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Slow down for these hidden delights



If you go rushing through life you're going to miss out on a lot of good things. Of course, the smell of roses is the classic example, but if you're always in a hurry you're also going to miss letting a piece of maple sugar candy dissolve slowly on your tongue, or the sight of the sun when it melts all the way into the ocean at sunset, or the great out-takes at the end of a Jackie Chan movie.

No, I haven't gone all maudlin and reflective like a movie on Lifetime. I just want to point out that if you're rushing around town, speeding up and down the main thoroughfares, you're missing out on some great little spots that deserve your attention.

The first place is Ania's Deli, sandwiched between two larger shops on the corner of Garden of the Gods and Pope's Bluff Trail. It's a little place, with just a couple of tables, a long counter across the back, and a large set of shelves next to the door holding some very interesting middle European grocery stuff. The cooler next to the shelves holds soda pop, but look a little closer, because I got apple/carrot/peach and apple/carrot/apricot juice drinks that were thick and scrumptious like smoothies.

The sandwiches are gigantic, especially if you tell the lady behind the counter to go ahead and put everything on them. They cost $4.85 on rye or French bread; $3.50 on a kaiser roll. I highly recommend the rye, which is fresh and substantial with a nice chewy crust. I sampled the smoked ham, and the sandwich was loaded with tender, sweet, full-flavored slices, paper-thin so you can easily bite through them. On top of this pile of ham was lettuce, sliced tomatoes, sliced cucumbers (my favorite), cheese, mayonnaise and mustard. If I hadn't been sharing with the kids, I would have opted for the spicy mustard. You can also get Polish sausage and sauerkraut salad, Krakow ham, roast beef or turkey breast on your sandwich. Or you could opt for a Polish Cold Plate, with ham, sausage, roasted pork, cheese and potato salad.

Ania's offers a different soup every day ($2-$2.50) and I'd be willing to sample any after the one I tried. Tuesday is sauerkraut and sausage soup. It was love at first bite. This is a thick, hearty soup, tangy rather than sour, with a rich, meaty broth and tender chunks of sausage. On other days you can get bean, potato, mushroom or goulash soup, and if you don't want it for lunch that day, check to see what's in the refrigerated case that you can take home. Soups like these will reheat like a dream while you're slipping off your shoes, pouring some wine and slicing some bread at the end of a long day.

Speaking of taking it with you, you can get 10 frozen pierogies cheaper than 10 hot ones ($5.50 vs. $6.00). The lady behind the counter kindly pointed this out, and gave me directions on how to reheat them. (Slowly, that's the key, and gently.) They come stuffed with meat, sauerkraut and mushroom, potatoes and cheese or sweet cheese. We tried the potato and cheese, and I practically had to wrestle one away from my 4-year-old just so I could try them. Delicious!

Now, should you be speeding up Platte and need a sweet bite, there's another new place you can try. Nana's Bakery Panaderia has only been open for a couple of months, but stepping through the door is like stepping into the grandmother's kitchen in a fairy tale. The air is fragrant with baking, and the scents of sugar, cinnamon and butter float through the air like a succulent cloud.

There's a glass case with cakes, most notably several sizes of tres leches (3 milk) cakes, but I haven't been able to get past the pastry cases yet. At the top are football-shaped rolls, very light and delicate, and huge croissants, both filled and plain. These big beauties set the tone for the rest of the pastries, which are all hefty in size but puny in price, ranging from 45 to 65 cents.

At the bottom, in view of wide toddler eyes, are gigantic flower-shaped cookies, tinted pink or yellow, with jelly forming their centers. One day I bought a rolled, multi-layered pastry flavored simply with cinnamon, and it was probably the best thing I've ever eaten with a cup of tea -- crispy on the outside but tender in the middle, not so fragile as to shatter into a million crumbs at every bite. I wish I had one next to me now. I also can't say enough good about the empanadas, little turnovers that I first sampled filled with pumpkin. The dough is substantial enough to hold the filling without leaking, and the filling was thick and smooth, like pumpkin pie but more intense. The apple version is nothing to sneeze at, either, stuffed with small chunks of tender apple flavored with cinnamon and nutmeg.

The variety changes on a daily basis, so you're in for a surprise whenever you visit Nana's. One day we bought simple (though large) heart-shaped sugar cookies covered with multi-colored sprinkles. The empanada fillings vary. The cookies vary. The variety of pastries seems infinite. But you won't be disappointed, because the high quality remains the same.

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