Archive for the ‘colorado springs’ Tag

Perks and Pinot   Leave a comment

Full disclosure: my husband and I were (unaffiliated/independent) guests at the newly opened Jax. We were treated to small plates, cocktails and  the Jax brand pinot noir from the Willamette Valley.

Jax Fish House & Oyster Bar may be new on the block, but this restaurant is no youngster. Downtown Colorado Springs is the newest locale for the Big Red F Restaurant Group, which independently owns and operates Jax.

Jax chef

In addition to tasting several Happy Hour dishes, we were introduced to Dana Query, wife of owner Dave Query who opened the first Jax in Boulder in 1995, Sheila Lucero, executive chef/owner, and Alan Henkin, beverage director. All shared insights about Jax. Although this was interesting and appreciated, it was overshadowed by the food, both in taste and plating.

It’d be a shame, or perhaps a sin, not to have oysters at an oyster bar and wanting to avoid regrets, I happily indulged. The two sauces were almost superfluous. Almost.

Jax tostadaThe tostada with kimchi, avocado and charred tomatoes on a brittle corn tortilla; calamari with a wake-up-the-sinuses mango chili sauce; meaty crab cake not obscured by breadcrumbs or fillers and ahi tuna poke over rice are exactly the kind of appetizers I would order again and again – even when footing the bill.

Jax poke

The poke was a particular favorite thanks to its fresh flavors augmented by roasted spiced cashews, serrano peppers and avocado. However, the dish we specifically requested may have been my favorite: shrimp and grits. Crispy fried shrimp nestled together on a bed of creamy, cheesy grits was a union of texture and taste.

It wasn’t necessary to do anything special to impress me, the food did that on its own.

Jax Fish House & Oyster Bar
11 S. Tejon St.
Colorado Springs, CO

Pie in the sky. American as apple pie. A piece of the pie.   1 comment

unbaked pie

Pie makes its way into the vernacular of literature, sports, business and politics, but more importantly into our kitchens and, ultimately, our stomachs.

Thank goodness for Heather Briggs, aka The Pie Lady, owner of Gold Star Pies. To say she’s a pie aficionado is an understatement. She’s such a fan that even after baking pies and selling them around Colorado Springs in her pie truck she still enjoys a slice with her morning coffee or any other time of day. “I love pie,” she exclaims!

Her enthusiasm is contagious, yet it’s her knowledge and ability to share her passion that makes her so engaging. This is done in two primary ways: selling pie slices from her truck and teaching others some of her pie making techniques. A group of friends recently gathered in my kitchen for such a class.

After providing a brief history of pie – who knew it has such ancient roots – Heather demonstrates how to make dough while emphasizing the importance of keeping things chill. Literally. Cold dough is essential.

Most of us expected flour to be flying everywhere while dodging rolling pins. Not so. We each made our own dough to take home for future pie crusts. However, the only rolling was done by Heather who’d arrived with two premade-blueberry lemon verbena pies for us to enjoy.

finished pie

Heather offers classes in your home or in a commercial kitchen. She’s organized, knowledgeable and fun; and she brought ice cream for pie a la mode. Cost is $45 per person.

Gold Star Pies Class
Five plates
https://www.goldstarpies.com/

 

Donut Wholes   2 comments

amysdbox
Okay, okay. I know donuts offer little to no redeeming value other than that they’re palate pleasing. Besides, it’s not like eat I them often. When I do, my go-to choice is of the chocolate frosted raised cake variety. That is until I discovered Amy’s Donuts. This is the warehouse of the fried pastry treats; not because it’s large and impersonal, rather for the sheer number of creative possibilities concocted on the premises.

Amy’s is actually an old fast-food establishment southeast of downtown Colorado Springs. It’s far enough away from my house and daily driving routines that I don’t have to worry – too much. My waist line, and wallet, would be in trouble otherwise.

I was glad to have people ahead of us in line to have time to peruse the options, of which there were too many to count. We narrowed it down to half a dozen with the caveat that we’d share our choices with each other (there are only two of us). Thus, it was like getting a dozen without all the guilt.

amy'sdonuts

We selected Crème Brulee, Bronco Blueberry, White Pearls, Chocolate with Almonds, Orange Creamsicle and the Elvis – featuring a banana, peanut butter and bacon topping. Oh yeah! I liked them all. It’s not just the frostings and garnishes that set Amy’s off from the pack. The raised cakes are light and airy.

Our selections barely made in a dent in the display case; there were still dozens and dozens from which to choose!

Amy’s Donuts
Four Plates
2704 E. Fountain Blvd.
Colorado Springs, Colo.

 

 

Burrito Bonanza   Leave a comment

azada insign

The Chipotle formula for selling freshly-made burritos is increasingly commonplace. What may be unusual, however, is finding a fast Mexican eatery with authentically good food. Azada Mexican Grill makes the grade with its “Build Your Burrito” menu.

