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Archive for the ‘Hidden Gems’ Category

I’ve probably spent more time in the 700 block of Pearl Street than anywhere else in Boulder (outside of the places I’ve lived).

Spruce Confections, Boulder, CO

It’s the perfect escape for me. I prefer to go here by myself and follow a little routine I’ve seemed to develop over the years, which goes something like this: order a cup of soup at Spruce Confections, ask for extra bread, sit at one of their sidewalk cafe tables under a tree and people watch, wonder how on earth they can make simple soup taste so damn good, admit to myself that I can’t leave without getting an Old B Cookie, go back inside and order said cookie, walk two doors down to West End Gardner and dream of living in the French countryside, head over to Two Hands Paperie to admire letter-press cards and sheets of handmade paper, get dirty looks for dropping Old B cookie crumbs on the floor (whoops), head over to 8th & Pearl Antiques, consider buying some old wooden ribbon spools, decide I wouldn’t have anywhere to put them anyway, say thanks to the shop owner for letting me browse (again), call it a day and head home happy.

On a recent visit, I decided to change things up ever so slightly. After devouring a cup of brocolli and cheddar soup at Spruce Confectons (I know, it doesn’t sound that different yet, but wait), I ordered a SLICE OF CAKE! Yes, I decided to forgo the Old B cookie (sorry, Old B, but I’ll be back) for a lovely, pink-frosted number that happened to match my dress that day. It was a ridiculously rich, dense chocolate torte-like cake with a soft, butter-cream and raspberry frosting.

Spruce Confections, Boulder, CO

Now that I was really flying by the seat of my pants, I decided to poke my head inside Bedell & Co, an antique store right next door to Spruce that, after all these years, I’d never been in. I suppose it always looked a little too upscale for me. I’m more of the primitive-harvest-table kind of gal than the gilded-and-bejeweled-mirror kind of gal when it comes to antiques, and Bedell & Co falls more into the gilded, estate sale goods category.

But it turns out there are some really gorgeous pieces of jewelry there! I quickly became obsessed with these vintage earrings:

Bedell & Co earrings, Boulder, CO

Are they not to die for? After I’d circled the little shop three times and ended up back in front of these lovelies each time, the shop owner leaned over my shoulder and said, “There’s a story to those earrings.” Certain that she was going to tell me that they made their way from the Old Country in her great grandmother’s music box, I was a little surprised when she said that they once were shared by twin sisters…who were famous strippers. “Actually, they probably called them cabaret dancers back then,” she said. Not what I’d imagined, but way more intriguing!

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My grandma’s old house had an attic with floor boards that would pop up to make the perfect place for stashing silver dollars, letters, baseball cards and other loot. It was one of my favorite parts of visiting there every summer.

I’ve always loved secret compartments, hidden passageways, trap doors and the like.

So it’s no surprise that when I heard about Bitter Bar, I was compelled to check it out right away. Described as a speakeasy-meets-modern-lounge, it’s located inside Happy Noodle House and goes into full swing after the restaurant closes (around 10pm), at which point the restaurant’s front doors are locked and the only way to enter the bar is through the alley. Oooooh!

Alleyway entrance to Bitter Bar

Alleyway entrance to Bitter Bar

I had read that there was a little button, which once pressed, alerts the bartender to your presence. Sure enough, the buzzer was there — all lit up and glowy and just waiting to be pressed.

Press this buzzer for admittance

After-hours guests press this buzzer for admittance

But alas, the back door was wide open when we got there, so we waltzed right in.

I quickly got over my disappointment because we were warmly welcomed by the bartender and offered a seat at the bar. Mark, in his driving cap and tweed vest, introduced himself and handed us a square, leather-bound menu. On its rice-paper pages are dozens of recipes, along with notes like “Please, no special orders…with all these cocktails, really, you want a cosmo?”

No sweet and sour mixers here. Everything is created from scratch with fresh ingredients. (You’ll spot a basket of fruit kept near the drink making station.) And there’s a definite penchant for the past. They serve Absinthe (a big deal here, actually), Chartreuse and spirits that were more popular in other decades — if not other centuries.

