Best Cooking School 2011 | Cook Street School of Fine Cooking | Best of Denver® | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Denver | Westword

There are plenty of chefs who rise to the top by graduating from the school of hard knocks, forgoing culinary school to hone their skills in real-world kitchens. But culinary schools aren't just for aspiring chefs; they're also for consumers, and at Cook Street School of Culinary Arts, the curriculum caters to both, offering a full-fledged professional program for aspiring toques and hands-on recreational classes for those who want to sharpen their knife skills, learn the fundamentals of deboning a leg of lamb or plan a romantic dinner for two with more know-how than Rachael "Thirty Minute Mistakes" Ray. Cook Street also has a fleet of instructors — former Z Cuisine chef de cuisine Pete Ryan and Mark "Meathead" DeNittis, the owner of Il Mondo Vecchio, among them — who are some of the best in the industry, and with new courses on the horizon, including butchery and cheese, the school keeps up with the food movements that shape the way we eat.

Denver-based Omerica Organic is all about the O's. And at least among the growing circle of body-art-inclined folks who cultivate stretched holes in their earlobes, it's becoming the go-to place online to buy the jewelry needed to do it. Made from beautiful hand-finished hardwoods decorated with inlays, jewels or cutouts and finished with beeswax or, for vegans, jojoba oil, Omerica's ear plugs all benefit from a human touch, as do the company's newer forays: wooden belt buckles and dog tag pendants. This company, led by entrepreneurial war veteran Ryan Lorenz, cares.

Humans spend an ever-increasing amount of time poking at their phones, something that might not be good for their health in the long run — unless they have the iTriage app. Healthagen, the Lakewood developer that created the app, claims that iTriage helps answer these two pressing questions: "What's wrong with me?" and "What do I need to do, or where do I need to go for treatment?" The app lets users look up symptoms and causes, as well as locate appropriate medical care. It can also fill out forms before you arrive at the hospital and locate emergency rooms with the shortest wait time. It's not 911, but it might be smarter.

Juliet Wittman

Forget all the pious exhortations to eat local, organic, seasonal. They're all real enough, but they're not the reason we eagerly anticipate the opening of the Boulder County Farmers' Market in early April and visit faithfully, week after week, as the offerings change from tender lettuce and spinach to the corn, eggplants and tomatoes of full summer, and then the September apples, pears and hard-shelled squashes that push us into an orgy of freezing, canning and storage. Produce isn't the whole story: The market also offers beef, chicken, duck, cheeses, eggs, honey and a variety of prepared foods, from tortillas to chocolates, all of it — and this is a strict and crucial rule — locally sourced. We go for all of that, to be sure, but we go primarily because the market represents an important coming together of the community, where farmers offer growing tips, buyers commiserate with farmers about the weather and exchange recipes with each other, friends connect, and everyone remembers just how vibrant and important a role food plays in our lives.

Brandi Shigley of Fashion Denver is all about shining a spotlight on her favorite local designers in her Golden Triangle retail store and encouraging them to follow her own credo as a style entrepreneur: "Do what you love and love what you do." One way she gives her stable a push is by hosting quarterly seasonal markets with a fashion show — most recently at the elegant Grant-Humphreys Mansion — where designers, jewelry makers, milliners and the like can sell wares directly to the public in a festive setting. Expect the unexpected: Shigley's next market is May 15.

Although Von's Violin Shop sells violins, it's made particularly beautiful music as a repair shop. Musicians from around the country swear by Von's, bringing their fiddles of all sizes in for diagnoses and repairs — all at reasonable prices. Have an instrument that needs help? Von's won't string you along.

Margo Cheroute and Rose Whitlock are lovers of all things vintage and the art of shopping for the good stuff; lucky for us, they've done the work, and all we have to do is buy it from them. The trick is in finding them: We did last summer, during First Friday on Santa Fe Drive, when their Airstream trailers dropped out of the sky like little UFOs from another era into a lot at Eighth Avenue and Inca Street to sell their wares as Cha Cha Muchacha. Cheroute explained then that Cha Cha Muchacha is meant to be a flash venue, which is apparently even more ephemeral than a pop-up shop, so there's no telling if we'll see them there again, but a girl can hope. If you love Bakelite and circle skirts and other anachronistic goodies, keep your eyes peeled.

Promoter Amy Yetman, who test-ran the concept of the Horseshoe Market — a classic flea market crossed with a quality craft fair — on a sunny day last October, couldn't have hoped for better results. Called "horseshoe" because of the object's lucky connotations, the market offered nearly 100 booths of sheer serendipity: s, handmades, jewelry, clothing, plush toys and just about anything else one could imagine. It rocked the Berkeley 'hood like nobody's business. With that under her belt, Yetman's opted to bring it back for three Saturdays in 2011, beginning with a spring market on May 7. Be there or be square.

At the beginning of the year, the Federal Reserve Bank opened a 7,000-square-foot museum showcasing — you guessed it — money. The museum is free and open to the public on weekdays, and visitors can learn how to spot counterfeit money or take a peek at $30 million in cash stored in a box. But you don't have to settle for just looking at the green stuff; you can leave with a bag of straight cash, homie. Granted, it's $165 in shredded bills, but that doesn't mean you can't hit the local strip club and make it rain.

Whether you're a regular at the Crypt or just dropping in to buy a gift for that special horndog in your life, you can indulge your passion for porn while shopping, thanks to the good-sized screen flashing videos behind the checkout counter. While a sign in the store's back room, which is lined with rentals, asks that patrons keep their perusing to a chaste twenty minutes, there's no such limit up front.

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