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Photos: Ten more Best of Denver categories that are tough to win twice -- and the current champs

Last month, in anticipation of our Best of Denver 2014 issue, coming March 27, we posted about the ten toughest Best of Denver categories to win twice. But that list just scratched the surface when it comes to our annual celebration of the Mile High City.

Below, check out ten more Best of Denver categories that are tough to win twice, spotlighting the 2013 winners in photos and the original award text. And to take part in the 2014 readers poll, click here.

Number 10: Best Radio DJ -- Alisha Sweeney

Photos: Ten more Best of Denver categories that are tough to win twice -- and the current champs
Open Air debuted on Halloween 2011 at the frequency formerly occupied by the legendary KCFR, and the Colorado Public Radio-affiliated station has since established itself as one of the most free-spirited stations around. Its popularity is due not only to its programming, but also to its on-air personalities. The best among them is Alisha Sweeney, whose morning show features a well-curated mix of alternative, indie and classic artists, from Feist and New Order to David Bowie and Brian Eno, that would appeal to anyone. And her banter between songs is just as charming as her selections.

Number 9: Best Chinese Restaurant -- East Asia Garden

Chongqing chicken from East Asia Garden.
Chongqing chicken from East Asia Garden.
Some of the best cooking in Denver comes from restaurants that are completely off the grid -- those with generic names, facades as forgettable as last night's one-night stand and featureless dining rooms with clashing color schemes. East Asia Garden is that kind of restaurant. You've whizzed by it on Broadway a dozen times, never giving it even a cursory glance. And that's a mistake, because it turns out the most amazing home-style, traditional Chinese food in the city. Here, among the usual suspects, are dishes like tofu with black eggs, pig's ears and cucumbers, cross bridge rice noodles (good luck finding those anywhere else in Denver) and Chongqing chicken, which is very much the food equivalent of a firecracker: a shovel of blistered, volatile fried chiles tangled with equal amounts of Sichuan peppercorns and cubes of fried chicken, hot enough to make your mouth numb for days. But the unadventurous have an out: Along with fried pig's liver, the menu includes benign dumplings.

Continue to keep counting down ten more Best of Denver categories that are tough to win twice -- and the current champs.

 

Number 8: Best Chocolates -- Black Star Chocolates

Photos: Ten more Best of Denver categories that are tough to win twice -- and the current champs
Gourmet chocolatiers Jennifer Spielman and Andrew Starr produce small batches of handmade artisan chocolates with seasonal ingredients like lavender buds, fresh mint and jasmine flowers. In the process, they not only make piles of chocolates, but collect piles of awards: Black Star's signature Saffron Rose Cream won both grand champion and best non-traditional truffle at the 2012 Colorado Chocolate Festival. Their latest creation is a smoked bourbon-grapefruit zest, bittersweet Swiss chocolate that will give Denver chocolate fans something new to love.

Number 7: Best Roller Derby Name -- Fiona Grapple

Fiona Grapple, right, with Mona "Triple Shot Misto" Egender as they appeared on "The Amazing Race."
Fiona Grapple, right, with Mona "Triple Shot Misto" Egender as they appeared on "The Amazing Race."
Beth "Fiona Grapple" Bandimere is a blocker for the Rocky Mountain Rollergirls' Sugar Kill Gang and team captain of the 5280 Fight Club all-star squad, and already has a national roller derby championship title to show for herself. Her nom de derby channels mid-'90s malcontent Fiona Apple, rather obviously, but also captures the full spirit of fighting for every inch on the track, which Ms. Grapple, a bludgeon of a blocker, embodies as well as anybody. This year, however, thanks to the reductive reality-TV shorthand of CBS's The Amazing Race, Bandimere and her 5280 Fight Club teammate Mona "Triple Shot Misto" Egender came to be known as the "Roller Derby Moms," a pair of clean-cut competitors, each with three kids, who held their own on the show.

Continue to keep counting down ten more Best of Denver categories that are tough to win twice -- and the current champs.

