What I Learned in (Mostly) Dry January

Oh, why, hello there. Happy 2018.

The end of 2017 was quite the whirlwind, filled with dating, travels to LA and New York, visiting the family in California for Christmas, and hosting a New Year’s Eve Party. I ate at some incredible places including Gjusta and Gjelina in Venice – the only reasons I stayed there for a night, which was totally worth it; cooked some classics like filet minon on Christmas night and cheese fondue for New Years (now a three year tradition); and experienced lots of new things: attending a black tie gala in NYC, going to my first Bronco’s game, glass blowing, and infinity mirrors at The Broad. See, I told you it was a whirlwind.

After all this I did feel like I needed a little reset, so like many other young people out there I embarked on an effort to have a dry a.k.a. no drinking January. I attempted this a couple of years ago, then was laid off from my job and hopped right off the wagon. Fun fact: when it comes to drinking ‘on the wagon’ means NOT drinking, ‘off the wagon’ means you’re hitting the bottle.

So the results. I made it to Jan 12 without any sip of alcohol. Easy peasy, also a lot easier when you’ve enlisted your partner and friends to not drink with you. This turned into visiting friends at their houses to catch up over tea and sparkling water rather than a juicy glass of red. I allowed myself a cheat night two weeks in while attending a 35th birthday dinner at a steak house – you can’t have a great steak without a nice glass of red wine! Come the 3rd weekend though, I decided to hop off the wagon, within reason, for a few of days. One glass of wine at dinner on Thursday, one margarita on Friday night, sharing a beer while skiing on Saturday and a few drinks post skiing. It may not sound like much of a dry month, but believe you me it has been. I’ve only got a few days left and may have another cheat day or two, but I feel like the lessons have been learned, so here we go!

1) One glass of wine is fine! The biggest take away from this whole adventure is that in many cases it’s just as nice to have only one alcoholic beverage. It is not uncommon for me to enjoy a couple of glasses of wine (or three) in an evening out, but it’s actually a nice change of pace to order one glass and really savor it. At the steak dinner I started my meal with a mocktail, which still felt like a treat, and saved my booze for the meal and sipped it slowly. Still enjoyed it, felt fulfilled and that I had treated myself to something special.

2) Money Money Money – You know it, but you don’t quite realize when you’re doing it all the time, but drinking is EXPENSIVE!! In conjunction with the no drinking January I also implemented a “no superfluous spending” effort as well. These two actually go well together, booze is expensive itself and ubers add up, but if you’re not drinking you can drive and save on both accounts. I’m estimating saving at least $250 in a month without drinking! All in all I’m loving having the cash back and thinking twice before buying the second $15 glass of wine, or the new cat bed that my cat really doesn’t need. I think after this month, I may try to implement happy hour at home, or have people a little more often – entertaining is a bit of a lost art and I want to bring it back!

3) I like my wine, and that’s OK – The last realization that I have is that I do in fact really enjoy my glass of wine at the end of the day. I think this exercise is a good reminder that I don’t really need it, or two glasses of it, but drinking in moderation is not going to kill you. And if you’ve got the bottle at home, it’s going to save you some pennies too.


Andalusian Gazpacho

I made several trips to Spain the year I was an au pair in Germany. I had a good friend from college au pairing in Madrid and a couple of other friends teaching English in southern Spain, oh and there was a hen weekend to Barcelona in there too! One of the trips I did started in Malaga, and wound up through Andalusia stopping in Granada, and smaller towns like Cabra and Antequera, making my way up to Madrid.

Among the many memorable things from the trip is a meal that my friend (who I was visiting) and I had in Antequera, a meal prepared for us by and in the home of the director of the school my friend worked for, a meal I’ll never forget. She so easily whipped up a shockingly simple and delicious lunch including an amazing gazpacho simply of tomato and bread, and she delivered some of the best fried artichokes I’ve had. I have remembered it all this time and it’s funny to go back to my blog from that year and see how the soup they made is exactly what I saw in this month’s Spain issue of Food & Wine magazine.

From Adventures in Deutschland: “they made us this amazing Andalusian soup thing for lunch. It is raw tomatoes blended with some garlic, pepper, olive oil, vinegar and bread. It is eaten kind of like soup, and you dip a lot of bread in it as well…”

From Food & Wine: “Salmorejo is a classic soup made primarily with tomatoes and bread. It’s best with a splash of sherry vinegar, but Andalusian tomatoes pack a good hit of acidity, so they often omit it in Spain.”

Yum Yum.

