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A Symphony of Food & Music on a Denver Date Night

Ryan and I hadn’t been out in the big city since the fall, so when we read that the Colorado Symphony was playing Beethoven, we decided it was time for a Denver date night.

A Symphony of Food & Music on a Date Night in Denver, HeidiTown.com, © Todd Rosenberg Photography 2009

Colorado Symphony © Todd Rosenberg Photography 2009

We used to frequent the Colorado Symphony quite often. In fact, for several years we bought concert packages to the CSO, giving us an excuse for a Denver date night every month. The Colorado Symphony has all sorts of subscription packages available, making it easy to pick and choose the number of symphonies you want to attend and which shows.

We started our Denver date night at TAG Restaurant on Larimer Street, an eight minute walk from Boettcher Concert Hall. This restaurant has been on my radar for awhile now and this was the perfect opportunity to give it a try.

A Symphony of Food & Music on a Date Night in Denver, TAG Restaurant octopus

The food scene in downtown Denver has come a long way since we lived in the Mile High City in the early 2000s.

Chef Troy Guard, who opened TAG in 2009, is a big part of the city’s culinary expansion. He has opened a number of restaurants since, and there are still more in the works. Guard’s restaurants elevate food, while still making it approachable, and I think this is why he’s so well-loved by Denver foodies. Continue reading

Channel your inner Bob Ross at a paint while you drink studio

HeidiTown is about festivals, events and destinations in Colorado, and this post falls under the “events” category. Last month, we were invited to a friend’s birthday party at one of these new drink while you paint studios that are popping up all over the country. Google “paint & drink studios” and you’ll get about 1 million results.

Ryan's painting in progress

My husband's painting in progress. Photos by H.M. Kerr-Schlaefer.

When we got invited to this party, I was not exactly excited. I am a creative person, but I am not an artist. I draw stick people and bubble flowers. The fact that I could drink wine while painting, however, made the idea more bearable.

The concept behind this type of event is to expose people to painting in a relaxed and nonthreatening environment. For the price of admission (usually between $30 and $50) attendees get a blank canvas and the use of the studio’s paint and paint brushes. A teacher stands at the front of the room and walks the group through a painting, step by step. Drinks are available for purchase – wine, beer and even cocktails at some establishments.

Our session was on a busy weekend evening and every chair in the place was full. Our birthday party of six, each a husband/wife team, had three professional artists in the mix, including a successful graphic designer, an art teacher and my husband, a furniture designer.

getting ready to paint at studio vino

My blank canvas & wine at the ready.

As someone who draws at a six-year-old level, this made the evening even more daunting, but I ordered a glass of wine, squirted paint on my paper plate palate and got ready to make some art, or something akin to art.

The painting we were to produce on this evening was called Twinkle Tree, and looked like something from a Dr. Seuss book. Once things got underway, and I started working on my second glass of wine, things began looking up, not because I was good at this – I am not – but because it was a blast.

An hour or two later, everyone in the room had completed a painting that looked more or less like Twinkle Tree. Of course, some of the artists in our group had given the tree their own amazing twist – show offs.

close up of ryans painting at studio vino

My husband's finished piece was one of the best of the night, although I may be bias.

I don’t think this is something I’d ever choose to do by myself, but with a group, it’s an entertaining way to spend an evening. The painting that I created won’t ever find its way on to the Antique Roadshow, and in fact, probably won’t even make it on my own wall, but despite my apprehension, it turns out that painting and drinking wine is a lot of fun. I highly recommend this event for your next girls’ night, birthday party or date night.

painting night with friends at studio vino

The works of art produced by our group at Studio Vino.

NOTE: We painted at Studio Vino in Loveland, Colorado. Find them online at StudioVino.biz, or join them on Facebook here.

