True Romance

Seven perfect dates in and around the Mile High City for you and that special someone.

February 2011

1. Escape to the Mediterranean (sort of)

Whenever it is a cold, snowy February in my soul—whenever I (and we) need a bit of sunshiney warmth in the middle of the long winter—my wife and I grab a little bit of Mediterranean culture right here in the Mile High City. We start with brunch at Olivéa, which sets the tone for our short escape with sunny windows that face East 17th Avenue, and southern European–inspired eats. One might choose the eggs Olivéa, served with polenta, pine nuts, and San Marzano tomato sauce (and that would be a fine choice), but I am a sucker for the breakfast flatbread with eggs, onion, and smoked bacon, which has the magical effect of whisking me off to the south of France, or somewhere in Italy or Spain…you get the picture.

And although we may not have Frank Ghery’s Guggenheim Museum Bilbao in the Mile High City, the MCA Denver is a wonderful stand-in—an inspired building that houses avant-garde art and is just about the right size for a lazy weekend morning stroll with your significant other. After perusing the galleries, we head to the roof, where you can enjoy a glass of—you guessed it—a Spanish Malbec from the cafe.--Geoff Van Dyke

In the Know Brunch at Olivéa wouldn’t be complete without the near-perfect Bloody Mary, which comes garnished with mozzarella, basil, and a cherry tomato.

The Details Olivéa: 719 E. 17th Ave., 303-861-5050, olivearestaurant.com; MCA Denver: 1485 Delgany St., 303-298-7554, mcadenver.org


2. Step back in time on a walking tour

On a recent Saturday morning, I asked my boyfriend out on a date. The itinerary? A Denver Story Trek walking audio tour. Launched in 2008 by Historic Denver and the Denver Office of Cultural Affairs, Story Trek offers more than six free downloadable audio tours of the city on topics ranging from how the city was settled to notable historical characters. There was a problem with my plan, though: My boyfriend was unconvinced. “We live in Denver,” he replied. “Why would we need a tour of it?”

Turns out, there was a lot we didn’t know about our hometown. With a good pair of walking shoes and a cell phone in hand so we could call the Story Trek line at each stop, we started on “Shedding the Frontier Rawness.” We wandered past Cheesman Park, the Governor’s Residence, and the Crawford Hill Mansion, and learned that it only took 50 years for Denver to transform from a hodgepodge assembly of prospecting cabins to a city with stately mansions. All in all, the seven-mile trek took about four hours and ended at Civic Center Park. Afterward, we settled into nearby Cap City Tavern to rehash the experience over a microbrew. After a pint, we were still undecided about whether the histories or the walk were the best part of the date. What we did agree on was that we wanted to do more Story Treks. My vote was for “Women of the West;” my boyfriend wants to try “Stage Stops, Railroads, and Street Cars.” We may just have to do both. —Allie Gardner

Customize It Create a Story Trek of your own by selecting individual story sites and building a route. When you arrive at a site, text “Trek Go” to 56512 to receive scavenger hunt–like clues via text.

The Details Denver Story Trek: denverstorytrek.org; Cap City Tavern: 1247 Bannock St., 720-931-8888, capcitytavern.com

3. Savor a (private) dinner at Solera’s bar

My husband and I have lived in Denver for so long now that it’s virtually impossible to go on a date without running into someone we know—which is no way to spend a romantic night out. So lately, we’ve been planning our evenings around spots that sit off the beaten downtown path. In particular, we steal away to Solera Restaurant & Wine Bar, on a lonely strip of East Colfax Avenue. Though usually busy, the upscale eatery—complete with warm walls and a handsome, dark bar—has, thus far, been a haven free from run-ins. We like pulling our stools close together, bowing our heads over the cocktail list (ask for the refreshing spiced pear martini), and quietly discussing how best to tackle the menu. And then, it’s on to the free-flowing conversation that date night is all about. —Amanda M. Faison

In the Know Avoid unwanted run-ins with acquaintances and friends by skipping happy hour (Tuesday through Sunday, 5–7 p.m.), but make sure to take advantage of the all-you-can-eat mussel night on Tuesdays for just $17.

The Details 5410 E. Colfax Ave., 303-388-8429, solerarestaurant.com

4. Slow Down in Evergreen

A few years ago, my new girlfriend and I got in a car and headed up I-70 to Evergreen on a cool autumn day. It’s not a long trip, and looking back now, I don’t even remember what we talked about. What I do remember is how quickly we settled into the ride. We talked some, and then we didn’t. The conversation wasn’t forced, and the silence wasn’t awkward.

