It’s all relatives

Visiting local oases of chocolate, pastries, cheeses and food fun

Susan France

They’re back.

We say that with complete affection and a sense of humor about the family members and friends who will be joining us in Colorado for the end-of-year holidays. I’m all in favor of it because visits inevitably lead to memorable tasting moments.

We say that we want to introduce folks to our finest culinary attractions, the local pleasure domes of flavor. Secretly, we are grateful because it gives us an excuse to indulge our cravings after a year of quinoa, kale, cricket loaf, keto coffee and paleo bread.

It’s just like living next to the mountains. Like a lot of folks, I see the Flatirons, foothills and snow-capped peaks on the way to work. I’m happy they are there but the reality of life is that I rarely get up there until somebody visits. 

The same is true for food. As hosts we encourage guests to vacate our home for a few hours to gather stocking stuffers, Christmas brunch treats and foodie gifts… and hope they invite us along.

After a while everyone has already visited the usual suspects: Hammond’s Candies, McGuckin Hardware, Coors Brewery, Celestial Seasonings, the Boulder Dushanbe Teahouse, the Brown Palace Hotel, The Cruise Room and dining with the sharks at the Denver Aquarium. Some include Casa Bonita on this list; I don’t.

Here are some of the places I send folks… and myself. I’ll start with the newer places to discover for chocolate, pastries, cheese and a recommended good food time, than add in a few old favorites.

Immersed in chocolate: Like proverbial kids in a candy shop, everybody’s eyes widen as they are immersed in the cacao pleasures of Chocolaterie Stam on North Public Road in Lafayette. An outlet for a small Midwestern chocolatier, the new shop has couches and tables and a piano in the corner. The counter offers hot chocolate, chocolate fudge sorbetto, praline and hazelnut bonbons, serious chocolate Santas, double salt licorice, stroopwafels layered with honey caramel, plus all manner of barks, slabs, bars and large gold coins that don’t come in a mesh bag (

A patisserie moment: The recently opened Le French Café in Boulder is a comforting oasis of genuine chocolate croissants, baguettes, croques madames and crepes. For the holidays, the café offers the real deal: decorated buche de Noel in chocolate, coffee or praline. If you can’t wait, it’s available by the slice (

Let there be Babka: Rosenberg’s Kosher, the Denver bakery formerly known as The Bagel Store, stocks the traditional deli/bakery delights. The holidays call for great bagels (everything!), bialys, challah, babka, seeded rye loaf, hammantasched, mandelbrot, rugelach, smoked whitefish and egg salad (

John’s international bakery tour: Italian cookies, biscotti, pannetone at Dolce Sicilia Italian Bakery, Wheat Ridge ( … German/European stolen, kringle, streudel and springele at Arvada’s Rheinlander Bakery ( … Slavic poppy seed cake, Russian tea cookies, Hungarian cheesecake and sweet yeast buns at Arvada’s Royal Bakery ( … Nordic Danish, kringle, strudel and great breads including Limpa rye with orange peel and fennel seeds at Lakewood’s Taste of Denmark ( … Mexican orejas, cookies, cakes and breads (not to mention Christmas piñatas) at Panaderia Sabor A Mexico Bakery in Boulder.

Longmont, cheese Mecca: The headline of the feature at says it all: “This Town Is a Must-Visit for Cheese Lovers (Shocker: It’s Not in Wisconsin).” They start naturally with the Cheese Importers Warehouse (gift shop/eatery), where you don a parka to shop and sample the fromage-filled shelves of the giant cooler of cheeses. Warm up with soup or raclette at the in-house Bistrot des Artistes ( Across town is the must-visit Haystack Mountain Goat Dairy for a factory tour, tasting and cheese-acquisition opportunity. Don’t miss the aged queso de mano and soft-ripened peak ( Next-door to the dairy is The Art of Cheese, a first-class teaching facility where family and friends can learn to make cheese at home. There’s even a Cheesemaking 101 class on Jan. 1, 2019 (

Satisfying animal instincts: Guests who miss their pets have a couple of good destinations available. For canine fans, Romero’s K-9/Dog Bar in Lafayette is the cat’s meow with spaces where dogs can sniff and play, and their guardians can sip craft beer and eat from food trucks ( If you are feline-oriented, I recommend a visit to the Denver Cat Company, a private club where you can sip coffee, eat snacks and hang out with a bevy of adoptable cats and calming kittens. Plus, feline yoga sessions (

Local food news

The words “frugal” and “Boulder” are rarely seen in the same travel feature, but when the New York Times’ Frugal Traveler recently visited, he enjoyed Louisville’s Moxie Bread Co. as well as Proto’s Pizza, Basta, Curry ‘N’ Kebob, Zoe Ma Ma and the Boulder Dushanbe Teahouse. … The Gold Hill Inn serves dinner Friday through Sunday nights until Dec. 16. After a New Year’s Eve party the place hibernates until spring. … Boulder chef Matthew Jansen of Mateo Restaurant opens Raglin Market, 5378 Gunbarrel Center Court, on Dec. 7. The 40-seat, fast-casual eatery offers Mediterranean-accented soup, salads and sandwiches featuring local ingredients, plus cocktails and craft brew.

Shacked-up with food

The national Shake Shack chain will be opening an outlet soon at Twenty Ninth Street (in the former Cantina Laredo space). Meanwhile, Tip Top Savory Pies Pie Shack is set to open at 105 N. Public Road in Lafayette. They enter an already crowded field of local food-oriented shacks. The most notable are barbecue temple Wayne’s Smoke Shack (Superior), and the recently launched lobster roll purveyor, Maine Shack (Denver). Other destinations include Fat Shack (Boulder) and Mikey’s Wing Shack (Longmont).

Words to chew on

“Feeding your children is an act of great intimacy, and I received my rewards: the sounds of forks clattering on breakfast plates, toast popping out of the toaster.” — Bruce Springsteen

John Lehndorff founded the Boulder-based Home for Unwanted Fruitcakes. Donations accepted. Comments: