Tuesday, February 25, 2014

I found the center of my appetite's Universe!

Episode 4: Central Food

      I would argue to any big city foodie savant that Spokane's restaurant venue can match that of bigger places like Seattle or Portland. If I haven't made my case with my earlier posts then I present to you Central Food. Located only a few blocks away from the courthouse this is a restaurant that hides from plain sight, but shines out as one of the best places to dine. Central Food prides themselves on providing one of the most welcoming menus in Spokane by catering to almost every allergy or diet in main stream media today. Gluten free, non-dairy, vegan, or pescetarian they make sure you can get your fill without the hassle or awkwardness that can come from explaining to the wait staff why you can't have meat or what being a celiac entails. No one enjoys an evening where you have to explain your eating habits. Central Food not only understands this basic concept, but creates foods and goodies that build around ingenuity making them a premier destination for not only the food connoisseur, but the dietary conscience as well.
I was on a diet and changed my mind
     Let's talk about apps and I don't mean the ones on your phone. Most places have the same old appetizers each with the same old takes i.e. mozzarella sticks, nachos, chicken wings, and anything else that is either deep fried or quick and easy. Central Food provides appetizers like no other. Roasted Brussel Sprouts are tasty, inexpensive, and won't break your diet they are at the top of my list. If you love the taste of mushrooms then I suggest you try their Terrine which is made up of a poach egg, mushroom mousse and served with their house made garlic toast. If they have it as a special order their version of the calssic Scottish egg which takes a hard boiled egg covered in spicy sausage and deep fried it is a treat for the hearty at heart. If you look closely at the menu you will find something unusual bread as an appetizer. Many places serve bread for free and are happy to do so, but you must ask why on earth does Central Food charge for something that other restaurants give out for free? The answer is simple: it is amazing! Unlike those other places Central Food makes all their bread fresh everyday and makes a gluten free version as well. Other establishments get their bread frozen from a factory or make it weeks in advance, freeze then thaw in a microwave. Don't underestimate the power of properly made fresh bread it can be a life changer. You can also pick up a loaf for home use. Your sandwiches will never be the same.
Say hello to my future breakfast, lunch and dinner

    I have a very difficult time deciding what I am going to eat whenever I visit Central Food. As often as I decide a favorite or "usual" they change the menu or have a special going that distracts me to greater glories. However, I can honestly say that while I lack the phrase "you gotta try..." I can describe some of the delicacies that I have been exposed to me in the past. At my last visit during the coldest part of the year they had a Champagne Clam Chowder served with quohog clams large enough to satisfy any clam craze you've been meaning to fill. The creaminess and richness made me feel as though I were trespassing into a New England home for dinner. The time before that I had a type of Shepard's Pie with tender cuts of beef and fresh organic vegetables reminding me of a simpler time. You can always rely on certain dishes to be their like their Pumpkin Risotto which will remind you why the French were the ones to invent the Culinary Arts, but why Americans still strive to make food better. Their Lamb Pasta is the at the pinnacle of a summer pasta dish with lamb sausage, goat cheese, and a Greek tomato sauce. Try one of their salads with one of these delectable dishes. This is not a suggestion. If you've been meaning to try kale then they have a caesar salad that is right up your alley. If you want light and airy try their arugula with dried apricots. Each will challenge your taste-buds to try and find something better and they might be wrong.
Like my smile? O wait my camera is pointed the wrong way
     Central Food is one of the very few places in Spokane with a view. From inside their establishment a patron can get a wide eye view of the Spokane River or that of downtown. I like to plan for sunset, but miss out every time due to the competitive view that comes from my plate. They manage to remain a place where every inch is on the level of simplistic art. It is a distracting place, but worth it. The next time your their order a Paris In the Rain for me and think about the beauty in each and every single day. You might be pleasantly surprised about how much you can miss when you are constantly on the go.

    Every post I make it a tradition to give my thanks to those that make Spokane and the surrounding area a wonderful place to live and Central Food is definitely near the top of list. I want to thank the wait staff who are courteous beyond expectations and to the chefs that are beyond the title of cooks who make the dishes to fit almost anyone's needs. I also want to thank the innovators that spend their lives inventing new ways to torture the indecisive, such as myself, with the many tasty treats and concoctions they whip up especially the friendly bar tender who strives to make each drink special. Lastly I want to thank David Blaine who keeps the lights on inside the restaurant and in his head who strives to make good food accessible whether their diet or their wallet restricts them. Thank you all.
View from the patio
Central Food
Food: Accessible to anyone and everyone
Atmosphere: Great view, and always something to look at
Price: ~$10-$20 per person, apps range from $2-$10

1335 West Summit Pkwy, Spokane, WA 99201
(509) 315-8036
You can call the phone number for reservations or make them online at eatcentralfood.com. They are also fairly active on facebook and tumblr.

