Eco-Eats Along Colorado’s Fall Color Trail

A waitress serves organic meals at Eco-Goddess restaurant in Carbondale, CO.

Author’s Note: Sadly, Eco-Goddess restaurant in Carbondale, Colorado, has closed.

After a morning ogling the golden aspen along western Colorado’s West Elk Loop Scenic Byway—going from Crested Butte over Kebler Pass and McClure Pass—Ken and I were ready for refreshment. We stopped in Carbondale, another former mining town that has been transformed into a lovely place to visit.

Among the shops and restaurants on its lively Main Street is Eco-Goddess All-Organic Cuisine, a casual restaurant that serves top-notch, local-ingredient entrees, desserts—and even organic wines, beers and cocktails.

The menu of this airy, colorful eatery is comprised of 95 percent organic ingredients—and a great deal of the food is sourced from local farms. Many recipes are named after deities from ancient religions. The salads alone—the Demeter, the Isis, and the Kwan Yin—display serious goddess power, including the freshest of veggies.

The Paonia Frittata at Eco-Goddess

I ordered the Atira (named for the Pawnee Earth Mother), a wonderful house-made pesto and mozzarella sandwich served on whole-grain focaccia bread. Ken chose a robust vegetable soup with Goddess Cornbread, made with stone-ground corn and mild green chiles for moistness.

While we waited for our meal to come, we read the back of the Eco-Goddess menu, which lists the origins of the ingredients: vegetables from several Carbondale farms, eggs from Paonia and Hotchkiss, goat cheese from Basalt, honey from Parachute.

There’s no meat on the menu—only eco-safe wild salmon from Alaska. Many entrees are vegan or gluten-free, so pretty much everybody’s dietary preferences are represented here. And don’t worry: the desserts may be organic but they’re tasty. Who wouldn’t love an Aphrodite Carrot Cupcake, a Goddess Bomb (cream-cheese frosting sandwiched between two chocolate chip cookies), or a vegan and gluten-free Chocolate Peanut Butter Truffle?

The juice bar serves all-organic specialties such as the Pan, which contains beets, cucumbers, celery, lemon and ginger.

I grooved on the vibe at Eco-Goddess—where the walls are painted with murals of dancing divines. And there’s plenty to love about the restaurant’s commitment to the environment. All food scraps are fed to chickens down the road, to-go containers are compostable, and the restaurant strives for zero-waste.

In short, the food here is, well, heavenly.

Other green places to stay and gnosh along the West Elk Loop include the Fresh & Wyld Farmhouse Inn and a number of local-food and natural restaurants in Crested Butte.

Laurel Kallenbach, freelance writer and editor

Photos courtesy Eco-Goddess

Mesa Verde: An Archaeological Pilgrimage

Cliff Palace in Mesa Verde

Mesa Verde National Park in southwestern Colorado (near Four Corners) ranked Number 1 on my destination list after I first visited its intriguing, mysterious cliff dwellings at age five. I credit my fascination with archaeology to this park. A love for all things ancient has become one of my lifelong passions.

My childhood sense of adventure was kindled by climbing log ladders to reach Mesa Verde’s cliff dwellings—built by the Anasazi people, as they were called when I was a kid. (Today they’re called Ancestral Pueblo people because they were the forebears of the Pueblo tribes that now live in Arizona and New Mexico.) Hearing stories about Anasazi ceremonial, underground, circular rooms, called kivas, sparked my imagination.

Four decades later, Mesa Verde continues to enchant me. I’ve take archaeological pilgrimages there four times since my parents first brought me. Over the years, I’ve never tired of hiking southwest Colorado’s desert landscape or pondering the archaeological remnants of the Anasazi culture, which thrived in the area’s canyons and high plateaus from about 600 to 1300 A.D.

Today, the park protects over 4,000 known archeological sites, including 600 cliff dwellings—the most notable and best preserved in the United States. Cliff Palace is the most visited, and it’s exciting because you can see it from a distance before you hike down to explore it.

Ranger Interpretation Adds Dimension

Park ranger Tim McNeil describes how life might have been for the cliff-dwelling inhabitants of Balcony House.

