Mamma mia! Stepping into Buca di Beppo is like walking into the greatest Little Italy flea market ever -- the place overflows with old photographs of Italian starlets and tacky souvenirs from the Vatican. So you'll understand why your companion might spend an inordinate amount of time in the basement bathroom: Retiring areas for both sexes are full of hilarious vintage items -- cautionary health advisories, ads for sanitary products -- arrayed amid classic '50s decor items. From Joe's mouth to ours.

The Melting Pot
There's nothing cheesy about serving yourself, not when you get to cozy up to a warm pot of fondue at the Melting Pot. You get your choice of seasoned broths or oils, as well as your pick from a variety of meat-and-veggie combos; after the raw ingredients arrive, you fire up the table and get cooking, plunging the cut-to-order tenderloin and chicken, or shrimp and lobster, or mushrooms, potato slices and broccoli, into the hot liquid. When the tidbit's done to your specs, take it out, dip it into one of the Melting Pot's creative sauces, and enjoy. Repeat the process as often as you want for a full meal. But be sure to save room for dessert, because the reward for all your hard work is a superb chocolate fondue.

There's nothing cheesy about serving yourself, not when you get to cozy up to a warm pot of fondue at the Melting Pot. You get your choice of seasoned broths or oils, as well as your pick from a variety of meat-and-veggie combos; after the raw ingredients arrive, you fire up the table and get cooking, plunging the cut-to-order tenderloin and chicken, or shrimp and lobster, or mushrooms, potato slices and broccoli, into the hot liquid. When the tidbit's done to your specs, take it out, dip it into one of the Melting Pot's creative sauces, and enjoy. Repeat the process as often as you want for a full meal. But be sure to save room for dessert, because the reward for all your hard work is a superb chocolate fondue.

If it's not quite to grandmother's house you go, the Oak & Berries Tea Room is the next best thing. Better, in fact, if your relatives didn't live in the elegant, high-Victorian style of the lovely Holiday Chalet, a B&B as well as the best place in town for tea. Roxanne Mays, former manager of afternoon teas at the Brown Palace, is in charge here, and she sets out a lovely spread from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., Thursday through Sunday. The tea runs $17 a head and includes not only scones (want seconds? just ask) and savory tea sandwiches and pastries, but also your choice of two homemade soups. And then, of course, there's the tea -- which often includes a few interesting, international selections that Mays has discovered. Take your tea at one of the tables in the dining room, with its mismatched antique china, in a private room or, when the weather is nice, in the Holiday Chalet's beautiful garden, where Mays also offers tea parties for children.

If it's not quite to grandmother's house you go, the Oak & Berries Tea Room is the next best thing. Better, in fact, if your relatives didn't live in the elegant, high-Victorian style of the lovely Holiday Chalet, a B&B as well as the best place in town for tea. Roxanne Mays, former manager of afternoon teas at the Brown Palace, is in charge here, and she sets out a lovely spread from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., Thursday through Sunday. The tea runs $17 a head and includes not only scones (want seconds? just ask) and savory tea sandwiches and pastries, but also your choice of two homemade soups. And then, of course, there's the tea -- which often includes a few interesting, international selections that Mays has discovered. Take your tea at one of the tables in the dining room, with its mismatched antique china, in a private room or, when the weather is nice, in the Holiday Chalet's beautiful garden, where Mays also offers tea parties for children.

I scream, you scream, we all screamed when the Dolly Madison dairy stores closed this year, after giving the scoop to local ice cream lovers for over half a century. But you can take cold comfort in the fact that one outlet of the Dolly Madison chain is still serving: The shop inside the Dolly Madison plant is open to the public from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday through Friday.

I scream, you scream, we all screamed when the Dolly Madison dairy stores closed this year, after giving the scoop to local ice cream lovers for over half a century. But you can take cold comfort in the fact that one outlet of the Dolly Madison chain is still serving: The shop inside the Dolly Madison plant is open to the public from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday through Friday.

Trattoria Stella
Mark Antonation
Man does not live by bread puddings alone, although one bite of Trattoria Stella's creations might suggest otherwise. Pastry queen Marna Freeman often has two or three puddings on the menu: The fruit-filled puddings vary depending on what's in season -- the occasional combo of blackberries, cherries and lemon is to die for -- and the others usually involve either chocolate or mascarpone for extra richness. Every slice is sure to be stunning, with a unique cakelike texture that makes for less heavy and more heavenly eating. And the portion is more than enough for two -- if you're willing to share. Stel-l-l-la!

Man does not live by bread puddings alone, although one bite of Trattoria Stella's creations might suggest otherwise. Pastry queen Marna Freeman often has two or three puddings on the menu: The fruit-filled puddings vary depending on what's in season -- the occasional combo of blackberries, cherries and lemon is to die for -- and the others usually involve either chocolate or mascarpone for extra richness. Every slice is sure to be stunning, with a unique cakelike texture that makes for less heavy and more heavenly eating. And the portion is more than enough for two -- if you're willing to share. Stel-l-l-la!

Very good things come in small packages. Tiny, charming Emma's has big ideas when it comes to food, and there's no finer example of this than the finger-lickin'-good spuds. These taters have an ideal texture -- light but not overwhipped, with teeny lumps to prove they're real -- and just the right amount of flavor from garlic that's been cooked enough to get the rawness out but not so much that it's bitter. What really boosts these potatoes to top-of-the-town status, though, is the addition of cream cheese, which gives them a rich, creamy, slightly sweet quality. Order them with the sirloin, so the spuds get a good dose of Jack Daniel's sauce, and they're simply irresistible.

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