Organica Herb & Tea Co.
2215 W. Colorado Ave., 344-3213, travelingleaf.com
Originally opened on 25th Street four years ago, Organica moved to this spot last May. Roughly 2,000 items fill glass jars in the shop owned by Clara Paulson, a 30-year veteran of the herbalism field, who also maintains a busy mail-order business. Teas, spices and herbs share space with cool fruit and "superfood" powders such as goji berry, elderberry, mulberry, and the new-to-me purple aronia (domestic chokeberries) and yumberry (called "yangmei" in China, where its beneficial properties have been used for 6,000 years, she says).
Seeking flavorings for home kombucha production — yeah, I'm that rotten hippie — I purchase the above (averaging around $7/ounce), plus maca powder, dried chamomile and pink rose flowers, and dried galangal for Thai cooking. Paulson guarantees that no product gets exposed to air more than 16 times, so it won't "degrade" — that means no sniffing on-site, just testing at home. — Matthew Schniper
Grand Lake Brewing Company
5610 Yukon St., Arvada (soon), 303/908-1677, grandlakebrewing.com
I'd last sampled Grand Lake a couple years ago at one of its former taprooms, both of which closed this past October. The outfit, though, still brews and self-distributes from the town that gave it its name. And the new Grand Lake Brewing Tavern, which will include 12 house taps and a food menu, should open by mid-June in Old Town Arvada, says co-owner Karen Wood.
For five years, seven GL labels plus specialties have been lightly distributed in C-Springs, including a rotating six-pack sampler (around $8.50). In mine, all labels hit high points for each style, our favorites being the four-hop, 99-IBU Stumpjumper IPA; the somehow delightfully creamy Summit Pale Ale; and Shadow Mountain Oatmeal Stout, which earned the Governor's Cup Award at Boulder's Fight Fire with Beer Festival in 2012 and '13. Catch a free GL tasting June 6, from 5 to 7 p.m. at Downtown Fine Spirits & Wines, showcasing a new Vienna-style amber lager. — Matthew Schniper
Ernie's Smokin' BBQ & Catering
1169 N. Circle Drive, erniessmokinbbq.com, 573-4422
Named after owner Connie Brooks' son, who lost his life as the victim of a robbery, Ernie's exhibits a hopeful sort of cheer, with some pretty rocking praise-and-worship on the radio and a Bible in the corner. The dark red walls are set off with corrugated metal, while the tables host bottles of the house sweet and medium barbecue sauces.
Easily ordered to-go, our three-meat plate ($15.50) and eight-piece order of "signature" wings ($6.99) held up well during the trip back. Two highlights: the wings and the chopped brisket. The former come lightly battered in this sticky mix of what tastes like teriyaki and barbecue sauce, with latent heat pounding through a beat later. The latter is for fans of fatty meat, as its little bites are unctuous and borderline overwhelming — fantastic, though. The baked beans never felt far from the can, but the ribs' meat pulled easily from the bone. — Bryce Crawford