Obviously after all the Spanish inspiration in the September issue, I now want to have a Spanish dinner party, but for now I’ve started with this soup as a way of using my pounds of tomatoes that just keep coming. It’s refreshing and spicy with the raw garlic, and so so smooth, this ‘soup’ is hard not to love. I topped it with a corn & poblano salad/salsa and a poached egg, which was delicious. I loved the contrast that the texture of the raw veggies provided against the creaminess of the soup. I made it in the morning and let chill to have the whole thing for lunch. It took me right back to Spain and got me so excited about traveling, trying new foods and the endless tomato possibilities that await.


Salmorejo (Andalusian Gazpacho), serves two (originally from Food & Wine) Continue reading

The Saturday Report – 3 Things NYC

Hello Hello – I know it’s almost already the weekend again, but it’s just been a whirlwind here.  I was in NYC for 6 days then rushed home to California for another 6 days of family time to tend to an emergency. It’s looking like all will be ok in due time, so I finally have a minute to recap some of my NYC highlights in this week’s Saturday Report.


Seeing as that I have now made several trips to NYC and am becoming more familiar with the city, I am enjoying exploring more and getting out of the traditional visitor zones. I made a trip up to MOMA PS1 in Queens, which is a MOMA museum in a converted school builing. They are typically only open until 6pm on Saturdays, but on July 22 they hosted an event from 12pm-9pm with a series of DJ’s, food and drink stands in the open courtyard area. It was a little more rave-y than my usual (non-existent) dance scene, but it was great people watching and fun to walk around the museum under a different pretense. The museum itself was cool, definitely worth a visit, kind of edgy and a unique vibe.

EAT – Nha Minh

Obviously most of my trips to NYC revolve around where I’m going to eat and how much I’m going to walk to burn it off. This trip was no exception and the best thing I had to eat were sandwiches and Vietnamese iced coffee from Nha Minh. It’s a well designed hole in the wall, down a super industrial street, just two minutes from my friends house. My first reaction upon looking at the menu was “Is it weird that the smoked trout sandwich sounds really good?”. Answer: no, not weird at all, because it was delicious!!! I shared that and the Vietnamese sandwich with a friend and they were both great. Totally different flavor profiles and if I had to choose, smoked trout was the surprise winner. Like I said the space is well done, there’s rotating art and I liked what I saw on my visit, so if you find yourself out that way swing by!


One of my greatest pleasures while in the city is just walking around. Yes, there are some weird smells; yes, there are lots of people; but it really is the best way to see the city. It’s only by being on foot that you can see the small neighborhood changes from block to block; really appreciate the diversity of people, food, languages; pick up on trends as you make your way through the throngs of people; and in general, just absorb all that is NYC. Here are a few of my favorites – new and old:

  • Williamsburg Brooklyn – New to me this time. I walked down Bedford, then out to the water and almost got on a ferry! I’d long heard this neighborhood, but until I walked it, I realized I hadn’t really been. It’s growing and changing a lot, but is oh so trendy and will make you feel like you landed in a hipster heaven.
  • West Village – Not new, but still my favorite. This time I had brunch at Jack’s Wife Freda on Carmine and walked Bleeker all the way to The High Line. Just such nice tree-lined streets with brick townhouses and cute shops. I almost forgot it was 90 degrees and 50% humidity.
  • Central Park – I didn’t make it up this far this time, but I love the park. It’s so classic and has such a calm that is always welcome when in New York. It’s fun to go to the Met (their rooftop view of the park is great too) before or grab treats at Dean & Deluca and then walk around the park, people watch, stop and listen to buskers, take your time and maybe picnic.

Garlic Scape and Mustard Green Chimichurri

When I was in San Francisco I participated in a CSA box, which I quite enjoyed. It helped me stay seasonally relevant in my cooking and explore some new and different items that I wouldn’t have necessarily picked up on my own in the grocery store.

I’ve struggled to find similar programs with quality contributions in Colorado (though to be fair, I haven’t searched far and wide), but I finally did come across an organization I enjoy that supplies a weekly food box!

The GrowHaus is located in North Denver and supports the one of the most polluted communities in the city with fresh food options. They grow their own aquaponic and hydroponic lettuces on site, and have a fresh food market where one can shop for needed ingredients. They vary prices based on income and are bringing so much to the community with the access to resources and local events. I even bought most of my starter plants there this year – tomatoes, kale, peppers and herbs!

About 1/3-1/2 of my box ingredients are locally sourced or made including 6 eggs each week, a loaf of bread or bag of corn tortillas, and of course, lettuces grown right at the GrowHaus. A few weeks ago the box included garlic scapes, which I had never cooked with and mustard greens, also a new ingredient. If there are more exotic contents they usually provide a recipe, and this one was for garlic scape and mustard green chimichurri.