Most of Mesa Verde’s cliff dwellings are open only when you’re guided by a ranger. You need to buy a $3 reserved ticket in advance at the Far View Visitor Center or Chapin Mesa Archeological Museum, but it’s well worth the extra cost. The rangers who led my husband and I through the beautiful dwellings were fountains of knowledge—and they helped bring the ruins to life.

You don’t need to know that little windowed niches tucked under the cliffs were for storing corn and beans to appreciate the sandy geometry of the architecture or the permanence of stone. Still, it’s nice to know the function of towers, “middens” or garbage dumps, or about the spiritual significance of the sipapu, a small hole in the floor of the circular kiva. (The sipapu is the symbol of the Place of Emergence, where humans entered through the earth world from the spirit world.)

 

Ladders lead up the cliff to Balcony House in Mesa Verde.

Balcony House

To visit the Balcony House, you climb log ladders up a cliff, scramble through Balcony House’s narrow passageway just as the ancients who lived here a millennia ago did. Four decades after I first visited, Balcony House’s tunnel is a tight squeeze for me—yet Mesa Verde continues to charm me. Ranger Tim McNeil described the Ancestral Puebloan diet, which relied heavily on piñon nuts and “The Three Sisters”: corn, beans and squash, which are not only staples, but grow symbiotically.

Looking at thousand-year-old beams and rooms gives me a different perspective—of how short a time we have to live, and how many wonderful antiquities there are to explore.

For details on Mesa Verde, see Visit Mesa Verde.  For information on the region, visit Mesa Verde Country.

—Laurel Kallenbach, freelance writer

Read more about my travels in America’s national parks and monuments:

A reconstructed ceremonial kiva at Mesa Verde.

Greener Driving

The Green House experience in Boulder brought me two driving firsts: a hybrid car (the Ford Fusion Hybrid) and the prototype of the 2012 Ford Electric Focus.

The prototype of the Ford Focus Electric, due out in spring of 2011

Before I got behind the wheel, however, our group of journalists heard about how Ford is incorporating “biomaterials” into their vehicles, including soybean-oil seat foam (instead of petroleum foam). They’re also adding natural fibers (wheat straw, hemp) into some plastic parts; the fiber fillers make the plastic lighter, reducing the car’s overall weight, which in turn saves on gas.

Next, we prepped for the “Ford Fuel-Efficiency Challenge” by reviewing Ford’s eco-driving tips. (These apply to driving any vehicle, not just hybrids.)

  • Watch your speed and avoid pumping the accelerator.
  • Accelerate and brake smoothly to conserve fuel.
  • No idling. Engines today don’t need a pre-drive warm-up.
  • Keep tires properly inflated for best mileage.
  • Travel light by removing excess weight from the vehicle.
  • Minimize use of heating and air conditioning to reduce the load on the engine.
  • Close windows at high speed.

We then split into two teams of three people, each with a Fusion Hybrid. As my team’s driver, I turned the key in the ignition. And nothing happened. I tried again. Still nothing. Then it dawned on me that the car was actually running—there was just no revving engine sound that we’re used to. An honest mistake, but I still felt pretty silly.

My drive up to the mountain town of Nederland (20 miles away) went more smoothly. The Fusion Hybrid handled nicely and was comfortable to sit in. All the controls were easy  to see, but I left it to my friend in the passenger seat to keep an eye on our fuel-use rating while I watched the road.

And the Winner Is: Planet Earth

After both teams arrived back at the Green House after a mountain picnic, the Ford folks checked our mileage—the car displays this info for every trip—and we were the winners! We clocked in at 46 miles per gallon.

What tipped the balance? I like to think it was my feather-light accelerator foot, but the other team admitted they ran the air conditioner. (They got 41 miles per gallon, I believe.)

Going Electric

The Focus Electric uses no gas and gets 100 miles per charge.

Next, we each got a chance to drive around the neighborhood in the prototype of the Ford all-electric Focus, which had been plugged into the outlet in the garage all morning. (A full recharge is supposed to take 6 to 8 hours with a 240-volt charge station. It can also be recharged in 12+ hours with a 120-volt cord set into conventional outlets. When fully charged, Focus Electric will drive 100 miles before you juice it up with electricity.)

