An icon of Colorado's medical marijuana scene, Twirling Hippy Confections owner Jessica LeRoux was baking and selling her special cheesecakes and developing a following years before the medical marijuana industry took hold. But even with the transition to a commercial kitchen, her recipes are still some of the most delicious around. Her seasonal cheesecakes — like pumpkin pie around Halloween and Palisade Peach in August — have become fan favorites, but we love the simplicity of her traditional chocolate-and-caramel turtles, dubbed "Terrapins."

Best 18 Things Peyton Manning Should Know About Denver

Invesco Field at Mile High

Number 18, you're not in Indiana anymore. You may be Denver's most famous newcomer, but you're a newcomer, nonetheless — and there are certain things that every newcomer needs to know about this city if they're going to not just survive, but thrive. If they're going to come to see Denver as the very best possible place to live, as we do. Over the previous 28 editions of the Best of Denver, we've celebrated just about everything that makes this city special for newcomers and natives alike. So for veterans, the following list of eighteen things every Denverite should know will be a refresher course — but for you, Peyton Manning, it's the playbook.

1. This city really is a Mile High. Remember to breathe — and hydrate. Also, be careful when you're out drinking — but any NFL quarterback already knows that, right? And just in case, the Broncos appear to have defense attorney Harvey Steinberg on speed-dial.

2. Want proof that this city is really a Mile High? There's a plaque outside the State Capitol that marks the exact step that's 5,280 feet above sea level (more or less; like you, Peyton, it's settled some). A line around the top of the mayor's office in City Hall does the same; John Hickenlooper put it there when he ran the city (as governor, his desk is naturally higher). At City Park, you can work out along the Mile High Loop, which follows the city's contour lines and points out the spots where you're a mile high. And it's surprisingly easy to join the Mile High Club.

3. The mountains — with 54 (by the Colorado Mountain Club count) peaks over 14,000 feet — are to the west. Dove Valley is to the south. Indianapolis is to the east.

4. The City of Denver has not just one, but two bison herds. Buffalo Bill, who is buried on Lookout Mountain, was once the most famous man in the world — but you could beat him if you bring Denver a Super Bowl.

5. Since you have year-old twins, you'll want to go to Casa Bonita at least once. And, yes, it's even weirder than it seems on South Park.

6. Trey Parker and Matt Stone, the creators of South Park, are from here. If they can make a blockbuster hit out of The Book of Mormon (coming to Denver in August), you can survive the fallout from the virgin sacrifice of Tim Tebow.

7. The Denver Mint, a top tourist attraction, is right downtown. And, yes, it prints money — though perhaps not enough to cover your contract.

8. Although the Barnes Dance — the engineering marvel that allowed pedestrians to cross streets on the diagonal — disappeared last year, Denver's other infamous traffic-control invention, the Denver Boot, is still going strong. Two unpaid parking tickets in town and you could get sacked.

9. That yellow thing in the sky is the sun. And although those much-touted 300 days of sunshine a year in Denver actually translate to 300 days with at least one hour of sunshine, according to the Colorado Climate Center at Colorado State University, that's still a big improvement over Indiana.

10. Medical marijuana is one of the city's biggest growth industries, which is why Thanksgiving is affectionately dubbed "Danksgiving" here. But at least you'll have no problem getting "medication" for your bad neck.

11. The other big growth industry on the Front Range is beer production, and we frequently clock in at number one for craft beer. And Colorado is certainly the only state whose governor got his start in the public eye as a bar owner.

12. The Tattered Cover. Any city is lucky to have an independent bookstore that cares about the intellectual health of the community: Denver has three Tattered Covers alone.

13. Green chile might have originated in New Mexico, but it reached its apotheosis in Denver, where breakfast-burrito vendors peddle their wares at office buildings each weekday morning, and you can enjoy a green-chile-smothered Mexican hamburger, a definite Denver creation (unlike the much-celebrated cheeseburger).

14. Speaking of cheeseburgers, last fall the metro area got its first Steak 'n Shake, the only thing you might miss about Indiana.

15. Denver offers every kind of free public-park option: dog parks, skate parks, bike parks, walking parks, grassy parks, gay parks, terrain parks at Winter Park..and, above all, Red Rocks.

16. Jack Kerouac got the inspiration for On the Road during a trip to Denver; a plaque at My Brother's Bar commemorates the tab that Neal Cassady rang up there when it was known as Paul's Place. And the beat still goes on for the arts in this town, which sell more tickets than sporting events.

