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Best Place to Let Them Eat Cake

Little London Cake Shoppe
620 S. 25th St., 475-2340

Butter, butter, butter and sugar are some of the secret ingredients in Little London Cake Shoppe's most fabulously dense masterworks of baking. Whether you're tying the knot, tying your tubes, or celebrating the aging process, any reason to celebrate is a reason to order a cake from this best-kept secret of a bakery on the West Side. --nb

Best Substitute for the Easter Bunny

Home-delivery by Royal Crest Dairy
888/226-6455, www.royalcrestdairy.com

"The Easter Bunny came!" This has become our weekly, early-morning squeal ever since signing up with Royal Crest Dairy. In addition to their famously fresh, hormone-free milk, they've got a long list of goodies in their grocery arsenal, including eggs, butter, cheese, bread, juice and seasonal items like eggnog and lemonade. All you do is leave your list (and emptied milk jugs or egg cartons) in the prim white box they've left on your front stoop; their delivery person will do the rest. They'll deposit your personalized box in the wee hours of the morning (sans the fake green plastic grass) and leave you with a warm glow inside knowing that someone was out there taking care of you while you were fast asleep. --tp

Best Bakery
Readers' Poll Winner

La Baguette
Four locations around town

If you aren't inclined to rise before dawn every day to create perfect loaves of bread for your family's edification and delight, then don't. La Baguette is doing it for you. Get a boule that you can tear into chunks and lavish with butter with your lunch. Or hollow out your boule and fill it with lentil goulash, marinara sauce with sausage and peppers, chicken soup or chili. Grab a long, skinny ficelle and eat it while you walk around window-shopping. Baguettes can be put to use to make sandwiches, garlic bread, French toast, and if you're lucky enough to have any leftovers, to make croutons. --mbp

Best Cooking Class

Sunday afternoons at The Warehouse
25 W. Cimarron St., 475-8880

In the kitchen, Margie and Joe make poundcake that will later be smothered with Bananas Foster. The lobster tail is ready for us, and Kate and Mary start chopping up ingredients for the rock lobster salsa. When anyone gets tired, they retire to the outside of the kitchen and replenish everyone's beer or wine. Manchengo is sliced for topping the crostini, and everyone who passes by steals a nibble. Or three. We learn how to peel artichokes, and roasted red peppers. Frank takes the plunge and deftly cuts a pocket in a huge slab of halibut, which we stuff with morels, asparagus and brie. This is the way to spend a Sunday afternoon with friends. --mbp

Best Place to Get Outfitted for You Name It

The Revolution (Recycled Wears ... Local Art)
1312 W. Colorado Ave., 633-1357

The best thing about the Revolution is its owner, Eve. Personable, friendly, classically beautiful, she can make anyone feel like a superstar. The next best thing about the place is the clothing (men's and women's) and the accessories, including, belts, shoes and jewelry. Secondhand (except for the jewelry), but not second-rate, attire ranges from elegant to formal to hipster to business and my personal fav: classic (jeans, cords, T-shirts and sweaters). For the brand-conscious, names like Old Navy, Gap, Abercrombie, Levis, DKNY, Banana Republic, beb and more adorn the racks. Whether you're looking for classic, geek, elegant or chic, you'll find something at The Revolution. --sb

Best Liquor Store
Readers' Poll Winner

Cheers Liquor Mart
1105 N. Circle Drive, 574-2244

http://members.aol.com/cheersliq

Previous Best of Awards: '94, '95, '96, '97, '98, '99, '00, '01

The wide aisles, neon lighting and ultra-sophisticato clientele may fool you into believing you've stumbled into a nearby superstore. But the atmosphere is immeasurably improved when you realize that you are surrounded, not by salad shooters, diapers and the more banal aspects of domestic life, but by a sea of alcohol! Though the range of choices may be frighteningly large, one is easily soothed by a stroll through the extensive international section, or by discussing a wine selection with one of the helpful staff members. Perhaps there is no better spot in town to indulge in a little conspicuous consumption of the more spirited variety. Three cheers for Cheers! -- ak