It turned out SO good! The garlic scapes pack a garlicy punch, and the mustard greens are just slightly bitter while the herbs brighten the whole thing up. They suggested just using only cilantro, but I hate cilantro and decided to just use an assortment of herbs from my garden, which tasted great too. I ultimately served if over salmon, though it would be great with chicken, steak, or maybe mixed in with some potatoes to make a light potato salad. Definitely a great combo to use as a base for so many things!

Click here for more information on how to get your own GrowHaus food box!

Garlic Scape and Mustard Green Chimichurri Continue reading

The Saturday Report – boating, hiking and lawn games

The Saturday Report is back! Now that I got my full month of new stuff under my belt, I’m back to doing normal, fun (and still new) things. I spent this past weekend up in the mountains for a friends’ birthday and discovered a few things that are definitely worth checking out!

DO Boating on Lake Dillon

Since moving to CO I have realized I’m a water person, rather than a mountain person, which was further affirmed while boating on Lake Dillon this weekend. I’ve kayaked on the reservoir before, but taking a speed boat out on the water was a whole new experience, which I loved! You don’t need a boating license, and are able to bring out snacks and drinks onto the water (PSA: Don’t drink and drive!!! Even if it’s a boat!). The rental is for two hours, so we sped, floated, sped and floated again. It’s just so spectacular to see this large body of water surrounded by some of the tallest peaks in the world.

DO Hike Lilly Pad Lake

I did a 14er last November and promptly decided that I never needed to do one again. I just didn’t find that much pleasure in hiking above tree line and killing myself for a view of yet more mountains. I’m more of a hike in the woods kind of girl. We capped off the weekend with a lovely little hike to Lilly Pad Lake. 3.3 miles total, with TWO cute lakes to rest at and view at the end, as well as a plethora of diverse foliage along the way. You cross a number of creeks with more water bound plants, and then weave in and out of groves of pines. Absolutely charming the whole way, and just enough to feel like you actually got out and did something with your morning.


Image via


Spoiler alert: you win this game by bending over and throwing a stick between your legs! You want to play now, don’t you? Even though I just made big jenga, I must say that I was a little jealous of this game my friends brought to the mountains (maybe I should have made Kubb instead!!). It’s kind of like lawn bowling, meets croquet… Good for a group and complicated enough to keep you on your toes, but once you get the hang of it, it’s a blast. The Swede’s did a good job with this one.

Pineapple Upside-Down Cake

Ever since living in Germany and befriending a few Swedes who showed me the value of celebrating midsommer, I’ve tried to celebrate or have a party to mark some of the longest days of the year. This year, the event was a Tiki Party! I mainly decided on this months ago because I found this super cute dress on etsy, and after thinking through all potential, I decided it was a go.

Once I was set on this theme, I got excited about the mai thai’s and kitchy tropical foods that would help set the scene. I bought some tiki torches, tons of rum and landed on tropical chicken skewers, coconut ice cream and pineapple upside-down cake for the snacks.

I have been saving this recipe for over 10 years! A friend made it around the time we graduated from college, and when I was having a hard time finding a recipe online that really struck me, I went back through the depths of my email to find the recipe she’d sent me.

The cornmeal and almond extract really set this apart for me. I LOVE almond extract and the cornmeal adds great texture and a little density that makes this not your every day cake. The fruit and caramel are sweet, but the cake batter itself isn’t over the top, so it ends up being a nice balance. Seeing as that I don’t think you can say pineapple upside-down cake without thinking of kitchy 1950’s I didn’t want to stray from tradition and went circular pan, maraschino cherries and all.

It helped set the perfect scene for the part and cake was definitely the star food served (along with the ice cream, which I’ll share at some point too!).


New In June 2017

You guys, this year New in June WORE ME OUT. In a good way. I discovered so many great things and I feel like this year, more so than the others in Denver, was truly an exploration of the area. Of course, there were the easy outs, like restaurants and coffee shops, but that is part of the deal too.

I’m excited to continue with some of the things I initially explored this June: golf, pilates, Bear Creek Lake Park; while I probably won’t be returning to Top Golf, playing drinking games, or Chatfield Reservoir. That’s all a part of the process though, and I’m better off for it.

In relation to different/new experiences, I’ve recently started asking ‘why’ more. As I explore things that others have loved and I have not, I’ve tried to determine what exactly it is that makes the same general set of actions feel totally dissimilar for two different people. This has extended from my trip to Nashville last year (I still don’t really know what all the hoopla is about) to my disaffinity for fly fishing. In light of that, this year I’m giving a little more detail than I have in years past, trying give a little more color to what is worth trying instead of just listing out the new things. [And the photo format is new too! You can now click on the pictures to see them larger.]

