A Very Merry Denver Thanksgiving

Ever since moving to Los Angeles seven years ago, my Thanksgiving tradition is to spend the holiday with my Uncle David in Denver. Highlights include the United Way Turkey Trot and a superb Thanksgiving meal with a lively group of friends, followed the next day by a mountain trek in search of a perfect Christmas tree (more on that tomorrow).

This year I flew into Denver a day early to spend some extra time with my uncle. I left LAX on a spectacularly clear day; you can see Catalina in the distance.

IMG_7576.jpg

Mid-flight, the pilot calls our attention to the Grand Canyon on the right side of the plane. I peer out my window between cat naps and catch a glimpse of the snow-capped Rockies just before we begin our descent.

I land just in time to join my uncle for a restorative yoga class at his gym. After our bodies are properly restored (including a post-class mediation session), we grab dinner nearby at Cherry Creek Grill. I can vouch that their Macho Salad (greens, shredded chicken, avocado, tomatoes, chopped dates, almonds, and cornbread croutons) is THE tastiest salad I’ve ever eaten.

Then Steve joins us for a glass of wine! That’s Steve on the right and my Uncle David on the left below. Steve and his partner Richard host us (and about 10-15 other people…!) for Thanksgiving dinner every year. They are the definition of gracious hosts.

IMG_7600.jpg

The next day we return to the gym to further prepare for the Turkey Trot. It’s only four miles long but I’m out of shape and need to up my game.

For lunch we try a brand new restaurant: True Food Kitchen, featuring a menu based on Dr. Andrew Weil’s anti-inflammatory diet. I enjoy the Autumn Ingredients Salad (with Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, squash, mulberries, pomegranate and horseradish vinaigrette) and the Kale Aid juice. We sample the apple crisp and the squash pie (a variation on pumpkin pie) with coconut whipped cream for dessert; check out this tasty goodness in the photo below. Everything is outstanding and I just discovered they have a Santa Monica location… who wants to check it out with me?

And our friend Andy joins us for a spot of tea with dessert. It is a treat to see him.

IMG_1640 1.jpg

Now it’s time to do the heavy lifting: our contribution to Thanksgiving dinner each year is the table centerpiece. If you think we get off easy by skipping the food preparation, let me demonstrate just how much effort my uncle puts into this task. I could do a whole post on his annual tablescapes. I just stand back and photograph the master at work!

His friend and florist extraordinaire (also named David, coincidentally) owns More Flowers in Denver and supplies the flora for the arrangement. There’s always a theme, and the past few years it’s been scaled back to uncomplicated, bold pieces: think square glass vases with striking flowers, or magnolia branches and candles lining the table. One year it was all sustainable and reusable products (fruit, gourds, etc.) that guests could take home with them after the meal. But this year one of our hosts requested a return to the glory days of overflowing, complex centerpieces that “looked like Martha Stewart died on the table.” With that theme nailed down, David & David set to work the night before Thanksgiving to layout this gorgeous spread:

IMG_7639.jpg

Here’s the uber-talented David of More Flowers positioning some of the tablescape elements:

IMG_7643.jpg

From this high angle it looks like an overflowing cornucopia. The bold, rich colors are fantastic.

IMG_7659.jpg

After setting up most of the table (we save the candles and a few more final touches for the next day), my uncle and I drive back to his place just in time to catch the sun setting over downtown Denver.

IMG_7610 1.jpg

IMG_7622.jpg

We whip up some soup, salad, bread, and white wine for dinner. Uncle David has food presentation down to an art.

And as my uncle leaves to pick up my sister at the airport, I work on whipping up a Bourbon Pecan Pie that we’ll bring to dinner the next day. It’s rather easy to make and (spoiler alert) gets rave reviews from our Thanksgiving friends. It’s especially tasty with freshly whipped cream with a little Bourbon.

IMG_7673.jpg

And now… HAPPY THANKSGIVING!! We rise early and head over to Wash Park for my seventh Denver Turkey Trot in a row.

IMG_1642.jpg

Every year we chuckle at the goofy turkey-related outfits that many race participants don. Some people dress up in full costume (Pilgrims and Indians are recurring favorites), while other wear funny hats or Thanksgiving accent pieces (like an Indian headdress). And year after year we lament that we should have prepared something. Wouldn’t it be fun to partake in the Turkey Trot costume show?

