Wednesday, January 23, 2008


I'd have added more exclamation points, but I ran out of room.

We just got word this week that Blue Vervain, that gem of a restaurant at 56 Park Ave. in Manitou Springs plans to close in April.

With their building up for sale, the sisters running Blue Vervain have decided not to renew their lease. Their parents had recently moved back to run a resort in South Dakota, and they've decided to join them.

I know I should talk about what a loss this is to our community, to our dining scene. But all I can think about is what a loss it'll be for me. This has been my place. I live nearby, and though the prices were steep enough to keep me from going more than a couple of times a year, those visits would be legendary.

A lot of people know Blue Vervain as that little place that serves great chocolate beet cake. It does. But it's so much more than that.

Every meal I've ordered (or tasted on other people's plates) here has been fabulous.

But what really impressed me was the filet mignon topped with a chimichurri sauce. This sauce was so out there, so loaded with garlic and in-your-face spices, and the filet was, of course, cooked to a perfect medium, rare ... mmmmm.

As I savored each bite, I wondered how many chefs in town would be daring enough to serve a sauce this out-there and spicy on such an expensive cut of meat. Most places play it safe. The last thing they want is somebody sending it back because they can't handle the spice.

But they never play it safe. Each dish, each sauce, each preparation is so dynamic, it's like they're slapping the taste buds and saying, "Wake up, you've been asleep for too damn long!"

Between now and April, I vow to reserve a table in the back every day and eat until they stop feeding me ... the heck with the credit card debt. (OK, maybe I won't be there every day... but I'm going to eat there as much as I can afford before they close.)

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Matthews' latest venture opens Friday

Victor Matthew, the best self promoter in Colorado (who happens to be just about as talented as his promotion suggests), will open Palapa's Surfside Island Grill on Friday.

Palapa's is a seafood restaurant chain, but Victor tells us his is an independent restaurant affiliated with the chain.

Whatever. I just hope he can bring his Black Bear magic to this new Powers Boulevard place. We need a good upscale seafood restaurant in Colorado Springs.

I'm not sure I'll get out there this weekend. If anybody out there does, please let me know what you think.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Seth is gone at Nosh

Here's what Teresa Farney has in her Table Talk column on Friday:

The every changing world of restaurant chefs is on-going. This time, Seth Elwonger, the chef who opened Nosh, in the Plaza of the Rockies, is gone. Owner, Joseph Coleman, says “We’re working some things out with ticket time and improving service.” He’s not sure when or if a new chef will be hired.

Hmmmm. Anybody know any more about this?

Friday, January 11, 2008

Too many tacos

Another interesting critique from a reader:

Irene ONeal []

You seem like the only person on the list that I can write to, since my comment pertains to something in the GO section. I have a complaint about the new restaurant critic, Nathaniel Glen. First of all, almost every week he has some little hole-in-the-wall joint that gets only two stars and a pretty bad review. Also, I have noticed lately that most of these places are Mexican or taco joints that I have never heard of. That might be okay once in a while, but I can't remember when he last featured a decent or appealing restaurant. It seems he seeks out these little joints for some reason, that are mostly no good. In years past, we used to hear about some really nice upscale places that got excellent reviews. This was great, since we had never tried or heard of them, and they turned out to be places we really love. I'm not saying at all, that every week should feature a high-end, expensive restaurant. But once in a while would be nice, and middle of the road would also be nice once in a while! I'm getting tired of the taco joints week after week!

Could you write me back and let me know that you at least got this and what you think. Thank you.

Irene O'Neal

WARREN: Good point. We'll do more upscale (as our budget allows.)

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Rhino responds

Thank you for reviewing Rhino’s Sports and Spirits in your recent GO section (ref: Rhino charges onto the sports bar scene). As one of the few locally owned sports bars on the east side of town, the owners, Dan, Rich, Rick and I were thrilled to see a review in the Gazette so soon after opening; we appreciate all the free advertising we can get!

Being four retired military guys who also work other full time jobs, we pride ourselves on our unique establishment, our many faithful patrons, our partnership with NYPD pizza, and our bar menu. During the three months since opening, we continue to make daily improvements for the benefit of our customers; as of the first of the year we implemented new kitchen management and a revised menu.

Having a restaurant food critic review our bar menu is akin to having a baseball umpire referee a football game. That said we hope that he will come back and get the real Rhino’s experience - during happy hour, for a big game, or in the evenings. We also suggest he try Rick’s Peel and Eat Shrimp, our best selling item on the menu, or one of the huge sandwiches we serve with seasoned French fries (one customer recently said that "Rhino's Reuben is the best in town”), and there's always the great pizzas from NYPD.

We set out to build the best neighborhood bar on Powers and to offer our patrons something different from the national chain fare, including live entertainment. No question a lot of people read the article about Rhino’s. That evening we enjoyed our best night ever! Thanks again for your support of local business interests.

Greg Roman

Rhino’s Sports and Spirits

WARREN: We're always glad to hear responses or contrary opinions.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Fire Rock blows out

I'm bummed.

I don't know why I have such an emotional attachment to this place. Maybe it's because I used to go to the Hungry Farmer and thought that was a fun concept with only one thing missing: good food.

Then, Ranch Foods Direct comes in, fancies it up nicely, opens it as an upscale restaurant serving natural beef. A beef between the owners causes a split, and Calcrate pulls out with his meet.

Amazingly, it was still good, I thought as Fire Rock. Unfortunately, it cost several million to remodel the place, and nobody was going to be able to recoup that.

Maybe the next owners will get it at a reasonable cost and be able to run the business without that tremendous debt hanging over their heads.

Rumor has it the owners of Marigold are looking at it. Wouldn't THAT be cool!

Friday, January 04, 2008

South Academy treasures

I've been thinking about The Gazette's business story on Sunday about the decay of South Academy Boulevard.

I don't think there's any doubt that, economically, the strip has been on a slow decline. But that lowering of property values has had a positive result as well: the influx of great ethnic markets and restaurants.

I just ate at Jamaican Flavor at South Academy and Hancock. Man, that was some of the best brown stew chicken I've ever had.

South Academy is also home to fabulous Asian markets, taquerias, a fruiteria and more.

If that area somehow got gentrified, I'd hate to see those things go.