Archive for the ‘manitou springs co’ Tag

Fondue Fun   Leave a comment

A cellar may conjure something dark and musty; fortunately, neither describes the Mona Lisa Wine Cellar. This offspring of The Mona Lisa Fondue Restaurant in the space above features an extensive wine list along with cheese and chocolate fondue.


The super-friendly one-person staff oversees the 10 or 12 tables. Even though the menu is limited, diners still have decisions to make. For example, it’s not just cheese fondue. It’s possibly Old World, New World, South of the Border, Creamy Fontina, Greek Isle, or Brie. We opted for two fondue pots: Old World and Brie. These not only complemented one another, but also were the right amount for our group of four. The Old World is a blend of Emmental and Gruyere cheeses in a white wine base; the Brie, too, was in a white wine base and accented with almonds slivers. Both  were gooey with nutty undertones; the Brie was slightly creamier. Bite-size pieces of bread, fresh fruit and raw vegies are served for dipping.


Even if one of my friends was not celebrating a birthday, we were primed for chocolate fondue. Again, a number of choices are available including dark, milk and white. Further flavor profiles are created with the addition of liqueurs. We chose dark chocolate and chocolate with raspberry. Fresh fruit, cookies, marshmallows, pound cake, Angel food cake and brownies are served for dipping.


The beauty of fondue is that it’s communal and requires a slow pace. Add a bottle of wine and the meal is rich in taste and camaraderie.

Mona Lisa Wine Cellar
Four Plates
733 Manitou Ave.
Manitou Springs, CO

Bar Food and Dessert on Overdrive   2 comments

The Keg Lounge is a bar that’s really a restaurant in disguise. Sure, there’s
lots of beer on tap and liquor bottles filled with every flavor and proof desired.
A jukebox features a range of music genres, TVs placed strategically around the
room are tuned to sports channels. Everything identifies this dark, noisy place
as a drinking establishment; everything, that is, except the food.

Through the years, I’ve ordered burgers, grilled chicken sandwiches and the sig-
nature Keg Berry Salad (greens with an array of colorful, mixed berries dressed
with a creamy raspberry honey vinaigrette). My most recent visit was a special
occasion: to celebrate an anniversary. It was also an opportunity to do our part
to help extinguish the economic burn experienced by Manitou Springs following
the Waldo Canyon Fire. (I encourage everyone to try to shop local where ever
you live.) With this in mind, my husband and I ordered steaks.

When the food arrived, the ambiance somehow changed. It didn’t seem as loud
and the lighting was just right. My perfectly-grilled steak was topped with blue
cheese and walnut oil. Sides of garlic mashers and steamed broccoli were excell-
ent complements to the juicy beef.

After dinner, we wandered down the street to The Cliff House at Pikes Peak.
We sat on the veranda where I enjoyed Crème Brulee, our traditional anniversary
dessert. My husband broke with our marital convention by ordering Raspberry
Souffle with White Chocolate Almond Cream Anglaise. He not only still surprises
me, but he shares.

The Keg Lounge
Nearly Four Plates (dinner)
730 Manitou Ave.
Manitou Springs, CO

The Cliff House at Pikes Peak
Four Plates (dessert)
306 Canon Ave.
Manitou Springs, CO

Waiting For Nothing More to Happen   1 comment

The smoke and flames rose into the sky beginning Saturday afternoon. As the
proverbial crow flies, the fire was probably five miles from my home, and many
friends live in areas of imminent danger. They were evacuated immediately. In
the early hours of Sunday morning the entire town of nearby Manitou Springs
was evacuated. Although residents there were allowed home less than 24 hours
later, it was unsettling for everyone. As neighborhoods around our home received
evacuation notifications, my husband and I discussed what we would take: not
surprisingly, photos and family mementos topped the list. When we got word we
were in a pre-evac area, it was time to really consider what to pack. This difficult
task was made even more daunting by the fact that by this point thousands of people
had been displaced and many had lost their homes.

We have shelves and shelves of books. Looking at them I knew I would not be able
to select just a few to carry away. Only one of our sons is home from college this
summer. He packed a box filled with what he called his “theatre and geek books.”
My husband packed his Bible. I looked at my nightstand stacked high; I searched
the shelves near my desk, in the living room, in the study. I even looked at the titles
my absent sons have in their rooms.

Finally, like a scene from Moonrise Kingdom, I packed the library books in a suit-
case. What books would you take?

Pizza Topped With Flavor and Arrogance   Leave a comment

Any place that goes by the name Hell’s Kitchen must be pretty confident that its
food is actually divine. At Ruffrano’s Hell’s Kitchen Pizza that doesn’t mean
the place is heavenly. In fact, far from it, but the pizza is, well, damned close.

Attitude is everything and the guys (I haven’t seen any women) stretching the
dough and taking the orders are no-nonsense whadda-ya-want pizza pie poten-
tates. Sometimes the pizzas are ready when expected, and other times they’re
not. You wanna make a deal out of it, go somewhere else. This isn’t something
I’ve seen or heard, it’s just a feeling;  I’ve never left without my pizza though.

The crust is firm without being a brick, and thin without taking the shape of my
hand as I ate. The best thing about it is the sauce that graces the top. Thick and
full of intense tomato flavor, I almost wanted to pour it over a bowl of pasta.
Almost. The sauce with the crust and smoky mozzarella cheese is the food of
quasi- angels. We ordered Grandma’s Pie Bake, which is described as a “reverse
pan bake,” but no one explained what that means. The rectangular-shaped pizza
is simplicity at its best: sauce, cheese and basil. It’s too hearty to be a Margherita.
The only problem was charred corners. The Four Cheese White Pizza with ricotta,
mozzarella, provolone and parmesan is decadently gooey.

I recommend take-out. The surly staff may make you feel like hell, but the pizza

Three-and-a-half plates
Ruffrano’s Hell’s Kitchen Pizza
9 Ruxton Ave.
Manitou Springs, CO

Well-versed Staff Accompanies Well-made Food   Leave a comment

A wait staff that actually knows its restaurant’s food is nothing to dismiss. This is
true whether the fare is extraordinary or not. The Crystal Park Cantina has a
knowledgeable, friendly staff that complements its twist on exceptional Mexican food.

Margaritas, chips and salsa give the impression this is a standard Mexican restaurant;
however, after perusing the menu this is quickly dispelled.

Asking a server for his or her favorite menu item is nothing new; sometimes it seems
like a crap shoot. I asked my server at the Cantina what sauce she recommended for
the Chile Relleno: pork green chile or tomatillo Alfredo? Her face lit up and, without
hesitation, she said half and half. The green chile has a depth of flavor that has no-
thing to do with being too spicy. An Alfredo sauce is not something necessarily asso-
ciated with anything south of the border, but this rich cream base is augmented by
the green tomatoes. Having the sauces side-by-side felt like picking the winning Lotto

The relleno was light with the chili and cheese the rightful heir to the plate. Too often
an over-eggy batter attempts a coup and overshadows the chile, cheese or both. Here
a pastry-like shell covers the two chiles like a thin, protective blanket.

The entrees include frijoles and saffron-infused rice. A dollop of guacamole and an-
other of pico de gallo result in a very colorful plate.

By the way, there’s nothing wrong with those margaritas, chips and salsa – the servers
recommend them.

Four Plates
The Crystal Park Cantina
178 Crystal Park Rd., Manitou Springs, CO