I slid into the jazzy orange car, pressed the “on” button (no key necessary) and away we went. I expected something radically different, but honestly, it drives and feels like any other car. However, the only sound the Focus makes is the whirring of the tires on the road.

The Focus Electric is scheduled to be on the market in 2011.

Laurel Kallenbach, freelance writer and editor

Life in the Green House: Bed, Bath and Beyond

The emphasis during my stay at the SpringLeaf eco-development’s Green House in Boulder, Colo., was “smart living.” Although the house came with all the eco-bells and green whistles and was stocked with natural foods and products, I learned a lot about how you can make your own house greener without embarking on a pricey remodel or overhaul.

Here are some cool ideas for green living, room-by-room.

Bedroom

I loved the organic bedroom I stayed in. The natural wool carpet was soft under bare feet—and there was no toxic glue smell (thanks to the low-VOC glue) that normally gives me a headache.

The wool pillow from Suite Sleep was soft and supportive.

I slept wonderfully on a natural latex and wool mattress from Urban Mattress, a Colorado company. Completing the bed were healthy linens from a Boulder company called Suite Sleep. It included an organic-cotton mattress pad, sheets (colored with low-impact dyes), a comfy wool-stuffed pillow with organic-cotton cover, and a wool-fill comforter that was light and perfect for Colorado’s cool nights.

The wool in the bed was Oregon Tilth Certified Organic, meaning it was taken from humanely treated sheep and cleaned with mild, biodegradable soap (as opposed to harsh, caustic chemical detergents).

Bathroom

Plush organic-cotton towels were furnished by Suite Sleep, and Burt’s Bees, provided all the soaps, shampoo, conditioner, body lotion, lip balm and facial cream. Burt’s Bees is a natural skin-care company that incorporates natural beeswax or honey into all its products.

All-natural products from Burt's Bees

The dual-flush Kohler toilet can save an average household approximately 2,000 gallons of water each year. Low-flow showerheads and faucets also reduce water waste.

To keep that water clean, without chlorine taste, 3M Clean Water Solutions installed under-the-counter Full Flow water filter. Boulder’s water is fairly clean to begin with, but it’s nice brushing your teeth with water that tastes fresh and clear.

I especially loved the sink backsplash (also repeated in the shower), made of recycled-windshield glass. The glass was polished, and it’s faintly green tint and pebbly look added a decorative and eco-friendly touch.

Hiking in Boulder and Movie Night

We had a busy day learning about sustainability, but it was fun. For instance, we got out and explored Boulder’s Wonderland Lake trails in Adrenaline ASR7 athletic shoes from Brooks. These lightweight runners have some great green features, including:

  • biodegradable midsole
  • laces made from 100 percent recycled materials
  • water-based adhesives
  • nontoxic dyes and colorants
  • packaging is 100 percent post-consumer recycled

For Movie Night, we watched a 3-D documentary on LG's LED television.

Then, after dinner we had Movie Night. First we screened Dive!, a thought-provoking yet humorous documentary about the problem of wasted food that winds up in the landfill. It follows filmmaker Jeremy Seifert and friends as they dumpster dive in the back alleys and gated garbage receptacles of Los Angeles’ supermarkets.

Next we donned 3-D glasses and put the LG Energy Star LED “Infinia” television with 3-D technology to the test with IMAX Under the Sea 3-D. The picture was clear and realistic, especially when those fish swim straight at you. And the screen was huge, yet slim. The wattage it uses is less than half that of a picture-tube TV.

Cleaning Day

Yes, we journalists had to do a few household chores, just to keep it real. At the end of the trip, we brought our sheets and towels to the laundry room, equipped with an LG Energy Star front-load Steamwasher with allergen-removal capability (for those people sensitive to dust mites and dander). Using a front-loader machine uses 50 percent less water and 86 percent less energy than a top-loader.

We also experimented with the LG “Kompressor” vacuum, which is certified by the Asthma and Allergy Foundation and holds three times the dirt of conventional vacs. And yes, it really sucks.

Coming next: All About the Green Home Kitchen

Laurel Kallenbach, freelance writer and editor