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Mouthing Off

Still, the most beautiful new cookbook has to be Seafood ($50), by Charlie Trotter, who is better known for his way with meats but who presents a splendid selection of elaborate seafood recipes here, interspersed with stunning photos. The book is rich in both content and appearance, and it would make a great gift for someone who is very dedicated to cooking and willing to spend a lot of time in the kitchen. After all, you're not going to whip up lemon-balm-infused Dungeness crab consomme with crab-stuffed squash blossoms, white asparagus and ramps in just a few minutes--and if you have to ask what ramps are (they're leek-like wild onions), then you'd better stick with something more down-to-earth.

Like the New Recipes From Quilt Country ($30), by Marcia Adams, who spends a lot of time with the Amish and Mennonite communities in her native Indiana. Most of the recipes are exactly what you'd expect--shoo fly pie, pan-fried chicken--but there are a few surprises, such as sauerkraut apple cake. If you're planning a barn-raising anytime soon, you could use this to feed the troops.

Ethnic food is still hot, and hot-hot is Flavors of Africa ($16), a compendium of some of the spiciest foods found in Africa, by Dave DeWitt, Melissa J. Stock and Mary Jane Wilan. DeWitt and Stock are the editors of Fiery Foods Magazine, so when they offer a recipe such as Cape Town Curry With Capsicum Prawns, you know it's going to sear your tastebuds. Another good ethnic find is Exotic Kitchens of Malaysia ($32.95), by Copeland Marks, who gives the secrets behind rendang, barbecued-mutton satays, turmeric chicken and melon soup.

And, finally, proof that the cookbook industry is out of control may be found in Naomi's Home Companion ($25), by Naomi Judd, who obviously imagines herself as the Martha Stewart of the country/Western set and who not only gives the recipes for her childhood favorites (we do need more ways to cook fried chicken), but also offers "life advice." However, Judd's silliness pales beside Inter Courses ($24.95), by Martha Hopkins and Randall Lockridge, who have sandwiched photos of goose-pimpled buff men in the near-buff and people holding avocados in strategic spots between images of potatoes and fruit. At one point, someone named Jeff (perhaps a chef?) offers this advice for preparing the tomato-basil soup: "Before chopping the tomatoes, take time to appreciate the feeling of their round shapes and smooth skins. Close your eyes and pass them [I think he means the tomatoes, not your eyes] between yourself and your partner and slowly, carefully, let your imagination go..."

Okay, I get the connection between food and sex (hey, it's why I chose this profession), but come on. At that point, my imagination would start worrying that the tomatoes we were holding were firmer than my own.

Open-and-shut cases: Since Mickey Zeppelin's deal to sell LoDo landmark City Spirit fell through a few months ago, the building at 1434 Blake Street has stood empty, with nothing but a real estate sign in its window...The old Rocky Mountain BankCard building at 11th Avenue and Delaware Street has been vacant for over a decade; its last occupant--long before the area became the hot Golden Triangle--was the Monastery, a loony concept featuring waiters in monks' robes delivering wine and cheese. Not surprisingly, it took a long time to locate a new occupant, but now P.S. 1, a Denver charter school, is renovating the great space...And renovations are finally complete at the Skybox Grill and Sports Bar, high atop the Ramada at 1975 Bryant Street. The restaurant reopens next week--just in time for baseball season.

--Wagner

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