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Woodland Park tapas and downtown drinking 

Side Dish

Owner/opera-ator

Carmen, a Tapas Grill & Bar (609 W. Midland Ave., Woodland Park, carmen-tapas.com), which opened in November, actually has nothing to do with the famous opera; it's named for co-owner Carmen Aurand, whose Honduran husband Carlos Macis is the co-owner and chef. Macis operated the Martini Hut for four years before moving that business to Shining Mountain Golf Club, where he spent four more years as chef.

Here, the couple has designed international lunch, dinner and tapas menus, each available during all hours (Monday through Saturday, 11 a.m to 10 p.m.; Sunday, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.). Lunch relies on sandwiches, salads and soups, while dinner features entrées like ribeye steaks and Italian sausages with sides like arroz y papas (rice and potatoes). The tapas list hits everything from albondigas (meatballs) and rum-soaked, bacon-wrapped dates to house-made empanadas.

Heath bar

"Surprisingly good gluten-free" is the tagline of Miss Ami's Kitchen (missamiskitchen.com), which recently opened operations out of You and I Caterers at 6429 Omaha Blvd. The business offers pickup, local delivery and shipping services, but baker Ami Heath's cheesecakes are also sold at YoYogurt locations and Salsa Brava's Briargate spot.

Heath, a former waitress turned marketing rep and longtime home cook, says she hopes to move into her own retail space soon while expanding her sweets into more eateries, with a long-term goal of opening her own restaurant. She was turned on to gluten-free foods after researching recipes to cook for a former colleague with celiac disease.

"It became my passion," she says. "I converted my kitchen and over a two-year period became an advocate."

Though fudge, cookies and cupcakes are also available, Heath's cheesecakes are her star item, with flavors like pumpkin and cherry chip on crust varieties such as oatmeal cinnamon almond.

Solar buzz

The former antique market space at 103 S. Wahsatch Ave., opens this week as Downtown Fine Spirits & Wine (475-8115). Building and business owner Gregor Huesgen says he'll carry a large selection of quality liquor, vino and craft beers.

Huesgen says that much of the merchandise will be displayed on "century-old antiques from mostly Asia," many of them procured on his own travels. "There's not a shop like this in town," he says.

That comment also speaks to a 30-kilowatt solar system providing most of the space's energy needs. Huesgen owns another 90 kilowatts on three other buildings, making him one of the area's largest solar energy generators. (Disclosure: Huesgen is consulting with the Indy on expanding its solar capacity in the near future.)

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