If you try Central Food because of this post please comment below.


Tuesday, February 18, 2014

What's really in a name?

Episode 3: Saranac Public House
          Special Feature: Magic Lantern

     As a guy I know the stress-and-strain of coming up with amazing date ideas or, if anything, an evening to prevent your rolling stone from catching any moss as so to speak. Many times we fall back on the comfortable classics of bowling, long walks, or the famous dinner and a movie. After a time these events can become dull and can be an obvious cop-out for a momentary lapse unimaginative judgement on the date planner. However, there is a solution to keeping one of the classics going while also adding a bit of spice a movie at the Magic Lantern Theater and dinner at the adjacent Saranac Public House will make you glad that you haven't abandoned traditional date ideas.
Worth the walk from one to the other
     I often find myself telling people where to find the best pizza, sushi, ribs, etc in Spokane, but I boast one dish above all good old fashioned mac-and-cheese. Saranac by leaps and bounds delivers the creamiest, tastiest, brie infused, bread crumb topped, and never seeming to satisfy mac-and-cheese. You can order an entire bowl for yourself or choose it as a side for a wonderful sandwich or salad. Vegans praise! They have a version of their signature side meant just for you. Be sure to order the chicken caprese sandwich where they take a pounded chicken breast roll it in panko crumbs, then pan fry it topping on a toasted kaiser bun with lettuce, tomato, prosciutto, creamy pesto mayo and melted mozzarella meant to match the cheesy goodness I know you will order. If you are in the mood for sweet and tangy they have a Hawaiian pulled pork sandwich topped with light sweet mustard slaw that will put you back in the luau before you know it.

What is praise without pictures?
      Saranac is also a great place for the split decision form of dinner dating. You intelligently, after reading this article, want to have some amazing mac-and-cheese, but your date doesn't even know what continent they wish their next meal to be. Have no fear! Saranac has you covered. From a vegan conscience Yaki Udon Stirfry with an array of fresh veggies and choice of tofu to the all-American-and-then-some Grilled Meatloaf with rosemary gravy and garlic mashed potatoes Saranac will fulfill every desire your taste buds could want. Sit down and wish you went out for tacos? They already anticipated your arrival. Wish you had went out for Asian? They have a Thai Rice bowl that will make you believe in the power of spicy peanut sauce. If you're like me and want pizza with every meal order one of their flat-breads as an appetizer. I suggest the Onion Goat with carmalized onions, baby spinach, goat cheese and toasted hazelnuts to get you a perfect first step for an entire evening boasting with good flavors.

Chicken Caprese with side salad
     If you're tired from the same expensive commercialized over budgeted Hollywood flops that we all have come to expect from traditional movie theaters may I suggest a trip to the Magic Lantern. With a $4 bottomless, yes I said bottomless, popcorn, fresh baked cookies, and barista style lattes and cappuccinos all reasonably priced you will feel as though some one extinguished the hole burning in your pocket. Spokane this is your one stop shop for independent, foreign, and Oscar winning films of taste that will supply much added conversation topics for you and your date. Whether you choose to eat before or after the film is of no consequence for the Magic Lantern is housed in the Saranac building which holds the Saranac Public House with an inside entrance.

    The Magic Lantern has always housed a cozy home like atmosphere with movie screens substantially smaller than the norm and seat numbers to match you will find comfort in the like minded patrons you share this warm space with. Be sure to show up on time because each movie lacks the normal half hour of commercials and previews that drown out our senses before mainstream cinema viewings and you will most likely not be allowed to enter once the show has begun like any good theater show. The Magic Lantern is home to a yearly foreign film festival that will put you on the edge of your seat where sometimes you can meet one of the makers of these prize winning masters of the silver screen. Though the festival just ended you can spend this next year getting to know your local independent theater a bit better by becoming a regular patron.

Your entrance to enjoyment
     Like every post I wanted to give my thanks to the wonderful people at both the Saranac Public House and the film masters at the Magic Lantern Theater who both continue to serve the public the best way they know how. I wanted to pay particular respects to the cooks at Saranac Public House for their keen ability to master techniques of multiple dish dignitaries that represent the ingenuity that all restaurants should seek their aspiration towards. Thank you again to all my contributors listed at the bottom of this post.

Saranac Public House
Food: Best Mac-and-Cheese, and truly a bit of everything
Atmosphere: Your hometown bar
Price:~$8-$15 assuming you want a drink

21 West Main Avenue, Spokane, WA
509 - 473 - 9455

Magic Lantern Theater
Food: Bottomless Popocorn and lattes
Atmosphere: Like watching a movie at home
Price: $8 tickets, $4 popcorn, removing the need to take a second mortgage out for a trip to the movies: Priceless

25 West Main Avenue, Spokane, WA
To rent the theater call (509) 209-2383
For movie times either call or go to http://www.magiclanternspokane.com/

If you try either Saranac Public House or Magic Lantern because of this post please comment below!



Monday, January 27, 2014

Did you hear the one about the rocket? It's out of this world

Episode 2: Rocket Market

      Did you ever go out to dinner, have a nice meal, and when you got in the car regret not ordering dessert? Have you ever went out for something sweet and tasty just to find that you need to also go grocery shopping? Did you ever want to brag that you've eaten cheesecake at a gas station? Well, the first two might be a yes, but after you go to the Rocket Market you'll be glad that you updated your Facebook status to include gluten free caramel cheesecake and a bottle of cool Perrier.
     Located a stone's throw away from the illustrious Manito Country Club and only minutes away from some of the best restaurants the South Hill has to offer, Rocket Market is a foodie's dream come true. Supplying some of the best organic produce, grocery specialties, wine, entertainment and of course dessert, you'll be glad that you made the detour. I can honestly say that this place is one of my driving passions when it comes to food and food culture and much of my inspiration.
The store sign, now you've made it
     When you drive up you'll notice the large glass windows to the left probably filled with a mixture of college students studying, friends reminiscing over a glass of wine, and the occasional  good-date-gone-better. The reason behind such a unique mixture of patrons comes from the unique mixture of themes that Rocket Market provides. Rocket Market is home to one of the largest selections of independent beer and wine that comes with a convenient twist.

Love letters galore
At the bottom of each selection you will find a few notes about the particular wine, oil, tea, or anything really worth of value. This is very useful when deciding on the drink to match dinner, dessert, or mood and yes they will open the bottle there and give you some glasses. It makes you feel as though they built in a self-serve Sommelier. It must make you wonder who had time to drink that many bottles of wine? Well, there's an event for that! Each week Rocket Market hosts a wine tasting evening that is filled with tasting, food, and delicious company all at a reasonable cost. Space is extremely limited, but you can go into the store, get on their newsletter, and get first dibs for an entire date night. If you miss your opportunity you can still pop in for a little slice of happiness. Or you can rent out your very own wine cubby that will get filled eat month with a premier wine of the month.

Dessert Case at the front of the store
     If I were to add all the time I've spent over the years staring at dessert case at Rocket Market I could easily have written a book or two. Each week the case is filled with different delectable treats from cinnamon poached apple tart that makes you feel like you're living in heartland America to their simplistic lemon tart that puts you in a cafe in Paris you will find the dessert for you. Their Cascade Coffee and chocolate cake will give you the caffeine and chocolate craving you've been needing to fulfill. The sponge on their red velvet has been known to fill the dinner's mind with thoughts of delight and happiness. They always have several cheesecakes. After three years of sporadic encounters I have only seen a basic New York style cheesecake once. Other than that, I have had my share of key-lime, pumpkin, caramel, cherry, apple-crumble, tangerine, lemon, pineapple, coconut, toffee crunch, Neapolitan, chocolate, and of course huckleberry with a hint of lemon. There are plenty more that I've had to decline, but there is always something new. There are a few consistencies such as their Nanimo bars. Beware, their Nanimo bars are extremely delicious and rich. You might try and share one just to find yourself eating the whole thing! If you are of the diabetic or celiac persuasion fear not, because they have low sugar and gluten free choices. Just don't forget to find a unique drink for the occasion. I usually pick up a Huberts lemonade or limeade, but I also like my sugar to go with something sweeter.

Honey by the comb
      The last feature I wanted to mention was their magnificent grocery. To the left you can see only one of the honey by the comb selections which make breakfast an event to look forward to. They also sell unique items such as blue cheese powder, organic and certified local produce, a wide variety of teas, pickles, chips, flavored bitters, and of course independent beers by the bottle. Considering the size of the establishment it's a wonder how they can fit so much into such a tiny space, but it's no wonder why it will take you so long to look through all the goodies and treasures. I have picked up my fair share of bacon flavored chocolate bars with chicken and waffles chips just to say that I've tried each. They may seem as though the are a specialty shop catered to rich health nuts, but I assure you their prices are just as competitive as Fred Meyers, Rosauers, or Huckleberrys but with the added bonus of fresh dessert by the slice with an espresso. You'll be glad that you did some of your grocery shopping here.

