Sure, I love s'mores over a campfire, and enjoy dripping fondue cheese as much as the next guy. But not since a cafeteria food fight on my last day of high school have I had so much fun with food as I did at Ceres' Kitchen.
From the moment I slipped on a bright blue apron to the time I rolled my stocked cooler (suggested for transport) out the door, I was elated. The natural- and organic-focused kitchen, where you can assemble your own meals, makes eating more consciously and diversely both simple and affordable.
Ceres' shopping process begins either via phone or online, where you complete a simple contact profile. From there, one simply selects small (serves 2-3) or large (serves 4-6) meals, picks a time for a prep session at Ceres' Briargate location, and checks out. The Web site proves easily navigated and presents in-depth, concise descriptions including ingredients and nutrition information for all 16 vegetarian, meat and fish main dishes, and four sides.
The only detraction to my overall wonderful experience, however, came online: The day I ordered, the Web site froze on the checkout's last step, and I was charged twice after finally completing the transaction. I called the store and was expeditiously assisted in finishing the order by phone; during my on-site prep session, an extremely accommodating and friendly staff credited the additional charge.
After making me a complimentary cup of tea, the staff furnished me a clipboard with assembly instructions, gave me the first-timer's rundown and pointed me off to the African vegetarian stew cooler. From there, at my own leisurely pace, I hit up different stations to prep the other choices I had made: Moroccan meatballs in spicy tomato sauce, Jamaican jerked salmon, orange quinoa with peas and scallions and Creole-style okra.
The whole assembly took roughly an hour. Accuse me of having toddler tendencies, but I was enamored with all the metallic measuring spoons and cups given to scoop ingredients into various-sized plastic baggies. I felt as though I regressed to chemistry class, assembling pinches and portions from a checklist to concoct some inevitably soupy, steaming creation. The fun's in imagining the final product.
Owner Sharon Bivins maintains a spotless kitchen, and her small crew bustles about during prep sessions, restocking food trays, washing utensils and assisting guests. The nutritionist-turned-storeowner says she decided to open her kitchen after visiting one of the corporate meal prep kitchens in Denver. She opted to bring an organic and natural option to the Springs market.
Rather than freeze my dinners for later consumption, as the kitchen's design implies, I decided to cook everything at once with friends two days after my assembly. Having only to open bags into cookware and read simple directions, the process was painless. And everyone found the recipes delicious and unique. I particularly loved the salmon's bite and the citrus approach to quinoa.
With themed offerings that change each month February aims to revolve around red, Valentine's-inspired foods Ceres' makes a strong argument for forgoing at least one dinner out, or even a whole trip to the grocery store.
9475 Briar Village Point #158, 266-8202, cereskitchenco.com
Hours: Tuesday and Wednesday, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., Thursday and Friday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Closed Sunday and Monday. Reservations required.
For $3 per dish, skip the prep work and pick up your order. Dietary requests and substitutions accepted.