As in the past 5 years of doing this, I certainly gained a new appreciation for where I am, a re-realization that variety is the spice of life, and a continued desire to try new things. I hope you find some inspiration here and try taking the unexperienced path a little bit more.

For more of my every day adventures be sure to follow along on Instagram @emsbonappetit

  1.  Post Chicken & Beer – Super tasty, not too greasy, loved the sides too – I would recommend it!
  2. Kurffel, Zanzibar, and a new view of downtown – I passed the night away with some new friends, starting at a random pool hall (Zanzibar), and ending with house made up drinking games (Kurffel)
  3. Historicity Walks – My friend started a walking tour company in Denver! She and her business partner are both from Denver and super passionate about its history. The first tour they are leading is about Denver’s most influential and interesting historical women! I loved the unknown stories of these critical figures as well as taking notice of downtown in a way I hadn’t before – go!
  4. Pretzel Buns – Not too hard and a nice mix up of the traditional burger bun.
  5. Yoga at MUV Lab – Another friend just got certified as a yoga teacher and her class was great!
  6. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime – a very overwhelming, yet well done play
  7. Phoenix and Miike Snow at Red Rocks
  8. Bluegrass Thursdays at Stem Ciders
  9. Golf at Harvard Gulch – SO much fun and really laid back. Only 9 holes, par 3, BYOB, flip flops encouraged. I will definitely be pursuing golf as a hobby
  10. Bear Creek Distillery
  11. Chatfield Reservoir Swim Beach
  12. Blueprint Bar
  13. The Fab Method – I’ve been intrigued by the idea of doing reformer Pilates more, but classes can be expensive and hard to come by, so I got class pass and tried out The Fab Method by work, can’t wait to go back!
  14. Axios Denver
  15. Tiki Party – My midsommer party this year involved mai thais, tiki torches, big jenga and good company!
  16. Bear Creek Lake Park – I loved this spot! The lake is smaller than Chatfield and no boats are allowed, so the crowd is purely stand up paddle boarders and floaters – time to get an inner tube!
  17. A new walk in the hood – I walked 2 miles down 41st street one night after work. I ended up on Tennyson and saw so many new things along the way. There are really charming houses and streets in the Highlands and I loved the novelty of seeing a little creek in the city!
  18. Lookout Mountain – Drove up to the top for a picnic at sunset on the longest day of the year, it was spectacular!
  19. MLK Memorial in City Park
  20. Bar Max (and the cutest mule cup)
  21. MCA Denver for 3 Things, Any 3 Things – Coffee, Beer and Ice Cream. This was pretty random, but including one of the best pistacio ice cream’s I’ve had from Marczyk’s Fine Foods and learning way more about containerization (a.k.a. my job) than I ever thought I’d learn.
  22. Allegro Coffee Roasters
  23. Fort Collins – My mom went to school here and I had never been. There is a cute intersection of streets in the main part of the town. I just went up for an afternoon with a friend, we had lunch, shopped around and obviously had some beer!
  24. City Park Jazz – This has been on my radar for a long time, and I’m glad to have finally checked it out. There are a lot of people, but it’s low key and easy, plus who doesn’t love to have a picnic and spend some time outside listening to live music?
  25. Min’s Massage – A random place in a equally as random part of town, but for my great $25 hour-long chair massage, it was totally worth it. Also note chair massage as in laying in a puffy recliner the whole time, not sitting up like you are thinking…
  26. Denver Pho
  27. Kickboxing – I may or may not go back, I haven’t quite decided, but it was nice to be sore for a few days and sweat way more than I usually do in my ‘workouts’.
  28. Senor Bear – Good, but not as good as I wanted it to be. There’s a lot of seafood (ceviche) on the menu, so I’ll need to go back with fish eating friends.
  29. Top Golf – Very underwhelmed, I’ll be sticking with real golf courses and driving ranges from here on out.
  30. Colorado State Capitol – So cool! It’s only open on week days, but you can just go in and walk around. I didn’t time it right for a tour, but if you do go on one, you can climb up INTO the dome! Also, Frances Wisebart Jacobs, one of the women featured in #3 Historicity walking tour for her work in founding National Jewish Hospital, is the only woman to be featured in stained glass in the Capital’s dome!
  31. Redline Gallery – Very cool gallery with a great mission. I loved all the art in the current exhibits which just opened on June 30 and will be there for a while. The exhibit I liked the best had so much color, linear dimensions and pieces created specifically for the space. Check it out!