DINING Browne's Bistro & r & & r & & lt;span class= "dropcap " & A & lt;/span & nthony Anton, the head of the Washington Restaurant Association, recently mentioned that Spokane is ahead of the rest of the state in one emerging food trend -- fine dining establishments in our residential neighborhoods. (Think places like Vin Rouge, Downriver Grill and Luna.) One of the neighborhood-conscious entries in that genre, CAF & Eacute; MARRON in Browne's Addition, shut down for a few days earlier this month for a quick spiff-up and menu redesign under the direction of recently appointed Chef Dan Bower. The result is a menu influenced by French bistro style with a brushstroke of Spanish-inspired flavors.
"The menu has really been simplified," says Carrie Sampson, the daytime lead chef. "Calling it 'bistro' is just a fancy way of saying fast comfort foods made with simple, good ingredients."
Part of that shift is going from three menus to two: a breakfast and lunch sheet available from opening until 3 pm, and a dinner sheet available 3 pm to close. Late risers will rejoice at the breakfast-lunch combo, but so will anyone who likes eggs for lunch or a burger for breakfast. In addition to a half-dozen entr & eacute;es ($15-$22), the dinner menu emphasizes hors d'oeuvres ($3-$10), the kind of creative small plates meant for sharing.
"It's so much more fun to eat that way," says Sampson. "I love to eat like that. Dan wanted to cater to the after-work crowd, people who want just a little something with maybe a glass of wine -- not a full meal."
Even at mid-afternoon on a weekday, people wandered in sporadically -- young mothers with infants in tow, solo diners grabbing a late lunch, a multi-generational extended family. Marron's relatively small size combines with its warm and whimsical d & eacute;cor to create the feeling of a comfortable gathering spot that suits the character of the neighborhood.
-- ANN M. COLFORD
Caf & eacute; Marron, 144 S. Cannon St., is open Mon-Fri 7 am-9 pm, Sat-Sun 8 am-9 pm. Call 456-8660.
BENEFITS Wine & amp; Say Cheese
& lt;span class= "dropcap " & H & lt;/span & ere in the relatively casual Northwest, we have few opportunities to go whole hog with formal dress, but this week we have a couple of chances to polish up our best duds and spring for a fancy night on the town. Plus, our partying -- not to mention our largesse -- will benefit causes worthy of support, so we can get that warm fuzzy feeling of doing good while having a good time.
The 13th annual MOSTLY MERLOT wine and dinner extravaganza is set for this Saturday, with proceeds benefiting Cancer Patient Care, a homegrown organization that provides support and a safety net for cancer patients in the Inland Northwest. All of the funds raised stay right here to help people in our area -- CPC is not affiliated with any national organization, so the focus is entirely local. It's a big year for CPC, because the agency is celebrating 50 years of providing crucial services to local cancer patients, regardless of income or resources.
"Surviving cancer shouldn't depend on your wealth or income," says Cliff Evans, CPC's executive director.
Development director Rebecca Bishop adds, "The money you donate stays here and helps your neighbor. If you think, 'I can't make a difference with my money,' -- well, you can."
The big night will feature five courses each paired with a select wine. There's a silent auction before the dinner and a live auction after, so come prepared to eat, drink and bid merrily.
On Sunday, the Spokane AIDS Network holds its annual OSCAR NIGHT GALA at the Northern Quest Casino. Walk the red carpet just like the Hollywood stars, check out the silent auction items and gather in time for the live Academy Awards telecast. Then settle in for an elegant plated dinner -- your choice of filet mignon with black truffle demi-glace, wild Pacific king salmon with merlot reduction, or organic braised anasazi beans in a savory vegetarian sauce. Dessert will be the seductively named Chocolate Symphony.
The Spokane AIDS Network began in 1985, just a year after the first known AIDS diagnosis in Spokane County. The organization's goal is to provide support to people in the community who are living with AIDS/HIV and to be a source of information and education about HIV infection.
-- ANN M. COLFORD
Mostly Merlot, a benefit for Cancer Patient Care, is Saturday, Feb. 23, at 5:30 pm at the Spokane Athletic Club. Tickets are $150. Call 456-0446.
The Oscar Night Gala to benefit the Spokane AIDS Network is Sunday, Feb. 24, at the Northern Quest Casino, 100 N. Hayford Rd., Airway Heights, Wash. Doors open at 4:30 pm. Tickets are $125. Call 455-8993.