     I wanted to end this post by giving my thanks to the wonderful people that work at Rocket Market everyday to make the world little brighter. If you drop in for one of their free concert series this summer be sure to tip them for me. I also wanted to thank the owners Shanda and Alan Shepherd who have continued to provide a haven for us foodie types. I also wanted to thank the websites below for their contributions. Every little bit counts and you are sure to find all sorts of little bits at Rocket Market.

Rocket Market
Food: Dessert, wine, beer, delicatessen, specialty
Atmosphere: The cafe around the corner
Price: $4-$25 and your weeks worth of groceries

726 E 43rd Ave, Spokane, WA 99203
For a spot in their weekly wine club or concert information call: (509) 343-2253

 If you try Rocket Market because of this blog please comment below!


Friday, January 17, 2014

Fly me to the moon and let me stay for dessert

Episode 1: Luna

Main Banquet/dinning room
     You can tell everything you need to know about a restaurant before you even look at the menu. The smells of fresh baked breads and cakes can set your taste-buds into a salivating frenzy. The beauty of fresh cut seasonal flowers will fill you with a sense of calming serenity as you peer around the room and anticipate the curiosities you may find on the menu. Though you have yet to hear the specials, you have of course let your mind wander and rudely you stare out at others entrees with amazement and delight. You can and will find this atmosphere at Luna. Located at 5620 S Perry St in Spokane this is my favorite place because they cover the three major areas of dinning out and then some.
   There is a process that everyone goes through when we decide to eat out. At the very basic level we look for and think about restaurants based on what meal we wish to be projected into our lives within the near future. Everyone has their breakfast place, their lunch place, and of course their dinner place, but very rarely can any one establishment fulfill a palette request that would demand all three meals. Luna succeeds where many others try and fail and because of this accomplishment I am going to provide a short breakdown of each meal.
    Valentines Day is quickly approaching. While it may seem a bit curt to plan out a month in advance remember that reservations are a limited commodity.However, if you don't manage to find that perfect dinner spot consider an alternative. Imagine a bright and flourishing morning filled with sunshine and an entire day filled with small romantic ventures dedicated to spending time with the person that puts a smile on your face. The question that should come to mind: where do we start?
Freshly baked breads which you can buy and take home
  I suggest Luna for a well inclined Sunday brunch. As you sit to a warm inviting environment make sure you try a complimentary sweet roll. If I could, and I definitely could, have a meal of just some sweet rolls and butter with a mimosa I would be in heaven once a week, but then I wouldn't get to try any of the amazing breakfast items. The richness of the hollandaise sauce poured over a set of perfectly medium poached eggs, fresh baked english muffins, and ham will make you forget that the day should be focused on each other and not your taste-buds. If you ever wondered what the difference is between light, medium, and heavy poached eggs this is the place that knows how to show you. It is safe to say they know their eggs. Many dishes are served along with crispy rosemary red potatoes and which have the right amount of crunch to size ratio that you deserve in a starch. I dislike potatoes, but require this side dish at least four or five times a year. If you wondered if they make a scramble that showcases these freshly fried fingerlings they do! Better still, the scramble is filled with my favorite Spanish Sausage, chorizo. Once you're done you will have enough energy to take on the day and then some.
     If you are interested in a less hearty way to start your day try the eggs florentine, fiber-filled
steel cut oats with candied walnuts and cranberry compote, or try a sweet a tasty beignet of course covered in whipped cream. With whatever you choose to will be sure to feel full without feeling sluggish. I usually like to have a light brunch if I know I'm getting cupcakes and tea in the afternoon! If you do decide to do a V-day brunch here you will be glad that you can share a sweet roll with your sweetie. Head over to the Manito Conservatory for that extra touch of beauty or head downtown for a productive afternoon of paint your own pottery for a relaxing date day.
#1 Best Wine selection in the Inlander year after year
    Life is not always about sleeping in and having brunch every Sunday that's why God invented good dinner wines. If you were hoping to get out on a Friday or Saturday night with that special someone make sure you make reservations or cross your fingers if you plan on going to Luna. If you are a person that hesitates about sitting at the bar, as opposed to waiting thirty minutes to an hour for a table, don't! You will appreciate the knowledgeable bar tender and the extensive chalk art that surrounds you. You can still order, share, and steal bites with the person you are with. Sit back and have an antipasti appetizer loaded with goodies of different cheeses nuts and jalapeno jam or sit back and enjoy the salted butter and house made bread or in my case both. Their dinner menu has it all from unique pizzas like the Yukon potato, to the more fragrant butternut squash and goat cheese ravioli, to the more manly new your strip or fillet Mignon both cooked to a picky eaters preference. If you ever thought that the Inland Northwest could use with a touch of Paris you've come to the right place. Try the Idaho trout with risotto and a lemon caper sauce or the Luna burger with local potato fries and a side of sauteed brussel sprouts in a browned butter sauce. My favorite item to order is the Pizza Bianca that has black forest ham, arugula, mushrooms, and a white truffle oil. Don't forget to ask for an egg in the middle! A picture of my last visit is down below. If I didn't like sharing so much I wouldn't, but it is tempting when it comes to my white truffle oil!
Pizza Bianca
  If you want to know how good dessert at Luna is go down to Huckleberry's and pick up some. Yes, they are so good that a grocery store provides slices of coconut and pineapple heaven without the need to make reservations. The perfect way to end an evening out at Luna is their one of a kind, famous, absolutely apart-of-your-last-meal-on-earth Coconut Cake with a glass of Prosecco. The vanilla creme frosting and bubbles from the Italian Champagne alone will have you bursting out into Fred Astaire's version of "Heaven". When you ask nicely, and you will after I mention you should, you can have them heat up your slice and drizzle a bit of real maple syrup. Sugar comatose comes to mind with each surreal bite of frosting, sponge, and pineapple compote.
Coconut Cake
  I know that I have rambled on-and-on about food and date ideas, but I wanted to mention something about my credibility as a food critic. I have none. Everything I mention I have ordered myself at one point or another, but I am by no means a chef or a sommelier or a marriage counselor. I am a person who loves food and more importantly loves sharing. If you try one of my suggestions and don't like it then I'm sorry. However, I urge you to try again and try not to judge too hastily. 
  I wanted to finish this premier post by saying thank you to the men and women of Luna for making it such a special place. Their wonderful attitudes and dedication make the Spokane community such a joy to live in and be take part. Thank you to the owner whose personal flare and leadership drive the success of the establishment. They show the true purpose of a restaurant which is to make people happy. You can have the worst day in the world mean nothing if you end it with a slice of coconut cake.

