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Pikes Peak Market curates quality vendors

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Pikes Peak Market stands on the quality of its vendors. - GRIFFIN SWARTZELL
  • Griffin Swartzell
  • Pikes Peak Market stands on the quality of its vendors.
We’ve been following plans since 2012 for what would eventually become Pikes Peak Market. What finally opened this past November bore little resemblance to the original concept, based on places like Seattle’s 111-year-old Pike Place Market. What we’re left with is a year-round farmer’s market, indoors, with tables.

That said, we’ve found strong vendors on-site. Perhaps our favorite is Azteca Gourmet, a Oaxacan-style tamaleria run by Lorena Jakubczak. The filling goes atop the masa, rather than within, and they’re cooked in banana leaves rather than corn husks. Meat tamales go for $7 alone, frozen or fresh, or $10 with two sides and a drink, with all vegetarian/vegan options a buck less. Flavors rotate weekly, and they’re all gluten-free.

The red chili pork’s tender with its pleasantly seasoned masa, and though it’s only mildly spicy, the red chilies in the sauce have had that raw pepper flavor cooked out of them, which I dig. But we’re over the moon for the seasonal three squash three peppers three fruits tamale. While it’s hard to say if the acorn, kabocha and spaghetti squashes stand distinct, the apples, apricots and cranberries do, and the mix of chipotle, jalapeño and guajillo peppers give it a surprising and pleasant spiciness. Lentils and black-eyed peas add protein, but neither texture nor flavor. We try all three available sides. The pico’s fresh and balanced, and the apple-cucumber-jicama-chayote squash salsa’s super refreshing. Black beans taste salty but not bad.

The only other entrée vendor, as it were, is The Pickle Lady, Shannon Rolf. She splits a stall with Crown Cakes owner Victoria Johnson, who bakes 100 percent gluten-free. From them, we try two gluten-free pot pies, one with pulled pork and bacon, the other with chicken and green chili, both paired with a wild rice and veggie side.

In addition to being gluten-free, it’s also all salt-free, it seems — both fillings and the side are dying for a little sodium to liven things up. The barbecue sauce in the pulled pork pie adds a pleasant sweetness, but the pie crust is way tough. As for that green chili pot pie, both the biscuit-y crust and the filling chew mercilessly dry, with the latter lacking any spice whatsoever. We find some redemption in a winter rum bundt cake from the freezer, packed with dried fruits and topped with a salted caramel icing, deeply British in its under-sweet, fruit-forward flavor profile. It’s a touch grainy, but it’s wonderfully moist.

Really, it’s a shame that cheesemongers The Cheese People of Colorado Springs, the local franchise of a Chicago-based company, aren’t putting together grab-and-go cheese boards. We drop $13 on small pieces of five different cheeses, and we’re delighted by each. Everything we try comes from small farms and co-ops in Wisconsin, but some of the recipes are developed specifically for the Springs market by co-owners Bleys and Lynn Kueck.
Location Details Pikes Peak Market
9 S. Weber Street
Old Colorado City
Colorado Springs, CO

The jack with fresh basil smells and tastes mighty fresh, with plenty of creaminess to complement the basil. A local recipe, the Texochile white cheddar comes veined with a mix of roasted jalapeños, adobo and oregano, for a dark, not-too-spicy flavor that most Texas chilies only dream of achieving. Bellavitano packed in espresso bites creamy, nutty and smooth, with a sweet tang and fruity notes from the espresso around its edge. Though the raw milk aged gouda bears a little funk on the nose, the flavor’s mostly nutty, though some complexities do read. Lastly, cream havarti comes packed with chives, horseradish and mustard seeds for a cheese that balances itself alone but begs for roast beef.

There’s no liquor license, so apart from water, the only beverage option comes from Richard Lemesany’s CoS’bucha. Beyond bottles, he offers 12-ounce pours for $4, cheaper than most coffee shops. Both pear-cardamom and lemon-lime-ginger refresh, more crisp than acidic with fruit and spices playing subtle but undeniable roles.

For dessert, we sample Bonbon Bombardier and CocoPrana. From the former, we get a mallow’wich, a block of homemade marshmallow between, in this case, two pieces of tempered bittersweet chocolate, with both exterior and marshmallow studded with pecans. It’s a reminder that, once, marshmallows were a delicacy. We also try killer passionfruit chews — the fruit sings over a buttery backbone — and miso apple caramels, which start salty, finishing creamy and savory with no apple flavor. We’re also fond of CocoPrana’s chocolate coconut bark, basically coconut shavings and dark chocolate dehydrated to crispness and exactly as good as it sounds without being too sweet.

CocoPrana also sells coconut butter, a blend of all the edible parts of a coconut, which co-owner Holly Sucharski sells in sweet and savory varieties. Our jar of chipotle coconut butter tastes richer and more buttery than straight coconut oil, with a mild smokiness and a pleasant rising warmth.

It’s worth noting that none of these vendors call the Market their sole home. Most also sell at farmers markets through the region, and Bonbon Bombardier retails at Manitou’s Radiantly Raw. Even if the market itself missed the original community vision for the concept, most everything impresses, showing a fine display of local fare.

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