Gourmet roast 

Liquids and solids at warm Black Forest café surpass standard offerings

Coffee shops tend to be spotty when it comes to landing a hearty meal. Rarely will you see a kitchen as devoted to good grub as thick foam.

I'm assuming that's why Ryan Wanner (the roast master) and Robert Hudson (the chef) decided to call R&R, their year-old venture, a "coffee café." The term rightfully distinguishes the Black Forest space as an earnest dining destination. If you're not on the clock, and your stomach's growling, you can feed the beast in style at R&R.

My girlfriend and I dropped in on a Monday afternoon. After taking in the detailed expanse of dry-erase menus, a long line of colorful, mismatched, hanging coffee mugs, and some advice from the super-friendly Wanner, we decided on the Mayan mocha ($3.50) and honey vanilla chai latte ($2.50). And for eats: a spinach salad with chicken ($5.95 + $1), a bowl of Southwestern stew ($3.95) and the day's special, a catfish po-boy ($6.95).

While Hudson toiled in the open kitchen, Wanner appeared at our wooden, bench-seat table, set in one corner of the quaint dining room, with two big mugs. The chai, made from Boulder's fair-trade and organic Third Street Chai concentrate, was well-mixed, with just the right amount of milk and not too sweet. Mexican-chocolate-sauce-rich, with just the slightest hint of spice under a thin whipped-cream cap, the mocha also brought perfect balance.

"I can't stand the sugar-bomb-style drinks," Wanner later told me, adding that those balanced with flavor, coffee and milk spotlight the espresso best. A largely self-taught roaster with a medium profile, he's clearly got his beans in order.

Our entres soon arrived. The crisp spinach salad bore gourmet touches like crumbled bleu cheese, walnuts and a raspberry-pecan vinaigrette dressing. For only the $1 up-charge, R&R didn't skimp on the lime-grilled poultry, either.

The Mirepoix- (carrot, onion and celery) based soup, also generous for its price, benefitted from beef stock and tender, stringy pork cubes and green chilies. The tasty po-boy, served on a fluffy, house-baked hoagie roll, sported a mild red pepper mayonnaise and fresh lettuce, tomato and red onion to match the fried fish's crispness.

Hudson came out to chat us up while we slowly savored our dessert: a warm and beautifully prepared sticky bun ($2.50), which showed the prowess of someone who's apprenticed under a pastry chef. (As did a small loaf of chocolate banana bread ordered for the road.) He also cooked for ex-presidents and other high-profile types at a swanky, five-star lodge in the California redwoods area prior to moving to Colorado a couple years ago. After trying his food, I wasn't entirely surprised.

We also learned that on Friday nights, he prepares dinners ranging from fish fries to barbecues, and that he's taken a special interest in gluten-free baking (by request). The offerings are eclectic, but what's obvious is that Wanner and Hudson have achieved an aptly named forest retreat, built on passion for their respective culinary crafts. Should you venture the 15 minutes off Interstate 25, you'll find rest and relaxation and satisfaction.



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