 

Number 6: Best Open Stage -- Meadowlark

Photos: Ten more Best of Denver categories that are tough to win twice -- and the current champs
While the intimate Meadowlark hosts a stellar jazz jam on Mondays, its long-running Tuesday-night open stage has attracted a number of the city's finest singer-songwriters, who come to test new material or refine older songs. In more recent years, it was where Churchill and the Lumineers -- then a duo from the East Coast -- played before moving on to much bigger venues.

Number 5: Best Breakfast Burrito to Go -- Araujo's Restaurant

The breakfast burrito from Araujo's is on the right.
The breakfast burrito from Araujo's is on the right.
Araujo's, a colorful storefront spot in the Federal Boulevard breakfast-burrito triangle that also includes a Santiago's and a Jack-n-Grill, opens at 6 a.m. weekdays (7 a.m. Saturday, 8 a.m. Sunday) and starts handing out the city's best breakfast burritos to go just minutes later. Every day of the week, Araujo's offers a special breakfast burrito from opening until 11 a.m. for just $1.50: a tortilla packed with scrambled eggs, cubes of potato, bits of green chiles and the chef's choice of meat (bacon one day, sausage the next), with cheese and green chile filling all the cracks.

Continue to keep counting down ten more Best of Denver categories that are tough to win twice -- and the current champs.

 

Number 4: Best Halfpipe -- Vail

Photos: Ten more Best of Denver categories that are tough to win twice -- and the current champs
Vail celebrated its fiftieth anniversary this season -- as well as the 25th anniversary of the day snowboarding pioneer Jake Burton persuaded the ski area to allow snowboarders on the hill -- by hiring Snow Park Technologies to build the longest and steepest 22-foot superpipe on the international competition circuit. Olympic gold-medalists Shaun White and Kelly Clark took top honors at the U.S. Open -- surprise, surprise -- but the real winners were the locals who got to ride it all season.

Number 3: Best Bloody Mary Bar -- The Corner Office

Photos: Ten more Best of Denver categories that are tough to win twice -- and the current champs
You won't want to stop till the glittery balls of light stop spinning at the Corner Office, which hosts a disco-themed brunch every Sunday, complete with "I Will Survive" bottomless Bloody Marys. At $15, they're not a cheap date, but the pour starts with a generous plop of Sobieski vodka -- and then the rest is up to you. While most bars issue a cease-and-desist order after the tomato juice, shakes of salt and pepper and a stalk of celery, the Bloody Mary bar here features a knock-out smorgasbord of customary -- and crazy -- garnish blasts: marinated olives, haricots verts, watermelon radishes, shoestring potatoes, bacon, various hot sauces and spices, pickled eggplant...and pork belly. The combinations are endless, and with so many add-ons, it's breakfast in a glass. Bring a thirsty appetite and, if you plan to drink endlessly, a designated chauffeur.

Continue to keep counting down ten more Best of Denver categories that are tough to win twice -- and the current champs.

 

Number 2: Best Karaoke -- Armida's Restaurant

Photos: Ten more Best of Denver categories that are tough to win twice -- and the current champs
When it opened some twenty years ago, Armida's hosted karaoke one night a week. But the Mexican restaurant soon focused in on the entertainment option, and for years it's been one of the few spots in town to host karaoke seven nights a week. It's also grown into one of the most popular venues for people to strut their stuff -- so much so that it recently opened another karaoke room on the weekends and upgraded the main floor.

Number 1: Best Bakery

Photos: Ten more Best of Denver categories that are tough to win twice -- and the current champs
The name may be Taste of Denmark, but it's buttery goodness that you really savor here. Come in the morning and choose from a wide array of breakfast goodies: dark-brown whirls of cinnamon-heavy cinnamon rolls; almond-topped bear claws that shatter into rich, golden flakes; puffy chocolate croissants; and row after row of tender Danishes cradling pools of custard, jam or an irresistible mix of both. Cherry hand pies, with filling tucked inside large circles of shortbread, raspberry Pop-Tarts with frosting and sprinkles, and chocolate-dipped Napoleon hats stuffed with almond paste are just as tempting, making this the kind of place where you apologize profusely to the nice woman behind the counter for making her ring you up so many times, and try (in vain) to reach the car without taking bites of three different things.

Send your story tips to the author, Michael Roberts.

More from our Best of Denver archive: "Photos: Ten toughest Best of Denver categories to win again -- and the current champs."


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