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Best Of 2008

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Best Of :: Shopping & Services

Best Place to Draw Naked Ladies

It's easy to put on airs at most open-studio art classes. Think classical music, a perfectly still model and a slew of pretentious artists poised behind their easels. Not at Rene Farkass's class. Denver's longest-running figure-drawing course is held in a slumped brick building that doubles as Farkass's art storage space and features a number of his large, colorful "naked lady" paintings. There you'll doodle to indie tunes or ambient rock while the models strike five-, ten- and twenty-minute poses. The artists — amateurs, retired art teachers and a few Denver greats — sit on small wooden chairs, rising during the breaks for a cookie, a cup of milk or a quick chat with Farkass, who is as flamboyant as his paintings. The classes run from 7 to 10 p.m. on Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays and cost just $8 a pop, plus a tip for the model, which means that even starving artists can afford to attend.

Best All-in-One Date Destination

Just a few years ago, the most romantic thing going on East Colfax was the Kitty's on Clarkson Street. That changed when the Tattered Cover and Twist & Shout moved into the former Lowenstein Theater complex. Recent additions have transformed the once-abandoned block into a stimulating spot — and an ideal place to break the ice on a first date. The Tattered Cover's coffee and comfortable chairs provide the setting for a get-to-know-you chat, while Encore Restaurant, with its low lighting and extensive wine list, is a nice noshing option. If things go well, take in a movie on one of Neighborhood Flix Cinema & Cafe's canoodle-friendly couches. And if things don't go well, you can always ease the pain with a little browsing at the record store. The place is much more telling — and a lot more fun — than an eHarmony compatibility profile.

Best Bags With a Mission

We all need a good shopping bag these days, one that's durable and pretty and won't lose its cool when stuffed full of fresh produce. For one thing, it's good for the environment, but where Mission Wear is concerned, it's also good for the community: The nonprofit not only produces a pleasing selection of said bags from natural, organic and recycled fabrics, but it does so while providing jobs for former women convicts now trying to find their footing in the mainstream world.

Best Beer Package
Microbrew Walking Tour Package<br>Grand Hyatt Denver

The Grand Hyatt Downtown is always looking for hotel packages that will make guests feel good, so when the hotel's Maryann Yuthas came up with the idea for a self-guided Microbrew Walking Tour Package more than five years ago, it was a natural. And over the years, the tour has worked out well enough to keep the buzz going. The weekend package includes overnight accommodations, two pints each at the Denver ChopHouse & Brewery, Rock Bottom Brewery and the Wynkoop Brewing Company; one pint at Breckenridge Brewery; and one flight of beer and a 20 percent discount on beer and gear at Great Divide Brewing Company. "This really delivers Denver," Yuthas says. Indeed it does.

1750 Welton St., Denver, 80202
MAP
303-295-1234
Best Boutique Hotel — Downtown
Hotel Monaco

Hotel Monaco pushes its pet-friendliness — a "goldfish companion" is available if you're not traveling with your own furry pal. But it's the treatment of the human clientele that really stands out, from the solicitous concierge to the evening wine hour to the on-premises Renaissance Aveda Spa & Salon to the top-flight meals at Panzano. It's the kind of rose-petal-turndown place that builds a loyal following even among hardened business travelers and makes locals plan exotic weekend getaways in the heart of the city, of all places.

1717 Champa St., Denver, 80202
MAP
303-296-1717
Best Boutique Hotel — Near Downtown
The Burnsley

Close enough to the urban core to be a short walk or free shuttle ride to downtown amenities, but far enough away to provide free parking, the Burnsley is a class act. The all-suite rooms are spacious, many with great views of the skyline — yet they're half the cost of what you'd pay for a marble-lined broom closet just a few blocks away. The staff is friendly, the neighborhood calm, and the restaurant serves a killer Reuben, which makes this the perfect place to stash visiting relatives or tightwad business associates looking to live large but not too large.

