Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Tuscan turn-ons

I noticed that the Korean place in Old Colorado City that was next to Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory has closed (too bad, it was pretty good), and the sign says Tuscan Sun Italian Bistro.

My wife thinks there's something about the word Tuscan or Tuscany that drives women wild.

Unfortunately, now that corporate America has discovered that, every fast food place is offering a Tuscan chicken sandwich ... which I'm thinking is different than any sandwich you'd actually find in Tuscany.

Any intel on the new cafe, by the way, would be appreciated.

Friday, August 24, 2007

A pilgrimage to the chile city

In Go! today, I reviewed Romero's Cafe, a great green chili joint that I called "a true Pueblo gem."
So what are the other Pueblo gems? Well, first let me say that I have a love for old-school, somewhat shabby family establishments in this category. There are other perfectly nice restaurants that, as someone who lives in Colorado Springs, I don't consider Pueblo gems because they are not Pueblo-y enough.

So, with that in mind:

Rita's: Get the red chili over cheese enchiladas.
302 North Grand Ave

The Mill Stop: I like the flauta smothered in green chili.
17 Bay State Ave

Pass Key: an old-school Italian lunch counter with a unique sausage sandwich and great banana peppers.
518 E Abriendo Ave,

By the way, notice in the 1940's Pueblo postcard, above, all the sights are actually in C. Springs. Go figure.
Places I also hear are good:

El Valle Restaurant & Lounge - possibly the oldest Mexican Restaurant in town.
The Grand Prix

Post your other suggestions

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

WANTED: Restaurant

OK, this is an unusual request. But Craig Anderson, who owns the strip center near 30th Street and Centennial Blvd. is looking for a new restaurant tenant in the place where the Acoustic Coffee Lounge used to be.

Anybody have any ideas for him? Anybody want to jump in and live the dream of running a restaurant? If you do, let us know about it.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Notes on Nosh

This morning I gave Nosh the top rating for a restaurant, 5 Stars. Read the review here. It came after careful consideration and discussion, and I truly think the new restaurant, which specializes in small, inventive plates, deserves it.
I'm sure some people out there who will argue with me, and I invite them to make their case by commenting below. But here's my take: Almost everything on the Nosh menu is good. I'm not particularly down with the cheesy Duck empanadas (They taste like Superbowl half-time snacks), and I think the breading on the croquettes and the crab cakes tastes a bit too much like a McDonald's hashbrown, but in general, it's a great restaurant that provides inspired meals at a price almost anyone can afford, and does it while using a slew of local ingredients. What more can you ask for?
Is it the fanciest, finest restaurant in town. Clearly not. It's a hip casual place, but when I took this job, I decided I wouldn't award stars like Mobil does: with the top rating only going to the most rarified restaurants. I would give five stars to a hotdog stand if it was truely and inspired, exciting place.

What does it mean to be a five star restaurant? For me, here's the test: Four stars means great food, dependable service, a good value -- basically a place that makes me yearn to go back. Five stars means all that, plus taking the local dining scene to places it hasn't been before. With great prices, a smattering of local food, and a sense of humor, Nosh does that. It's something downtown Colorado Springs needed, and with luck, it will prompt other restaurants to change for the better.

I lift a glass of the $2.50 sangria and say cheers to all who brought it to be.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Cure for Cafe 36

A reader emailed me with the perfect solution to all the Fine Arts Center's problems:

Brent Beavers.

You remember Brent. He was the chef at Sencha. Not only is he a phenomenal cook, he also has a whimsical artistic streak, creating Literary Dinners that pair costumed book readings with multi-course themed meals.

Since losing Sencha and getting canned from the Metropolitain (he apparently was less than civil with his boss after being denied the health coverage he wanted), Brent has been doing the Literary Dinners as traveling gigs.

But what better place for him to land than the Fine Arts Center, where his creativity can become part of the larger fabric.

Hey, De Marsche, give him a call!

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Cafe 36 review-- see post and comments below


By Nathaniel Glen

It’s fitting that the Fine Arts Center’s new restaurant, Café 36, is named after the building it’s in, not the food it serves.