When we got to Evergreen, we wound our way to the lake and parked. You can stroll around the water’s edge in all seasons; the trail is about a mile and half, and an easy walk or snowshoe. During the summer, fishermen cast and recast, but they never seem to catch anything. When the lake freezes, the folks at the lake house plow the ice and rent skates to those willing to brave the wind and cold for a chance to hold hands while they glide across the ice. After our walk that day, the good conversation kept flowing—over a glass of wine in town and on the drive back to Denver. A little more than three years after that first trip, we went back to Evergreen on an icy December day. Skaters were out on the pond, but I steered her toward the path. At the edge of the lake, I got down on one knee and pulled a ring from my pocket. She said yes. —Patrick Doyle

Refuel Listen to live music at the Little Bear or head to Creekside Cellars for a wine flight and a cinnamon brownie.

The Details Evergreen Lake House: 29614 Upper Bear Creek Road, 720-880-1300, evergreenrecreation.com; Little Bear: 28075 Highway 74, 303-674-9991, littlebearsaloon.com; Creekside Cellars: 28036 Highway 74, 303-674-5460, creeksidecellars.net

5. Tour the Front Range by Helicopter

One day not long ago, my husband called around lunchtime on a Tuesday to “reserve” me for the night. He said he’d pick me up after work but left me guessing about the evening’s destination—even when I asked why we were exiting the highway at Broomfield for our big date.

We stopped at a tiny airstrip and boarded a Rotors of the Rockies Robinson 44 helicopter for an hour-long sunset tour of the foothills. Our pilot fitted us with mic’d headsets so my husband could clearly hear me oooh and ahhh at the views of the Flatirons, downtown Boulder, Folsom Field, Red Rocks Amphitheatre, the mesa-rich geography near Golden, and Denver’s twilight-bathed skyline. Our pilot, after politely asking if we liked roller coasters, threw in a few freefall-like dips and a handful of steep, banking inclines, making sure the atypical weeknight date left us—and our pulses—aflutter. —Lindsey B. Koehler

Timekeeper Remember that the sun sets earlier during the winter months (usually around 5:33 p.m. in February), so plan to leave work early to make it to Broomfield on time. Bonus: An early flight allows plenty of time to grab dinner in nearby Boulder.

The Details Rotors of the Rockies: 11915 Airport Way, Broomfield, 303-635-0496, rotorsoftherockies.com

6. Heat it up at a cooking class

A fragrant kitchen is the perfect place to have fun with your loved one by engaging your senses (especially when there are no dishes to be done at the end). Thus, the delicious appeal of taking a cooking class as a duo. During a recent three-hour lesson, the cheerful café-kitchen echoed with couples’ intimate laughter—the kind when you’ve forgotten about your long day at work and the mess at home, and are just enjoying the adventure of learning something new together.

There was something intoxicating about that night (besides the wine): A heady combination of simmering sauces and the anticipation of a decadent meal made the outside world seem far away. When the cooking was done, the class sat down for a three-course feast, clinked glasses over a truffle risotto, and toasted each other on a dinner to remember. —Julie Dugdale

Smart Choice A trip to the emergency room is not a good way to end the night, so instead of Knife Skills, opt for a newbie-friendly couples class.

The Details The Seasoned Chef Cooking School: 999 Jasmine St., 303-377-3222, theseasonedchef.com; Cook Street School of Culinary Arts: 1937 Market St., 303-308-9300, cookstreet.com

7. Hit the right notes at DazzleJazz

When it comes to live music, I catch as many shows as I can, and Denver’s growing list of venues gives me plenty of options when I’m out with friends. When I’m seeing a concert on a date, though, the rules change a bit: We could check out that hot new indie band at the Bluebird or Ogden theaters—or that even newer and almost-hot indie band at the Hi-Dive or Larimer Lounge—but chances are the noise levels will relegate us to synchronized head-bobbing and occasional, semidecipherable observations shouted into each other’s ears.

For a more date-y experience, I go to DazzleJazz. This plush lounge features some of Denver’s best jazz, a genre that—regardless of whether you’re a fan—allows for intimate conversation in a refined environment that makes me seem more upscale than I really am. (I actually am a jazz lover, just not a terribly sophisticated one.) The club also offers entrées (try the grilled cheese sandwich made with Brie and lingonberries) and small plates, so we can dine while we soak in the melodies and get acquainted. For a nightcap, I like to head over to Uptown’s D Bar Desserts, which has a rich menu of treats and complementary wines to bring an end to the evening that’s sweet and—hopefully—romantic. —Luc Hatlestad

In the Know Plan ahead for DazzleJazz, a nationally known club where some acts sell out a week or two in advance. At D Bar Desserts, try the cake and shake combo—a three-layer chocolate cake with a chocolate or vanilla shake or malt that’s so sinfully gorgeous it once graced 5280’s cover.

The Details DazzleJazz: 930 Lincoln St., 303-839-5100, dazzlejazz.com; D Bar Desserts: 1475 E. 17th Ave., 303-861-4710, dbardesserts.com