Friday, January 26, 2007

Dining critic candidate No. 37

Marigold Café and Bakery

Centennial Blvd

Colorado Springs

Marigold’s has long been a linchpin in the independent restaurant community. I was reminded why on a recent visit there for lunch. Although I arrived at noon, the restaurant was already full. The short wait gave me just enough time to torture myself at the desert counter—after too much holiday cheer, I had sworn off sweets. You might ask me: why, then, was I at Marigold’s? More on that later.

The lunch menu is straightforward on its surface—pizzas, sandwiches, soups and salads. But as soon as you dive into the fine print you are rewarded with both standard fare, like Reubens and hamburgers, and more rarified offerings such as muffuletas and curried chicken pockets. As much appeal as I found in that daily menu, the Specials of the Day delivered what I was looking for: a substantial meal, at a great price, that went above and beyond plain lunch. From the choices of Blackened Prime Rib, Quiche Lorraine, Jambon Madeira and Mahi Mahi, I knew immediately that the Mahi Mahi ($10) was for me. My server confirmed it was an excellent choice, served with field greens dressed in ginger orange vinaigrette. I ordered a house chardonnay and turned my attention to the restaurant.

Lunch can be a terrible time at a busy restaurant. Diners are all in a hurry and they all arrive at once. The pace at lunch can overwhelm the wait staff, so that all the niceties associated with fine dining are flung out the window as the plates are slung onto the table. Not at Marigold’s. Even though the place was packed, I never felt hurried nor did the servers seem rushed. The dining room hummed with conversation. I had time to sample a wheat baguette and appreciate the chardonnay before my fish arrived.

One thing Marigold’s knows is that presentation is key to an enjoyable dish. This plate arrived with two golden brown slices of pan seared Mahi Mahi resting aside a mound of field greens, chopped red onions, white mushrooms, tomato wedges, and crumbles of goat cheese. The fish was succulent and the portion ample for a lunch entrée, its flavor sweet and enhanced with just the smallest bit of seasoning. The field greens were fresh and crisp. But the best thing about the salad, for me at least, was that the ginger orange vinaigrette added just a whisper of sweetness, balancing the tart goat cheese and the tangy red onions. And when the salad was gone, so was the dressing. No puddle of oil here!

So, had I any restraint, lunch would have been finished. But when my server suggested desert or coffee, my thoughts ran back to the desert counter: raspberry tarts, tiramisu, carrot cake, strawberry Frasier (two layers of white cake engulfed by pastry crème and fresh strawberries—beautiful), and my all time favorite, triple chocolate mousse cake. I thought it a reasonable sacrifice not to order that but to order a chocolate éclair instead. Turns out it was the only part of the meal that didn’t warrant a standing ovation.

The éclair pastry was perfect, airy but firm and not dry. The crème filling was thick and creamy as crème brulee and smooshed perfectly out the sides as I cut into the éclair. But the chocolate on top, while tasty, crumbled when I cut it instead of clinging to my fork.

While I’m sure the two are unrelated, just as the chocolate was crumbling from my éclair I heard a dish shatter in the kitchen.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

The recurrent use of desert for dessert exposes this critic's lack of attention to detail - a quality of the utmost importance for a good critic.

12:31 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

heck, I'm a submitter and I say give this person a break. When your not a pro, but a food lover these things happen. A good editor will help with it.

3:22 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm a submitter and a newspaper reader. Even the professionals sometimes miss things like this. Good luck!~

2:44 PM  

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