Best Of :: Shopping & Services
Shopping for wine can be unbelievably intimidating. Do points matter? And exactly how the hell are you supposed to decipher dozens of bottles whose labels are in French? (No, we can't remember our eighth-grade conjugation, either.) Mondo Vino removes all the fear from the process by delivering a user-friendly experience that'll make you feel as comfortable as if you were browsing for books or scouring record crates in search of your favorite beats. Practically everyone we know has a Mondo story, and heaps praise upon the store's crazy-good selection and near-fanatical dedication to customer service. In search of a special sparkler to present to the host of Saturday night's dinner party? Mondo has a bottle for that. Thirsty for something cheap and uncomplicated to pound after a tough day at work? Mondo has a bottle for that, too. The staff is full of wine wizards who routinely reel off as many (or as few, if you're just not into it that day) obscure facts as you can absorb about practically every product in the store. Mondo delivers, it offers free tastings and, oh, yeah — it's about to launch a series of wine tours, crisscrossing wine regions from the Western Slope to Europe.
Readers' Choice: Mondo Vino
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."
Clothing designer Tina Joliffe and artist Vincent "Cheap" Fasano needed a place where they could combine their eclectic interests under one roof. They found it in Fast Geek Boutique, where Joliffe's cute frocks and Fasano's outsider art are both part of the decor, along with a mélange of accessories and sewing supplies. That alone would seem enough to fill the boutique's close quarters, but there's more: books and zines from Fast Geek Press (including poetry by Vincent's twin brother, Charly), cassette tapes by Analog Empire, artwork by found-object assemblage artist Heretik and local-music recordings from Suburban Home Records. And if that's not enough for you, Fast Geek also now houses 2011 Best of Denver winner eyeLAB, an eyeglass service offering trendy prescription eyewear on a sliding-scale basis. Now, swallow your shrinking pill like a good little Alice and walk in the door.
No matter where you rank psychics on the bullshit scale, local spirit-charmer Lawrence Woodson is good for an afternoon of personal reflection. With a family history in the business and sixteen years of experience on his own, Woodson moves past the crystal-ball shtick and into therapy territory by using his clients' personalities and histories to reinterpret them in the animal kingdom. Incense, deep conversation and lots of shut-eyed imagination all feature in his $45 attempts to match people with their animals. Woodson himself is a coyote, while members of the military, he says, are often chimpanzees. In rare cases, it's possible to have two animal spirits, but don't worry: Woodson doesn't charge extra.
A collaboration of Colorado Libraries for Early Literacy and Rocky Mountain PBS, this website offers video clips that show parents how to introduce songs, rhymes and "fingerplays" that will help stimulate and educate their offspring. There are different levels of pre-reading skills involved, targeting pre-schoolers, toddlers or swaddlers. It's a great way to get your rugrat building a vocabulary for that long journey to graduate school.
FACTORY | made divides and conquers: On one hand, it's a buyer's showcase for mostly local designers and independent manufacturers of furniture, body products, jewelry and accessories, stationery, clothing and just about anything freshly made by hand on the Front Range. On the other, it's a creative lab that provides tools and materials, fabrication space and production resources for sound, video and graphics, as well as networking and instruction opportunities for growing cottage industries. A living, breathing amalgam, FACTORY | made serves as a model of the future, encouraging discourse, creativity and community for people who might previously have worked alone or on the fringe.
Alicia Vargo's quest to help breast-cancer survivors started nine years ago, when a woman scheduled to undergo a double mastectomy walked into Vargo's Lone Tree shop, Pampered Passions Fine Lingerie. The woman was looking for answers. Vargo didn't have any, but she promised herself it would be the last time that she was taken off guard by the topic. In the years that followed, she hired several certified mastectomy fitters and started carrying post-mastectomy bras and prostheses. And she recently took the next step, opening an outpost of her shop at Porter Adventist Hospital that caters to patients undergoing treatment there, providing one-stop shopping — and, more important, answers — for many more women.
I want candy. You want candy. Deep down inside, in a private place, doesn't everyone? If you haven't outgrown the excitement of opening up your Halloween bag after a night of extorting your neighbors for sugary treats, take yourself and your weakness to Sugarlicious in Cherry Creek North, where confections of every kind, from chocolate-covered Gummi bears to Pez, spill over from 250 plastic bins along the wall. It's also the place for the sweetest party favors and hostess gifts, and sisters Jill Landman Alfond (the owner) and Stacey Landman (the manager) are also set up to help customers plan dessert buffets for parties and weddings. The bottom line is that you don't have to be Creekish to stop in for a secret stash of wax candy bottles and Nunu's chocolates. Sugarlicious is for everyone.
Readers' Choice: Rocket Fizz Soda Pop and Candy Shop
CU-Denver MBA candidate Andrea Burns first conceived of the idea for LoyalTee — a fledgling business that creates T-shirts celebrating favorite (and sometimes esoteric) local haunts — as a class project in 2010. Then, with fellow entrepreneur Todd Culter, Burns went on to create a modest line of ten shirts, honoring everything from the Rocky Flats Lounge to the Tivoli building to the old Mile High Stadium, from a clearly (but sweetly) biased point of view. And finally, as a bonus, the tiny company puts its money where its heart is: Not only is the tag on each tee a postcard telling the history of the place it celebrates, but LoyalTee lives up to its name by donating a percentage of each sale to the lauded businesses. They've since added a couple of designs — one with the Colorado State flag — but the quality remains high. LoyalTee has its heart in all the right places. Show your loyalty at www.loyalteeshirts.com.
We could give Mi Pueblo Market a lot of awards — Best Our Lady of Guadalupe Setup in a Grocery Store, Best Use of Reggaetón as Mood Music, Best Life-Sized Cardboard Diorama of Women Making Tortillas — but we've got to hand it to the cakes. From a tiny bakery within the grocery store, fresh and delicious sheet cakes appear in the glass cases daily. Adorned with semi-sweet frosting and lots of flair, Mi Pueblo cakes are made for birthdays, national holidays, religious holidays, soccer matches and sexy-whatever days. Oh, and if you're looking for a cake wearing a Ken doll sitting comfortably in a stream of sugar champagne, this is probably the only place in town to get it.
The Denver Cruisers take care of their own, and they stepped up that credo last year with the introduction of Human Powered Transit Authority, a pop-up, hole-in-the-wall stop where cruisers could hang while perusing through the latest in bicycle baskets, bells and horns. But the temporary shop — conceived of and run by Denver Cruiser and jewelry designer Andrea Li — was primarily a costume shop that tailored its stock to the weekly cruiser ride's changing themes, and when the cruising season was over, it was gone. The good news from Denver Cruiser big wheel Brad Evans is that the store will most likely be back in time for the May launch of this year's season, though with a new name — "House O' Wheels" is being bandied about — and location. And that's likely to be close to the recently transformed Wheel Club 404, at 404 Broadway, which is shaping up as the new Denver Cruisers meeting place. Let the cruising begin.
Sure, it's the most romantic day of the year. A day for butterfly kisses, red roses, heart-shaped chocolates, blah, blah, blah. But even if you don't go in for all that Hallmark crap, it's worth picking February 14 to tie the knot at City Hall. The folks at the Denver Clerk and Recorder's Office do it up big, with prizes (wine! theater tickets! a trip for two on Southwest Airlines!), a gratis wedding photographer and one of the best officiants in the biz: Herbert "Herbie the Love Judge" Galchinsky. They even provide plastic gold rings if you don't have your own, making it easy for everyone to say "I do."