7543 N. Academy Blvd., 598-1166, firehousesubs.com
By pure coincidence, days after we first saw the inside of a Firehouse restaurant we received notice that the national chain was donating $20,000 worth of brush shirts used to fight wildfires to the Colorado Springs Fire Department. So it's with recognition of that gift that we say that Firehouse, which just added a second location on Austin Bluffs Parkway, still may not be for everybody.
For instance, though boasting one of those cool, touch-screen Coke fountains, the dining room (full of appealing fire murals, equipment and safety tips) was trashed when we walked in. Then we were rushed through our order, each of our words quickly stepped on by the next question. Finally, neither the salt-bombed Smokehouse Beef & Cheddar Brisket ($5.99/medium), nor the New York Steamer ($5.89) of brisket, pastrami and provolone came off like anything other than cheap and one-dimensional; though the latter, laced with mustard and Italian dressing, held up better between the two. — Bryce Crawford
New Belgium Brewing
500 Linden St., Fort Collins, 970/221-0524, newbelgium.com
Given that India Pale Ale's history dates back to British colonization, you have to cringe at otherwise well-intentioned assertions that the IPA style is aggressively marching to world domination. But there's no denying its growing popularity, with impassioned "hop heads" leading the way. (It's a story fit for Michael Pollan's The Botany of Desire, penned partly on the topic of certain plants making us do their bidding.)
New Belgium just added Rampant IPA (around $9/six-pack; $4.50/22-ounce bomber), to its year-round Explore series that already includes the lower-ABV Ranger IPA and Trappist yeast-amped Belgo IPA. (The Lips of Faith series also includes a 9-percent ABV Super IPA.) Rampant, an imperial, weighs in at 8.5 percent with Mosiac and Calypso hops adding noticeable apricot and peach aromas to the citric notes of the widely used Centennial hops. It's simply fantastic, not overly bitter, and another rewarding study into hop profiles. — Matthew Schniper
Orchard Ovens Bakery
3 E. Bijou St., 685-9595, orchardovensbakery.com
Compared to the sledgehammer of sugar and shortening that is cake — not to mention its overrepresented and often disappointing "cup" cousin — pie is a quiet, subtle thing. It's an easy, unsolved algebra problem, instead of a shouted answer to one-plus-one. Pie is a continuation of the dinner conversation, rather than a "Dessert's here!" confabulation killer.
It's also delicious in dark lime-green, as we found out while tasting the dyed-for-St. Patrick's Day Key lime pie ($15) at Orchard Ovens, the bakery that just moved from Manitou's BAC to downtown. But it's not the color that's the secret, because it's yellow-green, otherwise: It's the pulp. It's the three whole, puréed Key limes leaving bitter, sour exclamation points among the velvety gelatin, making it equally impossible for this story to be cloying or dull. A hint of sour cream furthers the goal, while an eighth-of-an-inch of graham-cracker crust, crowned with homemade whipped cream, finishes the job. — Bryce Crawford