The Perk Downtown
14 S. Tejon St., 635-1600
I bypass the Buzzer, a cold-brewed best-seller said by my friendly barista to deliver the equivalent of around five shots of espresso. (My nervous system tenses even around the thought of that anxious buzz.) So the Cafe Belgium ($3.09/small) it is: regular brewed coffee blended with heavy whipping cream, a couple spoons of Ghirardelli chocolate powder and a nip of DaVinci almond syrup, topped with a blast of whipped cream.
Result: velvety awesomeness that at first heads toward a dark hot chocolate, where the tongue perceives the powder's micro-grit inside the thick creaminess. Then the coffee notes speak up, not bitter or as strong as espresso, but balanced, just before the almond essence chimes in for a smooth finish. Purchase a Scotch-a-Roo ($1.60) for a later sweet snack: a peanut butter Rice Krispies square capped in a thick chocolate layer with pretty melted butterscotch adornment. — Matthew Schniper
Top That! Pizza
3659 Austin Bluffs Pkwy., 598-9614, topthatpizza.com
Choosing your own ingredients, Subway-style, can be a fun little exercise in pie-crafting. But when I was at Top That! last week, it sort of felt like I was short the 8-year-old who would really get a kick out of it. Nonetheless, when dropping in on this three-state chain, it's on the customer to choose a crust, cheeses and toppings from a fairly extensive selection; then it's sent through a 540-degree convection oven for about 2½ minutes.
Some thoughts on our two 10-inch pies ($7.49), a Zorba the Veggie and a build-your-own: The ingredients in both held up well once tableside, including added Parmesan and Pecorino Romano; the Zorba's multigrain crust offered real depth, while the Italian White on the personal pizza was pretty generic; both offered chewy crusts that tended to sag toward the middle; and, overall, the quality was better than a good frozen pizza, but not to where you'd want it brought to your door. — Bryce Crawford
Crabtree Brewing Company
2961 29th St., Greeley, crabtreebrewing.com
In honor of Colorado Brews' pilot episode screening this past Saturday on Rocky Mountain PBS, I pick up featured beermaker Crabtree's bestselling Ginger Bee (around $10/six-pack), a 6.5-percent ABV blonde ale brewed with a couple pounds of fresh-cut ginger and 60 pounds of orange blossom honey per 10-barrel batch.
The honey notes explode from the bouquet, creating aromatic ecstasy. Sips are crisp and effervescent, with CO2 bubbles creating a Champagne-like show rising in my glass. Honey pervades the taste, but not in a cloyingly sweet or Braggot-style way, instead fading into a German Kölsch-like breadiness. (American 2-row pale malts are actually used with Cascade hops.) I don't detect any ginger, though. Assistant brewer Andrew Sheffield later conjectures by phone that I'd likely nabbed a "more mature" pack; over time, the ginger and hops recede while honey amplifies, he says. — Matthew Schniper
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