Best Shoe Store
Readers' Poll Winner

Payless Shoesource
Six locations around town and one in Fountain

True Payless story: When Camryn Mannheim won her supporting actress Emmy for The Practice, she had to walk up the famous red carpet and past the world's most cosmetic-surgeried fashion vulture: Joan Rivers. When Joan asked Camryn, "Where'd you get your shoes?" Camryn replied, "Why pay more when you can Payless?" You can get in and out with a pair of plain, no-nonsense black pumps in about five minutes. Or you can go in with three friends and spend a hilarious afternoon trying on shoes you've only seen on Divas Live and MTV. --mbp

Best Outdoor Outfitter
Readers' Poll Winner

REI
1376 E. Woodmen Road, 260-1455

Besides a knowledgeable and friendly staff, wide aisles, high ceilings and a practice climbing wall, REI has huge selection of high-quality goods for a variety of activities. Whether you're a biker, hiker, climber or camper, you will find what you need and it will be a pleasant, fruitful experience. Someone's sure happy REI came to town. Lots of someones. --cms

Best Cleaning Service

The Personal Touch Maid Service
2107 Templeton Gap Road, 636-3433

Owner Louise Barth lays it on the line with her customers and with her employees. When her ladies get through with your house, it will be clean, or Louise will know the reason why. Basically, her people are instructed to clean your house the way Louise would clean her own. That means corners are scrubbed; mopboards are cleaned. The inside of your microwave will sparkle, your bathroom fixtures will gleam like diamonds, and any stray motes of dust that remain are cowering in fear. All this, and the ladies are nice, even to 5-year-olds full of questions. --mbp

Best Jewelry Store
Readers' Poll Winner

Luisa Graff Diamonds & Jewelers
4663 Centennial Blvd., 260-0100
www.luisagraffjewelers.com

Whether you're looking for a dainty pearl necklace on her sweet sixteen, an opal pendant for her college graduation, a honkin' diamond ring for the big proposal, or a gold watch for his retirement, Luisa Graff Diamonds & Jewelers has the memento to make them dizzy with delight. Looking for something truly original? Ask about their custom design work. It's your ticket to a one-of-a-kind thank-you. -- tp

Best Thrift Store
Readers' Poll Winner

ARC Thrift Store
Three locations around town

More than just a place to find a Halloween costume, ARC's a great place to find new fashions at any time of the year. Going for that retro look? A change in style won't require a second mortgage to finance some Californian designer. Here, you can forget expensive retro knockoffs and go for the real thing. Furnish your apartment for $7.95! Pawn the VCR and return home with a whole new wardrobe! Frequent sales keep prices low and merchandise rotates rapidly, so there's always new stock to choose from. --ak

Best Garden Supply
Readers' Poll Winner

Rick's Garden Center
1827 W. Uintah St., 632-8491

There's nothing you can't find at Rick's. Need to rent a tiller? Find a pole to hang your bird feeder on or edging for your garden beds? Rick's has everything from bedding plants to mature trees, from seeds to diatomaceous earth, but it's warm, friendly and reasonably sized. As a gardener, my favorite reason to go there is for their custom-mixed fertilizers, designed for the needs of local soils and growing conditions. Rick's makes an excellent organic, all-purpose fertilizer that's perfect for the Pikes Peak region. They've been here a long time, and they know the needs of local gardens and the gardeners who struggle to keep them alive. --kce

Best Place to Adopt a Chinchilla

Dreampower Animal Rescue Foundation
390-7838, http://dreampower-arf.com

Kitties and puppies and Chinchillas, ha ha hee hee ... to Dreampower where everyone's happy all of the time, ha ha hee hee. Next time you're thinking of acquiring an animal companion, check out Dreampower Animal Rescue, a great no-kill, animal adoption organization that fosters animals until they can be placed in permanent homes. They also offer humane education programs and spay/neuter assistance for low-income pet owners. Whether it be cat, dog, rabbit, hamster or even horse, Dreampower may have it. Photos of many of would-be companions are on their website. --cms

Best Place to Support Your Foundation

Dillard's
Citadel Mall, 550-1159
Chapel Hills Mall, 532-1400

We all need support -- from our achy, tender and rapidly falling arches to our gravity-compelled and formerly perky breasts. Dillard's will support you. The shoe salespeople actually -- sit down for this -- know what they are doing. They may even measure your feet, and they don't roll their eyes, no matter how many pairs you try on. In ladies lingerie, you get a changing room larger than most bathrooms in which to shake, prod and urge your breasts into your brassiere of choice. There's a little bell you can ring to summon the saleslady -- and they too won't roll their eyes either, no matter how many styles you try on. --mbp

