Alas, it's mid-November and the gift-buying season is upon us. While I've yet to begin shopping, I already know two items—gorgeous, local cookbooks from The Fort  and Vesta Dipping Grill —that will pass from my hands to others.
Today marks the release date for Shinin' Times at the Fort  ($39.95), a compilation of more than 160 recipes that have graced the tables of the landmark restaurant since it opened in 1963. Author and Fort owner Holly Arnold Kinney has woven stories into the context of the recipes, providing background and even insight into staple ingredients from the 19th century. Shinin' Times is both a cookbook and a history lesson that takes you back to the days of the Wild West. As for the dishes, I've got plans to make the decadent chile-chocolate bourbon cake and, for a cold night, a cozy bowl of the wife of Kit Carson  soup.
The newly released Vesta Dipping Grill Cookbook  ($29.95) offers a different spin on Colorado cuisine and is, in fact, a gold mine of executive chef Matt Selby's eclectic and contemporary recipes. Front and center are the dipping sauces that have made Vesta a Denver icon. Dream about the silky red curry sauce that comes with the Madras grilled venison? Now you can make it at home, along with the golden ponzu shrimp (one of my favorite appetizers), the pecan pie salad, and the smoked and grilled duck breast.
Find Shinin' Times at the Fort at the restaurant, Tattered Cover Book Store , and online . Find the Vesta Dipping Grill Cookbook at Steuben's  and Vesta, the Tattered Cover, online , and at specialty stores around Denver and Boulder.