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Thursday, March 14,2013

A pleasant surprise in the Peloton

By Clay Fong
Photo by Susan France

Nowadays, canny developers of big-city high-rise residential buildings know it’s not enough to offer a well-appointed gym or ample parking. The big draw for potential tenants is the on-site eatery, made all the more appetizing by a Michelin-starred or celebrity chef pedigree. Closer to home, the Peloton complex off Arapahoe seems to have acknowledged this trend by holding space for both Basta and the Poppy Cafe.

Poppy occupies the space formerly inhabited by the Gindi Cafe. It retains much of the contemporary airy ambience and impressive Flatirons vistas if you tilt your gaze above the storefronts across the street. On a recent Sunday excursion with friend Mara, we found this spot to be moderately crowded. Regular Sherlock Holmes that I am, I deduced that some of our fellow diners were residents living well within walking distance.

The weekend brunch, served from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., features a menu that’s surprisingly comprehensive given this eatery’s relatively modest size. Salads range from a simple green number to entree offerings anchored by such exotica as pan-roasted halibut or smoked salmon.

Omelets include a classic Denver prepared with bacon, a meatless Boulder with goat cheese, and the Lafayette, which includes smoked salmon. Minimalists may embrace basic waffles, bacon and eggs, and eggs coupled with house-made soy sausage.

Both of us chose selections from the brunch entree section of the menu. Mara’s meal consisted of a $14 crab Benedict featuring lump shellfish as well as a ration of bacon. The crab came in the form of a hefty but delicately seasoned cake, not too salty and brimming with clean shellfish flavor. Some may subjectively favor crisper bacon, but there was no questioning the underlying quality of this pork. The thick strips featured a pure, minimally processed taste, with an authentic smoke aroma.

As with any genuine Benedict, the eggs were poached. I could tell they were of correct consistency based on how they quivered when they were set down on the table. Another original touch was a small pile of peppy arugula on the side, which played nicely with the traditional Hollandaise’s unmistakably suave creaminess.

The quality and quantity of the ingredients in my $12 country lamb hash would easily command much more as a dinner item at a pricier establishment. My first bite of the hearty cubes of rosemary-scented lamb was a tad on the tough side. But for the most part, the meat was tender with medium doneness.

Unfortunately, the accompanying chunks of potato could have used more thorough cooking. However, the assortment of roasted vegetables, which included cauliflower, fresh beets, carrots and celery, left nothing to be desired regarding doneness. I also appreciated that the two eggs on top arrived with slightly runny yolks, which both ran into and enhanced the formidable foundation of meat and vegetables.

My friend and I shared the overall impression of pleasant surprise regarding this cafe’s selections, as meals here are of a quality to draw in more than just a neighborhood crowd. Portions were generous — a side of toast and jam was superfluous — and the kitchen effectively conveys a rusticated gourmet sensibility. I suppose that’s consistent with the restaurant’s tagline of offering “farm fresh foods,” which it most assuredly serves up — and then some.

Poppy Cafe is located at 3601 Arapahoe Ave., Suite D-181 inside the Peloton. Call 303-544-9000.

Respond: letters@boulderweekly.com

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