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Granola Elegance 

Breakfast and lunch at Adam's Mountain Cafe

It's not unusual for a change in ownership to signal the downfall of a restaurant, especially a unique and well-loved, locally owned place. Adam's Mountain Cafe, elegant granola meeting place for vegetarians, Manitoids, tourists and gourmands alike, has been a local dining legend since 1985, and the change of ownership just a few months back brought with it some grumblings about declining quality and service. Granted, that is to be expected. It's like when your favorite teacher in elementary school had a baby and you had to abide a substitute for the rest of the year. Still, any amount of grumbling about Adam's warranted investigation.

I'm pleased to report that four visits for breakfast and lunch in recent weeks have convinced me that whatever kinks there might have been when Adam's changed hands have apparently been ironed out. I haven't been to Adam's for dinner and can only attest to the service and quality of food during daylight hours, but my recent dining experiences there have been uniformly cozy and the food far exceeded my expectations.

On one frigid January afternoon, the village of Manitou lay beneath a glaze of ice. Whipped by a freezing wind, I retreated into the familiar orange-and-spice scented lobby of Adam's and found the front dining room filled with tables of mostly women, sipping warm drinks, laughing, discussing the problems of the world and planning their immediate futures. The warm oak graininess of the place is soothing and conducive to long discussions and extended meals over steaming cups of tea. My waitress, Dawn, was so kind and attentive that I thought I might have looked especially needy, but I soon noticed she lavished each guest with equally generous attention.

I ordered the Smoked Salmon Fettucine ($9) and Adam's Winter Salad ($3), sipped on a glass of Jekel Pinot Noir, a soft Monterey variety, and settled in. The salad alone, served with a soft Great Harvest whole-wheat roll and sweet butter, would have made a fine mid-day meal. The pile of fresh baby greens was dotted with thin slivers of ripe pear, chunks of creamy Stilton cheese and an abundance of toasted walnuts, all bathed in a delicious warm port vinaigrette. I hesitate to declare anything perfect, but this salad comes close.

The fettucine came even closer. Well-prepared pasta was tossed in a delicate dry vermouth cream sauce, lightly flavored with dill, and generously doused with bite-sized pieces of Adam's smoked salmon, prepared in-house. A sprig of fresh thyme, a sprinkling of capers and a generous portion of freshly grated Asiago cheese finished off the dish. The smoked salmon, marinated in a citrus mixture and hickory-smoked, was sweet and smoky, still slightly moist. I'd order anything on Adam's menu that includes this ingredient. In fact, I've been looking for an opportunity to go back and try the Smoked Salmon Omelette ($7.50), a three-egger with cream cheese, scallions, smoked salmon, capers and dill.

Lunch on another frigid January day started with the soup of the day, a creamy curried sweet potato soup. Served at just the right temperature, the soup was an intriguing, complex blend of flavors and smooth texture. I detected ginger, yogurt and possibly even the hint of a finely chopped hot pepper. Again, a bowl of this served with a roll and butter would have made a fine meal. But I could not resist an early afternoon breakfast -- one of life's great luxuries -- and ordered the Green Mountain Falls ($7.50), a signature dish.

A wedge of grilled polenta is topped with a pile of gently braised (read: not overcooked) spinach, and fresh tomato slices, with two eggs fried over medium on the side. White cheddar cheese is melted over the top and the whole shebang is spiced with Adam's vegetarian green chili. A dollop of sour cream and a wedge of lime on top provide good flavor contrasts. The dish is an unqualified success (and can be ordered minus the eggs).

I would be remiss if I did not mention the creations of Adam's pastry chef, Melissa Davis. In recent weeks, I've tried two of her regular desserts and can't wait to try the rest. The flourless chocolate torte with raspberry sauce is dense and divinely semi-sweet. But my favorite so far is the chocolate bread pudding with candied pecans and caramel sauce. The pudding holds together but is not too heavy as bread pudding can be, and the addition of plenty of caramelized pecans gives it texture to offset the sweetness. Adam's also offers a New York cheesecake topped with caramelized apples, classic tiramisu, and on one recent visit offered a white chocolate creme brulee.

A glance at the dinner menu confirmed that Adam's has kept some old favorites and added some new dishes, a solid decision during transition time when regulars are likely to get picky. Intriguing choices, new since the last time I had dinner there, are the Autumnal Squash ($12), roasted butternut squash filled with Colorado goat cheese and a blend of grains, topped with a port wine reduction and balsamic syrup; and a duck cassoulet.

The passing of the baton at Adam's hasn't affected the atmosphere one bit. Decorated with an eclectic mix of oak tables and chairs, threadbare oriental rugs, Charles Rockey prints, hanging plants and funky light fixtures, it's as warm as a grandma's parlor and tastefully done. Soaking up the afternoon sun through the slatted shades of the front window is a unique Manitou experience, one I'll go back for time and again.

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