Boulder, Colorado. A bustling yet grounded, cozy city nestled in the mountains, run by "educated hippies," and hand-crafted specifically for me, or so it felt. I landed in Colorado at 8 a.m. a few weeks ago with a starving appetite for breakfast and adventure. My very best friend was waiting for me curbside, and as I ducked into her car we exchanged excited screams.
Despite the ungodly high altitude and my compromised lung capacity from a pesky cold, for the first time in 6 months I felt like I could finally breathe deep, and a sense of peace and clarity settled over me as we cruised through the snowy terrain to our first breakfast destination. We spent the next 4 days in complete in utter bliss, dividing our time evenly between breathtaking (literally) hikes, yoga classes, eating all the food (everything is gluten-free friendly!!!), and drinking all the tonics and coffee.
I still get chills every time I close my eyes and re-live our hikes. Each one was roughly 4 hours of numb fingers and toes, breathlessness, deep conversation, prancing through the fluffy layers of snow on the ground, and encouraging each other to keep moving forward, all against the indescribably beautiful backdrop of the Colorado trees and mountains. I cannot explain how satisfying and cleansing this was for my soul. For Jordan and I both, nature is our therapy, it grounds and clears us and opens us up to insight and creativity we wouldn't otherwise know we possessed.
We stayed in the most adorable Airbnb right off Pearl Street, where all non-hiking related activity was concentrated during our stay. Pearl Street is the absolute gem of Boulder, with all of the shopping, food and drinks your heart could possibly desire. We tried to hit all of the must-tries (per recommendations from our Airbnb hosts and other locals), and I've included a review of our sips and eats below for all of you traveling foodies. Enjoy!
- Zeal: On the surface, this natural light-drenched health-food café was Haley heaven. We walked in to a case full of local kombuchas, house-made bone broth, and on-the-go health food snacks. Beautiful women nibbled on tofu scrambles over intense conversations and handsomely rugged beanie-wearing men sipped on foamy plant-milk lattes while they worked from their laptops. We ordered the gluten-free and vegan banana pancakes with vanilla bean coconut whipped cream and a maca + kale Acai bowl with a golden latte for me and a matcha latte for her, after a dance party in the bathroom (because, duh). Verdict: the banana pancakes were to DIE for, as were the lattes. The acai bowls, however, were pretty disappointing. It was literally a pack of acai, blended with no liquid (so it was like a lumpy mound of slush) and TOPPED with powdered maca, RAW KALE, and peanut butter. No, not blended in. You know, there is a point when you've taken healthy too far and this, my friends, crossed waaaaay over that threshold. Still, for the health-crazed foodies or for those following a strict gluten-free or vegan diet, this place was super chic and worth the visit, as long as you stay clear of the acai bowls.
- Tangerine: We were up early for our second day in Boulder, eager to get up and out. We started our morning with a beautiful yoga class, after which we were absolutely starving. We heard the best place in town for a big breakfast/brunch was Tangerine, so we headed there without another thought. For once in my life I was craving a savory breakfast, so I ordered the poached eggs with asparagus, mushrooms, sautéed spinach and polenta. Jordan got the braised beef hash, and of course we caffeinated with the creamiest almond milk lattes. We headed out for our day's hike afterwards totally stuffed, satisfied, and energized. Verdict: DELICIOUS, adorable café vibes, totally helpful staff.
- Moe's Bagels: Coincidentally, Jane Ko of A Taste of Koko posted a photo while we were in Boulder recommending Moe's Bagels as a must-visit breakfast joint. We woke up our 3rd morning needing carbs and caffeine (hello, long night out on the town) and also to a city covered in a beautiful blanket of snow. We decided to take it easy with bagels in bed and New Girl until we were recovered. I was absolutely ecstatic to have finally found fresh-made gluten-free bagels, and though everyone seemed to be ordering the savory bagel sandwich options, I was obsessed with the clean ingredients used in the house-made cream cheeses and opted for my childhood favorite, STRAWBERRY. Moe's is definitely the go-to spot for the locals before their morning commute, and it was so cool to take a step back and watch Boulder-ites in their daily routines.
- Boxcar Coffee: With white marble tables that serve as the perfect backdrop for Instagramming your morning latte, I stepped into Boxcar and was immediately in love. On one side, the workspace/coffee bar of every blogger's dreams, and on the other, a meat/cheese/bread/gourmet food supply shop (discussed below). I mean, come on. Why would you ever leave? The coffee was delicious, and the abundance of gluten-free pastries weren't a bad addition either ;)
- Dushanbe: A beautiful ornate tea house that was literally dismantled and sent to Boulder by Tajikistan, this incredible tea house is planted in the heart of Downtown Boulder, just off Pearl Street. When you walk inside, you are immediately transported to another world. Waiters clad in all black glide around the teahouse carrying trays of beautiful tea pots and massive portions of delicious food. The tiled ceilings take your breath away, and the atmosphere is buzzy. You can tell this is a popular spot for business meetings, lunch dates, and tourists alike. The tea menu is extensive, and even if you aren't a tea drinker, there is something for you on the menu!
- Cured: the second half of the previously mentioned espresso bar Boxcar, I was drawn immediately to the shelves of gourmet chocolates, salts, spices and oils, and was in the middle of figuring out how I was going to fit everything I wanted into my carry on, when I was pulled from my reverie by Jordan's excited squeals. We were about to embark on our last hike in Boulder and hadn't yet decided what we wanted to do for food while we were in the mountains. Jordan had befriended the girl behind the meat and cheese counter, who suggested packing up a charcuterie-style picnic. I was sold. We sampled tons of different chorizos and sausages, and goat/sheeps milk cheeses to keep my tummy at bay, and an hour later (lol) we were skipping out the door with a picnic basket packed with 2 different kinds of sausage, 3 blocks of cheese, fresh gluten-free bread, olives, marcona almonds, chocolate truffles and kombucha. Though we were taunted by the wine cellar in the back of the shop, we decided being drunk on a mountain 8000 ft up treading on ice was probably not an intelligent decision. So, kombucha it was.
- Shine Restaurant and Brewery: an American-food joint known for its gluten-free and vegan options including burgers and pasta, and also for its herbal elixirs and tonics. I settled for a bison burger with sweet potato fries and we shared a flight of tonics to see what all the hype was about. It was all delicious. We even stocked up on bottles of tonics from their to-go fridge to last us the rest of our trip!
- The Kitchen/Next Door: Tucked along the upscale dining portion of Pearl Street, I was immediately sold on The Kitchen by its Farm-To-Table menu and communal dining-inspired set up. Their mission is creating "Community Through Food" (um, HELLO, Soul + Spoon!!!), and it's evident by the buzzy atmosphere as soon as you walk in the door. The restaurant is divided into 3 parts-- The Kitchen, Next Door, and Upstairs (The Kitchen=upscale, larger dishes, Next Door=casual, Upstairs=rustic tapas style communal plates) but it doesn't matter which one you choose, honestly--all the menus are focused on real food and they are all to die for. We kicked off our boozy night on the town at Next Door, with Moscow Mules (my all-time fav) and I couldn't resist going back to my roots (hehe, literally) for a very Haley-esque quinoa, roasted chicken, and veggie bowl. At this point I was a bit heavy-fooded out and needed something light and refreshing and this hit THE spot. Jordan opted for the veggie mushroom loaf with ragu and polenta and she did not stop talking about it for the next 48 hours. Dead serious.
- The Med: Our experience here was absolutely indescribable and almost surreal. It was our last night in Boulder and our Airbnb hosts absolutely insisted that we make time to eat at The Med, especially after hearing I had studied abroad in Spain several summers ago. It was freezing out and after a day of shopping and being outdoors we were HANGRY for some Paella. Upon arriving, we were told that the wait was 45 minutes to an hour but we were welcome to walk around and look for open high top tables or bar seating. We walked around, but the placed was packed elbow to elbow. It was a gorgeous atmosphere, upscale but not to the point where you felt uncomfortable in your boots and jeans. We returned to the hostess to put our name on the list when suddenly a (gorgeous) manager in a headset swooped in and told us not to worry about waiting. He handed us a glass of prosecco each and introduced us to the bar staff to entertain us while he arranged for us to get a table in the back, away from the crowds. We were seated within 5 minutes, offered happy hour snacks, and introduced to our hilarious and entertaining waiter. For the rest of the night, we were treated like absolute celebrities by the entire staff--the cooks, waiters, hosts and managers joked with us and each other every time they walked by. We each got our own paellas and they were INCREDIBLE, and so reasonably priced. Jordan and I left The Med in awe, and even tracked down the managers before we left to thank them for such a fun and delicious experience. It was the perfect end to my time in Boulder!
Snacks/Drinks/Late Night Stops:
- Wonder Press: Alright. I think we visited Wonder Press two or three times daily. It was coffee/juice/bone broth/smoothie/tonic heaven. Need I say more? Drenched in natural light with white washed walls and adorable art, Jordan and I could not get enough of this place. Lattes in the morning, smoothies and granola post-hike, bone broth for a pick-me-up (and warm-me-up) in the late afternoon. Their green smoothie was one of the best I've ever had, and I officially became addicted to their chicken and mushroom bone broth with ginger and herbs while I was there. I've never been big on bone broth, but I've incorporated it into my diet religiously since returning home after my experience with Wonder Press.
- Half Fast Subs: Gonna be honest...don't remember much about being here seeing as it was our post night on the town late night drunchie stop. The sandwich list is enormous--we were so overwhelmed that a staff member actually sat down with us to help us decide what to get because we were taking so long. The place was packed with college kids, most of whom were there for the $5 Hurricanes and pitchers of margaritas. After much deliberation, we settled on the Booyah Cheesesteak (ON GLUTEN-FREE BREAD!) with steak, pepperoni, grilled onions, mushrooms, mozzarella chipotle aioli and I died. So good. Currently wishing I could get a delivery fresh from Boulder.
- Rebecca's Apothecary: Ok, so not a place to get food. But, if you're into herbs, teas, tinctures, oils and tonics, this is a must-do for your itinerary. Also just off Pearl Street, this is your cozy go-to spot for anything that ails you, and I loaded up on stress and cold tinctures, essential oil blends, and even got to mix my own tea (I made one with chai spices, black tea, ashwaghanda, maca, and reishi mushroom!!!). Rebecca and her staff were all so kind and knowledgeable and gave me the sense that I was walking into grandma's house for milk and cookies.
I seriously could not have asked for a better end to 2016. The energy in Boulder in incomparable, and it was as if people could just sense our complete and utter bliss. We became best friends with everyone we encountered: our Airbnb hosts, our baristas, waiters, yoga teachers--you name it. Our happiness was infectious, and it was such an amazing experience to feel how powerful of generators we could actually be. I know it won't be long before I return to Colorado. If there's one thing that I've never been more sure of, it's that I was born to be near the mountains.