The best part is that they are willing to tell you the history behind each drink or ingredient in great depth. We asked about the name of the bar, for example, and Mark informed us that they make their own bitters — strong flavoring agents that are used (with just a splash) in many cocktails. He gave us a 10-minute explanation of the three components of bitters, which was fascinating and I won’t try to recount here, but I’d suggest inquiring about if you go.

I ordered The Aviation, a gin cocktail, which as promised, was perfectly balanced. Not sweet, exactly. Not tart really. Just…smooth. Eric ordered a Monkey Gland (ask Mark for the back story on that one — if you dare), which has a bit of licorice flavor but still managed to be rather subtle and very drinkable.

We called it a night after just one drink — right as the bar started to pick up (at about 11:30pm). But we’ve got plans to go back for some more education on the art of the cocktail, delivered in the most earnest, unpretentious way. The setup may suggest exclusivity, but the bar’s mixologists are just friendly guys eager to share their passion for incredible drinks with anyone — and we’re all ears.

But next time I’m pressing that buzzer. No matter what.

Bitter Bar, Boulder, CO

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Note: This post has been updated to reflect the new name of Outdoor Outlet (previously Second Source).

Nearly every weekend, I go to Saxy’s with my husband, Eric, and we sit there for about an hour, sipping lattes, reading, people watching and staring off into space. (Saxy’s has the best coffee in Boulder, but that’s another post for another day.)

During one staring-off-into-space session, I happened to focus on something new just across 10th Street. A little banner was hanging down from what I believe used to be Word Is Out bookstore. The banner read “Second Source” (note: they have since changed their name to Outdoor Outlet to better reflect the fact that the clothes are all new — not previously worn or used).

I have a honing device in me that detects sample sales, thrift shops and scratch-and-dent sales from about five miles away, and it had definitely been picking up some activity.

Second Source

Outdoor Outlet

Sure enough, when we stopped into Outdoor Outlet after leaving Saxy’s, we discovered mounds of Camelbacks, Gore-Tex jackets, fleece, trail-running shoes and other outdoor paraphernalia — all seriously, wonderfully discounted. Turns out it was the same awesome sample sale we’d discovered a few weeks earlier in an empty office space above Boulder Bookstore — at which time I scored these trail runners.

sneakers

Cool new kicks I got for about 50% off retail!

But now the sale has moved into this more befitting space with a several-month lease — and high hopes for permanent residency!

We talked to Greg, one of the guys behind Outdoor Outlet (who, by the way, has some of the funkiest, coolest spectacles I’ve seen in a while), and he very enthusiastically told us about some of the discount shipments they’d be getting in from new vendors, which will expand their already healthy inventory of Prana, Camelback, North Face and other brand-name gear.

Greg at Second Source, Boulder, CO

Greg at Outdoor Outlet, Boulder, CO

We let him know we were fans, wished him luck and went on our merry way, Eric toting this new Crumpler laptop bag.

Eric's new bag; Carl the cat shown for scale

Eric's new bag; Carl the cat shown for scale

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For about four years now, I’ve wanted to photograph the hills southeast of Boulder (near the intersection of McCaslin and Hwy. 128). Particularly in springtime, when grass sprouts and covers the rolling landscape in a fine green fuzz.

It takes me back to my time in Scotland, where the hills are like this year round.

But in Boulder, the green is brief. Those poor little grasses get singed in the high-altitude sun and turn brown in no time. This spring, however, it’s been raining like mad, giving me a bigger window of opportunity to get out there and snap some pics. So Saturday morning, I drug myself out of bed at 5:00am to catch sunrise.

Spring Hills, Boulder, CO

I didn’t even realize that you could see so much of the Flatirons from this spot, so that was icing on the cake.

Spring Hills, Boulder, CO

One of the first shots of the morning when the light was paler.

Spring Hills, Boulder, CO

When the green creeps down into the valleys and crevices, that’s when I’m reminded most of Scotland or Ireland.

Spring Hills, Boulder, CO

A wild rose soaking up the sun.

I kinda hope it keeps raining a little every day and keeping things green. It’s a rare treat for Boulder in June.

Hope you enjoyed — especially since I’m using one of these as the banner shot for this brand spankin’ new blog!

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