To market, to market: A few years back, the town of Minturn -- a little slice of reality between the never-never lands of Vail and Beaver Creek -- decided to grow its summer business with the Minturn Market.
"It started as a real grassroots effort," remembers Liz Campbell, who's worked on the venture since its 1999 debut. "A number of citizens came together and tried to come up with ideas on how to revitalize our town."
Today, Campbell is the market's director. "I'm the sucker," she clarifies. "I'd volunteered for a number of years and then finally convinced the town that they had to contract this and pay me to do it. It's grown to be such a monster project."
Not about a Restaurant
From its modest start with a dozen vendors, the Minturn Market -- which runs from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. every Saturday through September 14 -- now features 84 purveyors who offer "a little bit of everything," Campbell says. "There's a long wait list of people trying to get in. It's an incredible community event, and really the thing to do on Saturdays."
And don't think Vail didn't notice. On June 22, the same day Minturn kicked off this year's edition, Vail introduced its very own market. While Campbell was initially worried that Vail's efforts would mirror Minturn's, she says, "It's different -- essentially a produce market with a sidewalk sale attached to it."
(That's a more charitable assessment than the one offered by a Denver visitor to Vail, who reported finding cut flowers and some jerky, but not much more.)
So far, there seems to be room for both markets in Eagle County. "Our first four weeks are so busy," Campbell reports, noting that 1,200 people rode the free shuttle to last weekend's market, and she expects larger crowds over the Fourth of July weekend. "The market this Saturday is going to be very big."
But even if Vail doesn't cut into the Minturn Market's market share, by mid-July Campbell plans to start cutting back, as she does every year. "We don't want to lose the intimate feel," she explains. "We've been very careful about the vendors we choose. We try not to have competing products. The valley up here is not a typical urban market, and we add growers slowly" so that they do well.
As do the customers, because the Minturn Market offers entertainment as well as shopping opportunities. This Saturday, for example, Elissa Bernardo, an acoustic guitarist, will play; later in the day, students from her Suzuki school will perform. And beginning July 27, the Vail Jazz Foundation will start its "Jazz at the Market" series -- at the Minturn Market.
Closer to home, South Pearl Street has introduced its own market this year. It's on Sundays, so that it won't compete with the big farmers' markets in Cherry Creek and downtown on Saturdays.
All of those are a ways from the largest farmers' market in the country, in Madison, Wisconsin, where the block around that state's capitol is packed every weekend with hundreds of sellers and tens of thousands of customers. The market is so big that it has its own set of unwritten rules: For example, voyeurs must walk in a counterclockwise direction or risk being trampled by hundreds of Birkenstocks.
Among the herbs and asparagus and cheese curds, one Madison vendor offered a curious product: "Colorado" jerky. And what made it Colorado? "It's spicier," the Midwestern mountain wannabe allowed. "Coloradans are tougher than we are."
The numbers game: In case you missed it, LaMar's Donuts recently opened its fourth Denver-area store, at 5350 South Santa Fe Drive, as part of its master plan to make Denver the doughnut capitol of the world; a third Brothers BBQ debuted this spring at 9069 East Arapahoe Road in Greenwood Village; a second Aurelio's Pizza, scion of a Chicago-based franchise, popped up at 10971 Parker Road in Parker (featuring table service, delivery and takeout); and MiZuppa, a mountain-based outfit with spots in Frisco, Vail and Breckenridge, just added its first outpost in Denver, at 4085 East Mississippi Avenue, where it serves up eight fresh soups daily along with fresh bread, salads, sandwiches and desserts.
The one-of-a-kind WashPark Coffee Company opens at 712 1/2 South Pearl Street on July 13. The spot, owned by Denverites Barry Jackson and Denise Anderson, will offer coffee drinks as well as pastries, breakfast burritos and deli sandwiches seven days a week. Tacos Jalisco Mexican Grill (4309 West 38th Avenue), which grills a great taco, is introducing a second, southeast site July 9 on Leetsdale, in a building that once housed an Eggshell, then Le Peep, then several thousand nondescript Mexican restaurants. Il Vicino will soon take over the former home of the ill-fated Fins Fish Market (550 Broadway); a pizza joint could be a better bet at this bustling location. But look for fish -- among other fresh fare -- at the new Ventura Grill, slated to open the weekend of July 13 at 5970 South Holly Street, an address once sported by Ristorante Galante and Catalano. Steve Shelman, a longtime Vail restaurateur, is heading up the operation; Jenna Johansen is the executive chef.
After a stint as chef at Marvin Gardens (its spot at 2223 South Monaco Parkway is now occupied by Bruno's Italian Bistro), the appropriately named Marvin Bronstein headed for the hills. First stop was the Peaceful Valley Guest Ranch in Lyons; then on to the Regal Harvest House in Boulder, where he took what was the Bistro and turned it into the Fancy Moose; then higher still, to the Ranch House at Devil's Thumb for two years; and finally, to Restaurant on the Ridge, at the MeadowRidge Resort in Fraser. The location was tough -- the drive up the often-slick slope leading to the club could be an adventure, and the cavernous interior posed a restaurateur's challenge, too -- but Bronstein managed to turn out some impressive meals there.
Now Bronstein has his very own place, which allows his eclectic cooking to shine: Marvin's Hideaway Park opened late last month in Winter Park, where Bronstein is serving weekday lunches, weekend brunches and dinner every day.
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T-Wa Inn (555 South Federal Boulevard), on the other hand, has returned to its roots. Tuan "Tom" Lamm and his family sold the venerable Vietnamese restaurant two years ago, and early reports weren't good. Nor were the checks coming from the new owners -- and when they failed to make payments, Lamm took T-Wa back this past spring. After a complete makeover that updated the interior but returned the menu to its origins, T-Wa has reopened. (It also has a new phone number: 303-922-2378.) The meals coming out of the kitchen include the now-familiar Vietnamese dishes that made a generation of Denverites fall in love with that country's cuisine; Lamm promises that his faithful fans of eighteen years won't be disappointed.
But there's disappointing news for Asian-food fans in the 'burbs: Thai Landing (11101 East Colfax Avenue in Aurora), Vientiene Garden (7113 Sheridan Boulevard in Westminster) and Mr. Panda (6206 West Alameda in Lakewood) have all closed.
We're cooking now: Westword's hunt for a new Cafe critic has ended. Jason Sheehan -- a professional chef who launched a second career as a restaurant reviewer two years ago -- will join our staff on July 8; look for his first review in the July 18 issue. In the meantime, feel free to send him your suggestions for restaurants to review, as well as general thoughts on Denver's dining scene. Write to firstname.lastname@example.org.