Sunday, August 17, 2014

Waring House - Blue Glass and Blues

Back of the Waring House
I hadn't been to the Denver Botanic Gardens for, well, decades. The last time was when I visited my sister by tacking on some time when in the area for a meeting. Since moving to Fort Collins, I am on a board for a non-profit organization that promotes ornamental plant varieties that are adapted to the high elevations and hash temperature conditions of the northern Great Plains - Plant Select. The second meeting of the board that I attended was in the dining room of the Waring House on the grounds of the Gardens. I arrived a little early, and was able to peak around and get a look at the Dale Chihuly artwork that is integrated into the grounds of the existing
Waring House interior
botanical exhibits on the grounds. As it turned out, the afternoon meeting was scheduled on the same day as one of the summer concerts - that evening was blues guitarist B.B. King. The meeting in the Waring House couldn't have been in a more stately venue - wood paneled rooms, wooden tables and chairs, art on the walls - a classic experience. I was fortunate to view just a little bit of the Chihuly works in the daylight and after dark. All of this, with getting to see B.B. King and his band perform in between. Here are more exterior views of the Chihuly Exhibit at the Denver Botanic Gardens, with B.B. King as a part of the landscape as well - beginning with, Before Dark:

With In Between, B.B. King:

And ending with the view of the art, After Dark:

I became aware of B.B. King when I was in high school and his song The Thrill Is Gone made the popular charts. The version found here is what I remember from the 1970's. The 88-year-old King playing forty-four years later is familiar, but just not the same, even compared with four years ago, but he still hands out his guitar picks to the crowd. The Chihuly Exhibit runs through November 13th. I had to judiciously meter out my pocket camera use - I didn't charge the battery since my earlier camping trip in Oregon, so was running on a low battery warning the entire time.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Four Corners Region - Notah Dineh Trading Company

A quick stop to look around before heading to Alamosa for the evening, the Notah Dineh Trading Company in Cortez. Lots of local art work from Native American artists.

Wooden Kachinas
Sand painting
Sources of color

A Taste Of The West Slope - Colorado Wines

Guy Drew vines beyond the winery grounds
As a result of being new to Colorado, it is necessary to learn about the region's agriculture that has provided an opportunity to engage the specialty crop industries - specifically the grape growers and wine makers. Unlike the relatively near sea level production areas in California, the Pacific Northwest, and France, one needs to realize the the lowest elevation in Colorado is greater than 3,000 feet. The high elevation vine production areas on the western slope at the foot of the Rocky Mountains ranges from 4,300 to 6,200 feet. It is not the summer dryness, but the winter cold that greatly increases the risks of crop failure - not just lost yield, but death to vines that cannot withstand minus 10 or less low temperatures.

Guy Drew vineyards label and icon
A side benefit of learning the industry is being able to taste and purchase the wares of the trade when visiting different wineries. There is a definite twists specific to the geography of the industry - the West Slope region landscape features, artifacts of earlier inhabitants, the prevalent mesas - thus the names of wineries such as Mesa Park Winery and the arrowhead icons that adorn bottle labels from the Guy Drew Vineyards.

Local Cuisine - Sagauche Chili Rellenos

The Oasis Restaurant road sign
The last leg of a 1,036 mile driving trip to visit Western Slope research centers and have meetings with industry representatives and community leaders began with a lunch stop at the Oasis Restaurant in Sagauche near the intersection where Highway 285 just branches off to the right from the road to Gunnison. I didn't catch the fact that the Oasis is both an American and Mexican restaurant, so when I saw the menu included chili rellenos, in typical fashion I ordered them (there was no basket of corn chips served with salsa).

The Oasis chili rellenos
As it turned out, the rellenos were deep fried, and the puffiest and crispiest ones I have ever had. The sides of refried beans and rice were well proportioned, but not notable as it goes for taste. I ordered the rellenos with verde sauce, not my preferred option given rojo was offered as well, but it seemed the right choice since these are chilies.

The Oasis Restaurant entrance
When paying my bill, I found out that the place has been in business with the same owner for over 20 years. The name "Oasis" likely comes from Sagauche being north of the Sand Dunes National Park on the east side of the San Luis Valley. The outside appearance is nothing fancy, as is the interior, but the service great and the dish I tried, outstanding. The drive on Highway 285 looks so different without the snow, and the rains this summer have left everything looking green and restful.