Attention, shoppers: It's the eleventh hour, people. If you haven't yet found that perfect gift for your foodie friends, you haven't been looking. This year the sale of cookbooks and kitchen doodads has already passed all previous records (at least, that's according to one Nebraska marketing company). If my credit-card balances are any indication, I bought half of the food-related stuff sold in 1995 (with the exception of electric bagel slicers, which I refuse to buy on principle). Some of these items I'm planning to give away as presents, but some I'm going to keep because they're just too wonderful to let go.

One keeper is Cooking With Colorado's Greatest Chefs ($35). I can't say enough nice things about this book by Marilynn A. Booth, who compiled recipes from many of the state's major restaurants and put them into an easy-to-read tome with lovely coffee-table photos. The beauty of this collection, though, is that most of the recipes involve just three or four steps but turn out complex-looking, company-impressing eats. A few nights ago I made tamari-glazed swordfish with banana-lemon-ginger chutney and sauteed shiitake mushrooms and watercress, and not only was it fabulous, it took about an hour from start to finish. Also born in Colorado, the exhaustive Adventures in Eating II ($9.95), Susan Permut's update of her guide to Denver markets, bakeries and gourmet food stores, is a must for local foodies. And anyone who regularly travels outside the city limits should enjoy Colorado Restaurants and Recipes ($16) by Benjamin James Bennis; it's his third restaurant guide covering small towns from Alamosa to Winter Park, with reviews and directions as well as one-time-offer coupons from each eatery.

My favorite local food product, however, would have to be My Husband's Recipes ($24.95) by Norma Nunez, who owns La Cueva at 9742 East Colfax in Aurora with Nabor, the husband in the title. The book features an abundance of recipes--including the formulas for La Cueva's top-notch salsa and fire-breathing green chile--along with a narrative of the couple's history together and tidbits about their holiday traditions and "all our hopes and dreams," Norma says. It's a good-looking book, too, with professional photos. Along the same lines is The Border Cookbook ($14.95) by Cheryl Alters Jamison and Bill Jamison, who take on Southwestern and northern Mexican home cooking in a straightforward manner. This is an ideal gift for anyone who thinks the food from these areas starts and ends with refried beans and chiles rellenos. Farther from home, Louis Jones's The Art of French Vegetable Gardening ($35) provides eighty recipes that coincide with the author's garden plans for classic French gardens.

If someone you love is cookbooked-out, a gift certificate to the Food & Wine Magazine Classic at Aspen is always appreciated (if pricey). Tickets purchased before March 31 cost $450 (they're $495 thereafter); for that fee you get the chance to rub elbows with the likes of Julia Child, Jacques Pepin and Marcella Hazan the weekend of June 14. Call 1-800-4WINE96. The less discriminating should appreciate a year (one a month) of pizzas from Old Chicago ($96.95) or the "52 Weeks of Beer" gift certificate ($99.95) or twelve beers with pint glass ($29.95). And the Rock Bottom Brewery will sell you "Beer for a Year" for just $99.99.

See you on the other side of the holiday feeding frenzy.

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Kyle Wagner
Contact: Kyle Wagner