Avenue Q at Boulder’s Dinner Theatre – Like nothing you expect

Avenue Q Kate & Christmas Eve

Avenue Q at Boulder's Dinner Theatre runs through November 3, 2012. (Courtesy photo)

Dinner theaters often produce shows that will appeal to a mass audience, and old Broadway musicals are the norm. So when I go to dinner theater, I’m usually familiar with the production. Last weekend was the exception to that rule, and it was refreshing to have no preconceived notions about the show I was about to see at Boulder’s Dinner Theater.

In the spring, we saw “Cinderella” at BDT, and were pleasantly surprised to find a new, expanded menu. This time we started with the artichoke spinach dip appetizer, and I have to admit to enjoying the hummus platter on our last visit much more. Our entrees, however, were both outstanding. I opted for the potato cod served with Spanish rice and vegetables. The cod was flaky, and the chipotle aioli drizzle was packed with flavor. Ryan ordered the chicken cordon bleu, because it never disappoints.

As we ate dinner, we admired the stage set. It’s an authentic looking New York apartment building, complete with trash can and fire escape. It reminded both Ryan and I of Michael Garman’s Magic Town in his Old Colorado City studio.

“Avenue Q” is a puppet show for adults, and the winner of three Tony Awards. While the presentation is something you’ve probably never seen before, the story is ages old.

Avenue Q entire cast

Courtesy photo

Princeton is fresh out of college with a BA in English, and finds the only apartment he can afford is on Avenue Q, a not-so-trendy part of New York City. While he searches for his purpose in life he meets his neighbors, an eclectic bunch that includes an engaged interracial couple, an assistant kindergarten teacher, an odd couple, a porn-junkie and Gary Coleman as the apartment super.

The last character is somewhat confusing, but the creators of “Avenue Q” thought the Coleman character epitomized the play’s central themes, and those themes involve the misconception that we are somehow special and the painful realization that comes with learning life is much harder than anyone told us it was going to be when we were children.

There are only six cast members in “Avenue Q,” but they have more talent than most much larger casts – they sing, they puppeteer, they change characters and voices on a dime, and they keep the audience in stitches.

While Princeton (Brett Ambler) and Kate (Ellen Kaye) are the two main characters, I can’t pick a favorite in “Avenue Q” because the entire cast works their butts off in this show. MariJane Scott, new to BDT, plays Christmas Eve, one of two “humans” in the show, and Scott Beyette is her fiancé Brian. Beyette proved his comedic chops when he was Don Lockwood in BDT’s production of “Singin’ in the Rain” in 2010, while Scott proves hers in this musical.

puppets in Avenue Q

Courtesy Photo

Joanie Brosseau and Seth Caikowski round out the cast, and these two often perform together as one puppet – each taking an arm. They are also two of the funniest characters in the musical, the Bad Idea Bears. These are the friends we’ve all had (or have been) through the years, the ones who suggest shots at 2 a.m. just before leaving the bar.

“Avenue Q” is much more relatable and poignant than you might think. Numbers like, “We’re all a little racist,” points to the hypocrisy that is rampant in today’s society. “I Wish I Could Go Back to College,” reminds us of how easy we had it in college, and why we can’t go back.

This musical is not for children, so unless you want to explain what those puppets are doing in that bedroom scene, leave the kids at home. However, “Avenue Q” reminds adults, in a not-so-subtle way, to take life less seriously, and live in the moment, because all you’ve really got is now.

I’ve been attending Boulder’s Dinner Theatre for a decade, but BDT is celebrating its 35th year in Colorado, and they set the bar for professionalism in the industry. “Avenue Q” is on stage at Boulder’s Dinner Theatre through November 3. To buy tickets go to BouldersDinnerTheatre.com  and be sure to like BDT’s new Facebook page.

Big hair, big girls, big fun at Midtown Arts Center’s “Hairspray”

Tracy & Link Hairspray

Tracy & Link in "Hairspray" at MIdTown Arts Center. Photo credit: Dawn Madura

Fort Collins, Colorado is a long way from Baltimore, Maryland and the race wars of the sixties, so will audiences connect with Midtown Arts Center’s current production? I believe they will because the themes of “Hairspray” are timeless, the music is catchy, and the cast is unforgettable.

