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Fresh & amp;amp; Tasty 

BENEFITS Help Two Ways & r & & r & & lt;span class= "dropcap " & T & lt;/span & he Spokane AIDS Network hosts its fourth annual STEM and STEIN benefit on Friday night at the Northern Quest Casino's Pend Oreille Pavilion. Forty wineries from California and the Northwest -- including locals Arbor Crest, Pend D'Oreille and Townshend -- join with five Northwest breweries (Iron Horse, C.I. Shenanigans, Deschutes, Boundary Bay and Rouge) to pour samples of their finest libations, and all for a good cause. Halletts Chocolates will be on hand to pair their sweet nothings with the wines, and a handful of artisan cheeses will be available as well. The silent auction features everything from wine-themed vacations to a handcrafted queen-size quilt. The theme for this year's event is the French Quarter, and Northern Quest is preparing a special four-course dinner menu inspired by the spirit of New Orleans.





On the same night, the South Perry Business and Neighborhood Association is joining with the Friends of Eastern State Hospital to raise funds for both of their organizations with a WINE TASTING and SILENT AUCTION hosted by Geoff and Debbie White at the Perry Street Caf & eacute;. This curious blend of organizations is linked by two faculty members from Eastern Washington University.





"It's kind of a convergence," says Dave Gorton, a member of the accounting faculty. He and colleague Mary Ann Keogh Hoss (of urban planning) are both active with the Friends of Eastern State Hospital; they're also both familiar with the Perry neighborhood. A benefit wine tasting, they thought, could help raise awareness for both causes.





"The Friends of Eastern State Hospital was created as a nonprofit in 1994," he says. "We provide for patients things that the state can't provide -- opportunities to prepare for the GED, poinsettias and gifts during the holidays, outings for patients, and things that will help in the transition back into the community."





The event will feature a selection of wines -- whites, a ros & eacute; and reds -- from Townshend, Barrister and Whitestone wineries, along with hors d'oeuvres from Perry Street Caf & eacute;. Local merchants helped assemble items for the silent auction.





-- ANN M. COLFORD





The Stem and Stein benefit, at the Northern Quest Casino, 100 N. Hayford Rd., Airway Heights, Wash., is Friday, May 16. Dinner begins at 5:30 pm; tasting and auction opens at 6 pm. Tickets: $100, dinner and event; $35, tasting and auction only ($40 at the door). Call 455-8993. Wine tasting and silent auction to benefit Friends of Eastern State Hospital and the South Perry Business and Neighborhood Association, at the Perry Street Caf & eacute;, 1002 S. Perry St., is Friday, May 16, from 6-9 pm. Tickets: $20; $15, students. Call 536-3998 or 599-9028.





DINING Italo-Cuban Fusion


& lt;span class= "dropcap " & M & lt;/span & ontana-based Glacier Restaurants hopes you interpret ciao as hello -- not goodbye -- to their latest epicurean adventure in North Idaho: CIAO MAMBO, which opened recently in Hayden Creek Plaza, an upscale urban-lodge strip mall along the rejuvenated Government Way. Designed by Miller Stauffer -- they did Riverstone's Zi Spa, Brix Restaurant and McEuen Terrace in downtown Coeur d'Alene -- Ciao Mambo bills itself as a place "where even the pasta is sexy." Their menu is country-style Italian cuisine that's heavy on style, priced above peasant class, yet full of hearty fare in plentiful portions. All the servers are perky and beautiful.





Starters ($8-$11) include calamari, bruschetta and the tempting Nachos all' Italiana: fried pasta covered in meatballs and prosciutto alfredo. Soup and salads vary from minestrone ($6) to Insalata Della Nonna Giardiniera ($10): mixed greens, red onion, mushroom, cucumber, black olive, feta cheese, artichoke hearts, tomato and balsamic vinaigrette. This massive salad comes with optional toppings of meatballs, breaded chicken cutlets, or eggplant parmigiana ($13-$14) on the low-carb menu.





Classic entr & eacute;es ($11-$16) include lasagna with saut & eacute;ed spinach, baked pasta Bolognese, and gnocchi with meat sauce. Seafood dishes include spicy, shrimp-based Gamberi Fra Diavolo, and Frutti di Mare: shrimp, clams, mussels and tilapia fish. Brick-oven pizzas are design-your-own, or choose house specialties like Rustica, with grilled veggies and goat cheese, or the Santo Pietro, with pesto, mozzarella, mushrooms, onions and extra virgin olive oil ($11-$12).


Dessert may be tiramisu, cheesecake or zeppoli, a flashback to my childhood in New York's Little Italy -- fried dough and powdered sugar, served adult-style with dipping sauces.





Italian wines populate the drinks menu, augmented by domestics, beer and full bar options like the Italian Sangria with cognac, Cointreau, peach schnapps, chianti, pineapple and orange juice.





With Sinatra singing in the background, Ciao Mambo offers an energetic atmosphere that is Tomato Street-meets-bistro. The raucous open seating area faces the exhibition kitchen featuring white-hatted chefs flipping pizzas. Diners looking for a more intimate setting should sit at the upper bar where high-top tables with wrought iron seats in flat black and a black granite bar illuminated by suspended globe lights are warmed by discussions of amore.





-- CARRIE SCOZZARO





Ciao Mambo, 8166 N. Government Way, Coeur d'Alene, is open Sun-Thu 4-9 pm, Fri-Sat 4-10 pm. Visit www.ciaomambo.com or call (208) 772-9555.

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