Crema Coffee House pairs excellent coffee with excellent food

When Crema Coffee House opened on Larimer Street a couple of years ago, it quickly became one of my favorite spots in the city for coffee. My love affair started at a Noble Swine Supper Club event when owner Noah Price poured me one of the best cups of French press coffee I've ever had.

Since that post-dinner java -- Brazil Cup of Excellence, by the way, from Novo -- I've spent a lot of time in the eclectic two-roomed space, marveling over well-pulled shots, sexy cappuccinos and beans from kick-ass roasters located all over the country.

But two months ago, the shop gave me another reason to hang out: It serves, hands down, some of the best food you'll find in a coffee house.

For starters, this is no pastry case full of stale, day-old goods or packaged stuff trucked in from purveyors around town. Price brought on Jonathan Power -- most recently behind the burners at Root Down -- to come up with a creative breakfast and lunch menu playing on typical cafe fare.

Breakfast includes such delights as sweet-and-spicy five-spice granola paired with Noosa yogurt; a rose sugar-bruleed grapefruit; a rotating daily quiche; and a quivering egg custard loaded with things like bacon and Gruyere in a flaky crust.

He also serves a crave-worthy banh mi, which features a crunchy baguette stacked with thinly sliced pork belly and slivers of carrot, cucumber and radish plus cilantro and spicy jalapeños and a ribbon of aioli. I'm also partial to adding that pork belly to the beet salad (which they oblige, when I ask really nicely), giving the blend of roasted beets, chevre, crispy candied pecans and greens a shot of fatty meat.

Power sprinkles in occasional specials, too, and I have yet to be disappointed. "I wanted to make really fun, really good food that didn't overshadow what Noah has done with Crema," the chef told us when he introduced his menu. And he hasn't -- he's just created a menu that doesn't sacrifice on food quality, just as Price doesn't sacrifice on coffee quality.

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