Breakfast And Lunch And Dinner In America

DATELINE: 9th July 2018

Vail, CO

Pepi’s Bar And Restaurant is a little bit of Austria in the Rockies. OK, sorry, let’s track back a little. The Hotel Gasthof Gramshammer is a little bit of Austria in the Rockies. Pepi Gramshammer was a member of the 1960 Olympic Ski Team, and saw the birth of Vail, effectively an Alpine-themed Milton Keynes, as an opportunity. 54 years later, it’s still there, the cheerfully orange frontage inviting you in as an antidote to the blando corporate blah on show elsewhere.

It’s unapologetically Austrian, offering schnitzel, spatzle and hearty rib-sticking winter fare all year round. As a stop off for lunch on our way through from Great Lakes to Palisades, it suited rather well. There was a sense of history and personality to the place, a sense of ‘fuck you, I was here first, and the big orange building stays.’ It’s an attitude that the rest of Vail could do well to copy or at least look at.

We snagged an end table on the terrace (which I have a nasty feeling was reserved for someone else but hey we got there first and we were English and polite therefore fuck youse) which made the hangout much more choice. We watched the rich and privileged of Vail waft past, sweetly invulnerable to the world around them.

Pepi does a damned good Reuben. You don’t have to unhinge your jaw to eat it.


DATELINE: 9th July 2018

Grand Junction, CO

When a place gets independently recommended by three different sources, you know you have to check it out. Bin 707 in Grand Junction got shout-outs from our next-door neighbor in Grand Lakes, a random lady at the World’s End brewpub down the way, and our hosts at Palisades.

Sure, ok, you have our attention.

Tucked into the business district of Grand Junction, Bin 707 is a gem of a place that you could walk past and miss and that would be a fuckup on your part. Highwalled, with a long low patio that allows you to make the most of the hazy 25 degree evening, Bin 707 is serious about their provenance. Local first, then state, then national. Which means Colorado lamb and pork is strong on the menu, with some great river-food in support. Alongside an amazing porchetta with green chili and hominy, and a lamb tenderloin so tender it almost melted on the fork, we enjoyed a glorious bavette that succumbed to the blade like a giallo victim, and duck breast that offered the perfect payoff between fat, crisp and melting tenderness. Stretch hit the jackpot, though. A simple Thai-spiced bowl of mussels won with the sweetest, plumpest bivalves I’ve ever tasted. The only criticism–more sourdough toast needed to soak up the precious juices.

Oh, and the beer menu was genuinely intimidating. In a good way, I mean. Thank the gods that our friendly and knowledgeable server could guide my way.

Relaxed, confident, delicious. You guys have to try this place out.

DATELINE: 10th July 2018

Clifton, CO.

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. If you play it right, it can be the only meal of the day. If you want a serious, old-school American carbo-load, then Starvin Arvins on the main drag through Clifton is a must stop.

It’s dark wood and cozy booths. It’s stuffed animal heads on every wall. It’s stacked platefuls of food for absurdly small outlays of cash. It’s more coffee than you can drink in one go, and I never thought I’d write that sentence.

At Starvin, your waitress will be bright, blonde and heavily tattooed and it’s not a hipster affectation. At Starvin, I finally saw the point to breakfast. Here’s the buffer zone between you and the world. Here’s where you armour up against the challenges ahead.

A plateful of hash browns, cheese, sausage gravy and a cats-head biscuit with home-made peach and strawberry jelly on the side. Whatever else happens in your day, you know you’ve got breakfast right at least.

Fruit And Fibre? Bitch, please.


DATELINE: 10th July, 2018

Palisade, CO.

One last thing, that isn’t breakfast, lunch or dinner, but needs to be raised to the group. The Grand Junction area is incredibly fertile, and Palisade, our base for this week, is rich in fruit of all kinds. It’s a big wine-growing region, and you have to know we’ve been tasting our faces off. The Dry Rosé at Grand River Winery is a crisp, flinty revelation.

