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From-scratch food kills at Colorado Coffee Merchants 


Sit down and find a Monday-through-Thursday to eat out for breakfast and lunch every day. Cash in the 401K, sell the car — it's time to eat. Consider these days your sabbatical from simmering, your respite from roasting, your break from baking, broiling and browning.

Do this because chef Stephanie Lyman is doing all the work for you. And I mean all the work.

The 29-year-old comes into Colorado Coffee Merchants god-awful early to make her own butter. Then she takes that butter and makes her own pastry dough. Then she fills that with organic turkey and Gruyère to make you stuffed croissants. And just note that it's a three-day process that only yields a dozen croissants, and that those 10 quarts of cream are organic and the turkey's from Ranch Foods Direct, and that nothing tastes better than the simple executed superbly.

Or you might find her milling wheat berries from a Buena Vista farm, so she can make you English muffins, so she can make you a rich eggs Benedict with homemade Hollandaise. Or chorizo breakfast tacos so spicy and fresh — crisp from an organic pico de gallo, intensified with pepper jack — they live in my pleasure center permanently. There was even a bacon option, full of succulent bites, that couldn't hope to keep up with its sibling.

The next morning I went in to find it all (devastatingly) rotated off the menu.

Because nothing gold can stay, and at CCM, a standout destination in its own right even prior to adding Lyman, almost everything is gold. The chef changes the menu daily — and in our visits, somehow kept everything to $10 or less.

The bar has been raised and your bagels are irrelevant, because this food was basically growing yesterday, baked the next morning, and sold out that day. Just wait until the produce from Venetucci Farm starts rolling in.

"I went to pastry school — my background is baking and pastries — but I've been a cook in a lot of places, too," says Lyman, who goes by Chef Steffi (or Cheffi), as in her side business Steffi's Bakery and Confections. "[And] it's not that I love food as much as I like feeding people."

During our time, there was never a miss. It could've been the breakfast sandwich that looked like simple scrambled eggs with smoked ham until you took a bite and thick, golden yolk oozed forth. Or a turkey wrap embodying the new spring with its spinach tortilla, glistening cucumbers, crisp lettuce and hint of creamy dressing. Or an über-moist bread pudding suffused with boozy flavors and the best use of cinnamon and sugar since "the taste you can see."

"People get really crazy with desserts, and stuff like that," Lyman says. "It's not that I don't enjoy it and appreciate it, I just think there's something so fantastic about a simple, three- or four-ingredient dish that's just done well."

We could possibly complain that there really needs to be a menu at the cash register. (There's a sandwich board outside the front door and a posting on Facebook, neither of which are useful come crunch time.) Or that there could've been more Dijon mustard in our ramekin. Or that Fillmore Street sucks.

There's just a lot to like. Soon it will lead to a new, open cooking space on the east side of the coffee shop, where appliances are wheeled in and out and everybody can see everything. And isn't tomato season coming? I guess it's time to get out my calendar ...

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