Colorado has beautiful skies. These clouds are not serious about being clouds. They are wispy and frothy, they remind me of that cottony fake snow cloth we see at Christmas time. Colorado has been granted extra sky space compared to other regions, a great background for the stern and sturdy mountain ranges.
We are a happy group and we have a lot of questions about the menu. It is like nothing we Midwesterners have ever seen. All our restaurants revolve around meat and now we need to think outside that box, that beefy box.
Look at this smiley guy. He aggressively dislikes having his picture taken. He did not allow me to use my camera last time I visited him. I say pooh! to all this and snap away. He has three pens in his sleeve pocket.
I love Boulder. I could live here. The city's dedication to clean air, outdoor exercise, and environmental beauty becomes a heady thing for me. Billboards are not allowed as it interferes with the natural views. "BusBikeWalk - it's the Boulder Way to go" is the city's logo. And runners and cyclists and hikers are everywhere. Everywhere. There are biker lanes on every street and on the busiest streets those lanes are as wide as the car lanes. It is state law that motorists yield to pedestrians and cyclists at all times. Outdoor exercise is revered - it is an art form, a philosophy, a religion. Cyclists have a different attitude in this city. They know they are the sacred cows and they can go anywhere they want to. And the fact that the winter's average temps are in the 40's and 50's and that most snow melts in the winter sunshine which is plentiful is also a persuading factor for me. I have been here many times over the fifteen years Jason has lived here - well, off and on, mostly. And I still get shivers when I see the mountains appear above the highway.
We see the ugly smoke cloud churning dirty and brown hundreds of feet in the air above Loveland which has just been evacuated. A truck backed into a propane tank and Colorado is burning. All that dry Ponderosa pine is ideal fire food. We are a messy, smelly, destructive group of animals, we humans.
Jason is working, of course, at Leaf, the vegetarian restaurant. We drive down to the Pearl Street pedestrian mall with its many quaint and quirky shops. Leaf is a lovely place with cool blue and camel- flecked slabs of stone on the wall. There are abundant natural plants and the walls are in cool shades of turquoise and pale green. The lights are encased in huge balls of wrapped cord and there are rocks in the bottom of the sinks in the bathroom. Don't quite understand that one yet. Our waitress sports long braids and long ocean blue earrings tipped in orange. She glows with good health. At last Jason comes out. He is wearing a bright green chef's smock over his t-shirt and it looks like he performed surgery with all the stains. Plaid bermuda shorts, black clogs and socks with a reindeer pattern. Typical Boulder garb. We are presented with the menu and every entree has a paragraph of explanation, a long list of veggies - some recognizable, some not - and later Dad admitted to Jason that when he first saw the menu, he felt frightened, silly papa. I see many things that I would like and I toy with the idea of the vegetable alfredo. Jason later brings me a sample of the cheese sauce and it is marvelous, cashew based but tasting like Italy's finest. So I order the butternut squash -walnut soup with pumpkin seeds sprinkled atop, a good autumn selection. I always loved the squash/pumpkin-based soups in Jamaica and there is nutmeg in this one, always a good contribution. I have a salad: greens with avocado, tomatoes, egg, crumbly bleu cheese, cucumber, and tempah: a compressed smoky-flavored soybean bar that (barely) passes for bacon - there are so many ingredients in each dish. Dad tries a Vegetable Wellington - turns out to be a puff pastry filled with vegetables and a very meaty-tasting gravy which is actually made from mushrooms and red wine. Dave tries a palento stack surrounded by tomatoes, artichokes, oh, many other things and everything was wonderful. My father says this is the most unusual meal he has ever had and he deems it very, very good. He says a new world has been opened to him, this at age 86.
The wait staff comes out one by one and introduce themselves. They seem genuinely glad to make our acquaintances and they all love Jason. That is the word they use. Our waiter, a graduate student from the University of Massachusetts, says Jason will come out and take orders when things get overwhelming. He seems amazed by that. Well, you know that good old Midwestern work ethic. Jason comes out every few minutes and talks to us but then needs to hurry back to his kitchen. His name is at the bottom of the menu, Jason Connelly - Executive Chef. Dad is pleased with the linen napkins.
We make plans to meet at Jason's house in the morning and start our exploration of western Colorado. Did I mention our toilets have a half flush/full flush option? I say good night to Dad at our doors and I know that the night hours alone in the hotel room are difficult for him.