In downtown Fort Collins, Colorado, you’re spoiled for a choice of great places to eat. There are more than 80 eateries in the compact downtown area in every size, style and type of cuisine. But if you like cheese, your first choice, hands down, should be The Welsh Rabbit Cheese Bistro.
Location: 200B Walnut Street, Fort Collins, Colorado.
Menu: Think cheese, cheese and more cheese, dishes topped with cheese and dishes that go with cheese. Plus a few other wonderful options. There are four menus and you might end up ordering from all of them.
Thoughts: I was completely delighted with our experience at The Welsh Rabbit and so was everyone in my fairly large family party. We had the chance to sample many items on all four menus. The ambiance of the room is clean, casual and bright. The warm brick walls and wooden detailing give it a bit of an old-world comfortable vibe. Service was friendly and enormously helpful in choosing our cheese plates. It’s a friendly, slow-paced place, clearly as much a local favorite as it is popular with tourists.
“The Small Bites Menu” features a short list of innovative dishes served on the small side. But the flavors are not small, nor is the creativity of the kitchen. You could do worse than beginning with the house namesake, a creative play of the traditional Welsh Rabbit/Rarebit recipe. Made with their own Powerful Welsh Cheddar, it’s served with rye croutons and honey mustard beer dressing. And it is powerfully delicious. Or you might opt for the house-smoked duck breast served with balsamic glazed beets and mixed greens. There are several salad variations from the herbed goat cheese salad with honeyed hazelnuts and dried cranberries to pickled salad, made with pickled veggies, dill cream dressing and bourbon cherries.
My own group shared the amazing smoked peach and fennel salad, with prosciutto, mixed greens, pickled fennel, balsamic beets and honey basil vinaigrette. My favorite “small bite” was Cheese Chapati, an East African style flatbread with a three-cheese mixture melted on top. Other stand-outs on this menu include sage quail with potato pancakes, bison tongue, and a fairly traditional Ploughman’s Lunch. And for the curious? You can order a plate of fried crickets!
“The Cheese Menu” is really the star of this show. At last check, there were 27 different kinds of cheese on the list. You’re given a sushi-type order sheet to mark your choices. They’re listed on the menu by type, i.e. fresh or fruity, soft or bloomy, hard, semi-hard, washed rind and blue. The menu also includes information about the origin of the cheese, the type of rennet used, the animal the milk came from (i.e. cow, sheep, or goat), and whether the cheese is raw, pasteurized or thermalized. It also includes tasting notes, such as brie that’s listed as “mild, buttery and slightly salty with a touch of sweetness,” or one called Midnight Moon described as “a nutty and brown-buttery taste with prominent caramel notes.” Can’t decide which to choose? You can opt for one of their pre-chosen platters. Or put together your own. The more people in your group, the more tastes you can try.
Add one or more of their meats for variety. We tried the pepper-coated smoked bison pastrami and loved it. There are several types of salami, both Italian and Greek style, and the duck, house-smoked over hickory then cured in salt and brown sugar. You can add fresh bread, crisp crackers, olives and fresh fruit for a wonderfully filling meal. Your choices will arrive on a slate slab, beautifully arranged; and the friendly server will help you understand which cheese is which and how best to enjoy them most fully.
“The Wine Menu” is a relatively short list but nicely varied, compiled seasonally. At the time we were there, it included wines from Argentina, Spain, California, Oregon, France, and Italy. Each wine listed includes a detailed description of the color, depth, aromas, and flavors of the wine to help you choose if, like me, you’re a fan but not an aficionado. Most wines are available by the half-glass, glass, or bottle. You can also order a flight of three different wines in two-ounce pours.
Finally, this being Fort Collins, which as a hub of craft brewing has been called “the Napa Valley of Beer,” The Welsh Rabbit naturally has “The Beer Menu.” The choices of beer and cider on tap change regularly. Just ask what’s currently available. The menu includes both local brews and a few from Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands.
As a nice side note: If you find yourself falling in love with one of the cheeses or charcuterie (and I’m betting you will), they are all available for purchase in their cheese shop just around the corner.
Price Range: Items on the Small Bites menu range from $7-9. The fried crickets are $1.50. Cheese choices are $2-4 per serving, and meat choices are $3-5. Wines by the glass range from $6-14, with most falling in the $8 range. Bottles start at $13 and go as high as $57. Beer and cider run $4-6 a glass.
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