Seasoning's greetings

Colorado Springs isn't exactly overrun with stores where you can find seven different kinds of pepper, ground in-house, in amounts down to the half-ounce. Finally, a bastion for spice-heads is tentatively scheduled to open Thanksgiving week at 110 N. Tejon St.

Savory Spice Shop (savoryspiceshop.com) is the creation of Mike and Janet Johnston, who originally worked for a spice company in Chicago. After a national survey showed Colorado Springs and Denver as cities desirous of additional seasoning, they moved to Colorado in 2004 and opened their first store in Denver at 1537 Platte St. Since then, they've opened a second Denver location, as well as stores in Littleton and Boulder.

Mike has a theory on their success: "Aside from the selection, [people] usually walk in thinking they're going to get ripped off — like, 'Boutiques cost me more.' But they get in here and realize they're going to save money over the grocery store."

The Springs location, the first of many the Johnstons aim to franchise, will be run by 16-year residents Dick and Mary Frieg.

In addition to conventional and organic spices, shoppers will find more than 140 house blends, sauces, stocks, extracts and unique items like pomegranate molasses.

A Smashing debut

Smashburger debuted a new menu at its new 5230 N. Nevada Ave. location on Oct. 28.

Last week, we called to inquire about the new offerings, and after a couple transfers, unexpectedly found ourselves voice-to-voice with the Emperor of Expeditious Eats himself: Smashburger founder Tom Ryan.

Don't know him? Well, he's only the man responsible for Pizza Hut's Stuffed Crust Pizza line and McDonald's' McGriddles, parfaits and Big N' Tasty concepts. Obviously Ryan knows his stuff, but further proof of his prowess resides with his degrees in lipid toxicology, and flavor and fragrance chemistry.

Color us impressed.

Anyhoo, Ryan says the Springs will be a test market for an expanded beer selection, new burger and hot dog options, French fry toppings and ... wait for it ... green chili.

Branching out at Pine Gables

Though recently seized by the state and closed due to owed back taxes, the Pine Gables Tavern (10530 Ute Pass Ave., Green Mountain Falls, 684-2555) is open again with some menu twists, thanks to new owner Scott Hunt.

Hunt, a realtor and 17-year Manitou Springs resident, says he occasionally visited the bar and always had fond memories. When in GMF for business recently, he noticed the closure and began to ponder buying the place.

"I think [my investment partner's] initial response was, 'You want to run a bar?'" Hunt says. "Well, it's a cool bar!"

Because Scott had no prior restaurant experience, he brought in his son Christopher, previously a cook at Primitivo and Briarhurst Manor Estate, to design the menu. Expect gourmet pizza options, paninis and pineapple-and-roasted-garlic wings. Diners can also order from the neighboring Mucky Duck Restaurant's full menu.

Diplomatic mission

Become a Pikes Peak Urban Garden Ambassador and attend the first of a free yearlong garden class series at 9 a.m., Nov. 14 at Holy Theophany Parish Center (2770 N. Chestnut St.). RSVPs (info@ppugardens.org) and a pledge to grow 20 percent of your family's produce in 2010 (or to substitute as needed with locally produced food) required. This session will cover site selection, soil amending and season-extending methods.

À la carte

• Sample "eight wines with macabre names" and light appetizers from 7 to 10 p.m., Oct. 31 at Scary Good Wine Tasting Night at the Second Street Art Market and Wine Bar (366 Second St., Monument, secondstreetart.com). Costumes optional, reservations mandatory; the cost is $30 plus tax/tip.

• Learn how to make winter soups from 2 to 4:30 p.m., Nov. 7, for $35, with chef Brent Beavers at Paragon Culinary School (3125 Sinton Road, chefbeavers@comcast.net). Beavers will also prepare a Fall Harvest Wine Dinner with nutritionist Lauren Stuart from 4 to 7 p.m., Nov. 8. Seats are $60; visit learnnaturalfoods.com for reservation and venue info.

• Help Jenny Wood raise money for a van to accommodate her 15-year-old quadriplegic son Jesse's power wheelchair, by attending a fundraiser at the Craftwood Inn (404 El Paso Blvd., Manitou Springs, craftwood.com), from 6 to 8 p.m., Nov. 13. Apps and wine will accompany a silent auction; $25 tickets are available at 650-5678 or at the door.

Send spicy news to scene@csindy.com.


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