Thursday, February 25, 2010

Never too old for chocolate

Posted on Thu, Feb 25, 2010 at 5:59 PM

White,dark, milk, toffee-coated — there is no age limit on chocolate. That’s why the goods from the Flour Mill’s Chocolate Apothecary will be tasted during a gourmet luncheon at the Southside Senior Center, 3151 E. 27th Ave., on Friday, Feb. 26, at 11:30 am. Tickets: $25. Call 535-0803.

The bubbly will accompany this same ageless ambrosia, also on Saturday, during a benefit for Lutheran Community Services at Mirabeau Park Hotel, 1100 N. Sullivan Rd. At one of the best galas in our region, not only will the champagne and chocolate be pouring, but fine espresso will topple into cups and melt the chocolate in your mouth. Tickets:$50. Call 343-5053.

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A few good forks

Posted on Thu, Feb 25, 2010 at 5:58 PM

It really is about quality. A tomato grown from nutrient-dense soil,fresh-picked and warmed from the late-summer sun — there’s nothing like it.

The people of Slow Food Spokane River know this as well as anyone. They’ve dedicated their gardening careers to the encouragement of locally grown food. They’re currently prepping their “2nd Chance Kitchen &Garden Sale,” a fundraiser to be held on Saturday, March 6, from 9 am-3pm. Right now, they’re seeking donations of not-totally-beat-up utensils for growing, preparing and serving food.

Your donation will go to slow-food projects around our area. Last year’s fundraiser provided a scholarship to a slow-food workshop for youth — which means that’s one less unfortunate soul never to have tasted a tomato straight from the vine. Bring your donations to Peters &Sons Flowers and Gifts, 512 E. Pacific Ave. Call 209-2851.

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As American as baklava

Posted By on Thu, Feb 25, 2010 at 5:56 PM

Somewhere in a parallel universe, we consider Greek food an American tradition, as inherent to our way of eating as pizza or tacos. As evidence, we submit Santorini’s newest restaurant in Idaho (literally the parent company of the Santorini’s in Spokane).

Consider the following:Greek food comes from a culture whose ancient roots laid the foundation for Western civilization, including our American political, legal and other systems.

Second,it’s humble yet hearty food, the Mediterranean equivalent of meat-and-potatoes, with lamb instead of beef and orzo (ricelike pasta) replacing the potatoes (and waaaaaay more garlic!).

Finally, it is prepared by people like Dino and Fotini Tsakarestos, who embody the Horatio Alger attitude of our immigrant past. Nearly 40 years ago, they arrived from Crete, and they have since spent a lifetime building restaurants and relationships throughout the Northwest — including Coeur d’Alene’s Olympia restaurant, which they sold a few years back.

Their new restaurant is located in an unassuming strip mall across from Kootenai County Fairgrounds, home of horse shows and the annual demolition derby (doesn’t get much more American than that). With scant attention to ambience, Santorini’s offers plentiful portions of good food at extremely reasonable pricing (and menus you don’t need a flashlight to read).

Make a meal of appetizers like dolmades — grape leaves stuffed with ground beef and rice ($6.75). Hummus is traditionally made with ground garbanzo beans and a sesame paste called tahini, but it’s also available with roasted red pepper ($5.50-$6), smeared thickly over warmed pita bread, sliced veggies and fabulous with a glass of Kretikos wine ($6).

We love Greek appetizers so much that we had the sampler: roasted potatoes, Kalamata olives, spanokopita (phyllo pastry with spinach and feta cheese), dolmades and hummus ($12).

Other temptations include the kabob platter ($12.50-$15), gyros — sliced meat served on a pita with tzatziki sauce ($5.25-$5.85) — and moussaka, a casserole of potatoes, eggplant and ground beef ($12.50).

Save room for dessert like baklava ($3), made with butter, phyllo pastry dough, crushed nuts and honey. Since America is the land of milk and honey, consider it your duty to try some.

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Blaine Appetit

Posted By on Thu, Feb 25, 2010 at 5:55 PM

Latah Bistro’s Greek Yogurt Panna Cotta was born out of necessity, “a byproduct of having too much Greek yogurt in the house” after breakfast service was over, says chef David Blaine. He needed some way to use it all.

