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On the day I happen to stop into 15-year-old Silver Pond Chinese, asking myself how I've waited this long to try it, owners Jack and Jennie Hu are beaming over a surprise FedEx box that had arrived that morning. Inside is a trophy and certificate from Chinese Restaurant News, naming Silver Pond among the Top 100 Chinese Restaurants for "overall excellence" among more than 46,000 peers in the U.S., Canada and Australia.

Our knowledgeable server describes how Jack truly makes everything from scratch, eschewing measurements for instinct and working double shifts daily (but for two days off annually) to personally construct and oversee all plates leaving his kitchen.

We soon got it: In a sea of sameness, Silver Pond truly is its own little beautiful body of water.

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Silver Pond Chinese

5670 N. Academy Blvd., 594-9343, bestsilverpondchinese.com

I pretty much had to try the strawberry chicken ($8.25 lunch/$12.95 dinner), having never to my memory paired that fruit with any savory protein course. The poultry is thin-sliced next to large halved and quartered strawberry wedges, baby corn, water chestnuts and zucchini wedges —all coated in a thick-textured, puréed strawberry-soy sauce. It's less sweet than I worried it might be, certainly not cloying, and definitely interesting. It works.

My dining mate did the "create your own lunch" option ($8.50; pick two mains) with Kung Pao chicken and pork with garlic sauce, both with good heat and distinctive sauces (not too salty, and much livelier than the typical ubiquitous brown sauce). Wonton and hot and sour soups were superb. Bonus: house-made tea-leaf boba in perfectly under-sweet Thai tea. — Matthew Schniper

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Odell Brewing Co.

800 E. Lincoln Ave., Fort Collins, 970/498-9070, odellbrewing.com

Odell has cast together ingredients from 10 states for this magical elixir known as Footprint RegionAle ($13.49/750-milliliter corked bottle). The limited release is an ode to Odell's distribution footprint, made by combining several smaller batches of beer brewed using regionally sourced ingredients, ranging from Arizona prickly pear to Minnesota wild rice and New Mexico green chiles.

The variety of different manners in which the original beers were aged leaves you with a mighty fine and unique taste sensation. Each sip of the amber-hued concoction allows a glimpse into its roots and opens your palate to the creative genius behind it. I find it best after a bit of breathing time in the glass, and it will no doubt deepen in complexity if shelved for a few months. — Steve Hitchcock

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O'Furry's

900 E. Fillmore St., 634-3106, ofurrys.com

Brandie Yutzy took over as manager in December, quickly adding new furniture, live music on Fridays, a weekend DJ and, most importantly of all, karaoke on Tuesdays. What she didn't change, and I'd fight her if she did, is the food, specifically O'Furry's well-known burgers and wings.

I say this because the avocado burger ($7.99) — narrowly ordered over the teriyaki Kamoniwanaleiya — is loaded with layers of soft avocado, thick red onions, chopped and canned green chiles, and sour cream all over a beef patty that so appreciates the salty kiss of the grill, it enthralls the senses.

The wings ($8.99 for 10) are just spot-on, sizable with an above-average covering of Louisiana hot sauce and Frank's RedHot, and a slick of butter. Vinegar bursts quickly turn into a hard-to-describe diesel burn. — Bryce Crawford

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