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MOUTHING OFF

Warming trends: It's that time of year when restaurants start implementing their seasonal menus. Exhibit A: the Creekside Grill. I'd love to tell you all about two recent meals I ate there, but most of the things I tried aren't on the revised menu.

This time, the dishes land deep within the heart of the Southwest, instead of simply flirting around the borders. Fortunately, my favorite pizza ($8.95) remains on the menu. The toppings of spinach, shiitake mushrooms, sun-dried tomatoes, bacon and mozzarella cheese go together like peanut butter and jelly; they top a delicious thin and crispy crust. Creekside also kept the tasty buffalo carpaccio appetizer ($6.95), a paper-thin slice of raw buffalo criss-crossed with tangy mustard and dotted with capers, and the Oriental Thai (hello--isn't that redundant?) chicken salad ($7.95) with its perky peanut dressing and enormous wad of rice noodles. Too bad the kitchen didn't drop its black-bean soup ($1.95 a cup), a snoozer that tastes like beans and water and contained more red beans than black the last time I sampled it.

Of course, this is all served in Creekside's too-cool-for-you dining room which, while tidy, is a bit too cool for me, too.

Speaking of menu changes, Wynkoop Brewing Co. caught me off-guard when I ordered elk medallions "to go" (possibly the first time someone's tried that) the other night. While the restaurant completes some serious expansion efforts--which will almost double the size of the kitchen--it has a "construction menu" in place. That means the elk--which, by the way, had a dreamy blueberry sauce when I tried it a few months ago--is currently on hold. Instead, I settled for the shepherd's pie ($6.25). Actually, this wasn't much of a sacrifice: The chunky pile of lamb, mashers and vegetables covered with lamb gravy and Parmesan cheese is smashing. Sadly, I was working and had to forego a pint of the Honeymooner's Mead ($2), a thick honey drink with a nice alcohol kick that I've developed quite a hankering for.

Stranger in paradise: The Wynkoop didn't make it into the British section of Garlic Queen Susan Permut's latest, More Adventures in Eating: Denver's Ethnic Restaurants, her followup to a pretty comprehensive (and indispensable to me) book on Denver's markets. This volume is even better than the first, primarily because Permut occasionally gets into what she doesn't like as well as what she does, which makes for more balanced reading and gives a truer sense of where she's coming from; in addition, the book includes many more definitions of scary words that often ruin diners' experiences because they don't know what the heck they're ordering. Interestingly, dim sum and pizza get their own categories, joining a host of others that range from African to Vietnamese. The cost is $9.95, and the book is available at a bunch of local markets and stores.

You're in the suds now: There'll be 33,000 bottles of beer on the wall at this year's Great American Beer Festival XIII, October 21-22 at Currigan Exhibition Hall at 14th and Champa. The beers of 265 breweries from 41 states will be available for tasting, plus you get a swell tasting glass to keep; there will also be exhibits on home brewing, cooking with beer and other beer-related activities. Tickets are $20 in advance, $23 at the door; call 447-0816.

 
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