Wednesday, July 1, 2020

The Backyard Farmers Market serves Black Forest Area; Dine Out Downtown expands

Posted By on Wed, Jul 1, 2020 at 1:00 AM

After a successful beta test on Saturday, June 20, Dine Out Downtown has expanded to include a second block along Tejon Street.
  • After a successful beta test on Saturday, June 20, Dine Out Downtown has expanded to include a second block along Tejon Street.

The Backyard Farmers Market in Black Forest ( launched May 23 and will run every Saturday (except July 4 and Aug. 15) through Oct. 10 at the Black Forest Community Center (12530 Black Forest Road). According to market managers Elba Barr and Theda Stone, this is the first farmers market to be hosted in Black Forest in over a decade. It boasts more than 40 producers — eggs, greens, mushrooms, honey, crafts and much more — from within a 50-mile radius, with “the overall goal to be a sustainable market.”

• After a successful beta test on Saturday, June 20, Dine Out Downtown ( has expanded to include a second block along Tejon Street. The Downtown Partnership, the organizing agency, says the same block between Pikes Peak and Colorado avenues will continue to serve and be joined by the block along Acacia Park between Platte Avenue and Bijou Street. Participating eateries will seat guests in the closed-off streets, and thanks to relaxed liquor laws around COVID-19, alcohol service is allowed. Hours are 4-10 p.m. Fridays and 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturdays through summer’s end. Reservations required (though walk-up resos allowed depending on available space). Visit the dine out website to see a list of participating eateries. 

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Thursday, June 25, 2020

Black-owned Longevity wines newly distributed in our marketplace

Posted By on Thu, Jun 25, 2020 at 3:39 PM

  • Ron Essex Photography

"Our mission really is about awareness and education. It’s not so much to separate African American winemakers from any other winemaker. It’s just a vehicle to let people know that there actually are African American winemakers. And that there is an industry and a path as a career for African Americans."

That's Phil Long, president of the Association of African American Vintners and winemaker/founder of Livermore, California-based Longevity Wines. He's being quoted in this recent Wine Enthusiast article.

Longevity's PR person Tami Kelly reached out to let us know that two Longevity wines have newly become available to the Colorado Springs marketplace (available at Springs Liquors, Tuscany Wine & Spirits and Payless Wine & Spirits). A wider selection is also available for purchase online, to be shipped.

The timing of the PR push obviously couldn't be more relevant given the current Black Lives Matter movement activities globally. In that same Wine Enthusiast Q&A, Long addresses BLM, saying, "I don’t know exactly the dynamic, but there obviously is a movement and a push to support Black-owned businesses. I’ve never seen this many new followers in months, let alone hours."
The AAAV only hosts two dozen member wineries, and Kelly tells me that Long puts the number of black-owned wineries at less than 1 percent of U.S. wineries. Long's also quoted as saying he didn't set out to get into the industry specifically as an African American winemaker; "I just got in the industry because I liked making wine."

  • Ron Essex Photography

Earlier in June, Springs Native published a crowdsourced list of Black Owned Businesses to Support in COS, and many locals have made the effort to participate. Since we don't host any local Black-owned wineries, Longevity's arrival to local liquor store shelves fills a void for one commodity that still keeps dollars flowing toward a select demographic consciously. (Longevity, like all businesses, has taken quite a financial hit due to COVID-19 restrictions, so the support's more than welcome.) 

Kelly sent us a sample bottle each of Longevity's Chardonnay (2019) and Cabernet Sauvignon (2018), which are also among the first to be sold nationally with the uniquely resealable, twist-off Helix cork, she notes. Long designed the wines' heart-shaped logo for his wife and winery co-founder, Debra, who passed away from pancreatic cancer in 2019.

From provided tasting notes, the Chardonnay should lead with aromas of melon, pear, pineapple, white blossom, mint, yeast and toasted oak. Sips should further evoke honeydew and lemon. The Chardonnay's cut by a scant 1-percent each Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Grigio plus an unlisted 2-percent of "mixed" grapes. The multi-vinyard-blend Cabernet's cut with 10-percent each Rubired and "mixed" grapes. See if you can detect black cherry, cassis and pomegranate amidst oak and a vanilla-cocoa in that wine.

I'll do no better in describing them since I'm not a sommelier — and I generally stand by the "drink what you like" cliché" anyway — but it's easy to say both wines are impressive for their respective dominant varietals and categories. I don't personally get all the descriptors, but the citrus definitely shines in the oaky Chard and the cherry's easy to pick out in the Cab, equally oaky, very smooth and only faintly tannic in the finish.

