Jonesing for java? Aspen, the valley boast variety of coffeehouses
Ive had a passionate affair with coffee since grade school. At first I just loved the heady aroma of the steam rising out of the Styrofoam cups clutched by sleepy choristers at my parents church. It seemed so adult.At 17, I had my first summer job as a camp counselor, keeping track of 15 six-year- olds, five days a week. After dangling small children from each arm, listening to the whines of kids who missed their moms and making sure no one got left at the lake, my fellow counselors and I made a bee line for the coffee urn at lunchtime. Thank God for cream and sugar. It kept me on my path to coffee appreciation. Plus, it seemed so cool to finally be drinking coffee.Since the advent of caffeine emporiums like Starbucks, Peets, Caribou Coffee, et al, coffee has been elevated, from a beverage whose primary advantage was staving off sleepiness, to cult status. Who knew there were so many kinds of beans? Or roasting techniques? Or so many options for ordering a coffee beverage? And coffeehouses, which used to be the purview of beatniks and hippies, have become the new social gathering place of choice. Chilling at a coffeehouse is the contemporary equivalent of whittling around the pickle barrel at the old country store.The Roaring Fork valley is blessed with many great places that will help feed your coffee jones. Some are barebones purveyors of beans and biscotti, while others also offer tasty fare to stave off an extreme coffee buzz. Here are some of my favorite coffee houses in the valley where you can savor your java, jaw with your friends and take in the local scenery:
Zl, 121 S. Galena St., Aspen If you live in Aspen, or just visit regularly, chances are youve spent a lot of time at Zl. Located on a bright corner near the Isis Theater, its the perfect place to soak up some rays, have a snack, a full meal or just sip your beverage. The people watching is superb and the view of Aspen Mountain unbeatable. The inclusion of a large community table and note cards on the individual tables encouraging people to share their space, has created a friendly, congenial atmosphere. Be sure to get there early in the morning when you can gild your coffee lily with an amazing almond croissant from Louis Swiss Bakery. They are so good I think they might actually be illegal. Ink! 520 E. Durant St., Aspen Virtually everyones morning includes a pilgrimage to Ink! for coffee and a bagel. Inks basement location helps to maintain its cache as the Aspen locals secret. On a powder day the line may be out the door at Starbucks, but WE know where to go to avoid the crowd. Thats not to say that Ink doesnt get crowded, because it does. Just not as crowded. The food choice is pretty limited, but thats not the point the coffee is, and its delicious. World Link Caf, 720 E. Durant, Aspen Located next to City Market, World Link Cafs receives an honorable mention for their use of Illy coffee. Even though the atmosphere is minimal, you can work away on your computer and sip on a wonderful espresso to keep your cerebral circuits running smoothly.Breaking news Aspens newest coffeehouse, Parallel 15 Coffee and Tea, opened on Thanksgiving weekend. Relocated from Explore Booksellers to a new spot downstairs at 400 E. Hyman Ave., Parallel 15 offers drinks featuring fresh-roasted Allegro Coffee, along with bagels, Belgian waffles and other light breakfast fare. With welcoming couches, free wireless Internet access for customers and extended hours, 6 a.m. to late evening most days, this may become Aspens favorite new chill spot.
Saxys Caf, 104 Midland Ave., Basalt Small tables inside and out, exposed brick walls with tasteful artwork, comfy sofa and chairs and a discretely muted flat screen TV create the kind of ambiance where you could easily spend the day. Saxys is the home of the perfect-foam latte, a vast assortment of teas (for the wusses who cant take coffee) and a small but tasty breakfast and sandwich menu. Expect to see someone you know when you visit every time Ive been to Saxys I run into friends. Its that kind of place.The Lift Coffee Saloon, 433 Main St., Carbondale Walking into the Lift is like revisiting yesteryear. The narrow front area with its high ceiling, ice cream containers and food cases and long narrow hallway with small tables against the wall is reminiscent of an old-time ice cream parlor. But walk to the back of the building and you re-enter the ’60s with overstuffed chairs, built-in bookcases and brightly painted accent colors. In addition to a good selection of baked goods, the Lift entices your palate with an excellent selection of sandwiches. And my coffee drink was great, the foam light and fluffy.Grana Bread Company, 320 Main St., Carbondale Tiny, tastefully decorated, NPR Morning Edition playing in the background, killer pastries and friendly service make this a must-stop in Carbondale. The first time I visited Grana, I wasnt quite sure where it was, so I followed the first person I saw carrying their own coffee mug around the corner and voila! Im sorry I didnt visit in warmer weather, because the courtyard right outside Grana would be a marvelous place to hang on a balmy day. The steady stream of people filtering through the shop is a testament to its popularity. Go for the muffins and rolls, but get there before 10 a.m. or youre out of luck.Dos Gringos, Caf Ole Coffee Shop, 588 Hwy 133, Carbondale Not technically a coffee shop, Dos Gringos does include a coffee bar in the front. My friends in Carbondale say that without a doubt, Dos Gringos makes the best coffee drinks around. And you can get a great wrap there as well. Coffee aficionados take note.
Sacred Grounds Coffee House and Delicatessen, 725 Grand Ave., Glenwood Springs Love the funky atmosphere of Sacred Grounds, especially the juxtaposition of the hippieish shops next door. The small tables at the front are perfect for reading the paper or working on your computer. Sacred Grounds doesnt have the greatest coffee compared to other coffeehouses, but its not bad and the abundance of sandwiches, bagels, soups and desserts keeps me coming back whenever Im on one of my regular Target / Bed Bath and Beyond / Vitamin Cottage runs to Glenwood.The Summit Coffee House, 732 Grand Ave., Glenwood Springs Shopping and coffee. Can you find a better combination? Well, maybe shopping and sauvignon blanc, but I digress. When I first moved to Aspen, I drove to Glenwood to do some Christmas shopping and discovered Summit Canyon Mountaineering and by default, the Summit Coffee House. Where else can you purchase your son climbing shoes and chalk and a delicious snack for yourself? Not even REI can offer that. The ambiance is great, the food is good and I love looking through the book and map selection in the coffeehouse while Im waiting for my order. Finally, if you prefer to brew your own coffee and savor it in the privacy of your home, I have it on good authority that the place to purchase the valleys best roasted coffee beans is Back Alley Coffee. The selection is wide and always fresh and Steve Johnson, the proprietor, will even custom roast a batch for you. Back Alley Coffee can be found at 0534 Hwy 133 in Carbondale.
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Local fire officials in Pitkin, Eagle and Garfield counties are heightening their fire concerns, and starting this week Stage 1 fire restrictions will be enacted. Stage 1 means no campfires in undeveloped sites, no fireworks and no smoking outside unless it’s in an area cleared of all combustible materials.