Saturday, July 12, 2008

Scoping out Fort Collins: Taqueria los Comales, New Belgium, Colorado Cherry Company, and Mama Rose's

Bear Lake, Rocky Mountain Park
So you all know I am moving to Colorado, right? And in fact, I'm going to be heading there for good on August 18th, and somehow between then and now I've got about thirty or forty New York City posts I should get up before leaving. Whaddya say, can I do it? Welllll…I'll try…

A month or so earlier RT and I flew out to Fort Collins, CO with several purposes: he to visit his older sister CH, and I to scope out the campus, the city, and to secure myself an apartment. It was kind of a last-minute trip, and getting there involved red-eye flights, some white-knuckled driving in a rental car from the Denver airport (I do not drive. I'm a New Yorker damnit), and a middle-of-the-night arrival to RT's sister's house. But we two city slickers made it, and after a night's rest we got up early the next day to begin a morning of apartment hunting. Let me tell you, it's almost hysterical what the rental scene in Fort Collins is like as compared to NYC.

friend: did you find a place in Colorado?
soopling: I did!
soopling: I am going to be the resident
soopling: of a two bedroom with a patio, and a small garden
friend: I hate you
soopling: ahhahah
soopling: I can have a study! /guestroom!
friend: I just put an application on a place where the shower stall is in the kitchen.

Oh, and here's where I tell you that including cable, internet, and utilities, my rent is $600 per month. Yeaaaaah.
Giant horchata @ Taqueria los Comales
Anyway. We made good progress that first morning, looking at five or six different apartments over just a few hours. Around 2 pm, hunger struck. CH took us to one of her favorite Mexican joints, Taqueria los Comales, a casual, unassuming restaurant nestled in a shopping strip near the CSU campus. There, horchata came in a massive plastic glass, towering over the salt shakers and sugar packets. It was delicious but so huge I could only drink about half of the thin, creamy, cinnamon-infused rice drink.
Chicken burrito @ Taqueria los Comales
This place has a condiment bar, which I always love. So my giant chicken burrito arrived nearly naked on the plate, but from the bar I swiped the cucumbers, marinated chiles, limes, guacamole, pico de gallo, and red and green salsas that you see above. Everything tasted really fresh, and I was one happy girl.
Old Town Car Show, Fort Collins
Afterwards, we bumped into a car show, dozens of vintage cars displayed along the shop and restaurant–filled streets of Old Town. The sun was out and the sky extraordinarily clear, and everyone around me seemed healthy and in good spirits. I think that's when it struck me that this would be my life for the next two years: wholly different from my beloved NYC, but a place where I can take more than a few clean breaths.
New Belgium Brewery, Fort Collins
After Old Town CH took us to New Belgium brewery, birthplace of Fat Tire Amber Ale, a beer I remembered first tasting six years ago when I drove across the country with JSK and BH. The brewery, a place strongly committed to environmental stewardship, is apparently a fairly popular local spot in Fort Collins.
New Belgium Brewery, Fort Collins
For good reason, too. I don't know how they do it, but along with tours the brewery offers pretty substantial free samples of four of their beers to each person that wanders in. For mine I chose Mothership Wit, Loose Lips, Skinny Dip, and Abbey. And after downing all four, I was feeling pretty fine.
New Belgium also offers up stacks of coasters/postcards that you can fill out on the spot and have them mail to anywhere in the world. I spent some time figuring out who I actually had mailing addresses for—a surprisingly low number. O email, how you have taken over the world.

That night, CH and her husband fired up the grill and we sat outside on their back patio, enjoying a simple but delicious meal of thick steaks, baked potatoes, and salad. As the sun set, we sipped from glasses of red wine, chatting comfortably while their dog Bear ran around and a hummingbird dipped in and out of the flowering bushes nearby.
The Cherry Tree, Rocky Mountains
The next morning, after we looked at a few last apartments (one of which would become the aforementioned two-bedroom), CH drove us into the Rockies. Along the way we stopped in at the Colorado Cherry Company, home of all things cherry. I love little shops like this.
The Cherry Tree, Rocky Mountains
All sorts of ciders were for sale, including, of course, a cherry version. We sampled a few, and all were tart and refreshing and just sweet enough.
He is mooning us Not a moose
Lotsa elk Golden-mantled ground squirrel
In the Rockies snow lay on the ground, which amused me as I was wearing a summer dress and flip flops. We saw all sorts of critters, including several elk and a golden mantled ground squirrel—but not one moose. Maybe another day.
Baked pasta w/ meatball @ Mama Rose's in Estes Park
Salad @ Mama Rose's in Estes Park Garlic bread @ Mama Rose's in Estes Park
Later, in Estes Park, we had dinner at Mama Rose's, an Italian restaurant nestled just over a small segment of the rushing Big Thompson River. Unfortunately, the view was much better than the food. While the salad tasted super fresh and came dressed in a good vinaigrette, the garlic bread was mediocre and the baked ziti with a meatball I ordered barely passable. Cafeteria food is what came to mind.
Cherry pie from The Cherry Tree
But at least there was dessert once we got back to the house. With an unusual dryish filling of sour cherries (no gloppy syrup here), the pie from Colorado Cherry Company tasted almost like it had been filled with Chinese dried plums. Or at least that's what my mom said when she tasted a forkful from the second pie I brought back to New York for my parents. "I bought this at a small shop just outside the Rocky Mountains," I said, and they accepted their slices eagerly, tasting a new treat from a new place soon to be my home.


  1. I love this blog post! I love Fort Collins, happen to be there right now, and am going to go get lunch at the Taqueria right now! :) (Thinking I need to take a trip up to the Colorado Cherry Company soon, too.)

  2. Kendra, not sure the Cherry Company still sells pie, but hope you enjoyed your meal at Taqueria! Have a great time in Fort Collins!