors selling a variety of different menu items. There’s also a big tent where local artisans sell their wares; everything from saddles to handmade jewelry and soap.
The education tent features events like the Blanco Cellars & Little Cheese Shop from Meeker serving up free sheep cheese and many demonstrations and presentations themed around the event (think sniffer dogs and vet presentations).
If you love border collies, this is the place to come. Not only was their sheep and border collie art all over the stores in downtown Meeker, but the Sheepdog Trials features an array of vendors selling border collie merchandise including t-shirts, blankets and everything in between.
If you’ve got kids, bring them. There’s a petting zoo, and this year, they had Fly Ball demonstrations that were a hoot. Your little ones may not last all day, but I know I would have been fascinated with the Meeker Sheepdog Trials as a kid, especially as a kid that loved animals.
Once you start watching the trials, I mean, really watching, it’s addictive. You start rooting for the handlers and their dogs and sometimes it gets downright tense. We hadn’t planned to return on Sunday because we needed to get home to our old dog, but we did end up returning to the event grounds to catch one of the runs on the final day of competition. This is when the top 12 compete and the dogs have to herd 20 sheep instead of five. The final day’s course is also a bit different from the first four days.
We enjoyed the competition, the beautiful views of the surrounding countryside, the echoes of the bagpipe, the smell of fair food and fresh grass and the speed of Meeker. Time moves just a little slower here and people are just a little friendlier. The Meeker Sheepdog Trials are a great excuse to visit this little throwback town where the sheep and kids still roam free.
The Meeker Sheepdog Trials are held annually in September in Meeker, Colorado, about 3 ½ hours west of Denver. If you want to go, plan ahead because lodging in the town fills up well in advance of the event. Go to MeekerSheepdog.com to start planning your visit.
I like to keep things real here on HeidiTown and so I will start this blog post by telling you a personal story about Longmont. When Ryan and I decided to move out of Denver in the early 2000s, we looked into Longmont and decided it was a big nope. There just wasn’t much going on in the town.
Fast forward to today and I think we may have made the wrong decision.
Longmont has blossomed into a beautiful and vibrant community. Downtown’s renovated sidewalks and artful alleyways make it a welcoming place. There’s always a festival or live music happening somewhere in town, and places like the Prospect neighborhood are cute little escapes with their own special vibe. There’s also a plethora of breweries, a cidery and several distilleries.
There’s a road in Southwest Colorado where the rocks take the shape of sculptures, where canyons are speckled by twisted green trees and low-lying mesas are camouflaged by vineyards. In addition to being home to thousands of ancient archeology sites, this is grape growing country.
Located in the western part of Mesa Verde Country, close to the border of Utah, Road G runs from Cortez to Hovenweep, and there are lots of reasons to drive down this winding county road.
I admit that I have a small addiction to shooting flowers, as well as birds, landscapes, and animals at the zoo, but flowers are my favorite thing to shoot.
There’s no better place to shoot flowers than at the Denver Botanic Gardens. The person who accompanies me to the gardens, usually Ryan, ends up doing a lot of standing around, however, I’d argue that there are a lot worse placed in which to stand around than at the Denver Botanic Gardens.
Last week, as you probably know if you read my last blog post, my mom was in town from Oregon. She is likely the reason that I love flowers so much, but she prefers planting and painting them as opposed to shooting them. Continue reading
I’m not a girlie girl. I can count on one hand the number of manicures I’ve gotten over the course of my 40-year-life, however, I’m no stranger to spa life. I adore the aroma, the hot tea, the cozy robes, the steam room and sauna… did I mention the aroma?
When I told my mom that I needed a distraction during eye surgery recovery, she jumped on a plane and flew from Oregon to Colorado. During her visit, I decided to treat her to an overnight stay and spa getaway at The Westin Riverfront Resort & Spa at Beaver Creek Mountain. As a late birthday present for my mom, I booked treatments for us at Spa Anjali.
The Westin Riverfront property is located in Avon, just a few minutes west of Vail, at the base of Beaver Creek Mountain. It’s a ski-in/ski-out property, but it’s also popular with summertime guests who enjoy all the recreational activities offered in the area and the outdoor pool area which made The Heidi Guide’s “4 Mountain Resort Pools to Help You Beat the Heat” on MountainLiving.com. Continue reading
I love road trips and I love Americana, and Cortez has more “Americana” architecture on Main Street than I’ve seen in any other Colorado town. From the Cork n’ Bottle liquor store to the Retro Inn, vintage signs are standard fare around town. It gives this part of Colorado a “Route 66” type of feel even though that famous road is well south of the area.
It had been years since Ryan and I visited the Mesa Verde area of Colorado. We weren’t sure what to expect when we sailed into the region earlier this month.
