Getting out of town in the past year, I’ve appreciated the bluebird skies, pristine vistas and hairpin turns because almost everywhere I went when I left Boulder I had close encounters with great baked goods.
Whether surrounded by mountain forests, corn fields, suburbs or industrial buildings, my pastry radar led me to exceptional fruit pies, chocolate-dipped macaroons, cinnamon rolls, filled buns and frosted cakes in cups.
Nothing makes a long, hot drive — or bike ride — up a nearby canyon stuck behind a lumbering Winnebago more tolerable than the promise of doughnuts in the distance. No matter which paved or gravel road you take this summer to get out of town, here are some destinations worth mapping out.
Sunshine Canyon: Head west on Mapleton Avenue up the canyon and wind your way to pie in the town of Gold Hill. Just past the familiar Gold Hill Inn is the historic (1890s) one-room Gold Hill General Store & Pub (goldhillstore.com). In recent years the rustic wooden emporium’s offerings have broadened to include a cafe, bar and store. I happily decompressed over a wedge of house-baked apple berry crumb pie and a mug of hot chai. Cookies, magic bars and pressed sandwiches are also available.
U.S. 36 South: Frankly, you just don’t expect to stumble upon red bean croissants and steamed pork buns in the back corner of a beige Flatiron Crossing-area building just off the turnpike. Yet The Enchanted Oven (theenchantedoven.cafe) is full of surprises from owner Maki Fairbanks. Besides well-made traditional cakes and pastries, she offers a weekly Japanese bento box, curry buns and okonomiyaki (vegetable and meat pancakes). I can verify that a cream-filled soft bun in the sun can be soothing.
U.S. 36 North: Generations of travelers heading to Rocky Mountain National Park have pulled over for a cone or burger at the classic Lyons Dairy Bar (thenewlyonsdairybar.com). In the past year the eatery has expanded to include a bakery and nostalgic candy store featuring a stellar Pez selection. Baker Sharla Fortier crafts coffee-friendly goods such as iced cinnamon rolls, coffee cakes, cupcakes and cookies. My favorite is her creamy, not-too-tart Key lime pie with lots of lime zest flavor.
U.S. 287 North: Before you hit downtown Longmont, do yourself a favor and hang a left into the Prospect neighborhood for a quick carb pit stop at Babette’s Artisan Bread (babettesbakery.com). My day and drive were upgraded significantly with a dark chocolate pistachio “escargot.” I slowly unwound the brown buttery, caramelized swirls and got every last golden crunchy flake. Catherine and Steve Scott’s bakery serves top notch pizza besides French desserts, pastries and epic cruffins.
Jay Road: Head east far enough on rustic Jay Road and you can find yourself at DP’s Sweet Life (dpssweetlife.com), a homestyle American bakery set in a tiny, colorful shop in Erie. I can’t say whether they are the “best in the world” as advertised, but DP’s dense cinnamon rolls — lavishly iced, spicy and buttery — are the dream sidekick to a tall iced coffee. Danay Powers also bakes notable all-American lemon loaves, paintable cookies, Whoopie-like oatmeal cookie sammies and various “cupped cakes” full of frosting and toppings.
120th Avenue: French-born Julien Renaut opened La Belle French Bakery (labellefrenchbakery.com) to supply coffee shops and restaurants. A few years and several moves later, La Belle now offers retail, home delivery and wholesale from a distinctly industrial Thornton neighborhood. Locals line up for first-class baguettes, tartes au citron, eclairs, scones and exceptional croissants. I’ll admit that a heavenly Paris-Brest pastry pillowed with whipped cream never made it home — really, it never had a chance.
Local food news
Chef Jesse Jensen — formerly of Pizzeria Locale and Basta — has opened Barchetta, 1644 Walnut St., a wine bar serving Neapolitan-style pizza. … The Post Chicken & Beer has opened a new spot in Estes Park at the Stanley Hotel. … Seeds Library Cafe, operated by the Boulder County Farmers Market, has reopened inside the Boulder Public Library bridge. … Reopening soon: Mountain Sun in Boulder and Ras Kassa’s Ethiopian Restaurant in Lafayette. … Coming attractions: Crested Butte Wine & Food (July 19-25), cbwineandfood.org; Eagle Mushroom & Wild Food Festival (Aug. 27-29), eaglemushroomfest.com
During the pandemic, Denver lost a slew of iconic eateries. Racine’s closed after 36 years. The 20th Street Cafe was opened in 1946 by Harry and Tsugi Okuno; jazz-club El Chapultepec started serving in 1933 the day Prohibition was repealed. Also shuttered were The Market at Larimer Square, Tom’s Diner, as well as Acorn and Vesta. Colorado’s legendary craft beer headquarters, Falling Rock Tap House, has also closed. The Mercury Cafe will survive after its purchase by another institution, My Brother’s Bar. Rumors indicate that Casa Bonita and its cliff divers will live again this fall. We can only hope the food will be slightly less terrible than in the past.
Words to chew on
“Historically a number of rare or newly experienced foods have been claimed to be aphrodisiacs. At one time this quality was even ascribed to the tomato. Reflect on that when you are next preparing the family salad.” —Jane Grigson
John Lehndorff is the Boulder Weekly’s Food Editor. Send comments and info about restaurants and food events to: Nibbles@BoulderWeekly.com