When editors at Bon Appetit first approached Blaine about submitting a recipe for the panna cotta, he was flattered but taken aback. By that time, Latah Bistro wasn’t doing breakfast anymore, and thus didn’t have the vast Greek yogurt supplies that had facilitated the dessert.

This was roughly two years ago. He agreed to give the recipe to magazine editors and waited to hear back. A year later, they called again, this time to fact-check. Blaine says he assumed they’d killed the story, but the editor assured him, no, no, it’d run in December.

December 2008. It just came out in the January 2010 issue. It’s a fast-paced food world swirling around us, but stories like this show that a good recipe is timeless. Or, at least, it has a shelf life of somewhere between one and three years.

Since publication, the panna cotta has experienced favor outpacing its original run. “It was not a terribly popular desert then,” Blaine says, but now people are out for it. The panna cotta doesn’t need a ton of yogurt, so it doesn’t make sense to buy bulk. Blaine was planning to just pick it up at the grocery store.The only problem: it’s hard to find full-fat Greek yogurt in this town.

Traditional Greek yogurt, says Blaine, is “a high-fat yogurt, like a tangier cream cheese.” All he found in area stores — marketed as healthy alternatives to Yoplait — was “nonfat Greek yogurt … which baffles me.”

Because of these logistical hurdles, Blaine seems to wish the panna cotta would just die. He had it as a special through January, last put it on the Valentine’s menu, and planned to leave it at that. But writers keep calling to ask about it — like us, asking to hear the story and then wondering when people will be able to find it on the menu again.

Blaine responded with a hint of resignation. “I’ll do it again this week,” he says. “I’ve got a couple tubs of yogurt left. I was just going to eat them.”

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Monday, February 22, 2010

Upsetting Tuition Tradition

Posted By on Mon, Feb 22, 2010 at 4:28 PM

Two weeks ago, student protesters roused themselves at local public universities to decry tuition prices and state budget cuts. Their ire was directed at Olympia. After all, at Washington public universities, it’s the state, not the individual university, that sets public tuitions.

But a bill in Olympia has just passed the state Senate giving three state universities — Washington State, Western Washington and University of Washington — the power to set their own tuition (though they’re limited to a 14 percent yearly increase).

Notice anybody missing from that list? That’s right, Eastern Washington University.

Part of the reason for the omission, bill sponsor Derek Kilmer (D-Gig Harbor) explains, is that EWU didn’t ask to be involved. The change is a six-year experiment, and the big agitators for the bill were the three included in that experiment.

Dave Meany, spokesman for Eastern Washington University, says that having the power to set tuition wouldn’t solve Eastern’s major financial problems. Many Eastern students need more financial aid, not higher tuition.

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Nuclear Party

Posted on Mon, Feb 22, 2010 at 4:26 PM

From Boise to Eugene, Ore., a series of public meetings on the Hanford cleanup are spanning the Pacific Northwest this month. Comments are sought for the Tank Farm Closure & Waste Management Environmental Impact Statement. According to the watchdog group, Hanford Challenge, the plan allows for the disposal of radioactive waste from across the country beginning in 2022 and the storage of 1 million gallons of high-level radioactive waste at the site. Spokane’s meeting is 6 pm on Wednesday, Feb. 23, at the Red Lion, 303 W. North Drive.
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TMDL-licious

Posted on Mon, Feb 22, 2010 at 4:24 PM

Last week, the state Department of Ecology took one more step toward cleaning up the Spokane River by submitting a cleanup plan 12 years in the making to theEnvironmental Protection Agency. Officially called the Spokane River/Lake Spokane Dissolved Oxygen Water Quality Improvement Plan (referred to as the TMDL report on the street), the plan would bring our local bodies of water into compliance with allowable dissolved oxygen levels. When all is said and done, it calls for reduction of municipal and industrial phosphorous pollution — which leads to dissolved oxygen — by more than 90 percent. The EPA has 30 days to review the plan.

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"A Total Reorg"

Posted on Mon, Feb 22, 2010 at 4:23 PM

Facing budget cuts and fewer bodies, the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office is undergoing a wholesale restructuring this year, resulting in what Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich calls “a dynamic shift in the way we’ve done business in the past.”

Most “traumatic,” says Knezovich, is the total reorganization of the investigative unit by combining into one body the Property Crimes Task Force and the Investigative Support Unit, more commonly known as the drug unit.

Knezovich says the patrol deputies will help pick up the resulting slack in investigations, but the office will be limited in its ability to chase the same number of criminals it had previously.