Midtown Arts Center, located in Fort Collins, Colorado, has a well-appointed, 236 seat dinner theater, as well as a banquet room where they host a weekly show of The Dinner Detective and  private events.

I started out the evening with a Peyton Place After Midnight, a drink from their specialty menu. The vodka, cucumber and lemon juice combo garnished with blue cheese stuffed olives was sweet and salty, and I call it “happiness in a martini glass.”

There were some changeups to the dinner menu since our last trip, including a new upgrade of Yellow Fin Tuna served over a citrus coconut risotto cake and drizzled with cilantro lime coconut reduction. The risotto was perfection, but the tuna was overcooked.

My husband ordered the Chicken a la Tang from the standard entrée menu included in the ticket price. His dish had a fresh summery taste, and we both noted that our dishes were much more beautifully plated than in the past.

At intermission we paired a strawberry rhubarb pie with coffee. The crusty outer layer complemented the sweetness of berry and tartness of the rhubarb. We highly recommend trying this house made specialty.

And now on to the play, because the play’s the thing at dinner theater, and without a doubt “Hairspray” is the best all-round performance I’ve seen at Midtown Arts Center to-date. The cast is a mix of familiar and unfamiliar faces, as the director recruited in New York for this particular show.

Co-ed Dance Scene Hairspray

Some of the cast of "Hairspray" were recruited from New York. Photo credit: Dawn Madura

“Hairspray” is the story of an overweight teen girl name Tracy Tumblad (Maggie Walker) who dreams of being on a television dance program called, “The Corny Collins Show.” This musical is set in Baltimore during the race tensions of the sixties, and “The Corny Collins Show” features a cast of pretty, skinny, white kids.

Tracy is a spunky character whose naivety is actually her strength. She spends her time in school detention learning dance moves from the black kids, and when she ends up being cast on “The Corny Collins Show,” the real fun begins. Actually, the entire musical is fun, from the opening song, “Good Morning Baltimore,” to the company’s closing rendition of “You Can’t Stop the Beat.”

It’s hard to point to just a few highlights in this show, because every musical dance number in Midtown’s production of “Hairspray” is truly wonderful. The talent of the cast is apparent with each toe tap, every hip gyration and every note.

Edna Tumblad is played by Michael Lasris, yes, Michael. Cross dressing seems to be a trend in the last couple musicals I’ve seen (see my review of Boulder’s Dinner Theatre’s Cinderella here). Lasris, as the no nonsense mother of Tracy, is a scene stealer in this role, as is Kelsey Hopkins who plays Penny. Once again, Ryane Nicole Studivant, as Motormouth Maybelle, proves to Midtown audiences that she’s a powerhouse singer.

Girls dance scene Hairspray

Michael Lasris stealing the scene in "Hairspray" at Midtown Arts Center. Photo credit: Dawn Madura

On my last trip to Midtown, I was unimpressed with the set for “Sound of Music.” This time around, I am happy to report that they’ve created a clever set that is as dynamic as the musical. It’s bright and cheerful, just like the onstage costumes and big hair.

“Hairspray” is now playing through September 1, 2012.  You can purchase tickets at ADinnerTheater.com and be sure to join Midtown Arts Center on Facebook here.

Foote Lagoon Concert Series is just around the corner!

The Elders at the Foote Lagoon in Loveland, Colorado

The Elders play the Foote Lagoon Concert Series in 2009. The band out of Kansas City always draws a huge crowd. Photo by H.M. Kerr-Schlaefer. All rights reserved.

This is one of my favorite events of the summer and because it’s on a Thursday night it doesn’t interfere with my crazy weekend festival schedule.

I like lots of things about this festival – the proximity to downtown Loveland, the beautiful setting and the floating stage.

The 2011 musical lineup for Loveland’s Foote Lagoon Concert Series has been announced and I’m very excited to see fiddle players on the list.

A lagoon favorite, the Elders, aren’t coming this year, which I know will prove disappointing to many of their loyal fans.  While they will be missed, the line up at the lagoon looks fun and lively.

