With more restaurants per square mile/yard/foot than any other part of town, the central area enjoys its status as culinary king. But for those more into preparing food than prepared foods, the place to be is actually west of Interstate 25.
If it's natural or organic you seek, just west of the highway you'll find the 32-year-old, but recently overhauled and expanded, Mountain Mama Natural Foods (1625 W. Uintah St., Suite A, mountainmamanaturalfoods.com). It sells bulk herbs and dry goods, organic produce and the usual health food store list, and just added a café feature.
In Manitou Springs, Naturally's Market & Café (110 Cañon Ave., naturallys.net) is the new spot to grab organic dry goods, vitamins and supplements, not to mention an entire dine-in menu full of fresh fruits, vegetarian options and more. Community Foods (56 Park Ave., 685-1314), an offshoot of the Maté Factor café, does discounted natural and organic groceries, not to mention dented and damaged goods for less.
Still in the vein of store-and-dining spots is Spice of Life (727 Manitou Ave., manitouspiceoflife.com) "an ingredients emporium." Enjoy a wall full of jars of cardamom, various salts, pepper and the like, as well as tons of loose-leaf teas, or just grab a good sandwich.
Now, when somebody whispers "olive juice" it sounds like a declaration of love, which is what you'll be offering after perusing the Olive Tap (906 Manitou Ave., #103, theolivetap.com) and its extra virgin olive oils, flavored oils, spices, gift baskets and balsamic vinegars. Specialty selections include avocado, grapeseed, French-roasted walnut and the ever-decadent white truffle oils.
For variety closer to downtown Colorado Springs, try Old Colorado City's Olive Tree Traders (2526 W. Colorado Ave., olivetreetraders.com). Besides offering wares from all over the Mediterranean, the store features organic fig jam and Tuscan orange mousse from Italy, saffron and turmeric from Morocco, and olive oil from Syria. And be aware that Organica Herb & Tea Co. (12 S. 25th St., 344-3213) manages to stock 500-plus varieties of tea, plus tea-drinking accoutrements, into a cozy, cheerily painted shop just a block or so away.
Lastly, Garden of the Gods Gourmet (godsgourmet.net, 2528 W. Cucharras St.) is the perfect place for pigging out. Food's available in-house, but it's the market full of gourmet cheeses, meats, spice blends and desserts (plus cooking classes and wine tastings), that keep the folks rolling in.