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Fresh and Tasty 

by SUSAN HAMILTON and ANN M. COLFORD & r &


Room Service DINING


Thanksgiving was last week; December starts now. No denying it -- we're in the midst of the holiday rush. Let's say you're responsible for your office holiday lunch. And let's say you haven't really thought much about it. Until now.





Before someone starts flashing you the universal L-on-the-forehead hand signal for "Loser," listen up -- have we got an idea for you. There's still time to pull out the stops and land a private dining room at the Davenport Hotel for you and your colleagues. Yep, really. The Davenport. In fact, any small group -- up to, say, 30 people -- can reserve one of two private dining rooms at no additional cost if your group orders off the regular menu.





The Club Room, inside the Peacock Lounge, used to be the hotel's cigar room back in the day, before Washington's indoor smoking ban put the kibosh on stogies. Now, after lots of scrubbing and refinishing, the room is an elegant enclave with a window and a fireplace, some wild peacock wallpaper, and several small marble-topped dining tables. It'll hold up to 18 guests for sit-down dining.





Back in the Palm Court Grill, a slightly larger private dining room holds up to 30 for seating at banquet tables. The staff will set up the room with round or rectangular tables, depending on your preference. A wall of windows overlooks Lincoln Street, and for the holidays, a flocked Christmas tree holds court in the corner.





The items on the menu can be described best as high-class comfort food -- rustic favorites like tomato-basil soup, fettuccini Alfredo, even sandwiches and burgers, with each item taken up a notch in quality and presentation, like you'd expect. (The Davenport is also about the only place in town where the seafood chowder rivals the genuine New England article that I make at home -- but don't tell anybody, or I'll blow my reputation as a hard-core provincial on all things chowderish.)





Of course, if you'd rather set up your gathering as a cocktail party with nibbles and noshes, the staff will be happy to accommodate. The private dining rooms will be available year-round -- just check with the staff at the Palm Court or the Peacock Room to reserve a spot -- but if you want to snag a time between now and Christmas, sooner beats later.


-- ANN M. COLFORD





To reserve a private dining room at the Davenport Hotel for your group, call 455-8888 or 800-899-1482.








Gingerbread Creations EVENTS


Building and decorating gingerbread houses is a creative part of the holiday season. It's a lively tradition at my family's Christmas party. From my nephew's 3-year-old daughter, who plops peppermint pinwheel candies on her thickly iced gingerbread roof, to my teenaged niece who once created a holiday firehouse, everyone likes to let loose their creative spirit with gingerbread houses, icing and candy.





If decorating gingerbread houses isn't part of your family holiday celebrations, you can still experience this traditional German art form right here in Spokane this Sunday and next -- while helping the local women of Christ Kitchen at the same time.





Christ Kitchen is a work and job-training ministry based in Spokane that helps local women who are living in poverty. The women learn job skills by making gift baskets filled with a variety of dried food products like bean soups, cookie mixes, teas and other food items.





This weekend, Christ Kitchen is teaming up with chefs and architects from the community for the second annual Gingerbread Build-Off, held this year at the Davenport Hotel. Organizers describe it as an "Iron Chef-style" event, where teams consisting of a chef and an architect compete to create one-of-a-kind structures from gingerbread. Each gingerbread construction must be built and decorated in three hours, while the public watches. As the teams assemble their creations, the people watching can vote for their favorite.





Over the past few weeks, the architects have been working with the chefs to design the elaborate gingerbread structures. Four teams are returning from last year's event, and two new teams will be taking a shot at the gingerbread crown. Last year's winning team, Mark Van Hise of the Davenport Hotel and architect Christopher Morlan, will judge this year's build-off. All the structures will be on display in the Davenport's mezzanine from Dec. 3-26.





Kids of all ages can decorate their own mini-gingerbread houses on Sunday, Dec. 10, from 10 am-4 pm at the Davenport's Marie Antoinette Ballroom ($5). This event will culminate with a drawing for the winning chef/architect-built creation.


-- SUSAN HAMILTON





The Gingerbread Build-Off, benefiting Christ Kitchen (a job-training ministry for Spokane women living in poverty), is Dec. 3, from 2-5 pm in the Davenport's Grand Pennington Ballroom. Call 954-0554.

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