If you’re on Grand Mesa, don’t leaf Mesa Lakes Lodge unvisited


WHAT: Mesa Lakes Lodge.

WHERE: 3619 Colorado Highway 65, Mesa.

HOURS: 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily; call first, hours may shrink as it gets colder.

PRICE: Breakfast less than $10; lunch less than $12.

SPECIAL EVENTS: Live music outside on Saturdays from 1–3 p.m. and 5–7 p.m.

CONTACT: 268-5467

If you’re leaf-peeping this weekend on Grand Mesa, you might run into a rustic little place called the Mesa Lakes Lodge. That’s assuming you take lots of twisty roads and right turns and know where you’re going.

Unless a freak weather system blows in, the aspen leaves still should be bright gold with patches of orange this weekend.

It’s a popular pastime this season, driving, hiking, picnicking and gawking. Last weekend, we saw loads of people with their kids, dogs and vintage cars. And last Sunday was Color Sunday.

To break up the trip we stopped at the restaurant — more of a diner, really — at Mesa Lakes Lodge.

The original joint burned down about eight years ago, but the new split-log place re-creates the feeling of an old West lodge. It might have had a bit of a Cracker Barrel feel, except that the owners have it chock-full of original cowboy kitsch and trophy heads on the wall, from moose to wolverine. That, and the gorgeous view, not of an interstate, but of fishermen on the lakes, turning trees and Stellar’s Jays. The lodge rents paddle and rowboats.

The food is basic but hearty. We arrived just before noon and it was too late for breakfast, much to my husband’s dismay. No stack of pancakes, no biscuits and gravy, no mountain man special.

But the crisp air was making the burgers-and-sandwiches lunch menu look pretty good. The hamburgers were stacked-high diner fare on homemade rolls. I liked the black Russian, a ground-beef patty on homemade rye bread with loads of saut&233;ed onions and melted Swiss. Rounding out the lunch, a tasty red chili.

Mesa Lakes’ most popular orders are homemade cinnamon rolls and pies: blackberry, blueberry, apple, cherry, pecan and a special concoction of strawberry, rhubarb and apple called fruits of the forest pie.

For non-sedentary types, they sell a bag lunch.

The outside seating at Mesa Lakes left something to be desired. Such a beautiful setting, and the only choices were a couple of picnic tables, a few Adirondack chairs and some teetery plastic furniture.

What a lost opportunity. Such, I guess, is rustic.

Returning home on Land’s End Road, a gorgeous unpaved hairpin road, a Dramamine might be in order.

To see the Mesa Lakes Lodge menu, go to the Tess on the Town blog at GJSentinel.com.

GOOD STUFF FROM COLORADO: Try Nita Crisp whole-wheat flatbread and MouCo cheese, both made in Fort Collins.

Forget water crackers. Nita Crisps were created by Nenita Pellegrino, who wanted a healthier cracker. What she concocted is a winner. Tasty enough to stand on its own, but subtle enough to not overpower the cheese or topping. It pairs well with grilled vegetable bruschetta spread or tapenade.

It also comes in spelt. It is available at Albertsons, Whole Foods and other natural food markets: http://www.nitacrisp.com/.

MouCo makes soft-ripened camembert, colorouge and blue cheese from Larimer County dairy milk.

MouCo hasn’t reached the regional prominence of Longmont’s Haystack goat cheese but it’s on the horizon: http://www.mouco.com/.

PISTOL WHIPPED: Fans of Pablo’s Pizza who receive e-mail updates on specials might have noticed an obscene re-creation of their Facebook page. The page, which included Pablo’s own label, was hijacked by saboteurs.

The family-run business quickly worked to shut down the fraudulent page and “would never post offensive material.”

BY THE CUP: To give you an idea of what you’re consuming in a coffee drink, according to Starbucks:

A venti (20 ounces) brewed black coffee, 5 calories; venti caffe mocha without whipped cream, 340 calories; venti white chocolate mocha, 510 calories; Tazo tea, 0 calories; venti Tazo chai tea latte, 290 calories.

On the caffeine side, a large brewed coffee (remember, only 5 calories) tips the scales at 415 milligrams of eye-popping pep. It’s a trade-off.

QUOTE: “Ask your child what he wants for dinner only if he’s buying.” — Fran Lebowitz

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