So last September while we were in Florida celebrating my grandfather’s 85th birthday, my sister and I found these turkey hats at the local Target. Our uncle happened to be with us, so we stealthily purchased the hats and hid them in our suitcases. The night before Thanksgiving, we surprised him with our own Turkey Trot bling! Uncle David is an enthusiastic sport and we take some fun photos.

IMG_1644 1.jpg

The race is only four miles long, but I consider it my athletic benchmark for the year: can I run the whole thing in a decent time? It usually takes me around 45 minutes, and this year is no exception. Personal athletic challenge passed!

IMG_1657 1.jpg

And I am happy to report that the turkey hats stay on the whole time. The night before I sewed chin straps on each hat, and they do the trick.

IMG_1659.jpg

These guys are all tuckered out from the race:

IMG_7680.jpg

After showering and consuming Dazbog Coffee (I am obsessed with their caramel latte), we set off for Thanksgiving dinner at Steve & Richard’s.

Here’s the centerpiece with candles lit and sprigs of greenery on every place setting:

IMG_7737.jpg

IMG_7707.jpg

IMG_7694.jpg

And here’s an action shot of Uncle David putting on the final touches:

IMG_7719.jpg

We are very serious about photographing this masterpiece. Steve even uses a ladder this year, instead of precariously balancing on a chair.

IMG_7747.jpg

A new touch to our Turkey Day tradition is a slideshow of Thanksgivings past set up on a laptop. It’s fun to gather around and watch younger versions of ourselves looking back from the screen. We’ve built lots of great memories in this dining room over the years.

IMG_7796.jpg

IMG_7764.jpg

Here are some shots of our group: host Richard and his childhood friend Laura from Texas on the left, and then Jayne and David on the right (sipping one of Steve’s famous Bloody Marys).

Here’s a shot of my sister and me:

IMG_7786.jpg

And here’s a partial group shot I snapped while Steve prepared to take the official annual photo on his handy dandy ladder.

IMG_7754.jpg

Steve’s DSLR camera wirelessly uploads to his desktop computer. This technology is amazing and I need to get on it ASAP.

Here’s the official group photo, minus two of the kiddos who were downstairs watching a movie:

IMG_7806.jpg

Are you ready for the food? Prepare yourselves, because it is EPIC.

Let’s start with the Brussels sprouts, which we grill. Grilling them makes all the difference: they come out slightly charred and full of flavor.

IMG_7772.jpg

I never liked stuffing as a kid, but THIS stuffing is a highlight of the meal for me. I don’t even know what they put in it, but it’s outrageously good. Check out those gooey, marshmellowy sweet potatoes in the center. Then on the right is a turkey breast that has been brined and cooked to perfection. It’s a supplement to the main turkey and full of white meat if that’s your preference. Oh, and that’s fresh cranberry sauce/relish with orange zest in the upper right corner. Not pictured are green beans, mashed potatoes, and freshly baked rolls.

IMG_7894.jpg

This is the main turkey. It tastes as perfect as it looks.

IMG_7773.jpg

Here are some fun shots of our friends as we salivate in anticipation of the food:

IMG_7851.jpg

IMG_7849.jpg

IMG_7812.jpg

And here’s one last view of the table. We’ve added Pellegrino, red wine, and white wine.

IMG_7780.jpg

IMG_7803.jpg

Steve and Richard lead us in grace. We are so thankful for another year around this table with each other, and grateful for our other friends and family celebrating around the country.

IMG_7885.jpg

I sneak up the stairs to grab this shot during the meal (ha, notice my empty plate below — this was right before I went in for seconds). I love this shot because it shows the cozy atmosphere of our holiday meal. It is such an honor to sit at this table, with these terrific people, every year.

IMG_7903.jpg

And now for dessert! (I promise we took a breather after dinner. Dishes are washed and dried.)

Check out my pie on the right below. And that mound of freshly whipped cream (with Bourbon) is literally the icing on the cake pie.

IMG_7906.jpg

And this what the table looks like by the end of the night:

IMG_7908.jpg

I’m full just looking at these photos! What a meal. If I had to pick a “last supper,” it would be Thanksgiving dinner at Steve & Richard’s.

Then we drink some more wine and play Catch Phrase before going home to bed. It’s a perfect day.

I’d like to extend a special THANK YOU to the incomparable Steve and Richard for hosting us all so graciously each year. You are two bright lights that I am so blessed to know.

And another major THANK YOU to Uncle David for so generously inviting us to Denver year after year. It is a tradition I am so thankful for!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *