I know a place...

Column by Michael Alcorn
Posted 12/16/21

The mood is set in the parking lot: to get to the door, you have to cross a tiny footbridge. Once safely across the bridge, you open the doors of the chalet — because, yeah, it’s not just a …

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I know a place...

Posted

The mood is set in the parking lot: to get to the door, you have to cross a tiny footbridge. Once safely across the bridge, you open the doors of the chalet — because, yeah, it’s not just a building, or even a house: it’s a chalet — and walk into a room that’s like something from a fairy tale.

On the table in front of you are several tiers of cookies, arranged on platters of varying sizes, with every color of the rainbow represented. You look to your left to see a four-tier wedding cake, white frosting with pink and green frosting vines for trim, adorned with candied snowflakes and leaves which sparkle with grains of sugar. Over to your right are the glass cases which contain the pastries — cinnamon rolls, cheese danishes, more cookies … you can feel the sugar in the air.

Not that it’s all sugar. There’s some quiche, and, if I’m not mistaken, a cheese and spinach tort. Or something like that. I could be wrong. Who walks into a room like that and looks for spinach dishes?

The people behind the counter welcome you with a smile and a laugh. They’re happy to tell you all about whatever confection you’re curious about. The level of activity behind the counter and on through into the kitchen is frenetic on this Saturday morning, but nobody conveys any sense of stress or strain. And even while taking care of dozens of to-go orders, a roomful of patrons eating breakfast, and what appeared to be a young couple exploring wedding cake options, the ovens are all fired up, the aproned chef is wiping flour from his hands, and the true artists are focused on the fine work of decorating cakes.

Long-time Arvada residents recognize the place I’m talking about: of course, this is Das Meyer. It is a gift to the Arvada area.

A little east of Arvada is an entirely different sort of business. In the shadows of the lovely smokestacks of Commerce City is a building that would be at home just off main street of any mountain town. You walk through the doors into a great room naturally lit by giant glass panel windows, and are confronted with a long bar, well-attended by what, it turns out, is mostly family. They are moving up and down the bar, talking to guests, filling glasses with small tastes of their primary product: wine.

This is Balistreri Vineyards. What, you might ask, is a vineyard doing in Commerce City? Good question. The vines, of course, are not in Commerce City; but the family has been in north Denver for…a while. The Balistreris came to the Denver area after establishing their American bona fides in Detroit, having come originally from (of course) Sicily. The business is only about 25 years old, but the family tradition of making wines dates back at least a century in America, and, I suspect, a bit longer than that in “the old country.”

The show is run by John Balistreri. He is what they call the “vintner,” meaning he’s in charge of the wines. Like every good man with an artistic streak, the business seems to be handled mostly by his wife and daughter. Good thing — this allows John to play the role of bon vivant,moving up and down the bar, talking to all the guests, asking them what they like and what doesn’t sit as well, and maybe opening up something new and “just a little different” that you might like. It’s a good life, and a good business run with joy.

The reason I bring these two businesses to your attention is because one of the great gifts we are given in life is Passion. Rick Warren writes that “God gives you passions for a purpose” — in the case of these two businesses, their passion serves to bring people together over food and drink.

Is there a greater gift?

Michael Alcorn is a former teacher and current writer who lives in Arvada with his wife and three children. His new novel, “Valkyrie’s Kiss,” a finalist in the ScreenCraft Book Competition, is available now at mjalcorn@comcast.net. His opinions are not necessarily those of Colorado Community Media.

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