You will be looking for this building

Food: Pizza, Brunch, traditional with a flare
Atmosphere: Warm, home like, Parisian
Price: $30-$100+ for two, $20 sharing a pizza

5620 S Perry St, Spokane, WA 99223
For Reservations: (509) 448-2383

If you try Luna because of this post please comment down below and write down what you had!

Thursday, January 2, 2014

An adventure begins...

     The word "adventure" has become a notoriously overused buzzword in our culture similar to the word "opportunity" or "enthusiastic". We hear these words and don't give them much thought. A job posting with the words "Career Opportunity" usually mean that they would like to scam you. Ask anyone who has read a resume within the last year and they will tell you that everyone has their fair share of "enthusiasm". The word adventure is no different.
     The word is attached to movies, video games, books, ads for cruises, ads for mini-golf, role-playing games, and even online dating. Marketing employees have become lazy and comfortable using the same language repetitively to describe a menagerie of different life experiences all of which have nothing in common with one another and most of which have nothing to do with the adjective at all. It is my hope to change, in some small way, others perceptions about a simple night out to make it an "adventure".
     We live in the height of the Inland Empire. While Business Week has declared Spokane the #1 worst place to find a job in the U.S. we still hold the world record for the most restaurants on one street. What does this tell you? We still know how to eat and have a good time. Over the years I have wined and dined in more area eateries, pubs, grilles, public houses, fine and not so fine dining. I have had ridiculous amounts of teas, coffees, Italian sodas, fruity summer drinks, cocktails, beers, wines, and other random assortments of liquid delight. I am by all means a hipster of the food scene in Spokane. I have been out countless times and continued to strive to try the best that this area could offer. I never held back in trying different menu items and still refuse to make any modifications. My enthusiasm, and to use that buzzword appropriately, for food has and will be the cornerstone of my motivation for a good time. My belief is that good food breeds good conversation and in turn good memories.
    Over this next year be prepared to get excited, to get salivating, and to get an open mind about food because you will be in for an adventure. If you live in the area I hope you trust my advice and get out there and try the places that are phenomenal. Try the places that you would have never tried. The most important thing is to have fun!

Every week I will attempt to post one of my themed date nights, or a good place to eat, or an activity in the area. NOTE: to those that worry about my finances note that I am building off previous experiences, I am in no way going out to Spencers, Anthony's, Luna, and Mizuna all in one month (though that would be really cool). So please enjoy yourself and I hope you like reading this as much as I hope to enjoy writing this. My first adventure begins tonight.