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by Susan Hamilton & r & & r & & lt;span class= "dropcap " & C & lt;/span & heese, Please! SHOPS. Erudite author and radio quiz-show host Clifton Fadiman described cheese as "milk's leap toward immortality." Just about everyone has a favorite cheese, whether it's pungent, hard and crumbly or delectably mild, creamy and soft. My dad liked strong-smelling, soft Liederkranz cheese atop my mom's apple pie. I get enthusiastic about delightfully tart goat cheese.


Now I have any number of cheeses to choose from at the newly opened SAUNDERS CHEESE MARKET. Owners Bill and Kim Morin offer more than 60 varieties of gourmet, unprocessed cheese, ranging from $6 to $36 per pound. If your tastes favor American artisan cheeses, there's buffalo milk mozzarella, Cowgirl Creamery's St. Pat's double-cream and award-winning Sally Jackson's Guernsey. British and Irish cheeses range from Keen's cheddar to Colston Bassett Shropshire Blue. Fromage? Saunders has everything from Brie to Gruyere. If you prefer Italian and Spanish cheeses, you'll find parmigiano-reggiano and gorgonzola as well as manchego and Valdeon at the downtown shop.


"All our cheese is cut to order," Kim says. "We don't wrap any of our cheese in plastic or sell vacuum-packed products because cheese needs to breathe."


Saunders also features comestible products that complement cheese. A variety of crackers, crostini and sourdough flatbread adorn display shelves on one wall of the shop. Olives -- from multi-colored Casablancas to flavorful Italian Saracenas -- are presented in bowls in the display case. Balsamic vinegars (for drizzling on aged cheeses), Bouzies Bakery artisan breads, preserves (purple basil and black mission fig sound intriguing) and honeycomb (which Kim says takes goat cheese to a whole new level) are also available.


But on to the tasting. Kim says she offers customers tastes of cheese before they buy. Cheese plates, starting at $5, are also featured at the shop's marble bar. Kim prepared a flight of goat cheese for me to spread on crackers, apple slices, olives and grapes. The fresh Purple Haze had a creamy taste, while the Humboldt Fog was slightly lemony. A French Crottin Maitre Seguen was a delightful dome of savory goodness. My companion feasted on Winchester Farms super-aged Gouda, which she (and everyone else behind the counter) pronounced extremely flavorful, along with French double-cream Chaource ("better than Brie," says Kim).


Fadiman had it right. Cheese does make milk immortal.


-- SUSAN HAMILTON & r & Saunders Cheese Market, 210 S. Washington St., is open Tues-Sat 10 am-6 pm. Call 455-9400.





More Chinese RESTAURANTS


Judging from the number of Chinese restaurants around here, the Inland Northwest has a penchant for China's varied and complex cuisine. Many of these Asian eateries have lived relatively long lives (in restaurant years) along North Division Street. Now there's a newcomer to this string of restaurants.


HONG KONG EXPRESS has taken over the former Songhay restaurant, which held sway at the foot of the Division Street hill for many years. The new restaurant features healthy American and Chinese food without MSG. Owners Michael and Yoko Lin offer southern Chinese cuisine from their native Canton and Fujian provinces. They also bring experience from their 10 years working in Chinese restaurants in Los Angeles.





Just as Cantonese Chinese cuisine is characterized by diversity, Hong Kong Express offers a cornucopia of flavors. Szechuan, Hunan, Mongolian, Cantonese and Korean styles of cookery all have a place on Hong Kong Express' menu.





Diners can choose from 18 items on the steam table (a la Panda Express). Fried rice or stir-fried lo mein noodles plus soup are the basis for each meal. Lunch items include orange chicken, seafood delight, Mongolian beef, Ma Po tofu and shrimp with garlic sauce. The more substantial dinner items include Korean barbecue beef spare ribs, pepper shrimp, General Tso's chicken and Szechuan beef. For $3, lunch patrons get two menu items from the steam table with their rice or noodles. For a dollar more, they get another menu item. Dinner is $4 for two menu items with rice or noodles and $5 for three menu items.


If you order off the extensive menu, there's a dizzying array of items from $1 to $10 -- egg roll appetizers, seafood soup and a variety of egg foo young dishes, as well as six types of fried rice, lo mein and chow mein. Chef's specialties include chicken and shrimp Hunan-style and seafood delight. Chicken, pork, beef, shrimp and vegetable dishes round out the menu. & r & "Their hot and sour soup is one of the better ones I've tasted," says customer Lilia Co. "I'm partial to the shrimp with peapods and sizzling pepper beef."


-- SUSAN HAMILTON & r & Hong Kong Express, 2435 N. Division, is open Mon-Sat 11 am-10 pm, Sun noon-10 pm. Call 328-6888.

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