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After 501 columns and more than 10 years, Mary Billings is retiring from writing Special Request. She will continue to contribute occasional feature stories to Let's Eat.

Mary and her late husband, Jack, began writing regularly for the Post-Dispatch in 1995. Their Your Serve column — a he-said, she-said with recipes — appeared for seven years. They took the reins of the Special Request column in 2000, starting with a recipe for carrot souffle from Piccadilly Cafeteria. Jack Billings died in 2005.

"St. Louis is so lucky to have an incredible number of local restaurants with creative, hard-working, innovative chefs," Billings said.

Some of the chefs' recipes have become personal favorites. "Because I'm trying new recipes all the time, the real acid test is whether I come back to a recipe and make it again for my own table," she said. She singled out these seven. For the recipes, click on the links displayed in the accompanying box.

• Magpie's Southwestern Veggie Lasagna: "The oven-roasted vegetables are unbelievably good."

• Daily Bread's Mountain Cookies: "A friend's son liked these so much that I now make them every Christmas."

• House of India's Kheer (rice pudding): "It's well worth the hunt for the green cardamom."

• Cicero's Cheese-Baked Pasta Alamara: "I have even pulled this out of the freezer for company."

• Canyon Cafe's Pablo's Enchiladas: "Anything would be good with this sauce."

• Bossanova's Reuben Pizza: "My new favorite appetizer."

Starting next week, Alanna Kellogg will write the Special Request column. She is a Kirkwood resident, author of the online recipe column KitchenParade.com and "veggie evangelist" at her food blog about vegetables, A Veggie Venture.