The Anasazi Heritage Center – A Must Stop
Our first official stop was the Anasazi Heritage Center, 15 minutes out of Cortez. I really like this museum because a walkthrough gives the visitor an easy to comprehend history lesson on the area. I encourage everyone to make this their first stop when visiting Mesa Verde Country. Continue reading
When Ryan and I were invited to experience Jet Boat Colorado during our visit to the Grand Junction area, I was simultaneously delighted and terrified. I love boats and I love the water, but ever since I had a scary river incident many years ago, I’m not particularly fond of getting out on a river of any kind, let alone the mighty Colorado River.
Despite my fear, I realized that some of the scariest things in life have been the most fun — snowmobiling and zip lining, for instance. So I would do it, even if it meant swallowing my fear and spending the entire outing with my eyes squeezed shut.
There was another motivator for doing this activity — Jet Boat Colorado is the only jet boat operation in the state and they just opened this summer. This means I’d be one of the first people to get to experience jet boating in Colorado and who doesn’t love being one of the first ones to do an activity such as this? Continue reading
Making cheese is almost as fun as eating cheese, but in the cheese making classes in Longmont, you get to do both.
Back in April, Ryan and I took a Flavored Cheeses class with The Art of Cheese in Longmont, Colorado. It was part of a weekend visit where we explored a familiar town in an entirely new way; via trolley and via foot. There are more Longmont posts to come.
We arrived at Haystack Mountain Cheeses’ facility on a drizzly, slightly humid morning; perfect for being inside a nice, cool creamery. The Art of Cheese holds their classes inside of Haystack, but they are not related businesses.
Ryan and I love cheese. My favorite spot in the world is the Cheese Importers in Longmont, and by visiting this store many times, we’ve become quite knowledgeable about cheese, however, neither of us have ever tried our hand at making it. Continue reading
What comes to mind when you think of Cheyenne, Wyoming? Cowboy hats and big trucks? Trains? Those are all accurate descriptions of Cheyenne. It’s a historic train town with a lot of cowboys, cowgirls and big trucks. Today, however, Cheyenne is so much more.
We spent a weekend in Cheyenne earlier this month. We were there to attend the Celtic Festival and Rock the Block, as well as explore a town that we’d only ever passed through.
I’m going to write several posts about this trip, including some of the fun touristy things you can do here like the trolley tour, botanic garden and museums, but in this post, I want to concentrate on some of the surprising things we discovered in Cheyenne.
First of all, did you know that there are three breweries in Cheyenne, Wyoming? True story.
We visited two of the three, stopping first at Accomplice Beer Company where guests pour their own beer. Yes, you read that right. Accomplice has self-pour taps, and they have a lot of them. After a brief explanation of how it works from the bartender, we were off. They use an electronic card system to track how much you pour, so you can’t drink here all day long.
We also got lunch at this brewpub, sliders for Ryan and chicken tenders for me. The tenders were some of the best I’ve had, although the ranch dressing could be a bit thicker. While it’s a bit gimmicky, Accomplice is centrally located in the famous depot building and a must-visit when in Cheyenne.
Freedom’s Edge Brewing Co. is just a couple blocks from Cheyenne’s downtown plaza. They have a traditional taproom with a nice contemporary feel and really good beer. We’ll definitely be back to Freedom’s Edge on our next visit to Cheyenne.
We didn’t make it to Danielmark’s Brewing Co. on E. 18th Street, but this is Cheyenne’s newest brewery and is located in a renovated historic home. They have an outdoor patio and feature food trucks.
And speaking of food trucks, there’s a delightful pizza place in Cheyenne that got its start as a food truck. Bella Fuoco Wood Fire Pizza gets top marks from both Ryan and I, and we recommend the jalapeno popper and the NY Blue. Just thinking about these pizzas makes my mouth water.
Everyone knows about the Wrangler (Boot Barn) in Cheyenne, and I did purchase a hat there while I was in town, but we found a real gem of a shop next to Freedom’s Edge Brewery.
Mid Mod Etc. is a terrific store that’s worth the drive if you love mid modern clothing, furniture, decor and even cars. You can track their inventory by following their Facebook page. And here’s the best part, their prices beat anything you’ll find at the mid-modern stores in Denver.
Ryan was excited to discover two stores selling vinyl in Cheyenne. There’s Ernie November and Phoenix Books & Music.
In addition, Ryan was overjoyed to discover that Cheyenne has an arcade bar. Located in downtown, Flippers Family Arcade is good for families, but also fun for adults because not only do they have a large selection of arcade games and pinball, they have a bar serving beer and wine. It’s a great place to kill an hour or two.
So there you have it — did you know Cheyenne was so hip and happening? I didn’t. Keep an eye on HeidiTown.com for more posts about where we stayed and what we did in Cheyenne, Wyoming.
Thank you to Visit Cheyenne for hosting us on this trip.