Like most 26-year-olds, Ashleigh Cohen was trying to figure out how the hell she wanted to spend the next 60 years. She'd just returned from a six-week volunteer campaign in post-earthquake Haiti, unsure of her next move, when a chance conversation at Raven's Nest Coffee (330 N. Institute St., 632-3433) revealed the business was for sale.

"I'd always wanted to work for myself," she says. "I just didn't know how to go about it."

Some familial and financial discussions later, on June 1, Cohen bought out the former owner, who moved to attend chiropractic school.

"It's my first time owning, and I have no business experience" Cohen says, adding with a laugh: "I really have no idea what I'm doing."

But so far, so good: A new arrangement has brought BuyWell Fair Trade Coffee into the house's grinders, as well as a variety of organic syrups.

A new gift

The Gift Shop in Manitou Springs has been a plenty popular spot, with its drink distributor saying the place sells more Bhakti Chai than any of its other customers. But still, co-owner Alex Georgopoulos says too many tourists were looking at the name and walking off, not realizing the spot's hot drink potential.

Thus, Marika's Coffeehouse (739 Manitou Ave., Manitou Springs, was born. The month-old name was chosen to pay tribute to the owners' grandmother.

Georgopoulos says to look for a full grand opening, with a brand new breakfast and lunch menu, later in the year.

À la carte

• The latest fast food survey by Zagat pegs Five Guys Burgers and Fries (7252 N. Academy Blvd, #120, as the best fast food burger in the country. The Virginia-based chain also won our Best Cheeseburger award in last year's Best Of contest; voting for this year's awards continues through Aug. 31.

• Slurp seafood at The Margarita at PineCreek's (7350 Pine Creek Road, Clam Jam II. Starting at 2 p.m. on Sunday, Aug. 22, the Margarita will be offering tastings of mussels, fried catfish, crawfish, crab legs, oysters, smoked salmon and chowder, among other options. For $50, you'll get seafood, complimentary sangrias and draft beers, and live music. Call for reservations.

• On Aug. 25, there'll be no cheese with that wine, because there'll be no wine: The Melting Pot (30 E. Pikes Peak Ave., Suite A, is holding a Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. beer dinner, featuring five selections from the California brewery. The booze will also be found in the cheese, and used as a marinade. Dinner kicks off at 6, for $39 plus tax and tip.

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