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Fresh, local ingredients add to flavorful food at Colorado Craft

May 2, 2018 Updated: May 2, 2018 at 9:20 am
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Colorado Craft (Located at 15 S. Tejon St. Colorado Springs, CO 80903) Thursday April 26, 2018. Photo by Jeff Kearney.

If an exceptional dining experience is like attending a rock-your-world concert where the food takes the spotlight, then the staff at Colorado Craft deserves a lot of credit as the backup singers providing perfect harmony.

It's clear that servers at Colorado Craft are not simply told about the food. They taste it and know how it's made. Our server, Jen, deftly described the dishes in rich, mouth-watering detail.

Asked her favorite dish, she pointed to the braised short rib ($26) without hesitation. Her enthusiasm for it was contagious; it felt like a disappointment was in store if we didn't order this entree. Thankfully, our trust in her was rewarded. The fork-tender, no-knife-needed, boneless beef is braised in cider, which imparts a subtle fruitiness. This is accented by diced braised apples and root vegetables. Celery root puree is the creamy counterpart.

Colorado Craft (Located at 15 S. Tejon St. Colorado Springs, CO 80903) "Braised Short Rib" - celery root puree, braised apples, roasted root vegetables, and cider sauce Thursday April 26, 2018. Photo by Jeff Kearney.  

Although it wasn't Jen's first choice, she still had high praise for the Forbidden Black Rice ($19). Once reserved for Chinese royalty, this ancient grain is robust and chewy. Here it's topped with enoki mushrooms and braised bok choy. The 'shrooms are thin, white and spaghetti-like in shape. The bok choy retained its fresh, crunchy texture. A pool of red curry with a pleasing, not-too-sweet coconut milk base and drizzled pungent chili oil surrounds the rice, resulting in an appealing color palette and an exotic blend of tastes. The spicy element doesn't kick in right away, but it's a treat when it makes its presence known. I did have to ask for a spoon because I wanted to scoop up every last drop of the broth surrounding the rice.

Colorado Craft (Located at 15 S. Tejon St. Colorado Springs, CO 80903) "Marinated Burrata" - confit garlic, crispy prosciutto, basil and grilled baguette Thursday April 26, 2018. Photo by Jeff Kearney. 

But I jumped ahead of myself. We began the meal with marinated burrata ($12), a decision we made all on our own that received nods of approval from Jen and the server-in-training with her. Toasted slices of olive-oil-coated baguette are served with roasted garlic and fresh buffalo milk cheese topped with crispy pieces of fried prosciutto and fresh basil leaves. Olive oil and balsamic vinegar in the serving bowl are nice touches. The velvety burrata has a paper-thin film encasing it. Each component complemented the other.

Colorado Craft is in the space once inhabited by the venerable Ritz Grill. The remodel is evident not only in the menu offerings, but also the interior. The former represents a range of cuisines, as evident in the Cubano sandwich, the Colorado trout and pork pozole, among others. The latter is now much brighter, still as noisy, but not deafening. Overall, the space has a more comfortable, less business-executive feel.

When it comes to the food, Jen explained, chef Mario Vasquez has developed a menu based on a "food story." That is, sourcing ingredients from Colorado purveyors. This is most obvious in the craft beer selection representing mostly, but not limited to, Colorado Springs breweries.

The use of regional sources is certainly not restricted to libations. Honey comes from Schmidt's Apiaries, a familiar name among those who frequent the Old Colorado City Farmer's Markets in summer. Breads are from Delicia's Bakery; fish is from Wild Woman Fish Co. The list goes on.

The menu soon will change to reflect seasonal availability, although no date was given. The friendly attentiveness wasn't limited to Jen or her trainee; the hostess and other servers kept water glasses filled and patiently answered questions about the restaurant.

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