On vacation in Vancouver, Denverites Cal Smith and David Citizen wandered into a fragrant Chinese spice shop and fell in love with the place. More important, they noted that Denver had nothing like it, and in an entrepreneurial moment, decided to try their hand in the spice business when they returned. Now open four months in the relic of a row house at 11th Avenue and Cherokee Street, the Rocky Mountain Spice House is lined floor to ceiling with shelves of jars, envelopes and tins, all giving off an olfactory profusion of sense-tickling scents. Citizen, a sweet, optimistic guy whose enthusiasm for the spices seemingly never flags, mans the herbal haven most days, fine-tuning the packaging, experimenting with infusions and obsessing over lavender, his current favorite herb and one of the hardest to explain. But for Citizen, it's kismet. First came the lavender-infused sugars, then the lavender lemonade mix and the lavender baking cocoa; currently, he and Smith are packaging up mixes for lavender sugar cookies and lavender chocolate cakes. His open ebullience is infectious, and if you visit, you're bound to leave the shop with a packet of lavender in your hand. And you don't even have to use the stuff on food, if you don't want to: "You can encase it in a cloth bag and put it in the dryer with your sheets," he'll tell you. Ah.
Mostly it's about edible flavoring, though, and the myriad choices available are invigorating: Citizen and Smith create their own aromatic blends, including Cajun, fajita, garlic pepper, seafood and Herb de Provence (with red pepper instead of sage, "for Colorado," Citizen notes), as well as chai and sun teas, a tasty Ontario maple sugar/pepper blend and the multi-purpose 5280 Blend, originally created for use with oil as a bread dip. Purchased in small batches, everything is excruciatingly fresh and pungent. "When you open the box," Citizen says, "you know it's fresh."
But it's that recipe-topping pinch of bend-over-backwards customer service that convinces shoppers to come back again and again: the reasonable prices, the free recipe cards paired with each purchase. And, of course, the sheer adventure of the place. As Citizen recalls, one woman told her friend on a cell phone: "I know I'm late, but I'm having way too much fun."
You will, too. Visit the Rocky Mountain Spice House at 309 West 11th Avenue; for info, call 303-917-0551. -- Susan Froyd
Haggis awaits the strong
Fair fa' your honest, sonsie face,
Great chieftain o the puddin'-race!
Aboon them a' ye tak your place,
Painch, tripe, or thairm:
Weel are ye wordy of a grace
As lang's my arm.
So quoth Bad Bobby Burns in his immortal "Address to a Haggis," and never were more fair -- or confusing -- words ever writ on the topic of Scotland's disreputable national dish. (For the uninitiated, that's chopped sheep organs cooked with oatmeal and various seasonings inside the sheep's stomach.) Want to try a bit of the stuff for yourself? You can this weekend, at the 41st annual Colorado Scottish Festival and Rocky Mountain Highland Games being held (appropriately) at the Highland Heritage Park in Highlands Ranch. Today and tomorrow, the brave can revel in all things Scottish with pipe-and-drum salutes, parades, Highland sport and dancing competitions, music, food (including a special haggis tasting, at which the "warm-reekin' rich" delicacy itself will be carved and served to all comers), and plenty of assembled vendors, all selling more knotwork brooches and tartan scarves than you can shake a sporran at. On top of that, there will be tents where you can talk golf or research your genealogy.
But, really, why worry about your lineage? Once you've braved the wonders of haggis, you'll automatically become an honorary member of the clan.
Kids' Rodeo Romps
Advocates for Children boardmember Shellie Moore wanted to give Colorado foster children, whose lives are often filled with negatives, a day when everything was positive. That's why she and her husband, Simon Moore, started the Home on the Range Wild West Show and Kids' Rodeo. Now in its fifth year, the event continues to spread good vibes. And the answer to the kids' questions about whether they can do something is a resounding "Yes." Yes, they can get their faces painted, ride on sheep in a big arena and watch cowboys compete in rough rodeo events like bull riding. And yes, they can eat tons of cotton candy.
The rodeo is open to all families, not just Advocates clients, and has plenty of affirmatives for all. For example, grown fans can pose for pics with the Broncos cheerleaders, who will be on hand. The free, unbridled fun gets a galloping start today at noon in Casey Jones Park, 4189 Highway 86 in Elizabeth, and goes till 5 p.m.
The American Dream
Seeking exhibitionists to perform the national anthem
Send me your awkward. Send me your lame, your pathetic, your tone deaf and talentless. Send me your William Hungs, your Roseanne Barrs, your not-really-that-good-a-voice-but-probably-knows-the-owners. Send them all to me, for I need them, all of your national anthem singers. That's right, you dreamers working awful day jobs, then crooning in the bathroom at night: The Pepsi Center wants you. Officials are scouring the Mile High City, searching for new talent to perform the anthem before Nuggets and Avalanche games.
"We've encouraged people to send in audition tapes before, but never on this scale," says the Pepsi Center's Jason Lindaman. "The turnout should be interesting."
You said a mouthful, Jason. A Pepsi Center website link explains that the venue is looking for musicians to perform the anthem with an instrument. So whether you can wail like Hendrix on "The Star-Spangled Banner" or just squeeze your dog until it hits the high notes of "the rockets' red glare," you might have a shot at performing live in front of 18,000 people.
Applicants should send non-returnable VHS tapes to: Pepsi Center, attention National Anthem, 1000 Chopper Circle, Denver, 80204. Packets must include age, address and contact information, as well as a photo and/or press kit.
Oh, and familiarity with "O Canada!" is encouraged. -- Adam Cayton-Holland