Nemo's Coffee, High Hops Brewery, Szechuan Panda 


click to enlarge Nemo's Coffee

Nemo's Coffee

2114 E. Pikes Peak Ave., 635-2745, nemoscoffee.com

We're near the third anniversary of Nemo's newer drive-thru location, which continues to produce a beautiful espresso drink thanks to its high-end Synesso machine and fine Ozo-roasted beans out of Boulder. The organic Isabelle roast infuses deep chocolate notes into a basic latte ($3.55/16 ounces), which takes on mocha proportions with added SweetLeaf English toffee liquid stevia (50 cents extra). That's only one of several flavors — a nice switch from sugarier syrups.

The gluten-free set will also find GF bread, made by co-owner Tracy Anderson, as a substitute on any sandwich. It's good and not too gummy, even after a run through a panini press, as evidenced on a Reuben ($6.25 includes one side) with decent servings of corned beef and melted Swiss. It could use a touch more sauerkraut ('cause I can never get enough probiotic zing) and honey mustard, which Nemo's opts for instead of the typical Russian or Thousand Island. — MS

click to enlarge High Hops Brewery

High Hops Brewery

6461 Hwy. 392, Windsor, 970/674-2841, highhopsbrewery.com

High Hops launched in 2012 with a tasting room inside The Windsor Gardener, a seasonal greenhouse in northern Colorado that dates back 24 years. The Weakland family runs it all, including an attached home-brew supply shop, and also cultivates more than 50 hop varieties on-site. In-house cultured yeast contributes to more locality, as does Cache La Poudre River water used for brews like The Golden One Pilsen Ale (around $9/six-pack cans).

Crisp as expected from a Czech style, it treads into saison territory with coriander and lemon verbena that gift a Belgian essence and distinguishing herbal influence. It's not as heavy-bodied as Pilsner Urquell (the original Bohemian brew hailing from the town of Pilsen), on account of being an ale, not a lager, but a love for one should easily equal a love for both. Playful illustrations on the can indicate that it pairs well with treehouses and "frolfing" (Frisbee golfing). — MS

click to enlarge Szechuan Panda

Szechuan Panda

6928 Mesa Ridge Pkwy., Fountain, 390-8700, szechuanpandafountain.com

First, and most importantly, this is an excellent restaurant name. This is a name that makes me want to eat a Disney movie with a side of chili paste, and wash it down with a stuffed animal. There's little to no movie-studio feasting at the Fountain restaurant, however, which is tucked away in a northern strip mall. Simply decorated, dim and peaceful, it was empty the afternoon we visited for some Three Meats with Pepper Sauce ($6.99) and Vietnamese bún dac biet xào xa ($8.99).

The former is a standard brown-sauce arrangement with a standard egg roll, standard green peppers and water chestnuts, and standard fried rice. You've eaten this meal a thousand times, and it's been pretty much fine every time, like it was here. The latter is a more interesting noodle bowl propped up with cucumber shreds on the bottom, and cuts of steak, chicken and shrimp all redolent with grill-char magic. — BC

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