Highland resident Sandra Renteria is so concerned about Haiti, the tiny, war-torn Caribbean nation, that she's become a cheerleader for the place. Dedicated to doing something for the Haitian people, she and her husband formed the Art Creation Foundation for Children, which is based in Jacmel, Haiti, and feeds and clothes children, most of them orphans, while teaching them to make traditional crafts. Renteria's Denver shop, Indigena, specializes in Haitian art, including the children's wares, along with a smattering of better-than-average handmades from Mexico, India and other far-flung locations; Indigena boasts some of the best Oaxacan carvings we've seen in the region. "Indigena wouldn't exist if it weren't for Haiti," Renteria says. It's a small world, after all.
Marczyk Fine Foods already corners the market on gourmet goods, so we won't even start with the rundown of what they've got inside. But last year they went a step further and made the place just plain homey. "Come on over," they invited. "Sit a while. We'll cook you up a burger." And so the Friday cookout was born. The new summer tradition returns in the spring, when the evenings grow long and linger-worthy. The charcoal grill will fire up again, serving friends, customers and strangers side by side at long community tables. Don't like burgers, even when they're fashioned from the finest beef on the planet? No problem. Pick out a piece of fish inside and they'll grill that up nicely for you, too. Fridays at Marczyk's are pure urban bliss.
It's as close as we'll get to walking under the boardwalk in Denver. But, hey, strolling under the viaduct ain't bad -- especially when you're shopping in blazing mid-July heat. Weatherproofing is just one of the strategies behind the Viaduct Market, a cousin to the successful Ballpark Market bazaar. If a trial run in December is any indication, treasure hunters can expect the same quality mix already found at Ballpark: antiques, furniture, old and new clothing and jewelry, refreshments and those once-in-a-lifetime finds. So go: The Viaduct Market will be open from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. every fourth Saturday of the month from March until December. No need to flee when it rains on this flea.
Smaller and less crowded than the market that takes over the Cherry Creek Bed, Bath & Beyond parking lot on Saturdays, the Colorado Fresh Market is held on Sundays from June through October. It's the same zany mix of Colorado honey, Western Slope apples, goat cheese and cinnamon rolls, but at a far less frenetic pace. Here an organic farmer from Paonia will take the time to tell you just how he makes apple cider, and a local baker will serve you a piping hot baguette right out of the oven. Many of these merchants gave up their day jobs to indulge their love of food, and they're happy to share their stories. Bring a lawn chair and your appetite.
After years of deferred dreams and delayed plans, the Osage Mercado debuted last summer as a kind of test, sponsored by the Baker, La Alma/Lincoln Park and Sun Valley neighborhood groups. Apparently, it passed, because the Mercado is here to stay -- at least for one long season. Beginning on Mother's Day, it will continue on the first Sunday of the month through October. Designed to be part farmers' market and part craft fair, it's something like a mini People's Fair, with community-based music and dance, kids' activities and art projects planned each month. So come visit the 'hood. You'll never look at it quite the same again.
Sunflower Market
First there were health-food stores and co-ops -- little eclectic-eccentric, tie-dyed, bring-your-own-bag places where hippies shopped for goat yogurt, yams and fresh tofu. But somewhere along the line, the stores got bigger. They supplied bags (even plastic ones), widened the aisles and branched into the gourmet-foods market. Hippies? Even if any were still around, they couldn't afford to shop at these places now. Isn't it time something gave? Enter Sunflower Market. The brainchild of former Wild Oats mastermind Mike Gilliland and his brother, Pat, the new store is a delightful setback in whole-foods merchandising, with lower prices, a less outrageous scope and an element of surprise: The get-it-while-you-can aisle features a changing stock of odd-lot grocery buys. In the garden of overblown health-food shopping, little Sunflower towers above the rest.
Don't know a pho bo from a tom ka? Don't fret. Even though Asian cuisines such as Vietnamese and Thai are now in full fashion, the ingredients lists for many dishes still scare off even the most globally minded gourmet. Fortunately, Asian Supermarket demystifies the herbs, spices and vegetables called for in many Eastern-inspired dishes. Worldly botanicals like galangal, Thai basil, lemongrass, star anise and lotus root are displayed in clear bags with English descriptions; you'll also find your jellyfish, your fish balls, your fungus. The supermarket stocks run-of-the-mill goods like cookies, crackers and cleaning products, too. Unlike many of the items, the prices don't need translation: The stuff is cheap. Last but not least, the spacious store carries noodles, fresh produce and rice, rice, rice. Forget high-dollar boutique grocers: Asian Supermarket is an adventure, and a steal, every time.
The scent is the first thing to hit when you walk into Indus Imports, a nondescript market just off the multicultural South Federal strip. The odors of pungent masalas bouncing off a frenzy of saffron, fenugreek, cayenne, mustard, cumin, cardamom, cinnamon, coriander, turmeric, amchoor powder and asafoetida make you want to lie down on the floor like Gandhi and never leave. But you will, eventually, loaded down with ghee, basmati rice, dal and dozens of mysterious spices all begging to jump together in a pot. There's a gastronomic world of discovery to be found once you get your groceries home.
Sticker shock is common at Sav-A-Lot Foods, a minimalist supermarket where generic and name-brand goods go for pennies. The chain store isn't fancy: There are no free samples, seasonal displays or credit cards accepted. But it's always well stocked with staples, and usually with fine, fresh produce, too. How about ten limes, two pounds of pasta or a boatload of white rice for a buck? A gift to frugal shoppers everywhere, Sav-A-Lot makes it easy to shop and eat well, even when you're busted.
Divino Wine & Spirits
Nearly a year ago, wine retailer Dave Moore opened his South Broadway house of spirits along a rapidly changing Antique Row. Like the other stores on the stretch, the place is a real browser's paradise: Dog-friendly and neat as a pin, Divino features tall, stacked shelves of great little wines, domestic and imported, inexpensive and spendy; each variety is handsomely marked with a round, stamped-metal price tag. Moore left the restaurant industry to try his hand at selling wine, and he's never looked back. "Here," he says, "I get to be surrounded by something I love, and that's booze." A world of it.

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