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Cacao Chemistry to reestablish a dessert bar downtown, Underground changes hands 

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Downtown dessert

Ever since the historic Michelle's closed on Tejon Street in 2007, local food enthusiasts have wondered when someone would reestablish a dedicated dessert spot downtown. Sure, between restaurants, retail fronts and coffee shops, you can find pretty much whatever sweet you're looking for on the strip, just not the broad variety under one roof that Michelle's offered.

Sam Lang and Travis Ashing aim to change that with Cacao Chemistry (109 N. Tejon St., cacaochemistry.com), which launched in 2014 and has kept a retail shop at 6455 Omaha Blvd. since mid-2015. CC opened on Valentine's Day downtown, and currently offers only French macarons and a gorgeous array of fine truffles — take a quick tour on the website to see descriptions of flavors like: goat butter ganache and pistachio; blood orange cardamom, chocolate stout, and lemon pine nut.

But the couple aims to consolidate operations on Tejon and become a full-fledged dessert bar, to include drinking chocolates, baked goods and craft cocktails. The first phase, more sweets, will come when they return from serving at the swanky Aspen Food & Wine Classic in June, and the drink components should follow by fall or winter.

Ashing, a computer engineer by day, handles the business side, while Lang graduated from Denver's Johnson & Wales with a pastry degree and has spent a decade in the industry, including time at the Mile High City's Colt & Gray and Root Down. She credits a small group of employees with collaborating with her on flavors and designs, and at 2015's Colorado Indulgence Festival, they won gold for Most Indulgent Sweet Treat with their Stranahan's whiskey-cream cherrywood-smoked cordial topped in gold leaf. Lang has even made a passionfruit and Ibérico ham caramel, to further illustrate the next-level nature of these candies.

As for the overall idea for claiming sugar supremacy downtown, Lang says no one was hiring when she moved here and "no one was doing what we're doing, here — find a niche and fill it."

Underground's new overseer

As of March 1, ownership changed at the Underground Pub, Subterranean Nightclub and Brewer's Republic (110-112 N. Nevada Ave., 578-7771), as Jeff Haigh bought the whole affair from longtime owners Jerry Morris and Tom Halfast, who are moving on to open Cerberus Brewing in the coming months at 702 W. Colorado Ave.

Haigh, 45, comes from the computer engineering world via California but has elicited support from an aunt with nearly five decades of restaurant experience, who's consulting and acting as executive chef. Many others in his family have owned a variety of spots across the U.S. too, he says.

All of the former staff have stayed on and menus have been updated. Haigh says to look for regular specials and for the general identities of each brand to stay the same (beer bar, gay bar, music and dance club). Overall he wants to "push toward a higher service level," he says.

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