Thanks to a cooking class last month at Thai Eats ($50 per person for four courses), I now possess authentic, Northern Thai-style recipes for pad Thai, Musman curry (more commonly called Massaman), Thai shrimp ceviche and pork toast.
The classes are hands-on, where you prep and cook most of your own food under owner Meaw Merrell's supervision, while she tells stories and laughs a lot. You eat some on the spot and end up leaving with to-go boxes, too. It's then up to you to return to her tiny, in-store Thai market for ingredients to reproduce the recipes at home. Classes can be customized and certain dishes requested.
While Monika went for a crêpe and Bryce for some dinner theater, I returned to Thai Eats this week for another meal.
640-B S. Academy Blvd., 380-0535, thai-eats.com
Great Moses on rollerblades! Now that's Panang curry ($5 as daily special, regularly $6.95)!
Having found everything a little tame at the cooking class mentioned in my introduction, I order my Panang chicken Thai-hot during a lunch stop-in, and Meaw Merrell obliges. By contrast to the buffet-style items, the daily special is made to order, and thankfully Merrell offers me a sample spoonful after about five minutes to approve the heat index. It's a touch over my line, so she scoops in three extra tablespoons of coconut milk to tone it down a notch.
It's still an intoxicating, molten punisher. The heat builds and I sweat, but the fresh — fresher than I've ever tasted — curry flavor comes through cleanly, kaffir lime leaves and basil leading with an assist from the green onion garnish. — Matthew Schniper
Olde Town Creperie
mobile unit, 439-5298, oldetowncreperie.com
Crêpe carts are to Paris what hotdog carts are to New York, affording easy, portable street-eats. And Paris is where Olde Town co-owner Sandy Bracken fell in love with the thin pancakes.
After purchasing her own 14-inch, French crêpe griddles, she began offering made-to-order savory and sweet crêpes in a tent. Disruptive winds led her to invest in a mobile trailer after that. And while other local crêperies have shuttered, Olde Town has flourished, thanks to a busy spot at the intersection of Union and Academy boulevards.
The classic Nutella crêpe ($5.50) comes with whipped cream and a powdered-sugar dusting, to which I add fresh-cut strawberries ($1 extra). A delicious and nutty mix of hot, creamy and cool without being overly sweet, it's pavement eats at their finest. — Monika Mitchell Randall
Briarhurst Manor Estate
404 Manitou Ave., Manitou Springs, 685-1864, briarhurst.com
At the invitation of the Briarhurst, we stop by to experience a five-course mystery dinner ($70), which comes complete with warnings of ghostly girls in the garden, apparently to be seen through a downstairs window. And though the specters fail to materialize, that may be the only disappointment of the night.
Chef Tyler Peoples' lemon-lime "caviar" custard pops with citrus; the watercress-and-goat-cheese salad is a simple pleasure (if a little over-dressed); and the five fat, seared sea scallops damn near melt under pressure, as does another entrée, the Financier de Colette of creamy forest mushrooms, peppers and smoked Gouda in a puff pastry.
Colorado-based Red Herring Productions puts on a hell of a show, though our group ultimately loses on a technicality. Tip: Don't name your team No Shiznit, Sherlock. — Bryce Crawford