GO HERE TO SEE ENTIRE SCHEDULE AND LINEUP.

HeidiTown Tip: While many families enjoy these concerts, these evenings make great date nights. I recommend packing a picnic or getting take out from one of Loveland’s downtown restaurants and make an entire evening out of the affair!

 

5 Best Valentine’s Dates, according to the Mayor

Read this closely guys, because the planning for this holiday usually falls on your shoulders. Here are a few ideas from the Mayor, and I think any of these date nights will score you big points this Valentine’s Day.

1. Dinner theater – There’s a slight chance all the dinner theater joints are already booked for Valentine’s Day, but it’s worth checking. Dinner theater is an entire evening of fun without ever having to leave your seat. Seriously, it makes a great date. Even for those of you who aren’t “theater” people, this evening will undoubtedly prove entertaining. If you can’t find any tickets left for dinner theater, take her to dinner and a play. Colorado has an amazing theater scene, and I guarantee you’ll find a special show.

2. A night away – Don’t underestimate how sexy a hotel room can be as opposed to your bedroom; after all, she sees that scene every night. Whether it’s a stay at a local bed and breakfast in your own town, or a hotel in the nearby big city, a one night excursion just may rock your Valentine’s world, and it won’t break the bank.

Tip: Make the drive extra special by making your gal a mixed CD, or create a playlist on your iPod of her favorite songs so that you can listen to it in the car. Sometimes it’s the little things that make for a truly great date.

3. Go bowling – You think I’m joking? Perhaps you missed my post entitled “You’ve forgotten, you love to bowl.” Some of my most memorable date nights with my husband have been at the bowling ally.

Of course, this night should not include the dinner special at Applebees. Sorry Applebees, but you just aren’t Valentine’s Day material. Bowling may not sound like Valentine’s Day material either, but accompanied by a nice dinner at a local steakhouse it just might be the most fun you’ve had in years.

Tip: Rule the jukebox. Every bowling ally has one and guys, you need to load it up with her favorite songs. Throw in a couple of your favorites too, but make sure the night is full of tunes that will keep her dancing. She will love it, believe me – just do it.

4. Eat fondue – There’s nothing nothing sexier than dipping food into sauces and eating without a fork. Fondue, like dinner theater, is an entire evening of entertainment. There’s a strong possibility that most fondue restaurants are already booked for Valentine’s Day. If that’s the case, than pull out the fondue pot you got as a wedding present. You remember – it’s still sealed in the box, buried in the basement next to all that other stuff you put on your registry because that gun was just so fun to use. I hear fondue is very easy to make at home. I can’t say for sure because I’ve never used the one we got as a wedding present.

Tip: Don’t forget to pair your fondue with tons of wine. And when looking up fondue recipes, don’t forget dessert fondue.

5. Stay in – I’m usually trying to make you get off the couch and get out there and do stuff, but sometimes staying in can be romantic as long as it’s well executed. Be sure to leave the kids with an overnight sitter, otherwise it’s just another night. Order in or pick up her favorite take out. Think sushi, not pizza. Fire up the candles and her favorite romantic movie and don’t forget the wine and flowers.

Need help deciding on a romantic movie? Here are the Mayor’s suggestions:

“The Princess Bride”
“When Harry Met Sally”
“Sleepless in Seattle”
“EverAfter”Tip: If you are married already, any wedding movie will do. If you are not married and don’t intend to propose on that very night, a romantic wedding movie isn’t a good idea.

Have you experienced an outstanding Valentine’s Day date night?  Please feel free to share it in the comment section.

“Date Night” – Worth full price!

Steve Carell (The Office) and Tina Fey (30 Rock & Saturday Night Live) star in this clean comedy about a couple from the burbs who gets more than they bargained for on their "Date Night" to the City.

