Taking back the neighborhood: Denver's most controversial drinking spot, Pic's Corner Bar on West 32nd Avenue, finds itself under fire for the umpteenth time in nine years from a group of neighborhood activists who claim it's a denizen of drug-dealing, drunkenness and debauchery. The question is whether the Department of Excise and Licenses agrees. Almost fifty opponents of Pic's liquor-license renewal showed up at a hearing last Tuesday with more than 600 signatures on a petition to shut the place down; they faced just fifteen proponents with 210 signatures. The hearing was a requirement stemming from the October sale of Pic's by the DiManna family to Rick and Randy Rodriguez, who bought out the stock after Pic's bartender was arrested on charges of cocaine possession. A decision on the license for Pic's--renamed Ron's Place and spruced up (but not much)--must be made within thirty days of the hearing, according to Balvino Chaves, director of excise and licenses. "The wants and desires of the majority of the community should be the deciding factor," says Michelle Ambler, a vocal member of the opposition. "I can't believe we had to fight so hard, had to go all the way to the mayor's office to get a hearing, considering the number of people who think the place is disgusting and dangerous."

It's a SPAM shame: Hormel Foods Corporation, the company that brought you the ground-meat product from hell and lower wages for more work, now offers a catalogue of fun merchandise with the SPAM logo: sunglasses (so you can't see the tiny particles of employees' fingers in the can); a wall clock (so you know what time the stuff is going to hit your intestinal tract); a Swiss army knife (so you can perform emergency surgery on yourself after you eat) and a barbecue set (so you can go out back and cook yourself some actual meat). Just kidding. Still, anyone who continues to buy food from this company needs to see the documentary film American Dream. Take the plunge: Iced-tea nuts shouldn't miss the herbal infusion at The Augusta in the Westin Hotel: It's the best I've ever had. The perfect brewing--of Celestial Seasonings' Red Zinger, of all things--tastes divinely of rose hips. The restaurant also puts out a rich, lobster-laden bisque for lunch, as well as a great tangy-sweet raspberry vinaigrette over mixed greens and goat-cheese medallions. Similar fare can be expected at Augusta's upcoming Winemaster dinners: February 21 will feature French food, Frederick Wildman & Sons wines; March 9 offers Colorado eats (including Denver Post columnist Dick Kreck's purportedly wonderful apple pie) and California's Joseph Phelps wines; and April 19 will see Italian dishes alongside Kobrand Wines & Spirits. The meals will be accompanied by regionally correct live music, including two appearances by the restaurant's opera-singing manager, Stacy Pope. Cost: $65 per.

Pastabilities: Alfalfa's will hold its second Spaghetti Cookoff on March 12 in its Denver, Littleton and Fort Collins stores. Send your spaghetti recipe to Spaghetti Cookoff, P.O. Box 38163, Denver,


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