“We’ll be focusing very heavily on career criminals,” he says. As for petty criminals, “we’ll be chasing them, but it’ll only be when they rise to a certain level.”

Because of a tight county budget this year, the Sheriff’s Office had $3 million sliced from its law enforcement resources. Knezovich says this cost him 19 positions — including two lieutenants, one sergeant, five detective corporals and four deputies — and forced the “total reorg of the agency.” And Sgt. Dave Reagan, who acted as the office’s main spokesman, has been put on patrol duty. Knezovich anticipates more losses and restructuring next year when the county expects to tighten its budget even further.

“We’re going to have to pick and choose the crimes we’re going to be investigating,” Knezovich says. “But our biggest concern is what we’re going to do Jan. 1, 2011.”

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Make more gin

Posted on Mon, Feb 22, 2010 at 4:17 PM

Sometimes, Spokane produces heroes. For instance, Spokane’s state Sen. Chris Marr gave us the state’s first craft distillery law in 2007. That law defined a craft distillery as one that uses Washington-grown materials for at least half of the ingredients used to make the liquor. That law gave us Spokane’s very own Dry Fly Distilling. That law’s awesome.

Which is why Marr’s a hero.

But even heroes have faults. The same law that gave us Dry Fly (as well as Ellensburg Distillery and Soft Tail Spirits in Woodinville) limits the amount of alcohol the stills can produce to 20,000 gallons a year.

Recognizing this flaw, Marr has set out to improve his two-year-old law this legislative session with Senate Bill 6485, which would raise the allowable annual limit to 60,000 gallons. That would make about 5.1 million shots — more than one shot for every man, woman and child in the state.

“In the next couple of years, we’re probably going to push that number,” says Pat Donovan, distiller at Dry Fly. “We don’t want that [limit] to be the only restriction on us.”

In 2008, Dry Fly produced about 2,500 cases of spirits, or about 5,000 gallons. Last year, they doubled that.

“We probably won’t double it again this year,” Donovan says. “But you never know.”

But Donovan is happy to have the law clarified a little. When the original 20,000-gallon limit was decided upon, it was mainly to appease the guideline-thirsty state liquor control board. Another number Donovan would like changed is the 51 percent benchmark for state-grown ingredients.

“We’re about 99 percent Washington grown,” he says. “We actually wanted [the percentage in the law] to be much higher.”
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Keep those beans a-roastin'

Posted By on Mon, Feb 22, 2010 at 4:13 PM

“We wanted to go in the direction of relationships,” says Deborah DiBernardo, owner of ROAST HOUSE COFFEE. With the expertise of roast master Dave Rier, this new north Spokane roasting company is focused on helping people make the connection from farm to cup. If you visit Roast House, you’ll see pictures of the farmers who grew the coffee and learn about their families.
Roast House specializes in high-quality “socially conscious” coffee, meaning it’s Fair Trade, shade grown, organic or relationship coffee, which is produced by family farms or small co-ops.
DiBernardo, active in the Slow Food movement, encourages people to apply Slow Food ethics to coffee: Do you know where it comes from? Is it good for you?

Roast House supplies private-label coffee to coffee houses and retail grocery stores. The Main Market carries a unique Roast House Colombian coffee. After visiting the farm in Colombia, Rier liked the coffee so much he bought the entire crop for the Market. Look for Roast House coffee education classes in the future, possibly at the Main Market.

Latah Valley’s newly established TOM SAWYER COUNTRY COFFEE is part coffee roasting facility, part museum: Along its walls are coffee pots, tins and grinders dating back to the early 1800s.

Gary Thomas Sawyer — yes, he goes by “Tom” — encourages his customers to be involved in blending coffees to suit their needs. Although he focuses on coffee service to businesses and restaurants, you might just leave with a special coffee blend for your next dinner party and dessert recipes in hand if you visit. Keeping his business small and roasting 10-pound batches allows Sawyer to be creative. “I can’t do what the big guys do — and they can’t do what I do,” he says.

Sawyer also offers home coffee roasters, green beans and the training to get you started on making your own “legal, very addicting drink.” He’s so excited to share his passion about coffee that he might even deliver it all to your house. But only if you invite him in for a cup of coffee.

Visit www.roasthouse.net and www.tomsawyercountrycoffee.com.

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