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Changing of the guard 

Food lovers in Colorado Springs have gotten some sad news and some good news in recent weeks. Primitivo, a groundbreaking, trend-setting, all around great place is closing its Tejon Street doors on Aug. 24. (Owner Alan Manley assures us he's looking to reopen in a new, more customer-parking friendly building in 2003.)

Yet many of us who felt hollow when learning that Sencha closed last month can now rejoice. Chef Brent Beavers is now the owner-chef, and Sencha, reopened in the same location, is better than ever.

Sencha offers a peaceful respite from the noise and clutter of lower downtown. For diners inside, Mark Clinton's swirling stained glass serves to strategically block Nevada Avenue's neon lights while Kris Scheaffer's colorful paintings, the clean light wood of the tables, the funky purple chairs and great light fixtures in the bar area add their own magic.

But why stay inside when some of the best al fresco dining in the downtown area is just out in back? A walled patio with beautiful blooming plants and a small water garden will make you feel miles away.

Chef Beavers will change the menu every two months or so, relying heavily on available local produce. He plans to maintain his ties with Tres Rios Coop, an excellent source of fresh, generally organic food, and to expand his involvement with the Slow Food Movement beginning to gain momentum here in town.

At this writing, the summer menu features some terrific salads and fish dishes. Sencha's Summer Salad, available at lunch or dinner, offers organic mixed greens, candied walnuts, pears and Gorgonzola with a light smoked tea vinaigrette. Or try the avocado stuffed with crab and smoked salmon, accompanied by a smoked corn relish.

Different dishes will be offered at the Literary Dinners (monthly on Sunday and Monday evenings), the upcoming one in late August taking its theme from Fannie Flagg's Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Caf. No one seemed too keen on my suggestion of Moby Dick.

So we've lost an old friend in Primitivo (at least for the time being), and regained another. Given Chef Beavers commitment to quality preparation, to local food, to his loyal staff (most of whom were at Sencha under the previous owner), to putting out good food and having a good time, this friendship's here for the long haul.

See you on the patio one of these days.

-- Nancy Harley

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