Warning: If you're counting your carbohydrate intake, this week's Appetite could be hazardous to your health plan. From gumbo to bread making, chocolate mousse cream puffs to red beans and rice, the Springs' upcoming food scene is a caloraholic's dream.
Take, for example, the Fat Tuesday menus at Oscar's (333 S. Tejon St.), planned by owner/chef Phil Duhon, and The Ritz Grill, under the direction of executive chef Jason Gust. Duhon, formerly a chef at the Ritz, takes credit for showing Gust his way around a Cajun kitchen and says Gust does a fine job of it.
On Tuesday, Feb. 24, both restaurants will feature Louisiana-inspired dishes ranging from boiled crawfish to bread pudding. Duhon likes to point out that Oscar's is "the number one oyster bar in the Springs, including the Broadmoor restaurants," referring to the number of oysters shucked and sucked off the half shell weekly. Oscar's Fat Tuesday menu opens with fresh shucked oysters and will include two kinds of gumbo (one seafood, and the other chicken and sausage); boiled shrimp and crawfish; roast beef, shrimp, oyster and catfish po-boys; jambalaya; and smothered pork chops New Orleans style, over "rice 'n' gravy." The chops are slow simmered with onions, peppers and garlic, and then parsley, paprika and cayenne are added to the pan juices to make a thin gravy for pouring over the rice. Duhon will also make his own boudin -- traditional Cajun pork and rice sausage. Although he's a Springs native, Duhon learned Cajun cooking from his Lafayette, La., family and from cooking offshore on oil rigs off the Gulf Coast.
A few blocks north, at the Ritz, Gust will also offer two gumbos and the requisite boiled shellfish and po' boys, as well as a crawfish bisque and shrimp and crawfish toufe over rice. Creamy Crawdaddy Cakes are the highlight of the appetizer menu. Entrees include sauted chicken topped with crawfish herb cream sauce; a marinated, grilled strip steak topped with shrimp scampi; and blackened catfish topped with crawfish Nantua sauce.
Both restaurants will serve the Cajun Filet, a dish whose origin Duhon lays claim to -- fried catfish on a bed of rice, topped with crawfish toufe. Bread pudding with praline sauce tops off both Fat Tuesday dinners, but neither chef claims to have invented that diet-buster.
Two more reasons to stuff and celebrate: 1) the Fine Arts Center has opened a new full-time, year-round bistro in the theater lounge area; and 2) The Margarita at Pine Creek, celebrating its 30th year in business, will offer half-price bottles of wine and patrons' favorite recipes of the past during the month of February.
The FAC Bistro menu features a number of gourmet sandwiches, including a Mediterranean Mozzarella Open Face, Knobhill Turkey Club and Threeway Egg Salad. Five salads round out the grown-up menu, and kids can order a "Museum Meal" that includes a peanut-butter-and-jelly, a grilled cheese sandwich or a hotdog, a beverage and side dish, plus an educational museum toy. Muffins, scones, pastries and cakes are available throughout the day. Running the show in the FAC's kitchen is Max Roman, a self-described veteran who says he's worked in restaurants for 30 years, though he is only 43 years old. Roman began a lifetime of food preparation at the age of 13, in the kitchen of his father's restaurant.
Up north, the Margarita will offer its traditional prix fixe five-course dinner, offering many favorites from menus of yesteryear. Here's a sampling: On Feb. 18, diners can choose from three appetizers -- country pt, linguine with white clam sauce or spanakopita; two soups -- borscht or crab bisque; two salads -- tossed greens or Caesar; four entrees -- paella, steak barnaise, veal piccata or salmon en crote; and four desserts -- chocolate mousse cream puffs, cheesecake, carrot cake or strawberry shortcake.
Some things just never go out of style, you know? Like excellent service, classic recipes, handmade sauces and a warm, inviting dining room. Congratulations to the folks at the Margarita for consistently providing all to Springs diners for 30 years.
Finally, on Feb. 19, share your high-altitude baking woes and get some expert tips from the folks at King Arthur Flour, America's oldest flour company, offering 208 years worth of hard wheat, unbleached, non-chemically enhanced flour and immeasurable amounts of baking advice.
King Arthur's national baking tour is making a stop in Colorado Springs where master baker Michael Jubinsky will demonstrate "Sweet Dough" (ethnic sweet breads) and "Artisan Bread" (crusty, old-world breads) techniques in two separate sessions. Jubinsky will teach traditional shapes including braids and baguettes, how to use sourdough starters, traditional and bread machine methods, and tips on curing your "yeast anxiety." For more on King Arthur Flour and the classes, visit
-- Kathryn Eastburn
Oscar's Fat Tuesday dinner starts at 3 p.m. For reservations, call 471-8070.
The Ritz Grill Fat Tuesday dinner starts at 4:30 p.m. For reservations, call 635-8484.
The Fine Arts Center's Museum Bistro Open Tues. Sat., 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Sundays, 1-5 p.m. Call 634-5581 for large group reservations.
The Margarita at Pine Creek's 30th anniversary celebration Call 598-8667 for reservations (please mention special food restrictions when you call and they will accommodate your needs).
King Arthur Flour Baking Class Thurs., Feb. 19, noon to 2 p.m. and 7-9 p.m. Radisson Inn, 8110 N. Academy Blvd. No registration required; class is free