Welcome back to "Road to a Marriage License!"  We're about six months from the big day, so we needed to buckle down and look for someplace to hold our rehearsal dinner.  The experience was full of surprises, both good and bad!

We left for Estes Park full of hope and very excited.  We had an appointment at one place, but our plan was to get up there early and check out The Stanley hotel first.  The Stanley doesn't offer food tastings for anything except weddings (something I've been a little wary of), so we just wanted to walk around and get a feel for things before our tasting at the other place.

Luckily, we made it to Estes Park with over an hour to spare until our appointment, so off to the Stanley we went!


Welcome to The Stanley! [Drew, TSM][/caption]Despite living in Colorado all my life, and The Stanley being such a famous hotel, I had never actually been there before.  I was afraid it wouldn't live up to the expectations I'd built up in my mind; but luckily, that wasn't the case.  It was everything I was expecting it to be: classy, historic, and brimming with Colorado charm.  We walked all over the grounds, and it was absolutely beautiful.


The amazing lobby of The Stanley. [Drew, TSM][/caption]

One of the fireplaces in the lobby of The Stanley. [Drew, TSM][/caption]

The iconic main staircase at The Stanley. [Drew, TSM][/caption]We had to leave to get to our tasting at the other place, but we agreed that we'd come back to The Stanley afterwards and at least have a drink at the bar.

We got to the other place about ten minutes early.  Even walking up to the building, I wasn't feeling as positive about it.  Inside, everything was pretty nice-looking.  The view of the neighboring lake from the restaurant windows was truly spectacular.


Drew, TSM

Unfortunately, aesthetics were about the only thing this place had going for it (at least in our opinion).  The staff, while polite and generally professional, were difficult to connect with.  Attempts at conversation felt forced, and just not very genuine.  But I was so hungry, I was willing to forgive all that as long as the food was good.  It wasn't.

We had been able to choose four entrees from their catering menu.  Each one came out in quick succession, without much regard for how far along we were on the last one.  I was so hungry, I didn't even take pictures of the food (sorry); I just dug in.  I wish I hadn't.  The pork was cold, the risotto tasted like glue, the filet was underdone and missing the Gorgonzola stuffing the menu had promised, and the crab-stuffed tilapia tasted like fishy leftovers from a Boy Scouts camping trip.  The only think I genuinely enjoyed was the chicken, and that's because even dry chicken tastes good when it's stuffed with ham and prosciutto!

I don't want to endure any backlash, so I won't divulge the name of this place; though, if you're clever enough, I'm sure you've already figured it out.  Needless to say, we left feeling grumpy and with stomachs aching from mediocre food.

Now we had to go back to The Stanley, if for no other reason than to have someplace to sit while we vented all of our frustration over what we'd just experienced.

We had a seat in the lounge area of the hotel restaurant, and tried to relax.  We took a peek at the menu, and figured we'd try some appetizers and drinks.  If nothing else, it would hopefully help us feel better about everything.  And did it ever!

We ordered some trout dip, some nachos, and some cocktails.  I won't ramble on too much about it, but in short, everything was amazing!

My first experience with trout dip, and it was delicious! [Drew, TSM][/caption]

The barkeeps of the new whiskey bar at The Stanley served me the best Manhattan I've ever had! [Drew, TSM][/caption]We were suddenly filled with new energy.  Great atmosphere and great food?  Suddenly the world made sense again!  We had heard the food at the Stanley wasn't very good, but obviously we were misinformed.

We talked about the fact that it might just seem so good compared to the bad experience we'd just had.  But after almost an hour of loving everything, we agreed that The Stanley was amazing on its own merits.

We're going to do everything we can to make this happen.  I'd say, especially with the addition of such an amazing rehearsal dinner space, we're still well on our way to an amazing wedding!

Do you have tips or tricks for any part of the wedding-planning process?  Let me know in the comments below!

The sign for the Stanley hotel, bidding us farewell after treating us so well. [Drew, TSM][/caption]