Six meats, including grilled chicken, shredded pork and carne asada are offered. I couldn’t decide between shredded beef with green chile sauce or the Rojo, pork in red chile. I was offered samples of both, although that only made the decision more difficult since both were abundant in flavor. Sensing my inability to choose, I was asked if I wanted to sample anything else. I did, but I suspected it would only hamper my decision-making abilities.

azadaburrito

Ultimately, I opted for the Rojo. Azada makes its own flour tortillas, which are also sold by the dozen. These are just the right density to contain the contents of a burrito, but not pita-thick. A choice of Mexican Rice and Cilantro Lime Rice, refried or whole Beans are part of the package, as are several salsas. The tender pork in piquant red sauce rendered a salsa superfluous. I did ask for a dollop of sour cream to temper the subtle kick of the sauce.

Breakfast burritos and a handful of entrees are also available.

Not only is the food fresh and delectable, but the staff is friendly and solicitous. Orders are placed at the counter and burritos are made as you wait. Still, the staff checks to ensure everything is fine, all of which sets Azada apart from the pack.

Azada Mexican Grill
Four Plates
16 E. Bijou
Colorado Springs, CO

Shuga’s Soup Revisited   Leave a comment

shuga_edited-1

Although I try not to review a place more than once, lunch at Shuga’s inspired me to write again about its signature dish.

Shuga’s Restaurant is noisy! What’s more, it’s small to the point of being cramped, and in the winter, because it’s an old clapboard house, it’s cold. This is not the place for a romantic interlude or a business meeting. Despite these negatives, this is where to come for remarkable flavor combinations and lively, albeit loud, conversation.

The menu features a handful of what are called Boards but could easily be labeled tapas, sandwiches, salads and soups, including Shuga’s signature dish: Spicy Brazilian Coconut Shrimp Soup. It’s available by the bowl or cup, but unfortunately not by the tureen. Nonetheless, it’s a mouthful. That’s a good thing. It’s spicy thanks to a jalapeno kick, and the sweet, rich coconut milk base is evident in taste and thickness, but there’s more – more even than the plump, firm shrimp that sink to the bottom of the bowl. The addition of grated ginger and, although it takes a few sips to distinguish, creamy peanut butter elevate the soup from the exotic to the sublime.

When the food arrives at tables, the din doesn’t diminish. There’s never a lull even as the flavors transcend the animated setting of the modest house, but no one minds.

Shuga’s Restaurant
Four-and-a-half Plates
702 S. Cascade Ave.
Colorado Springs, CO

No Reservations About the Food   Leave a comment

paravizalamThe first thing to have at Paravicini’s Italian Bistro is a reservation. We did and were seated right away. The vantage from our table clearly illustrated the wisdom of calling ahead. It’s no wonder this is a popular eatery. The menu, albeit extensive, is creative, the atmosphere is charged, and the food warrants the crowd.

There are plenty of Italian standards: various pastas and several spins on veal and chicken preparations. The surprises come in the form of what are billed as “Paravicini Originals” and the Seafood offerings.

Entrees are served with a house salad. We didn’t realize it was served family style until a bowl too large for one, but not quite big enough for four arrived at the table. The focaccia-like bread was perfect for sopping up olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

paravichicken
The Chicken Valeria falls into the “Originals” category. Two lightly-breaded chicken breasts are cooked with lots of garlic, sun-dried tomatoes and artichoke hearts in a subtle mushroom sauce. It was all served over a bed of angel hair pasta.

The Lasagna was traditional and apparently satisfying since my husband happily cleaned his plate. I didn’t sample my friend’s Grilled Salmon, but it looked delicious. We all shared an order of Green Beans cooked al dente shimmery with olive oil and speckled with copious amounts of diced garlic and chunks of pancetta.

paravibeans

The servings are generous, so much so that three of us each had plenty for lunch the next day. It’s possible people are still waiting for a table.

Paravicini’s Italian Bistro
Four Plates
2801 W. Colorado Ave.
Colorado Springs, CO

Sides Take Center Stage   Leave a comment

JakeTellybldg

Jake and Telly’s Greek Taverna is almost a cliché with its frescos of other-worldly-blue skies and snow-white structures found only in Greece. Fortunately, the food overshadows the décor of the large dining area, and a friendly, attentive staff enhances the meal.

Lunch with friends from work reminded me that Jake and Telly’s is a place worth returning to – it had been years since my last visit; I’d simply forgotten about it. I was also prompted to recall that different groups of friends have different dining styles. For example, the last time I was there I knew that whatever I ordered I would be sharing with that friend. She and I think nothing of eating off each other’s plates. I don’t want to do that with just anyone, no matter how much I enjoy their company. However, I was sorely tempted to take a bite of my colleague’s Garlic Mashed Potatoes on this recent visit, especially when she raved about them.