The museum, built in 1936(hence the cafe’s name) has always been one of the most brilliant in Colorado Springs. Even the most enticingly elegant dishes would be upstaged by this classic space, and the tired salads and trying-to-keep-up lunch and brunch entrees at Café 36 have more the feel of a gaudy teal pants suit.

The building, designed by Santa Fe architect John Gaw Meem, blends the cutting-edge electric sleekness of Art Deco with old as earth Southwestern pueblo designs. The dining room, just off the museum’s theater, really is stunning. It will never go out of style. You feel rich just walking in. Geometric cloud chandeliers that look like riffs on Hopi rain symbols hang from the ceiling. Tall, gracefully-lined aluminum doors swing open to a long, breezy balcony that overlooks the junipers of Monument Valley Park and the purple silhouette of Pikes Peak.

All the best parts of Colorado Springs are right there: the timeless mountains, the foresight of park-building city founders, the populist cultural gifts left by wealthy benefactors. All it needs is a fitting culinary tribute.

And Café 36 ain’t it.

The menu is vapidly fashionable. It has all the things it’s supposed to have for the ladies who tend to lunch here: a Caesar salad, a wedge of iceberg lettuce with blue cheese, a chicken sandwich, a portobello mushroom sandwich, a chicken breast, a salmon fillet.

It even has annoyingly coy names for perfectly ordinary plates. The menu calls appetizers “preludes.” The daily pasta special is called the “pasta of the moment” as if ordering 30 seconds later might mean a totally different dish.

The stuffy lack of originality would be fine if the food could stand up to it — if, for example, the pasta was packed with fresh, seasonal, local goodies. After all, many art museums have restaurants, and few of them earn rave reviews. No such luck. Even though prices are pretty steep, the food cuts corners. The rolls taste pre-made and frozen. The fruit salad is dominated by cheap, sallow honeydew.

Twice I dined with different women on the balcony. Both ordered the “pasta of the moment.”

The first received cheese ravioli ($12 need to check) in an ordinary marinara with a ridiculously long cheese cracker hanging off the plate like a diving board. I suspect it was there to distract diners from the fact that there were only four ravioli.

My companion took a bite.

“It’s OK,” she said. “But it’s pretty much the Olive Garden.”

The second, a few days later, had a fantastic-sounding champagne and herb beurre blanc over penne($13).

“It’s OK,” she said. “but it tastes like those instant pasta packages.”

“Or like the Olive Garden?” I said.

“Now that you mention it, yeah!” she said.

Every meal tends to leave the same impression. Is the seared tilapia sandwich ($9) with Edam cheese and a fines herbes citrus mayo that bad? No, but a friend described it as “Holiday Inn-esque.” Is the Chicken Forestiere ($12), a breast sautéed in mushrooms, shallots, garlic, herbs and white wine so terrible? No, but it felt like the main dish at a low-end retirement dinner for someone. We expected more since Chef Bruce Calder has been doing high-end catering and country club kitchens (most recently Cheyenne Mountain Conference Resort) for most of his career.

Is the desert, excuse me, the “encore,” of raspberry Grand Marnier white chocolate bread pudding ($6) so bad? Yes. It looks gorgeous piled in a tall martini glass, but the red drizzle tastes like fake fruit flavor and the whipped cream is canned — the ultimate sin.

The dish tells you everything you need to know about Café 36. It’s all description and presentation and no love for real ingredients.

The service is also clunky. Everytime I’ve gone, the servers have forgotten to bring part of the meal, and they have a distracting habit, when clearing tables, of chucking left-over water over the balcony.

Making a go of the dining room at the Fine Arts Museum isn’t easy. No one in recent memory has done it well enough to last, or even be widely mourned in passing.

But sooner or later, let’s hope the right chef will see the potential. The inspiration for truly great food is screaming from the lintels: Art Deco and Anasazi, sophisticated new metropolitan style, fused in seamless, timeless brilliance with traditional, from-the-earth southwestern cuisine.

When the comes, there will finally be a menu fitting of the museum.

Cafe 36



30 W. Dale St.

Phone: 477-4377

Hours: 11 a.m. – 2 p.m. Tuesday – Sunday

Entrees: $5 -- $12

Vegetarian: salads and sandwiches

Alcohol: full bar