Garden of the Gods

Anyone visiting Colorado should definitely make their way to Colorado Springs to visit the Garden of the Gods.  The rock formations, with their vibrant reddish-orange color, are visually stunning against the back drop of Pikes Peak and the surrounding foothills.  It is hard to imagine that the majestic orange sandstone rocks that are so beautiful today were once sand dunes millions of years ago when an inland sea covered the area.  It is this vast geological history with all of the forces that produced the Rocky Mountains that gave birth to the rock formations that make up the Garden of the Gods.

Garden of the Gods
Garden of the Gods
Pikes Peak
Pikes Peak

Many people are aware that Colorado is an active area for discovering dinosaur fossils, but most people don’t associate that with the Garden of the Gods.  The Garden of the Gods Visitor and Nature Center opened an exhibit in 2008 to celebrate the discovery of a new species of dinosaur based on fossils that were found in the park.  The discovery actually occurred in 1878, but the fossil was misidentified as a Camptosaurus and it wasn’t until 2006 that it was reexamined and determined to be a new genus and species.

Dinosaur Exhibit
Dinosaur Exhibit
Fossil Skull
Fossil Skull

The park offers great activities for people of all ages.  There are hiking trails, nature walks, Jeep and Segway tours, rock climbing, or even bird watching as there are many species of birds that make the rocks their home.  Rock Ledge Ranch, located within the park, is also worth a visit as it provides a glimpse into the early settlers and native inhabitants of the Pikes Peak region.  Whether capturing images with a camera or a canvas, Mother Nature has made sure that there is plenty of picture perfect opportunities.

Rock Climber
Rock Climber
Steamboat Rock
Steamboat Rock

Not surprisingly, over time people have given names to many of the formations within the park.  Some are obvious such as Balanced Rock.  Others are more imaginative, such as Three Graces, The Cathedral Spires, Getaway Rock, or Steamboat Rock.  None is probably as famous as the Kissing Camels, which is an often debated conversation amongst the visiting tourists as to whether they really look like camels.  With or without names, each of the different rock formations is inspiring to realize that time, weather, and geological upheaval could reveal something so amazing and beautiful.

Balanced Rock
Balanced Rock
Kissing Camels
Kissing Camels

Fittingly enough, the park got its name from a couple of surveyors who were exploring the local area.  When they came across the park and its natural beauty, M. S. Beach, for whom the story is attributed, stated that it would “be a capital place for a beer garden”.  The other surveyor, named Rufus Cable, replied “Beer Garden!  Why it is a fit place for the Gods to assemble.  We will call it the Garden of the Gods”.  The name stuck and after a long day hiking and climbing in the park, a beer is the perfect complement to a day outdoors.

Rock Formations
Rock Formations
Garden of the Gods
Garden of the Gods

Obviously there are other attractions in the Colorado Springs area that are all worth a visit as well.  Places like the Cave of the Winds, Pikes Peak Scenic Highway, the Cog Railway to the summit of Pikes Peak, Seven Falls, or the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, just to name a few.  But a visit to Garden of the Gods is on the top of our list of sites that need to be seen, not just in Colorado Springs, but in the whole state.

Behind Kissing Camels
Behind Kissing Camels
Chimney Rock
Chimney Rock

Colorado Craft Beers #1

We’re fortunate to live in the state that has well over 150 different microbreweries and brew pubs.  It would probably be ambitious of us to think that we can visit them all, but we’re willing to give it a try :).  Just to be clear, a microbrewery is a traditional brewery brewing craft beers for wholesale on a limited scale and a brew pub is where beers are brewed and served on the premise of a pub or restaurant.  We enjoy going to both, but our focus is going to be on visiting the microbreweries.  This past week we visited Bristol Brewing Company in Colorado Springs, which is definitely a slightly different experience than other microbreweries that we’ve visited in the past.

Bristol Brewery Beer Vats
Bristol Brewery Beer Vats
Bristol Brewery and Pub
Bristol Brewery and Pub

Bristol Brewing Company is now located inside of an elementary school called Ivy Wild that was built in 1916.  In 2012, Bristol Brewing Company and several other businesses including a delicatessen called The Principal’s Office, The Old School Bakery, and an espresso/cocktail bar took over the school to create a unique eating and drinking environment.  As with most microbreweries, Bristol has a pub on site where you can enjoy a flight tasting of all of their beers or simply enjoy a pint of your favorite craft beer.