Rated PG13

Directed by Shawn Levy

Starring Steve Carell, Tiny Fey, Mark Wahlberg, Taraji P. Henson, Jimmi Simpson

Heidi Illustrious Rating: 4/5

Word of Warning: Good clean fun. Reminiscent of a comedy from the late 80s or early 90s, “Date Night” doesn’t rely on the type of “shock comedy” that has become so popular, making this one okay for the older kids, but best for a date night.

The Foster family lives an ordinary life in New Jersey. Phil (Steve Carell) is a tax attorney and Claire (Tina Fey) is a real estate agent. They have two kids, a nice house in the suburbs, and they have one date night per week that involves going to a local steakhouse and talking about their kids.

When he learns of a friend’s impending divorce, Phil decides he and Claire need to spice it up a bit, so he takes her on a special date night to the City. However, when the couple steals a table reservation that isn’t theirs, they get involved in a bit more excitement than either bargained for.

The storyline doesn’t make a lot of sense, but together Carell and Fey are comic genius. And despite the nonsensical nature of the plot, the two actors are truly believable as Phil and Claire Foster; neither comedian goes overboard in their portrayal of this average couple from the burbs. It’s the stuff that happens to Phil and Claire that make this a funny movie, and the dialogue between the two is very clever.    

The commercial for “Date Night” has been comparing it to “The Hangover,” but this is not a good comparison. Although both films are very funny, this one doesn’t rely on shock comedy, but rather dialogue, chemistry and physical comedy.

With the rise of such movies as “Hot Tub Time Machine“ and “The Hangover” I had started to believe Hollywood had lost the ability to make a straight up, old-fashion kind of comedy, but “Date Night” renews my confidence. Perhaps the menstruation jokes and toilet humor so popular of late, was just a fleeting trend? Probably not, but “Date Night” is a refreshing return to comedy that won’t make you squirm in your seat, but is still funny and relatable.

This movie isn’t groundbreaking, and they gave away many of the funniest scenes in the previews for “Date Night” but still, it will make you laugh. I think this movie is worth full price, and running time of only 88 minutes you can afford to get a babysitter for a couple hours and take your honey on a real movie date night. Just don’t steal anyone’s reservation.

**Also appearing in the Berthoud Weekly Surveyor.

You’ve forgotten – you love to bowl!

P1030704

If you are anything like me, you bowl about once or twice a year.   I recently bowled with my husband on a Friday  evening date night  at Sweetheart Lanes in Loveland.   I  was reminded  – I love to bowl!  

I’m not good at it and my form is probably atrocious.   I don’t think I’ve ever broken a 100.   But there’s something intrinsically fun about bowling.   It’s partly the shoes.   They make the wearer feel like a soft shoe dancer  – sliding around on the polished floor automatically puts me in a happy mood.

It’s partially the atmosphere.   We chose to do  “glow in the dark” bowling (sometimes called Cosmic Bowling).   The lights were dimmed, the lanes lit an eerie blue with disco lights buzzing around us like a 70s dance hall.  

With the jukebox blaring our favorite tunes, and a cold pitcher of beer, it was  a fun, affordable, all-American evening.   We even won two free  games!  

So whether you are planning a date night with your honey or just a night out with friends, don’t count out bowling.

Learn more about Sweetheart Lanes by visiting www.sweetheartlanes.net.

Berthoud alive with the sound of music, tomorrow night

Sound of Music

Wildfire Community Arts Center‘s Eighth Annual Summer Film Festival is drawing to a close, with only two films left. Rained out for much of the season, tomorrow night the Center will be showing one of my personal favorites, “The Sound of Music.” Next Friday night’s film is “Despereaux” (August 28). It will be the last show of the season.

The movies begin at dusk and are shown in the courtyard of the Wildfire Arts Center at 425 Massachusetts Avenue in Berthoud. The event has previously been held at Fickel Park.

It’s the perfect opportunity to stop by Berthoud’s locally owned   A&W for a root beer float before the movie, or get a meal to go and eat at the show.

Bring lawn chairs, blankets, dogs, children and bug spray. In case of rain, the film will be shown inside the Wildfire Arts Center.  

 

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