JakeTelly

The mashers seemed an unlikely accompaniment in a Greek restaurant. The other options were Roasted Potatoes, Red Lentil Soup, Avgolemono Soup, and Pasta Salad. The latter was made with orzo, so it and the lemon soup were more traditional. I was pleased with my roasted potatoes, which were crispy and flavored with lemon pepper and herbs. Still, I can only imagine the richness within those mashed potatoes.

My entrée of Souvlaki was made with tender, roasted marinated pork instead of lamb and served with creamy tzatziki enfolded in pita.

Jake and Telly’s Greek Taverna
Four Plates
2616 W. Colorado Ave.
Colorado Springs, CO.

Good Times for Breakfast   2 comments

bontonsign

A friend, who is only slightly younger than me, remembered going to Bon Ton’s Café when she was a child with her grandmother. Although it wasn’t my recollection, I smiled at the idea of a restaurant and its food evoking a fond memory. Bon Ton’s, on the corner of Colorado Avenue and 26th Street in Old Colorado City, has been serving food for years (and years), and plating up some memories in the process.

Bon Ton’s is like a favorite sweater. It’s comfortable, dependable and, if frayed around the edges, familiar. Of course, it helps that the food is consistent. It’s only open for breakfast and lunch, so the menu, printed like a newspaper, features all the offerings. For breakfast, standard egg dishes, pancakes, French toast and several Southwestern items, identified by the presence of green chile, are available. Traditional lunch fare includes burgers and sandwiches.

bontonpancake

I’ve enjoyed the Vegetable Scrambler in the past as much for the fresh vegies cooked with scrambled eggs as for the crunchy hash browns also on the plate. I was tempted by the thought of the hash browns  — a yin and yang of crispy and creamy shredded potatoes, — but I really wanted a pancake. My friend offered to give me her spuds because she said she wouldn’t be able to eat everything she ordered. She was in the holiday spirit.

My plate-size, golden pancake with maple syrup was exactly what I wanted, as were the hash browns. They’re the stuff of memories.

Bon Ton’s Café
Four Plates
2601 W. Colorado Ave.
Colorado Springs

Forget Turkey   1 comment

mackfilet

Everyone’s been talking turkey for the past week, so MacKenzie’s Chop House is a welcome change. Although there are a few tempting seafood dishes, the real focus is on red meat. The menu features an array of steaks, from New York to Porterhouse, from Filet Mignon to Ribeye. Prime Rib, Buffalo Steak, Rack of Lamb and Pork Chops round out the menu along with several side salads.

mackprimerib

Although MacKenzie’s clearly emphasizes beef, and ours was cooked to perfection, there’s also an impressive attention to detail when it comes to service. Without hovering, the staff executed perfect timing knowing just the right moment to answer a question, to refill glasses, to remove plates, to provide a new utensil. Anticipation was personified.

Of course, this might have been for naught had the food been substandard; it wasn’t. The Spinach Salad with roasted red peppers and bacon was dressed with maple-balsamic vinaigrette. Even the House Salad was above average: mixed greens sharing the plate with balsamic-marinated apples and croutons.

Our entrees, the Prime Rib and Filet Mignon, were juicy, pink in the middle and tender. Yes, it’s true that bacon with anything is almost nirvana, but when wrapped around a piece of beef tenderloin the flavors are intensified. A baked potato and a large quantity of broccoli filled out the rest of the plate.

There were two regrettable aspects of the meal: not being informed until we were done that Crème Brulee is a house specialty and being too sated to try it.

MacKenzie’s Chop House

Four+ Plates
128 S. Tejon St.
Colorado Springs, CO

Early for Dinner   2 comments

alchemysign  

It’s always a good idea to wait (at least) a few weeks after a new restaurant opens to give it some time to iron out any wrinkles. I knew that Gertrude’s in Old Colorado City had closed and was going to be reincarnated as something else, but had no idea of the time frame. It turns out we wandered into Alchemy, formerly known as Gertrude’s, on its first night of business.

All that remains of the former occupant are a few wooden booths and memories. Alchemy represents a new direction: an upscale pub. The interior has been completely redone, literally right down to the brick beneath some lathe. The rumples included a slow kitchen and tentative, although friendly, servers. It was easy enough to respond gracefully; after all, it was opening night.

alchemyfish

My husband is a Fish and Chips fan; me not so much. I decided on the Osso Bucco. I just didn’t expect it to take so long to arrive at our table – especially since once it did carrots and celery were al dente while the pork (yes pork not veal) was fork tender. Even with the missteps of crunchy vegies, the depth of flavor was augmented by a basil gremolata. Typically, parsley is the only herb, but the licorice-like hints in the basil were a nice variation. It was all served atop quinoa. The variations demonstrate confident and creative, albeit lengthy, execution by the staff.

alchemyosso

The introduction occurred sooner than desired, but overall left a favorable first impression.

Alchemy
Four Plates
2625 W. Colorado Ave.
Colorado Springs, Colo.