-- ANN M. COLFORD
T3, a benefit for Slow Food Spokane River, is Wednesday, Nov. 14, at 6 pm at Thomas Hammer Coffee Roasting, 210 W. Pacific Ave. Tickets are $40, in advance only. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org for details.
& lt;span class= & quot;dropcap & quot; & A & lt;/span & t Friday's Epicurean Delight, a panel of distinguished judges awarded prizes for the best dishes in several categories. ARTISAN CULINARY LOUNGE won for outstanding appetizer, with seared jumbo scallops; DOWNRIVER GRILL took home the honors for outstanding first course with their shrimp bisque soup; the award for outstanding entr & eacute;e went to BEACON HILL for champagne chicken; and WILD SAGE nabbed top spot for best dessert with acacia honey and saffron pots de creme. MAX at Mirabeau took home the coveted People's Choice award, voted on by all 950-plus attendees. The team from Max served a grilled sea bass entr & eacute;e with celery root puree and a delectable Bananas Foster cheesecake for dessert.
But as far as we're concerned, every culinary team that took part is a winner. Imagine creating a tasty tidbit and then preparing enough in a portable kitchen -- essentially a hotplate -- to serve nearly 1,000 guests. Each of the participating restaurants tackled the challenge and satisfied some pretty discriminating diners, and the event raised thousands for the National Marrow Donor Program's regional center at the Inland Northwest Blood Center. Kudos to all involved.
-- ANN M. COLFORD
Leaves in Peace
& lt;span class= & quot;dropcap & quot; & O & lt;/span & ver the years East Sprague Avenue has seen many forms of commerce, not all of them legal. But recently things have been changing in the blocks located roughly from Helena to Altamont, thanks to a proactive neighborhood association of small businesses. One retail pioneer in the area is SERENITEA GLOBAL CAFFE, opened this summer by the Raschko family -- Keith and Janice and daughter, Amber -- who also operate a motorcycle repair shop next door.
"We're trying to improve the neighborhood and increase positive traffic," says Amber. "We want [the area] to be more pedestrian-friendly, something a little more artsy and eclectic."
Tea is the centerpiece here, with more than 60 different loose-leaf teas from across the globe. Black tea, green tea, white tea, red tea (rooibos), herbal infusions, fruit flavors -- if it's made from tea, you can get it here. But coffee lovers needn't feel shunned; there's a full menu of espresso drinks available, made with Cravens coffee.
SereniTea offers a half-dozen bagel sandwiches ($5-$6), from the Maui Wowie (with ham, Swiss, pineapple and sweet-hot cream cheese) to the Leonardo de Veggie (roasted veggies, provolone and pesto cream cheese), plus a feature sandwich of the day and a selection of hot pizza bagels. Or you can just get a bagel -- toasted or not -- with a spread ($2-$3). Bagels and pastries come from Sweetwater Bakery. There's always soup available, or you can choose from three hearty entr & eacute;e-sized salads.
The Raschkos do a lot of traveling and Janice wanted to bring some global flavors to Spokane. "She really wanted to bring teas to Spokane," Amber says. "We're a real coffee town, and she wanted to broaden our horizons. There are so many teas and there's such a history to tea, she wanted to spread the knowledge."
Inside, the Raschkos have painted and spruced up the interior, turning it into a comfortable and cozy space, complete with free wi-fi, global gifts for sale, and a meeting room in the back. The paintings overhead on the black ceiling tiles add an unexpected little bit of whimsy. The room feels similar to the Empyrean in its earliest days, as an outpost of creative hospitality in a neighborhood that's in transition.
And this weekend, SereniTea joins other businesses in the neighborhood -- and in three other neighborhood shopping districts in the city -- for GIRLS' DAY OUT, a day of special promotions and discounts for women shoppers.
-- ANN M. COLFORD
Girls' Day Out neighborhood shopping event is Friday, Nov. 9, 3-6 pm and Saturday, Nov. 10, 10 am-6 pm in the Garland, Hillyard, South Perry and East Sprague neighborhoods. SereniTea Global Caffe, 1804 E. Sprague, is open Tue-Sat 8 am-3 pm. Visit www.sereniteahouse.com or call 270-1608.