Best Florist
Readers' Poll Winner

Gentry's Florist
225 E. Pikes Peak Ave., 632-0707

To help you out in a pinch,
And especially when you've been ... a grinch
Gentry's is there
With arrangements so fair,
Making any emotion a cinch. --cms

Best Art Supplies
Readers' Poll Winner

Hobby Lobby
Three locations around town

How do you define art? Is it the application of oil paints to a perfectly stretched canvas? Is it the molding of clay into an expression of your innermost being? Is it the design and piecing of fabric fragments into a gorgeous quilt? Is it applying fringe and bugle beads to a lampshade? Is it crocheting a PowerPuff Girls afghan? Is it an amalgamation of craft sticks, craft foam shapes, stickers and nontoxic glue on a piece of red construction paper? Does it require latex paints, acrylic paints, water paints, pompoms, rubber stamps, scrapbook paper, unfinished wooden shelves, modeling clay, gold lam, papier-mch or a leopard-print bandana? Whatever you need to express yourself, Hobby Lobby has it. In several colors. --mbp

Best Restroom Stall

Perkins Restaurant
3295 E. Platte Ave., 634-5590

Best in the sense of biggest. Biggest in the sense of . . . say you're a mom with two to three small children. There's room for all of you plus a stroller, diaper bag and purse, but the children not actually on the potty at any given moment have enough space to play an extended and full-speed game of tag without ever bumping into Mom, the stroller or each other. I've lived in places with kitchens and bedrooms smaller than this stall. I've had lawns smaller than this stall. This stall sets the gold standard for spacious and clean. --mbp

Best Free Samples: The Duel

Par Avion
4510 Oro Blanco Drive, 597-4545

Claims of MB Partlow:

Par Avion is the place for free samples, especially on Saturdays. Jim, the owner, picks out several wonderful cheeses and lines the counter with platters. Chewy slices of fresh-baked bread, crispy crackers, perhaps some olives, some sausage, a relish or tapenade or pickle, all accompany these wonderful, delicious cheeses. There's often a bleu cheese (perhaps a soft, voluptuous triple cream studded with the merest bits of tangy bleu), a stronger cheese and a milder cheese. And that doesn't even take into consideration the stuff they'll let you taste if you just ask. Par Avion is to free samples what Hummers are to SUVs.

Sam's Club

715 S. Academy Blvd., 597-6759
1850 E. Woodmen Road, 277-0407

Suzanne Becker rebuts:

MB, you silly goose. While cheese and crackers are fine, serious samplers need more than hors d'oeuvres. On any given day, though particularly on Saturday and Sunday, Sam's Club is sample bonanza. You can consume a complete meal before you ever reach the checkout. Begin with bagel chips or crackers, often accompanied by cheese, a dip or a spread. Choose from an array of cooked sausages, including chicken apple, artichoke parmesan, cilantro or portabello mushroom. Wander over to hot foods for lasagna or a slice of pizza, or perhaps a mini pocket of some sort. Indulge with a taste of pie or bit of brownie.

Sam's affords sustenance; you leave with a full stomach, a full cart, and a little more in the pocketbook. Sure, it may not be presented on a pretty platter or in a pretty package, like at Par Avion, but who's to say that a boutique atmosphere makes for better samples? In the end, it comes down to the same goal -- free food. Some folks prefer SUVs; others prefer the fuel-efficient economy sedan. --sb

The final word: Partlow backs down -- Sort of.

I agree with my esteemed colleague that for sheer quantity, I would go to Sam's for free samples. Where else could I grab a burrito bite full of textured vegetable protein, pizza-flavored Chinese food, taco-flavored Italian food, and Southwest-style eggrolls? Food shouldn't be afraid to reveal its true identity! Sam's if fine when you're feeding ravenous teenagers or indiscriminate football fans and you need a fast basketful of deep-fried goodies. But when it's time to eat like a grown-up, or quality matters more than quantity, give me Par Avion any day. -- mbp

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