Tuesday, May 21, 2013

spring time in denver's congress park (with asparagus-dill bisque)

It's been almost three months since we bought our home in the Congress Park neighborhood of Denver. Our house is historic; it was built the year Grover Cleveland was President and 4 years before the Spanish-American War- so it's old. At first we were nervous about things going wrong and being responsible for repairs- all of which I think is perfectly normal for home buyers of historic homes. But I've got to tell you, now that we’re settling into things, this house just feels right. I love the character, the details and the charm. We've also been working hard at making the space feel homey, which is a bit of a challenge considering the size. But we purchased a few good pieces of furniture and I scooped up some terrific finds at a vintage shop on the outskirts of town. I've also been diligently  scouring the antique/used stores on Colfax too. Slowly our pictures are getting framed and we've begun to hang mirrors and artwork on the walls. In short, the house is beginning to have our imprint. And that feels great... 

One of the things that I love about our neighborhood is its walkability factor. My husband and I own one car, so when he drives to work (usually 1 or 2 days a week) I've still got plenty to do. I can walk to Congress Park (which has a great public pool in the summer), and City Park (which has awesome free Jazz concerts in the summer), and the Botanic Gardens too. If my kids are well-behaved, I can also walk to the Museum of Nature & Science and the Zoo. 

The Shoppe (cupcakes) on Colfax

There are tons of great places to eat close by-- cupcake shops, taco shops, speciality bakeries, Ethiopian food, sushi, Greek restaurants, music venues, wine bars, the Tattered Cover bookstore, an independent movie theater, bistro-style cafes, a bicycle shop that carries Dutch cruisers, a few independent coffee shops, a yarn store, and the a weekly farmers market on Sunday (etc. etc.). In other words, there's a lot going on.

I've met a lot of my neighbors and our kids all play together outside. And in addition to the families in our neighborhood, there are also lots of artists, chefs, designers, musicians and gardeners. It's really a great mix of everything...that's why we like it so much. I'm happy to say, that after a long and winding road to home ownership and stability, Congress Park feels like home...

The architectural mix includes (primarily) 1890s-early 1900s Denver Squares, turn of the century Victorians, and early craftsman (American bungalows). There are some deco buildings from the 1920s and 30s as well, and a few row houses are scattered throughout the neighborhood too. But unlike this Denver neighborhood, there aren't many modern structures in our part of town. Congress Park also has some pretty spectacular mansions as you head toward 8th Avenue and over into Country Club. And this (below) former fire station has since been converted into a family home. It's awesome!

Pinche Taco, amazing happy hour and...tacos. (Colfax)

East High School, built in 1921

Fat Sully's, Atomic Cowboy and the Denver Biscuit Company, all under one roof on Colfax. 

Glaze's Mini Baum Cakes: layers of lemon cake with limoncello glaze  and strawberry mousse. Their baum bites with green tea and white chocolate is also amazing. Congress Park, Madison off 12th Avenue.

* * *

And a spring time soup...
Asaparagus Bisque with Fresh Dill (Courtesy of Anna Thomas, Love Soup)
1 1/4 lbs. green asparagus
2 medium leeks
1 large fennel bulb
zest+juice of a lemon
2 tablespoons unsalted butter (you could substitute with olive oil)
3 tablespoons arborio rice 
1 1/2 teaspoons salt, plus more to taste
2 1/2 cups light vegetable broth
1/2 cup finely chopped fresh dill, plus more to taste
white pepper (I used black)
2-3 tablespoons heavy cream (optional)
Using a vegetable peeler or sharp knife, thinly peel the bottom 2 or 3 inches of the asparagus stalks, then snap off the toughest bits at the bottoms (peeling the bottoms first allows you to keep much more of the stalk.) Cut the stalks into 1-inch pieces; you should have about 4 cups.
Wash the leeks and chop the white and light green parts only. Trim, wash, and chop the fennel bulb. Grate the zest of the lemon, making sure to get only the yellow and none of the white pith.
Melt the butter in a large skillet or soup pot and cook the leeks over medium heat for 8 to 10 minutes, until they are soft and begin to take on a hint of color. Add the asparagus, fennel, lemon zest, rice, 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt, and 3 cups of water and bring to a boil. Turn the heat down and simmer uncovered for about half an hour, or until all the vegetables are tender.
Add 2 cups of vegetable broth, the dill, and a pinch of each pepper and cayenne.
Puree the soup in a blender, in batches, until it is perfectly smooth. (I usually use an immersion blender for pureed soups, but asparagus is fibrous, so you might want to use that blender in order to get it really smooth.) Add broth if the soup seems too thick. Return the pureed soup to a clean pot and stir in a couple of teaspoons of fresh lemon juice, more if you like. Bring the soup back to a simmer, taste it ,and season with tiny amounts of pepper, and more salt if needed. Stir in 2-3 tablespoons of cream if you are making the asparagus a bisque (or more precisely a "cream soup" as traditionally bisque refers to smooth, cream soups, based on a broth from crustaceans).
Ladle and enjoy!
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  1. Theo reminds me of you. Don't take this wrong, but I assume you know the bike helmet needs to ride on the forehead so if the child falls forward, the helmet is hit. Just the nurse in me. Dr. Abe Bergman the activist for bike helmets is from Seattle, WA and he practiced at Children's. Is one of those houses pictured, yours?

    1. Hi Dara, I think you mean Otis-- and I didn't take it the wrong way. Over the weekend my neighbor said the same thing, so we are getting a larger helmet and Theo will get the old one as a hand-me-down. And yes, our home is in the group. :) Hope you're enjoying spring in Seattle!

  2. I love The Shoppe! The staff is super nice and the cupcakes are amazing. So far my favorites are Lucky Charms, Beer + Pretzel, and Banana Nutella. YUM!

    1. Hi Emily, Isn't The Shoppe the best!!! I'm a sucker for their salted caramel and nutella. The cookie dough is great too. As are all the fruit-based ones. And the samoa and super villain. Gah! I go there a lot! Yeah, the staff is awesome too. And there's a frequent buyer card too (which I found out about only a few weeks ago :( Do you live in the neighborhood?

  3. Batya, what a gorgeous neighborhood and congrats on your home. Do you know that we planned a trip to Denver because of your blog!!! We will certainly walk around Congress Park on our Botanic Garden day! You take such beautiful pictures. What kind of camera do you use?

    1. HI Marge! Thanks and that's so cool. Have an awesome trip!! I use an old(er) Canon Rebel EOS xSi- I'd love to upgrade but I still haven't figured out all the bells and whistles on the one I have-- and right now I don't have much spare time...but one day!