Okay, so Paris on the Platte is not for everyone. If you don't like loud music or cigarette smoke, or you feel uncomfortable in the presence of artists, goths, ravers, punks, indie rockers, computer-game players, Lord of the Rings enthusiasts, writers and unabashed readers, you might want to stick to Starbucks. But for those who prefer their caffeine with a little character, this charmingly imperfect cafe is a temporary refuge from the world of corporate aggression. With an ever-changing assortment of works by local artists hanging from the brick walls and an equally colorful cast of regulars, Paris is an unassuming piece of pseudo-bohemian heaven. Check the adjoining bookstore for good deals on used titles and exotic smokes, or try one of the kitchen's tasty specialty sandwiches; thanks to liberal hours, you can eat as late as 2 a.m. on the weekend. We can only hope we'll always have Paris.
If you're the sort who prefers -- no, aches -- to linger over your cozy cuppa, log on to Longmont-based Tea Train's comprehensive Web site immediately: You'll find yourself immersed in heady choices. The offerings include fine versions of all the classic black darjeelings, assams and keemuns, some with such intriguing designations as "Midnight Kiss" (a subtly perfumy Chinese brew) and "Dark and Stormy Night" (smoky and strong), as well as sprightly greens, whites and oolongs and some unusual and healthy herbal mixes featuring rooibos and yerba maté from South America. But don't miss the chance to visit the tea merchant's retail store: While purchasing your leaves for home brewing -- with assistance from a very able staff -- you'll also be treated to a delightful seasonal menu of brews served in tummy-tingling steamed, iced or traditionally steeped combinations. Our favorites? There are too many to list, but don't miss the Chocolate River and Vanilla Bean chai mixes. Chai cha cha!


Hailed as a national treasure in Slovenia, potica is a European sweetbread that's time-honored -- and very time-consuming to make. Fine bread dough is rolled extremely flat and then sprinkled with cinnamon, sugar, raisins, walnuts and many other ambrosial additions; it's then "primed" in a special, temperature-controlled box and baked. Robert and Frank Mauro started making potica in their kitchen when they needed a little extra money for the holidays; when the demand became overwhelming, Nancy Fognani joined the team, and their home-based potica business became Orbit Corporation, Inc. Your grandma Mirjana would have toiled for hours over this holiday treat, but you can order the tasty pastry with a simple click of your mouse.


Among Bump & Grind's many post-meal wonders is a dreamy apricot-walnut bar, a square block of sweet sustenance. The Bump's pastry ace starts with a sticky, crumbly crust, then tops it with a blend of flour, apricots, sugar and walnuts. The baked result is a dense mouthful of whole-earth goodness that doubles as a supreme breakfast bar.


It's surrounded by sprawling suburbs, but Karl's Farm Dairy, a family-owned operation, hangs on to its cow-powered past. The dairy's new retail outlet, just down the road on 120th, serves up the best milk in Colorado, fresh-squeezed stuff made by the herd of Guernseys that roam the pasture out back. And tours of the dairy are an udderly amazing experience that puts you face-to-face with the four-legged artisans. Take the kids for a quick lesson in where that non-fat, pasteurized stuff got its start.


Those in need of a free buzz need look no further than Golden's Coors Brewery. The standard tour of the facility lasts only 45 minutes, and midway through, drinking-age guests are given a Dixie-cup-sized gulp of brew, under the apparent assumption that they might not be able to complete the journey without one. Even better, the circuit winds up at a bar where each person is allowed three full-sized drafts of his choice, gratis. Teetotalers get three sodas -- or can order beers and just pass them to their suds-loving buddies (another good reason to bring along a designated driver). Make ours a triple.


Best Liquor Is Quicker but Candy Is Dandy Tour

Hammond's Candies

When you're suddenly overcome by a craving for sweets -- you know, that sudden unstoppable need for sugar -- Hammond's Candies satisfies. Before you sink your sweet tooth into a gooey strawberry caramel or break off a piece of the company's famous ribbon candy, though, you might want to take a free tour of the factory. After all, the buildup is half the fun. During the thirty-minute tour, you'll see how the edible ribbons are hand-pulled and crimped to produce the wavy candy for which Hammond's is so well known. You'll drool at the vat of butter into which nuts and sugar are stirred for toffee production. And you'll feel like a kid awaiting Christmas as you watch the candy makers form long ropes of confection into lollipops and candy canes. Although you'll get samples along the way, you can't fully indulge until after the tour, which ends with a trip to the gift shop, where your patience will be amply rewarded.


How much do we love this cheese plate? Let us count the wheys: At Vesta Dipping Grill, a hip, stylish restaurant in LoDo, Matt Selby, the kitchen's big cheese, is so serious about promoting the virtues of this dairy product that his well-selected, beautifully presented cheese plate is offered as both an appetizer and a dessert. The selection changes weekly, as Selby chooses the best of the best from internationally procured curds and pairs them with such cheese-friendly tidbits as dried figs, sliced pears, candied walnuts, arugula and, of course, crackers. True connoisseurs will milk this course for all it's worth.


The Village Cork is just adorable, a wee bit of a place with a bar and five tables tucked into it. Once an ice-cream shop and then a deli, now it's the most charming of hangouts, a place for folks to stop by for a glass of wine -- choose from two dozen or so reds and whites, all available by the bottle or the glass at reasonable prices -- and a cheese plate. The Cork gets its cheese from the esteemed Truffle cheese shop; the selection changes regularly, but you can always count on three or four cow's-milk offerings, a couple of goat's-milk cheeses, and several made from sheep's milk. They come on a pretty china platter alongside cute little cheese knives, some fresh fruit and nuts. The Cork offers other grazing items, too, including duck-liver-and-truffle pâté, soup, salad and desserts. Sometimes it takes a Village Cork to raise the level of neighborhood visiting; here you can count on finding conversation as convivial as the gustatorial fare.


Forty seconds into this engaging little shop, owners Kate and Dave Kaufmann will have you tasting a few cheeses you've never heard of before. Two minutes later, you'll have tasted ten. The generous taste tests are only part of what makes the Truffle the best cheese shop in town, though. Unlike the pre-wrapped wedges you find at grocery stores, the cheese here is cut to order from the Kaufmanns' extensive selection, which includes everything from local goat cheese to rare raw-milk wheels from remote farms in France. The Truffle also offers a dizzying array of packaged gourmet foods -- thyme-scented honey, porcini cream, duck prosciutto, dried chanterelles, orange-flower water, blackberry syrup -- along with fresh caviar, foie gras and the namesake truffles, of course. But the Kauffmans' true passion is cheese, and they know more about it than anyone we've come across. That knowledge elevates their store to a cut above the rest.


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