But oh, the fruit. Summer season peaches are absurdly juicy and full-flavoured, spilling honeyed nectar down your chin with every bite. The Bing cherries on offer at every stall are so sweet and rich, almost alcoholic in their roundness and complexity. We spent money at Get Peachy, but you can do as well at Nana’s Fruit and Jam Shack, Herman’s Produce… oh, man, you honestly can’t go wrong.

Five-a-day never felt so easy.

Freedom, Independence etc.

Two days in America, when it is at it’s most America. Let freedom ring, or something.

A small detail of the decorations in our Kalamath St. Residence.

‘You can give peace a chance. I’ll cover you if that doesn’t work out.’

Texas plates, natch.

The next few were taken on a stroll down Santa Fe Avenue. Details of street art.

Detail of the art outside Chuey Fu, Denver’s leading Lanitx/Asian joint. Try the char sui burrito. Thank me later.

Celebratory fireworks at Civic Centre Park, Independence Eve, approximately 9:50 pm, at which point we had been in position for three hours and 20 minutes. Not entirely convinced the wait was worth it, although there was a great deal of kaboom packed into ten minutes.

Denver Botanical Gardens, earlier that day. Pixel art by Mike Whiting, which worked rather nicely in the space. The Gardens are lovely, by the way. Very heavily recommended.

4th of July parade, the Park Valley community, East 23rd St. It was hot. Damn hot. A lot of the floats were firing full-spec water ordnance delivery systems into the crowd. We were grateful. Worth checking out Cake and Crumbs Cafe on Kearney St.

Spotted these fine gentlemen at Union Station, who seemed to be enjoying their Fourth Of July in high style. Cheers to them, and to you all.


A March For Science. Seems like a crazy idea. Like staging a march for gravity, or the moon. We live with the very clear, quantifiable benefits brought to us by scientific research, innovation and discovery. From the SF-nal qualities of the mini-computer in our pockets, to our home comforts, even to the way we prepare our food. Let’s not forget, it wasn’t that long ago that indoor plumbing was rare, and cooking was done on a wood or coal-fired range. By any reliable metric, we’re living in a golden age.

But science is under threat, just when we need it the most. Research projects into vital areas like climate change are being defunded or slashed. Anti-vaccination rhetoric has led to outbreaks of diseases like rubella that were thought to be extinct. According to gnome-sized Pob-alike Michael Gove, people are ‘sick of experts.’ In the Age Of Trump, and with the looming trash-fire of Brexit already casting a shadow over staff and funding for British science, the outlook is bleak.

Suddenly, marching in support of the community seems like a good idea after all.

I joined hundreds of thousands of people worldwide on Earth Day, April 22nd, to take to the streets for science. The London March started (where else?) at the Science Museum, winding past Hyde Park, up Piccadilly before convening at Parliament Hill. The mood, like the weather, was sunny. This was a celebration as much as a protest. White lab coats, terrible puns and jokes involving equations were everywhere. Heading towards Trafalgar Square, a bloke cycled past yelling “nerds!” We all cheered. Damn right. Nerdy and proud.

Scientists are not natural joiners, for the most part happy to hole up in their labs and do the good work. So there was a giddy sense of ambling out of the comfort zone, of not quite believing that we were here, and that there were so many of us. And that we had so much support, from both the public and a few very well known names…

Of course, there were chants. “What do we want? Evidence-based policies! When do we want them? After peer review!” Our banners were shonky, home-brew affairs, cobbled together from cardboard, drainpipes, duct-tape and even Lego. It seemed appropriate. British science has always been run on a shoestring, powered by imagination and lateral thinking.

At Parliament Hill, we gathered to hear speeches from names like Cosmic Shambles star Robin Ince, and finished up with a sing-along to Monty Python’s ‘The Science Song’.  What else would we have done? The theme from The Big Bang Theory?