Coincidentally we ended up pairing the wines with Cajun food from a local Black-owned business (see review at soon), so we tested them against spicy, smoke-laced food which I'm sure isn't the most ideal pairing out there. But I will say the Chard's butteriness and mild sweetness helped counterbalance some of the heat and the acidity cut right through the richness of thick, dark gumbo. Despite the low tannins, the Cab held its own against a near-blood-sausage-dark beef link and played off the paprika in an interesting way.

And for whatever it's worth, we found ourselves still thinking about the meal as a whole the next day — excited to revisit leftovers and the second halves of each wine bottle. My dining companion, a regular wine drinker who generally cares not for Chardonnay, said this one has converted her, and she'll seek it out in the future.

So, cheers to (all of our) Longevity.
  • Matthew Schniper
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Thursday, June 18, 2020

Dine Out Downtown launches June 20 with a beta test of on-street dining

Posted By on Thu, Jun 18, 2020 at 4:00 PM

Tejon Street gets closed annually for a variety of events. Now, on weekends through summer, it'll close for on-street dining. - DOWNTOWN PARTNERSHIP
  • Downtown Partnership
  • Tejon Street gets closed annually for a variety of events. Now, on weekends through summer, it'll close for on-street dining.

The Downtown Partnership has been working for months now on plans to assist restaurants and bars during the continued pandemic period. Once restrictions were eased enough for on-site dining, they aimed to provide additional seating al fresco to address the limited indoor capacities mandated by the state. That included efforts by the City to expedite permits and waive typical fees to expand patio seating and sidewalk seating, as well as relax liquor laws and adhere to ADA laws.

For years residents have suggested that some segment of Tejon Street be turned into a pedestrian mall, but DP President & CEO Susan Edmondson — in a chat we had several weeks ago leading up to this announcement — says the vast majority of them attempted in larger cities have failed. She cited factors such as our density (not enough), transit and a robust walking and biking network. Those that have succeeded, she notes, tend to share factors such as being close to a beach or university.

But that said, the City does close segments of Tejon Street for a variety of annual events. And now, the Partnership has announced weekend street closures between Pikes Peak and Colorado Avenues along Tejon Street beginning Saturday, June 20. Participating restaurants on that block will be allowed to serve guests seated throughout the street. Presuming all goes well, the Partnership says service hours or days may expand, and another block of dining may be added should more restaurants wish to participate.

Here's more info from the full press release:
Dine Out Downtown offers on-street dining in the heart of the city

One block of South Tejon Street will close Saturday evening, June 20, to allow for outdoor dining as a “soft” launch to Dine Out Downtown, a summertime program by Downtown Partnership to expand outdoor dining in Downtown Colorado Springs.

The block of South Tejon Street between Pikes Peak and Colorado avenues will be closed to vehicular traffic Saturday afternoon and evening as participating restaurants provide service to dinner patrons in the street.

Beginning June 26-27 and weekends thereafter, the block will close for outdoor dining from Friday afternoons through Saturday nights. Patrons must have a reservation and be seated by the host of the restaurant; walk-up reservations are accepted.

The June 20 street closure is a beta test, and hours or days may evolve throughout the summer based on the desires of diners and participating restaurants. This block was chosen due to the high concentration of food services that wished to participate. An additional block of street dining service may be added if enough restaurants collectively participate.

Recognizing that many patrons may prefer outdoor dining this summer due to the coronavirus, Downtown Partnership initiated efforts to expand outdoor seating several weeks ago. The City of Colorado Springs has supported such efforts through waiving of permit fees and expedited reviews. The ability to expand dining into streets was eased just over a week ago through an Executive Order to the State of Colorado Liquor Enforcement Division.

“Dining in the streets is a great way to enjoy our wonderful Colorado sunshine while supporting Downtown’s independently owned restaurants,” said Susan Edmondson, President & CEO of Downtown Partnership. “We’ve worked closely with restaurants, city staff, the state and El Paso County Health to provide a fun new way to dine Downtown.”

Many Downtown restaurants have added outdoor seating capacity in recent weeks with expansion of their patio areas. City Planning & Community Development Department has processed permits for over 15,000 square feet of expanded sidewalk, alley and surface parking areas Downtown, and nearly an acre of additional outdoor seating citywide. To date, about 15 Downtown restaurants have been supported by Downtown Partnership in securing temporary and revocable permits to expand outdoor seating – in addition to the restaurants participating in the Dine Out Downtown street dining program.

