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CIA-trained chefs stick the landing on beers and brunch 

The giving Tree

click to enlarge Get your hollandaise fix during Sunday brunch hours. - GRIFFIN SWARTZELL
  • Griffin Swartzell
  • Get your hollandaise fix during Sunday brunch hours.

Late brunch on Father’s Day isn’t a time when we expect restaurant service to be its zippiest. But when we visit Iron Tree Taps & Tables in Florissant, they’re downright swamped and seemingly outgunned, having spent the last 5½ hours slammed with diners. Before a 10-minute wait for a table, we’re told they’ve been running out of silverware. So we temper our expectations.

Technically, Iron Tree exists as two businesses under the same ownership. There’s the 2-year-old eatery, operated by Jocelyn Albrizzi and Ross Derby, both graduates of the Culinary Institute of America. The interior of their cabin-esque building feels bright, thanks to light woods. Plentiful wall decor echoes any of a dozen mountain town cafés and family restaurants we’ve visited, and a big dessert case at the entrance tantalizes. Then there’s the 6-month-old brewery business, Funky Town Brewery. Under the watchful gazes of Derby the brewer and a three-eyed cat logo, Funky Town makes a variety of styles ranging from Belgians to IPAs, available on tap or by the crowler.

When we visit, they’re out of the tripel and Belgian strong that first catch our eye, so we order a Scottish ale and a black wit. The Scottish ale, a ruddy amber brew tastefully dubbed Shaggin’ Wagon, lands at our table a little cold. The temperature mutes the malt character, but as it warms, we enjoy roasted and toffee notes alongside a mild fruitiness from the malt character. The black wit, named Total Eclipse, pours the color of cola, which makes its inclusion on the brewery’s “light beers” list baffling. But while it bears rich cold-brewed coffee notes and a faint fruity acidity, the body feels like any other mid-range wit we’ve had, substantial but easy-drinking all the same.

Location Details Iron Tree Taps + Tables
37 Costello Ave.
Cripple Creek/Teller County
Florissant, CO
748-0124
8 a.m. to 8 p.m., Monday-Saturday; to 3 p.m., Sunday

Since we visit on a Sunday, we’re ordering from the brunch menu, and brunch means Benedicts. We select the Vega-licious, which loads an English muffin with tomato, spinach and sautéed onion under the customary poached eggs and hollandaise. Ours comes sans tomato and sans explanation for that, but the eggs ooze perfect golden yolks when cut, blending into a rich hollan-daise with enough lemon tang and cayenne warmth to go down fresh and light over raw spinach and delightfully sweet caramelized onions. Side country potatoes come gorgeously tender, though a skosh heavy on the seasoned salt.

We also try a brisket melt, an open-faced mound of thin-sliced beef, zingy sour pickles, a lovely over-easy egg and toasty fresh salsa that fills and satisfies, simple and good. Even on this busy day, the quality of the food stands a cut above.

We can’t leave without raiding the dessert case, snagging the last slice of cheesecake and a piece of carrot cake. Banish any idea that cheesecake is just cheesecake; this one’s something special. Our huge slice arrives super light in texture, delicate in a crisp crust that doesn’t overwhelm with baking-spice flavors. Raspberry sauce atop sings with tartness and true fruit flavor, strong enough for even a tiny amount to read in a bite. Carrot cake arrives dense and moist, beautifully spiced with a thin layer of tangy cream cheese frosting. I favor walnuts for texture, but this cake’s flavor and moisture make them unnecessary. Like everything else we sample, its simplicity displays refinement and expertise in the kitchen staff. Their flavors and techniques offer a clinic on the basics. We just hope Iron Tree usually keeps enough staff on-site to handle its success.

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