Ivy Wild School
Ivy Wild School
The Old School Bakery
The Old School Bakery

After a quick bite at The Principal’s Office, we went over to the pub for a flight of Bristol’s beers.  Several of Bristol’s beers are widely distributed, so they can be found at many establishments and liquor stores throughout Colorado, but there were several that we’ve not had before.  Bristol brews several IPA’s and Pale Ales, but they have enough variety for anyone to find a beer that is right for their palate.  One of the nice things about microbreweries is that they will often feature a couple of seasonal beers that are available for a limited time, which gives you the chance to taste something unique for every season.

The Principal's Office
The Principal’s Office
Brew Master at Bristol Brewing Company
Brew Master at Bristol Brewing Company

For our tasting, we tried the Laughing Lab Scottish Ale, which is their signature, award winning, craft beer.  We also tasted the Beehive Honey Wheat, the Mass Transit Ale, the Bristol White IPA, the Belgian Pale Ale, the Red Rocket Pale Ale, and the Compass IPA.  As is typical, craft beers can be a little more hoppy than traditional beers, but these didn’t leave that bitter after taste and our favorite was the Mass Transit Ale, which is more of an amber ale.  Another benefit that microbreweries and brew pubs offer is the ability to buy growlers, which are bottles that hold five or six pints worth of beer and can be brought back in for refills throughout the year.

Beer Flight at Bristol Pub
Beer Flight at Bristol Pub
Growlers and Bombers at the Bristol Pub
Growlers and Bombers at the Bristol Pub

The Bristol Pub is definitely a fun place and one that we’ll return to again in the future.  We were there during the day on our last visit, but by the time we were ready to leave, it was already starting to fill up with a young and vibrant crowd.  With so many microbreweries and brew pubs to choose from, we’re already starting to think of where we want to go next.

Tandoori Chicken and Fried Eggplant

During our trip to India, we fell in love with all of the exotic flavors of the food.  We were determined to try and cook more Indian cuisine after we returned, so we picked up a cookbook from the local bookstore called India with Passion by Manju Malhi.  We decided to give Murgh Tandoori (Tandoori Chicken) and Begun Bahja (Fried Eggplant) our best effort.  As always, we take our own little twist on recipes based upon available ingredients or personal preferences.  We were completely pleased with the result.

Tandoori Chicken with Fried Eggplant
Tandoori Chicken with Fried Eggplant

Tandoori Chicken

Ingredients

  • 1 6 to 8 lb Whole Chicken
  • 8 tbsp. Plain Yogurt
  • 2 tsp Garam Marsala
  • 8 tbsp Light Cream
  • 4 tbsp Medium-Hot Paprika
  • 1 tsp Hot Chili Powder
  • 1 tsp Medium Chili Powder
  • 2 tsp Ground Cumin
  • 4 tbsp Fresh Lemon Juice
  • 4 tbsp Vegetable Oil
  • 2 tsp Salt
  • 1 tsp Turmeric
  • 2 tbsp Tomato Sauce
  • 8 Garlic Cloves – minced
  • 4 tsp Peeled and Finely Grated Ginger

Instructions

Prick the chicken all over using a fork and cut a few 1-inch long slits into the skin.  Mix the remaining ingredients in a bowl and whisk to a smooth paste to create the marinade.  Generously cover the skin of the chicken with the marinade, cover, and refrigerate for 8 hours or overnight.  Reserve some of the marinade for basting.

Tandoori Marinade
Tandoori Marinade

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  Place the chicken in a roasting pan, cover with foil, and roast in the center of the oven for about 20 minutes per pound.  Halfway through cooking, uncover and baste with a little of the reserved marinade.  Remove from the oven and let stand for at least 15 to 20 minutes before carving.

Tandoori Chicken
Tandoori Chicken

Fried Eggplant

Ingredients

  • 1 Medium Eggplant
  • 1 tsp Salt
  • 1/2 tsp Turmeric
  • 3 tbsp Vegetable Oil

Instructions

Remove the stems form he eggplant and cut lengthwise into four strips and then cut the strips in half for a total of eight pieces.  Rub the cut surfaces of the each piece with salt and turmeric and set aside for 30 minutes.  Heat the oil in a frying pan on low to medium heat and fry the eggplant until golden brown, approximately 5 minutes per side.

Fried Eggplant
Fried Eggplant