Dine Out Downtown:
Soft launch: 4-10 pm Saturday, June 20, in the 00 block of South Tejon Street (Tejon from Colorado to Pike Peak avenues).
Participating restaurants: Colorado Craft Tejon Street Social, Jack Quinn’s Irish Pub, Jimmy John’s (downtown), Marco’s Pizza (downtown), and Red Gravy. Jax Fish House plans to join the following weekend and thereafter.
Regular operating hours: 4-10 pm Fridays and 10 am-10 pm Saturdays; June 26-27 and continuing weekends through summer

Know before you go:
Dining by reservation only; walk-up reservations OK. No public seating; patrons MUST check in and be seated by restaurant host.
In the event of inclement weather, restaurants may not be able to guarantee capacity to seat diners inside.

Participating restaurants:
Restaurant participation may change throughout the summer; updates are listed online.

Traffic Impacts:
Tejon Street will be closed between Pikes Peak and Colorado avenues; Pikes Peak and Colorado will remain open to through traffic.
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Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Crafted Colorado Virtual Farmer’s Market another option to shop online from roughly 70 area producers

Posted By on Wed, Jun 17, 2020 at 2:34 PM

  • Courtesy Crafted Colorado
In our June 10 Indy issue, we spotlighted the SOCO Virtual Farmers Market. In the same vein, and launched shortly after SOCO, the Crafted Colorado Virtual Farmer’s Market also sells locally produced items from roughly 70 vendors. Orders may be placed from 9 a.m. Mondays through 9 a.m. Fridays for Sunday (prepaid and optional contactless) pickup at either Happy Belly East (7702 Barnes Road) or at Crafted Colorado’s downtown retail shop (327 N. Tejon St.). Delivery’s also available for a small fee.

Crafted Colorado co-owner John “Goody” Goodwin says the shop launched two years ago after two prior years of running holiday pop-up markets. It sells an equal mix of craft plus cottage food and drink items, from baked goods to teas to natural toothpaste, soap and jewelry. They also teach craft workshops that they aim to resume soon following mandatory pandemic suspension.

Goodwin says they pivoted to some online sales in March of staple baking ingredients and things like steaks and summer sausages, and he personally put 1,000 miles on his car inside a couple weeks doing deliveries during the shutdown. “Nobody wanted to go out, and we needed to do something to help our vendors, the community and our business ... this is another avenue for revenue and attention to get our brand out there.”

He believes the short-term change in shopping behaviors as a COVID-19 response will likely stick around for a while. “If we make it viable for people, I think they’ll continue to do it,” he says. Plus, there’s a benefit with this model absent in most online shopping: supporting area artisans and crafters and keeping dollars local.
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Tuesday, June 9, 2020

BFD ("Breakfast for Dinner") one new feature of revamped Carter Payne venue

Posted By on Tue, Jun 9, 2020 at 6:30 PM

Breakfast for Dinner. Graffiti courtesy Gnomer (Darren Waltman). - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • Breakfast for Dinner. Graffiti courtesy Gnomer (Darren Waltman).

As we noted last week, AspenPointe Cafe, one of the behavioral health nonprofit’s social enterprise arms, will close June 30 at the El Paso County Citizens Service Center because the county did not renew its lease.

Relatedly, outgoing head chef Brent Beavers was already underway with another project at The Carter Payne, which already hosts his Immerse Cuisine. The new concept is called BFD, which stands for “Breakfast for Dinner.”
The Peter Rabbit dish: honey- and beer-braised rabbit on a carrot-caraway pancake with eggs, potatoes and a syrup trio (maple, blackberry-ginger and green chile). Eggs via MoEggs in Black Forest. - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • The Peter Rabbit dish: honey- and beer-braised rabbit on a carrot-caraway pancake with eggs, potatoes and a syrup trio (maple, blackberry-ginger and green chile). Eggs via MoEggs in Black Forest.

“Breakfast for dinner was cool as a kid,” says Beavers (for whom I formerly worked, at his original, now-closed restaurant in town, Sencha). “There are tons of great breakfast spots in town that close midday, so I thought it’d be fun and wanted to try this.” Rather than fold new menu items into Immerse’s menu, he says BFD helps him develop two separate thoughts.

Microgreens via local business Microvora atop the Peter Rabbit. - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • Microgreens via local business Microvora atop the Peter Rabbit.

BFD leans more savory than sweet generally. The above-pictured Peter Rabbit (see description in the first photo above) is "my play on chicken and waffles," says Beavers, noting he's had the dish in mind for two years. Its three syrup dips include a boutique maple from Pennsylvania's Nova Maple Syrup, plus a blackberry-ginger made with Venice Olive Oil Co.'s blackberry vinegar, and a house-made green chile simple syrup.

Shakshuka: eggs poached into a Middle Eastern,tomato sauce over brown rice, with feta cheese and a homemade sourdough "pebble" bread baked over river stones. Leading spices in the dish are mint, coriander and mild cumin. - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • Shakshuka: eggs poached into a Middle Eastern,tomato sauce over brown rice, with feta cheese and a homemade sourdough "pebble" bread baked over river stones. Leading spices in the dish are mint, coriander and mild cumin.

Beavers says he plans to make BFD menu additions or substitutions as this summer's growing season persists, and he may explore more Asian and Central American flavors soon. And he's also added some vegan and dietary flexible dishes to Immerse's menu with a small reboot.

Chef Brent Beavers, masked as per COVID-19 guidelines. - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • Chef Brent Beavers, masked as per COVID-19 guidelines.

The Carter Payne remains anchored by Local Relic Artisan Ales, but venue co-owner Jeff Zearfoss has also added a wine bar stall, named Crusade, which offers 20 wines by the glass. That brings the total up to four kiosks in the former AME Church.

“It’s been our vision from the beginning,” he says, noting popular Denver food halls such as Avanti and Stanley Marketplace. “Now it’s starting to feel like it.” 

Soon, look for new outdoor seating as a planned patio expansion will take form.

The newly revamped Carter Payne now hosts: Local Relic, Immerse Cuisine, BFD and Crusade wine bar. - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • The newly revamped Carter Payne now hosts: Local Relic, Immerse Cuisine, BFD and Crusade wine bar.
Local Relic Artisan Ales still anchors The Carter Payne, with 18 house taps of highly experimental beers. - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • Local Relic Artisan Ales still anchors The Carter Payne, with 18 house taps of highly experimental beers.
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Monday, June 8, 2020

Colorado Farm & Art Market launches June 10 and 13 with COVID-19 guidelines in place

Posted By on Mon, Jun 8, 2020 at 7:59 AM

Arlene Hinton with Blue Skies Organics sells jams, greens and leather pouches. - COURTESY CFAM
  • Courtesy CFAM
  • Arlene Hinton with Blue Skies Organics sells jams, greens and leather pouches.

Colorado Farm & Art Market (CFAM for short) starts back up for the 2020 growing season on June 10 at the Pioneers Museum, to be followed with its first Saturday market on June 13 at the Margarita at Pine Creek.

Organizers very much want the general public to know that they're strictly adhering to COVID-19 guidelines, so much so there's a bunch of info on their website, here, specifically about that.

Below, you can see tips for shopping; see what precautions vendors are taking; and read about general market safety.

CFAM Market Manager Ruthie Markwardt says "we're keeping the connection between the farmers and consumers alive and thriving," despite measures to socially distance.

In years past, the market has acted as a congregation point where consumers can chat it up with producers and share in the community aspect of shopping and buying local. But this year, says Markwardt, "we're seeing it as more of a space to still come shop and get what we need and see people, but from a safe distance, and in a faster manner than prior ... we look forward to when it can be a gathering space again."

She advises to "shop with your eyes" rather than your hands for that perfect tomato (when those come into season).

Sarah Hamilton of New Roots Farm - ELLEN KERCHNER
  • Ellen Kerchner
  • Sarah Hamilton of New Roots Farm

The vendors list will be updated online by June 10 to reflect some new members this year. And one other important note is that participating artists will only show at the Margarita at Pine Creek (not at any Pioneers Museum dates), where they'll be able to properly space out and adhere to the guidelines, says Markwardt. That decision came from discussions with the city, county health and parks departments, she says.

Lastly, she notes that organizers will post on CFAM's Facebook page with updates throughout the market season on what produce is becoming available weekly as the harvest season progresses. As usual, expect salad greens, root veggies and some herbs in the early weeks — don't start holding your breath yet for peaches.

Tote bags available to Consumer Members of CFAM's Cooperative. - COURTESY CFAM
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Friday, June 5, 2020

AspenPointe Cafe to close at June's end after El Paso County says they won't renew the social enterprise's lease

Posted By on Fri, Jun 5, 2020 at 2:40 PM

  • Courtesy CSBJ

Though AspenPointe chiefly provides mental and behavioral health services to residents of El Paso, Park and Teller counties, the longstanding local nonprofit also operates a number of social enterprises — one of them being AspenPointe Cafe for the past nine years.

When we first wrote about the cafe in the Indy in 2012, there were 10 students under the supervision of 21 food service workers and other support staff as part of AspenPointe's culinary training program. Those students included at-risk youth, veterans, students from the Colorado School for the Deaf and the Blind, and those with a variety of disabilities who've sought AspenPointe's services.

Revenue from diners at AspenPointe Cafe, inside the El Paso County Citizens Service Center at 1675 Garden of the Gods Road, directly went to fund the social enterprise.

But as of June 30, 2020, AspenPointe Cafe operations will cease, says Vice-President of Marketing and Communications Strategy E.J. Rickey.

COVID-19 would seem the likely culprit behind the closure, but only in a roundabout fashion it turns out. According to Rickey, AspenPointe received a letter from El Paso County on Monday, June 1, letting the nonprofit know that they wouldn't be receiving a lease renewal option because the county needed to repurpose the space as part of its own COVID-19 response.

Rickey says the cafe has been successfully operational, even during the recent period in which on-site dining was prohibited, and that prior to notice of the lease expiring, there were no plans to close the cafe. But "we don't have anywhere else to transition the service to," he says, adding "it's an uncertain time for the industry right now, so we decided to go ahead and close."

Roughly 20 jobs will be eliminated, and AspenPointe's working to absorb some staff internally and otherwise help others find new employment.

Outgoing Head Chef Brent Beavers says, "For the last seven years, I have had the pleasure of leading the career training mission and kitchen at AspenPointe Café. When I started at AspenPointe, I had no idea of the impact the students we served would have on my life. The experiences I had while running the kitchen and program changed me as a man, and enlightened me to the power that food and kindness can have in rebuilding and healing people.”

Beavers is also behind Immerse Cuisine at The Carter Payne, home also to Local Relic Artisan Ales. He has also just announced the launch of BFD on site, which stands for "Breakfast for Dinner ... a playful and fun new food concept [which] leans on and draws from many cultures to explore different ideas of what is for breakfast."

We'll have more about BFD in our June 10 Side Dish column. 
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Friday, May 29, 2020

Pastry chef creates Wildflour Pastries as answer to pandemic layoff

Posted By on Fri, May 29, 2020 at 10:15 AM

Cannoli are the early bestsellers - COURTESY WILDFLOUR PASTRIES
  • Courtesy Wildflour Pastries
  • Cannoli are the early bestsellers

Amanda Dremsek had been working as a sous chef for the Snooze restaurant chain’s Colorado Springs location for five months before being laid off at March’s end due to the pandemic. “So I decided that a change needed to happen,” she wrote on Facebook. That led to the launch of Wildflour Pastries in early May, currently being operated as a cottage business with contact-less pickups at or deliveries from 1707 W. Vermijo Ave.

  • Courtesy Wildflour Pastries
  • Cupcakes

Before Snooze, Dremsek — who earned both culinary and pastry degrees from Pittsburgh Technical College, in her home town — was also a sous chef at a Capital Grille upscale steakhouse location in Pittsburgh as well as The Steakhouse at Flying Horse, locally. Eric Hill, Flying Horse’s executive sous chef, tells me “She’s a talented individual.” Wildflour co-founder Broc Manross agrees; he comes from an accounting and consultation background, he says, noting he was also laid off from a company locally around the same time as Dremsek, who he encouraged to branch out with her own business.

  • Courtesy Wildflour Pastries
  • S'mores tart

Wildflour sells custom (and wedding) cakes, pies, cookies, cupcakes and the early bestseller: cannoli. “We’ll take requests and try anything,” Dremsek says, noting a recent mint chocolate chip graduation cake, and an orange-lemon cheesecake she’s earned acclaim on, plus a s’mores tart she made for Flying Horse that she plans to add to her menu soon. Wildflour's cookies, cupcakes, cannoli and pies can be ordered with as little as a day's notice, while cakes and larger assorted trays can be made with a two-day notice.

As for her pivot, “we’re creating light in a dark time now for people,” says Dremsek. "It's a personal thing to receive a personalized item made just for you," adds Manross.

  • Courtesy Wildflour Pastries
  • Wedding cakes

“The most rewarding part is watching someone blown away by our product. We had a woman get a couple dozen cupcakes for a kindergarten graduation. She left a review on our page — an image of her son with a cupcake.” What it said: “The cupcakes were off the chain and just what we needed to brighten my little mans Kindergarten graduation!”

Wildflour Pastries cofounders Amanda Dremsek and Broc Manross - COURTESY WILDFLOUR PASTRIES
  • Courtesy Wildflour Pastries
  • Wildflour Pastries cofounders Amanda Dremsek and Broc Manross
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Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Whistle Pig Brewing plans to expand to a Templeton Gap Road location, pending city's neighborhood variance approval

Posted By on Wed, May 20, 2020 at 2:11 PM

Whistle Pig's marmot mascot, Brewster, with a crowler and pint. - COURTESY WHISTLE PIG BREWING
  • Courtesy Whistle Pig Brewing
  • Whistle Pig's marmot mascot, Brewster, with a crowler and pint.

Whistle Pig Brewing Company (1840 Dominion Way,, now in its 5th year, plans to expand to a second location at 2107 Templeton Gap Road, #130. That’s the same shopping center in which Sasquatch Cookies recently opened; as well there’s another Joey’s Pizza location ( planned for the center.

Co-founder and co-master brewer Eric Merrell (his business partner is Rob Beers — yes that’s a real last name) says they hope to be open by late July or August, but currently they’re holding on a variance with the city because they’re less than 200 feet from residential units that have expressed concerns such as noise and parking. "They were concerned it would change the family nature of the neighborhood," says Merrell. "We responded that we're family-friendly ... people don't always understand that breweries aren't like bars; it's not the same clientele."

So, assuming all goes well and they get a green light — the landlord's hopeful as they've already hung a banner out front — Whistle Pig will move brewing operations over, as this space offers a brew area that would be more than three times larger than the current 400 square feet they brew in with a four-barrel system. They’d purchase a new seven-barrel system, accordingly.

“We’re maxed out at our current location,” says Merrell, noting they doubled capacity last year from two to four barrels and had inquired about a neighboring storefront that didn't work out. “If we can’t grow here, we’ve gotta grow somewhere else.”

The new space would host a similar sized tap room, but expand from the current 12 taps to 18 or 20, to include house hard seltzers plus more rotating seasonals and experimental beers, which Merrell defines as something outside of what they normally do, such as a recent imperial stout with cayenne pepper or a California Common.

He says they'd likely do more single-hop IPAs, and barrel-aged beers as well. Current bestsellers include IPAs, such as the flagship Code IV Double IPA and Blue Line IPA, named in honor of law enforcement, and seasonals like a summer-timed Black IPA. With more tap space and brewing capacity, Merrell says the seasonals (which include a winter oatmeal stout and St. Patrick's Day-timed wee heavy Scottish ale) could potentially stick around longer.

This new Whistle Pig would also serve a limited food menu with panini sandwiches and the like, prepped at the current location. They envision also having a relationship with Joey's Pizza to offer pizza on site, since it'd be a neighbor.

Beers and Merrell have been friends for more than 35 years, having graduated Palmer High School together. When Whistle Pig first opened, the Indy gave it a tough, critical review, noting several poorly executed beers.  A year later, we reported a move in the right direction. And more recently, anecdotally, I've heard of continued improvement.

I asked Merrell about that evolution and early bumpiness, and he concedes "we had a huge learning curve, we had our issues, and we worked diligently to overcome them all."

Merrell says he went for a certificate at the Master Brewers Association of the Americas in Madison, Wisconsin last year. "My knowledge increased a lot," he says. "A lot of things I already knew of course, but some of the stuff I learned, I was like 'uh-huh, now I know why that happened.' Now, if something goes wring, I can tell exactly what happened and fix it." 
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Crystal Park Cantina reopened as of Cinco De Mayo with mini margarita pitchers, plus more food news

Posted By on Wed, May 20, 2020 at 9:46 AM


Mash Mechanix Brewing (, aiming to open at 429 E. Pikes Peak Ave. in mid-July, tentatively. The name pays homage to motorhead culture: “we grew up gearheads,” says co-founder/brewmaster Leif Anderson, who enjoys “making everything, mastering a style and moving on.” Look for 13 house beer taps fed by a 3-barrel system, but no set flagship brews. “We’ll open with what we like,” says Anderson, “with a broad offering, and rotate taps quickly to feel out our customers ... our focus will be a brew for everyone here... everything from lagers to ales.” 

FH Beerworks East (2490 Victor Place, will host its third Car Seat Cinema night Saturday, May 23 at 8:30 p.m. with a showing of The Goonies. Vehicle spots cost $15; pre-purchase to-go beers the day of at; they’ll be delivered to your car near the movie’s end; bring snacks and non-alcoholic drinks; bathrooms available and “all social distancing recommendations will be enforced.” 

Crystal Park Cantina (178 Crystal Park Road, Manitou Springs, reopened for to-go service on Cinco de Mayo, having initially opted to go dark during the on-site restaurant service cessation under COVID-19 policy. Current hours (“until dining returns”) are noon to 7 p.m., Tuesday-Sunday. Mini pitchers (four drinks) of house margaritas are available (as are single orders) and the limited food menu includes taco kits in three size options.

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Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Coquette’s Bistro announced a closure and downsizing — then their loyal customers effectively talked them out of it

Posted By on Wed, May 13, 2020 at 1:00 AM

  • File Photo

Coquette’s Bistro, the local gluten-free mecca, announced a couple weeks ago that it would be closing, with a plan to downsize and offer minimal services in the wake of COVID-19. “We had a building in mind, the whole deal,” says co-owner Michelle Marx.