17. Our football stadium is not indoors. And Broncos purists will always refer to it as Mile High.

18. Broncos are a lot more rambunctious than Colts — and so are their fans.

Breakfast King
Mark Antonation

Joints that operate 24/7 are as American as apple pie and chocolate pudding, but they're also a dying breed, especially in this city, where 10 p.m. — sometimes 9 — is the time du jour for turning off the lights. But not at this fluorescent-lit diner, whose parade of characters is most abundant when the bars go dim. Here you can banter with sassy (but tolerant) gum-smacking waitresses wearing Day-Glo-orange aprons, presumably to keep you awake — or to stop you from doing a face plant in one of the bright-orange vinyl booths. Endearing idiosyncrasies aside, the food, which includes everything from chicken-fried steak and burgers to breakfast burritos to elk sausage (at a diner!), is exactly what your stomach yearns for when you want to feast like a king.

Readers' Choice: Pete's Kitchen

Coors Field

Old athletes are still young by everyday life standards — except for Jamie Moyer. The left-handed veteran (who got his first start against Steve Carlton) is attempting to make a comeback and to make the Rockies roster after missing last year recovering from Tommy John surgery. And after a slow start, he's now competing for the fifth starter position — complete with his wicked 67 mph pitches. Just that, and the fact that he made it to spring training, is commendable. No word on whether the Rockies staff has to accommodate him with a 4:30 p.m. dinner.

We take care of our own. While this notion has always held true in Denver, the sentiment was never driven home more convincingly than when 3 Kings Tavern co-owner Jim Norris was unexpectedly hospitalized after being bitten by a brown recluse spider. Norris spent nearly a week in the hospital, racking up a mountain of bills. But soon after news of his dilemma spread, a number of good friends, including Jerri Thiel and John Baxter, organized a series of benefits for the local music champion, and tons of bands stepped in to lend a hand. Way to go, Denver.

When the property that once held Time Capsule Studios — the iconic recording facility where a number of classic Denver albums were recorded — went into foreclosure and was taken over by the bank last May, Martin Anderson, a real-estate agent charged with overseeing the sale of the building, discovered what he suspected to be master recording reels left behind. Sensing that these tapes might contain irreplaceable recordings — with sentimental value for those who recorded them, if nothing else — he made arrangements for the tapes to be salvaged by Haylar Garcia, whose band Hippie Werewolves had recorded at Time Capsule, and whose Decibel Garden Studios agreed to serve as custodian of the reels at no charge. As a result, classic recordings from the likes of the Fluid and Christie Front Drive were saved.

Wealthy Victor is living the expatriate's dream in 1960s Europe, but he's very, very sad, nonetheless: His mistress Louise has just refused his offer of marriage. So he has come to the elegant cafe he owns in Paris intending to starve himself to death. The staff is horrified. They suggest feeding him an imaginary banquet, plate by luscious plate, in hopes of changing his mind. As Victor in the Boulder Ensemble Theatre Company's production of An Empty Plate in the Cafe de Grand Boeuf, John Arp sampled each imaginary dish judiciously (Arp is actually a trained chef), and while he did, he dictated his obituary to the distressed waiter. This is a character who could easily seem tedious and narcissistic, but Arp played him with such warmth and intelligence that you couldn't help hoping Louise would accept him — and that he'd have a bite to eat.

Curious Theatre Company

9 Circles, which had its regional premiere at Curious Theatre Company, is based on a real-life atrocity in Iraq: an incident in which a United States soldier entered a family home, raped and killed the fourteen-year-old daughter, killed both her parents and her six-year-old sister, then attempted to burn her body. Taking us into this man's mind is a serious challenge. As Daniel Reeves, Sean Scrutchins needed to be twitchy and almost blurrily out of focus at first, and then, by turns, difficult, belligerent, humorous, unaware and in a state of deep denial. Scrutchins was all this — and then he took us by the throat for the play's terrifying final scene, shaking us out of our complacency and then setting us back down again, forever changed.

Arvada Center for the Arts and Humanities
The Arvada Center

The character of Coalhouse Walker towers over the musical Ragtime, a panoramic take on the history of the early twentieth century based on the E.L. Doctorow novel. We are shown Walker's patient and ultimately victorious courtship of Sarah, the mother of his child; his pride, the insults he endures, and then his violent radicalization. When the actor scheduled to play Walker developed throat problems, understudy Tyrone Robinson took over the role of Walker a short time before Ragtime opened at the Arvada Center for the Arts. Tall and imposing, cocky and vulnerable, he gave full expression to the character's fierce tenderness and ambiguous morality, and his powerful, expressive voice commanded the stage.

Denver Center Theatre Company

We've seen domineering Petruchios, and Petruchios so glossily movie-star sexy that it's easy to understand why their Katherines fall for them. But in the Denver Center Theatre Company's production of The Taming of the Shrew, John G. Preston's Petruchio was sort of rugged-tough and sort of ham-fisted and sort of dopey-dusty all at the same time — and he managed to own the stage. He was so high-spirited that the usually unpleasant scene in which he beat Grumio came across more as masculine horseplay than bullying, and it was fun watching his bemusement at Katherine's ill-tempered sarcasm change slowly to respect, admiration and, ultimately, love.

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