On the Saturday of the annual Parade of Lights, snow fell outside the new Caf and Wine Bar at the Poor Richard's complex downtown. Inside, the freshly painted mustard-colored walls, wood floors and purple and red accents warmed many a freezing customer stopping in for hot chocolate.
The sun dropped behind the mountains, Springs cops cleared Tejon Street of cars, and families lined the sidewalks, kids bundled up in stiff snowsuits, hats pulled down to eye level. A high school marching band passed, bass drums swaying, followed by a gaudy float bedecked with candy canes, giant snowflakes and waving elves.
From my table inside the caf, I watched a Colorado Springs-style It's a Wonderful Life unfold as I sipped an '04 Joel Gott Zinfandel.
Now, in addition to what's arguably the town's best pizza, eclectic toys and a lifetime supply of used books, Poor Richard's offers a gorgeous place to sit and watch the world go by; free wireless Internet access; a stunning assortment of handmade desserts; healthy breakfast muffins; fair-trade coffee brewed one cup at a time; organically grown teas; a superb list of wines by the glass; and a tapas menu featuring traditional bites from Spain and Italy, made with top-notch imported ingredients.
City Councilman Richard Skorman and his wife, Patricia Seator, have carefully pondered every last detail to make their dream of the good life come true in a downtown space that's upscale in quality but affordable, warm and welcoming.
The tapas menu, designed by wine manager Stacy Halsaoui, formerly of Primitivo, debuted on Dec. 8 to an appreciative crowd. French, Greek, Spanish and Italian olives, marinated in-house in olive oil, seasoned with lemon and tangerine peel and herbs, are a house specialty ($6).
The impressive cheese selection includes Parmegiano di Reggiano, pecorino Toscano, French brie, Spanish valdeon and manchego, a mild and creamy Italian tallegio and Italian gorgonzola dolce, an exquisite mild, nearly spreadable bleu cheese. Four cheeses served with ample house-made, chewy flat bread comprises the cheese plate ($8).
The Italian meat tapas are available in full or half portions; a half portion of each fills a plate, and, with a side of focaccia or flat bread, makes a great light dinner. The braesola, thinly sliced beef cured in wine and spices, with slivers of Parmesan and bright green arugula leaves scattered atop, drizzled in olive oil ($7), wakes up the mouth. Same for the prosciutto di Parma, paper-thin cured Italian ham topped with sections of fresh figs ($7).
In addition to freshly made olive tapenade, caponata and chick pea hummus, the antipasti plate ($8) includes muhumbra, a traditional Israeli mix of pulverized walnuts, sweet red peppers, bread crumbs and a touch of honey. Try it with a glass of the fruity Blanc de Noirs sparkling wine from New Mexico or a chilled glass of the French Pinot Blanc, and toast downtown's newest haven for sipping and sitting.
A wonderful life, indeed.
-- Kathryn Eastburn
The Caf and Wine Bar
at Poor Richard's
322 N. Tejon St., 630-7723
Hours: Monday-Thursday, 6:30 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Friday, 6:30 a.m. to midnight; Saturday, 7 a.m. to midnight; Sunday, 7 a.m. to 9 p.m.