Then they were inundated with comments and letters of support from more than 1,500 loyal customers. “We were blown away,” she says. “I’ve never seen anything like it.” Suffice to say, it got their attention, and got her and her daughter/co-owner Turu to rethink their plan. “We want to be there for people so we can all grow back together,” says Marx. 

What exactly that’ll look like remains a work in progress, given updated restaurant guidelines from the state and ongoing considerations as the pandemic remains a threat. But Coquette’s Bistro will be back online as of May 15, three months ahead of its 11th anniversary.

Look for the bakery to return with all bakery items rolling out over time, and a limited restaurant menu to include “all the favorites,” says Marx.

They’re getting an online ordering system ready for smooth to-go operations, and they’re eying their patio space with the possible addition of a tent when limited sit-down service eventually returns — with health and safety as the priority. 

Location Details Coquette's Bistro and Bakery
616 S. Tejon St.
Colorado Springs, CO
Café/Sandwich and Bakeries
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Friday, May 8, 2020

Mash Mechanix Brewing aiming for mid-July opening downtown

Posted By on Fri, May 8, 2020 at 10:05 AM

  • Courtesy Mash Mechanix Brewing

Breweries are taking as much of a battering as restaurants and bars due to the COVID-19 pandemic, with some beginning to fold under pressure. Locally, our scene lost Iron Bird Brewing this past week.

And yet with all the gloomy news, some entities are moving forward as confidently as possible with their plans to stay alive and thrive. And we've just learned of a new brewery that plans to open in the in mid-July tentatively.

Meet Mash Mechanix Brewing, to be located at 429 E. Pikes Peak Ave. (diagonally across the street from 1350 Distilling) in a renovated, 100-plus-year-old building that's been everything from a turn-of-the-20th-century dairy to a church, tattoo studio and scooter shop in more recent years. 

The co-founders behind it are: Leif Anderson, also the brewmaster and a D-11 middle school science teacher by day; Ryan Close, who also works in IT; and Kevin Olsen, the "construction manager extraordinaire" of the project. Anderson and Close have been pals since grade school, who "grew up gear-heads, always fixing things, making them better and building our own stuff," says Anderson. Hence the name Mash Mechanix, to pay homage to motorhead culture.

Here, that means building out some of their own custom equipment — such as tap handles from old Nascar engine parts — as well as developing their own recipes of standard styles. Anderson has won numerous awards at regional homebrewing competitions in the eight years he's been making beer. "I will brew anything," he says. "I enjoy making everything, mastering a style and moving on."

  • Courtesy Mash Mechanix Brewing

Anderson says they're also focusing a lot of attention on rehabilitating the building, "bringing it back to its original splendor inside." He says they've been able to repurpose many materials, including church pews from a defunct church in Denver's Washington Park area as well as wood (to be used for tables) from a former bowling alley in Fountain.

Mash Mechanix will be brewing on a 3-barrel system and plans to open with 16 taps: 13 devoted to house beers; one for root beer, another for just CO2 for growler fills (they'll also sell crowlers); and the third for cold water for non-drinkers.

Anderson says he's not planning to define flagships out of the gate, but rather wants guests to pick favorites from a rotating list of beers he'll brew. "We'll open with what we like," he says, "with a broad offering, and rotate taps quickly to feel out our customers ... our focus will be a brew for everyone here... everything from lagers to ales."

Also look for regular food truck service on site. "We're excellent cooks, but we'd rather make beer," jokes Anderson, who says he's focusing on the silver lining when it comes to the timing of opening amidst the COVID-19 pandemic: "It's unfortunate, but it's given us the time to really focus on opening correctly," he says. 
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Wednesday, May 6, 2020

SOCO Virtual Farmers Market offers shopping to directly support Colorado farmers, Ranchers and craft food producers

Posted By on Wed, May 6, 2020 at 1:00 AM


“When you shop at SOCO Virtual Farmers Market [] you are buying DIRECTLY from the farms/ranchers and craft food producers... They receive 90% of that selling price. This is a reversal of the margin they can achieve compared to the latest USDA study that shows that farms on average only receive 14.6% of the selling price from traditional stores.”

That’s the vital info on SOCO VFM’s website, a smart alternative to in-person farmers markets in the era of COVID-19.

Order between noon Monday and noon Thursday for pickup on Saturdays at the Ranch Foods Direct Warehouse and Retail Store (4635 Town Center Drive).

