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MOUTHING OFF

Bacon bits: Serious BLT fans might want to give J. Beatty's, at 321 East Colfax, a try. I had their regular ($5.50) for lunch the other day and could barely finish the thing. It contained a half-pound of thick-sliced, hickory-smoked pork, fried to your request and layered with green leaf lettuce, tomato and mayo on buttery, toasted slices of sourdough bread. The lamb quesadilla appetizer ($5.50) is interesting, too: lamb and Jack cheese stuffed between toasted tortillas and served with a salsa made from raw apples, mint and chiles. The place is always mobbed for lunch; your best bet is a postwork snack. My pork counsel on the BLT hunt was Jay Fox, an accountant who has a second job writing about food for the Colorado Statesman and its sister weeklies. Titled "No More Mr. Nice Guy," Fox's column usually is chock-full of snide quips, nasty comments and sound recommendations. Plenty of food for thought.

Say cheese: A week ago I ordered a large pizza from the Colfax Avenue Famous Pizza, only to be told there would be a wait because, at 11:45 a.m. on a Friday, the place was out of cheese. An hour later we were treated to a lukewarm pie with burned crust, burned mushrooms, a bland sauce and yes, cheese. To think that I'd heard tales of this being the best pizza in town...

Say it ain't so: Rebecca Sparks, the manager at China Cowboy and one of the few things I liked about the place, has been, as the woman who answered the phone said, "let go." New GM Nick Piezonka is the former banquet manager of St. Petersburg, which has dumped the jazz and returned to a Russian cabaret format--whatever that is.

Behind the Vail: The fourth Taste of Vail is set for April 8-10 at the Westin Resort. The event features forty Vail Valley restaurants and sixty wineries, and includes food and wine tastings, cooking demonstrations and wine seminars with some impressive chefs and sommeliers. This year, instead of paying for the whole enchilada, participants can choose from an a la carte menu of events and seminars--or they can splurge and spend $250 for everything but the port tasting and the winemaker dinners. Not to be missed either way: the picnic atop Vail Mountain ($75) on April 9. Call (800) 525-2257.

Bag it: If you're in the neighborhood, the King Soopers in Parker makes a fabulous baguette, all crusty on the outside and puffy inside. But why isn't the bread at the rest of the Soopers as good? My initial queries netted nothing. In fact, one guy thought I was talking about plastic bags (as in "bagettes") that you use to bag sandwiches: "No, we don't make those here," he said. Finally I got a live one who informed me that the bread arrives at each Soopers store frozen; it's up to the in-house bakeries to thaw, proof and bake the goods. The gentleman, who wished to remain nameless, says the Parker store has a more up-to-date, upright convection oven that uses wet humidity; most Soopers have older equipment. "It also depends who's baking," he said. "You'll get different results depending on how much the person's paying attention to what he's doing."

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