This was my first ever march, for a cause in which I wholeheartedly believe. In an age of alt-facts and pseudo-science, sometimes you need to make a stand for the truth. And if you have to do it in the company of 12,000 nerds and geeks, well, so much the better.

They are, after all, my people.

In celebration of the day, and the work that comes after, I’ve fired up Spotify and put together a March For Science playlist. Feel free to suggest additions.

The Pan, The Bread, The Sausage: Meditations On A Sunday Breakfast.

She turns to me, soft and warm on this bright Sunday morning, and whispers in my ear–deep, sultry. ‘I don’t suppose we have any sausages in the freezer you could defrost? It’s just that we’ve got that squishy bread, and it’s been forever since I had a sausage sarnie…’ 

Pillow-talk in the Wickings household. Completely understandable, on a day when the smell of grilling meat is an obvious counterpoint to the sunshine of this April day. Breakfast is important, and a sausage sarnie under blue skies in the garden suddenly sounds like a very good idea.

It’s about the details, of course. The porky lovelies are cooked low and slow (and I mean slow–half an hour at least to develop the right level of crust, and for all the god’s sakes, don’t prick ‘em). They go in my favourite cast-iron skillet, a piece of Hairy Biker merchandise picked up for a pittance in a garden centre years ago. Heavy as hell, and seasoned with the baked-on grease of a thousand meals, it will last for decades if looked after with care. I never wash it. A quick rinse with warm water and a swipe with a scourer does the job. The surface of the pan is blackly translucent, and nothing ever sticks. It lives out on the hot-plate, always ready for the next meal. 

The thing about a really good sausage sandwich is the counterpoint–good sausages, cheap and squishy supermarket loaf. I bake my own bread, and can go a decent approximation of a brick of Mother’s Pride, given the time. But if I’m honest with myself, the perfect sausage sandwich needs balance that only comes from the transposition of the two key ingredients. The crunch of the crisp surface of the banger and the soft, juicy meat, soaked up by the spongy bread. Heaven. Slightly too much butter, of course. There should always be the danger of the whole structure soggily falling apart.  

Sauce on your sausage? It’s an important question that I put to Clare as she pads out to lay the table. ‘Brown or red?’ When I was a picky kid, the very thought of ketchup or HP on my sarnie would have been anathema. I went through a period of liking mayo, maybe a little mustard. I know, don’t judge me. I was young. My tastebuds took a while to bed in. 

These days I like the punchy combo of exotic umami that comes from the meeting of sweet dates, sour tamarind, molasses and spices. A condiment that should have a noble, poetic name. Maharajah’s Delight. Royal Spice. With typical English understatement, we just call it brown sauce. I pep it up with a little Sriracha. The vinegary bite just lifts the whole experience. 

In an epiphanic moment, while freezer-digging for sausages, I come across a bag of hash browns. These craggy, savoury pucks of bliss are a joy to me, and turn a sandwich into a meal. I ask Clare if she wants any. ‘No, too much.’ I put one in the pan for her anyway, tucking them in amongst the bangers at the halfway point with a splash of oil. I know if I don’t she’ll only decide she wants one of mine, and that’s an argument that no-one needs. 

In Australia, they’ll regularly do breakfast on the barbie, and it’s a practice that’s gradually making its way back to the home country. Given a sunny morning, it’s a fine way to ease into the day. You could even throw a thin breakfast steak on to join the bacon and bangers. Definitely a couple of big portobello mushrooms. Hash browns, always. I don’t do eggs, but if you have a grill big enough for a frying pan, you’re all set. It’s a smoky meal to tend, though. Maybe save your morning shower for after breakfast, unless you like the idea of smelling of eau de barbecue all day. For today, though, the skillet is fine, set to a contented sizzle. No need for any more than that. 

Breakfast was everything we wanted, and all we hoped for. A simple thing made with care and attention. Not rushed, ready when it was ready. An almost meditative meal, which we ate quietly, smiling at each other. 

Sometimes, all you need is a sausage sandwich to put the world to rights.