Nearly 50 vendors are participating with products ranging from grass-fed beef to pet food, honey, tea, tamales, bread, soap and much more.

Big Red F Restaurant Group ( will follow up on its April 29 donation day by again giving out 300 packages (for a total of 600 meals) of food on Wednesday, May 13, from 1 to 3 p.m. at Jax Fish House Colorado Springs (11. S. Tejon St.).

“These meals are for anyone in need, and we’re aiming to reach our brothers and sisters in the restaurant industry that have been furloughed,” says PR & Marketing Manager Callie Sumlin.

Check out our April 22 article on how the Colorado Springs Bartenders’ Guild has launched Serving the Springs: A Food & Supply Drive for the Colorado Springs Hospitality Industry.

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Thursday, April 30, 2020

Big Red F/Jax Fish House & Oyster Bar host patio pop-ups and industry donation days

Posted By on Thu, Apr 30, 2020 at 6:09 PM

Chef/Founder Dave Query personally handed out free meals to industry folks and anyone in need who wished to grab one. Big Red F also donated meals to the Springs Rescue Mission. - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • Chef/Founder Dave Query personally handed out free meals to industry folks and anyone in need who wished to grab one. Big Red F also donated meals to the Springs Rescue Mission.

Jax Fish House & Oyster Bar opened with a bang in the Springs in early January, and had hit stride on Tejon Street before the mid-March order to cease on-site restaurant service due to COVID-19.

Parent company Big Red F Restaurant Group opted to go dark with several of their concepts, keeping only The Post Brewing Company and West End Tavern going with pickup and delivery services. 

Chef/Founder Dave Query says that's because "barbecue and chicken travel well," compared to many of the higher-end items on other company menus. And from what we quickly learned after Jax opened here, quality and consistency means everything to the businesses.

They have also done some "socially distanced patio pop-ups" at various locations where customers can order online and do low-contact pickups on select days. The first pop-up at the Colorado Springs location takes place Saturday, May 2, but they're already sold out for it. Query says there will be more days ahead. (Check their social media pages for updated info regarding the pre-order launch days and pickup days.)

Here's a look at the limited menu:

I caught up with Query in person as he had just finished distributing free meal packages (veggie pasta with cheese and garlic bread) to industry folks and anyone else in need, on Wednesday, April 29 from Jax's C. Springs patio. Roughly 50 meals went to folks who showed up, and roughly another 250 were donated to the Springs Rescue Mission Query tells me. 

The company plans to do another round of donations from 1-3 p.m., Wednesday, May 13 at their C. Springs location as well. ("The meals will be handed out first-come-first-served by the honor system, so no need to show any proof of former employment, ID or anything else," reads a company press release.) 

Jax's Boulder location was the first Colorado restaurant certified by the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch, and they remain strongly commitment to sustainably sourced seafood.

Concluding our casual chat, Query made it clear to me that the same mindset of sustainability carries through now in the decision making on how best to take care of Big Red F's enormous staff roster across locations, as well as customers. Ultimately, that's also positioning all the eateries to open up strong when state mandate allows, hence some of the decisions to close certain locations while operating others and popping up in others. 
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Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Smiling Toad Brewery got in eight slammin’ days at their new location before shut-down orders came in March, but they’re “very optimistic about the future”

Posted By on Wed, Apr 29, 2020 at 9:39 AM

Few businesses will have a COVID-19 story quite as odd as Smiling Toad Brewery’s (

Since closing in June 2019 at their former location at 1757 S. Eighth St. (now Happy Tap), co-owner Biff Morehead and crew had been toiling away to launch in their new spot at 2028 Sheldon Ave. (formerly Thirsty’s). They finally opened on March 9, seeing a huge response before on-site shutdown orders came down: “We kicked ass for eight days,” says Morehead. “I’m very optimistic about the future.”

Smiling Toad began brewing at greater volume, having upgraded from a 3- to a 10-barrel system. So, just after their short-lived opening celebration, they’re sitting on a lot of beer — 11 styles currently, including their beloved IPa Freely and Ella Lavender. Guests may bring growlers to be sanitized and filled, and crowlers are also available daily.

Another challenge Morehead notes is how crowler cans have increased in price from around 95 cents a can to $1.77 recently due seemingly to demand, but he doesn’t want to pass costs along to customers during this tough time. Still, “the margins are getting small for us as prices go up.”

Another interesting side note: He says in the symbiotic relationship between breweries and food trucks, the breweries used to support the trucks more, while now it’s the trucks who’re bringing vital business to the breweries. (Smiling Toad hosts several days weekly.) He’s grateful to them, and to “our amazing beer community, supporting us all — I’m overwhelmed.”

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