1000 Grant St., Denver, 80203
MAP
303-830-1000
Best Boutique With a Split Personality
Fancy Tiger

When Fancy Tiger's divergent Bohemian personalities — Matthew Brown's hipster boutique and Jaime Jennings's DIY craft center — spread to a second location across the street from the original one, a good thing got better. It means more funky clothing, trendy graphic T-shirts, messenger bags and smart jeans in the new space, and an expanded selection of yarns, hip kits and fabulous, modish print fabrics for blooming do-it-yourselfers at the original. This tiger now has room to show its stripes.

18 S. Broadway, Denver, 80209
MAP
303-282-6590
Best Catch-All Slogan

Whether it's "Danny Boy" ye be needin' or simply "Taps," the Michael Collins Pipes and Drums ensemble (named for the father of the Irish Republic) can deliver, and their slogan says it all. Hire them on, whether you need cheerful, morose, danceable or mournful bagpipe music, with or without the rhythm section. As someone once said (we think it was "anon"): "Leprechauns, castles, good luck and laughter. Lullabies, dreams and love ever after. Poems and songs with pipes and drums. A thousand welcomes when anyone comes...that's the Irish for you!"

Best Coffee-Cup Sleeves

Cute, reusable coffee-cup sleeves may seem like the next obvious step in our eco-minded, coffee-fueled world, but it took a woman like Marilyn Wells to make it happen. A seamstress with a degree in home economics, Wells worked for years making costumes for Denver-based films like Things to Do in Denver When You're Dead. But a couple of years ago, this thrifty single mom was looking for a new project and noticed how much paper she wasted every time she bought a coffee to go. Using a few scraps of fabric and two strips of Velcro, she created a miniature quilt to wrap around her cup, and her company, Cup Cozee, was born. Wells now distributes the sleeves to five Denver shops, including Cafe Europa, Devil's Food and the Tattered Cover. The intricately stitched cozies go for $12 apiece or $20 for two. Sugar, cream and a cozee, please.

Best Colorado Souvenir

When Lawrence Argent's giant blue bear — the piece of public artwork officially known as "I See What You Mean" — first appeared outside the Colorado Convention Center, it inspired all sorts of brainstorms among local boosters. Dressing the people who were pushing the extension of the arts tax in blue bear costumes, for example. Draping the sculpture itself in a giant orange scarf to hype the Broncos' season. There was just one snafu in all these schemes: The city owned the art, but not the rights to Argent's image. Some better-late-than-never legal work took care of that, and so Denver is now able to sell, through city outlets, authorized 12" and 16" high versions of the big blue bear, already Denver's most beloved icon (excluding John Elway). What? Were you expecting miniature models of "The Dancers"?

Best Conscientious Cupcakes
Lovely Confections Bakery

Lovely Confections is an elegant cupcakery, filled with comfy couches, serving Novo coffee and featuring a bare-bones but scrumptious selection of five basic yet expertly executed cake flavors on weekdays: lemon, carrot, coconut, chocolate and vanilla (the latter two come with chocolate or vanilla frosting). On weekends, owner and head baker Porche Lovely whips up additional flavors, always keeping in mind the green practices of her place, incorporating natural and organic ingredients and using local suppliers. This bakery takes the cake.

1489 Steele St., Denver, 80206
MAP
720-524-7770
Best Cupcakes on the Run
YumYums Delights

Cupcakes are the trendiest treat in town. Suddenly, bakeries all over are churning out the loveliest mini-cakes you've ever seen, decorated with sprinkles, dragées and pearlescent dust. In downtown Denver, YumYums Delights rules. Conveniently open until eight every night of the week except Sunday, this is the perfect place to grab something wicked to eat after dinner or before the theater. The cupcakes come in a chorus line of delicious flavors, from pure vanilla, inside and out, to more exotic fluff, including mango tango spice, pink lady, mimosa cream and brown cow. Yum yum!

8401 Park Meadows Center, Littleton, 80124
MAP
303-790-4739
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Best Place to Draw Naked Ladies: Rene Farkass's Open Studio Art Class

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