Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Colorado weekend: Kevin & Kristen get married with bellydancers, while Tim falls in love too.

I’m just back from three days in Colorado for a good buddy’s wedding.  Here’s some highlights:

The wedding was in Colorado Springs, but I wanted to see Denver for the first time and wanted to fly direct, so I booked a non-stop from Washington to Denver, but United had other plans: my non-stop had a ~2 hour layover in Chicago (mechanical difficulties). It all worked out for the better though, as we were all given $250 vouchers towards a future United flight (my ticket only cost $244, so I technically made a profit!)

I was worried that this layover might be a bad omen, but it was the only wrinkle in the entire trip.

Colorado in the fall is fantastic, though with weather that can only be described as “variable.” This was really hammered home when we met for the wedding rehearsal Saturday late afternoon, outdoors, at the Garden of the Gods park in Colorado Springs, where Kevin and Kristen picked out a truly awesome setting for their wedding. The airtemp was 50 degrees for the rehearsal, but winds probably chopped that down to 40….and then the sun dipped behind the mountains. This made for a very quick rehearsal.

With the wedding the next morning @ 10am, I thought the vows would be drowned out by chattering teeth, but the wind was non-existent, and the sun was shining (though clouds covered the park an hour earlier.) The end result was this fantastic scene:

(Though the weather was fine for those of us wearing a suit, I can’t help but wonder if Kristen’s arms got frostbitten.)

A reception followed, which was lots of fun, and included something that I had never seen at a wedding before: bellydancers! (See below for photographic proof.) (Kristen has bellydanced for years, and asked a friend/colleague to put on a show during the reception. I’m no bellydancing expert, but I was really impressed when she started balancing a sword on her forehead while dancing. I was so inspired that I tried the same thing with a steak knife and was lucky I didn't accidentally carve my up my lips.)

When not involved with wedding stuff, I set out to see and experience Colorado.  One stop was the US Olympic Training Center, where I found a sale on “Chicago 2016” Olympic merchandise. I wonder why……

Next priority was to find some good Mexican food. (Didn’t you know that Colorado has a huge Mexican presence?) I looked up a highly-rated Mexican restaurant a few miles out of town, and rolled up to find it closed. At this point, I was about a third of the way to Pueblo, CO, so I decided to go the distance, motivated by the chance to see ancient Indian pueblos (ancient Indian homes carved into the side of the mountains), and because I was told that the land turned to desert just 30 miles south of Colorado Springs.

Funny enough, there are no pueblos in Pueblo, Colorado, and the one pueblo in Colorado Springs was built about 60 years ago, so it’s Williamsburg-fake. But I did manage to find something truly amazing: green chile!

I was still on my quest for Mexican food when I arrived in Pueblo. Using my iPhone I found a hole-in-the-wall Mexican restaurant (Rita's Mexican food), and took a chance and went in. Visually, the restaurant wasn’t much, but it was exactly what I was looking for – a restaurant run by a single family for 25 years, with Mom behind the cash register, son in the kitchen, and daughter taking orders. The signs – hand written – included “Cash only – no credit cards,” which is a sure sign that you’ve found a hole in the wall.

I ordered the special of the day off the chalkboard – a bean burrito/chicken enchilada combo with green chile. Not that I knew what green chile was, but when you’re exploring a hole-in-the-wall, you go with the special of the day.

I also ordered a side of chicarons – something that I’d never heard of, so I decided to try. Turns out chicarons are thum-sized deep-fried hardened bacon fat, or something like that. I tried about 3 bites and pushed it aside.

When my combo arrived, I didn’t see any food, but instead my plate was a lake of slime green gravy. I waited for a minute to see if another plate was coming, or if they’d gotten the order wrong.
No help arrived, so I dipped my fork in tentatively, and hit burrito.  The first bite was 1/3 burrito and 2/3rds sauce. I braced myself for super spiciness or a foul taste. Instead, I tasted something amazing, - smooth, mildly spiced, very warm, lightly pork-flavored sauce that wasn’t quite gravy, and wasn’t quite soup. It was a like a party in my mouth (as Ken Griffey would say) and I was instantly in love.

I could have easily pushed aside the food and just lapped up the green chile – it was that good. It turns out that green chile is a specialty of the Pueblo area (and New Mexico). The green chiles are farmed in Pueblo, CO and New Mexico, and stewed with a variety of other spices to make something that is pure heaven. I’m hooked, and will be on the lookout for “New Mexico style” Mexican food, and green chile.

Anybody else ever have green chile, and can recommend a good source (restaurant or recipe?)

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With my new friends on the Great Wall of China

With my new friends on the Great Wall of China
Click to go to my online photography

World sun clock

Uncommon Man's Creed

"I do not choose to be a common man. It is my right to be uncommon -- if I can. I seek opportunity -- not security. I do not wish to be a kept citizen, humbled and dulled by having the state look after me. I wish to take the calculated risk; to dream and to build, to fail and to succeed. I refuse to barter incentive for a dole, I prefer the challenges of life to the guaranteed existence; the thrill of fulfillment to the stale calm of utopia. I will not trade freedom for beneficence, nor my dignity for a handout. I will never cower before any master, nor bend to any threat. It is my heritage to stand erect, proud, and unafraid, to think and act for myself, to enjoy the benefit of my creations, and to face the world boldly and say, "this I have done." All this is what it means to be an American." -- Anonymous