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It's Chemistry 

The Sapphire Lounge cuts down its food menu, beefs up its drink menu. Plus, get lifted with BiPlane Brewing.

click to enlarge Artful drinks at Sapphire Lounge - MIKE MCCALL
  • Mike McCall
  • Artful drinks at Sapphire Lounge

The drink menu at Sapphire Lounge is roughly twice as long as the food menu. By about 9 pm — a little later, if people are ordering steadily — the drink menu becomes the entire menu. This is illustrative.

When the Sapphire Lounge was announced, then-executive-chef Jeremy Hansen (of Santé) was planning a 20-plus-plate molecular-gastronomy-inspired sampling menu whose price points ran from $4 (chickpeas) to $50 (caviar). Since Hansen left, leaving bar manager Paul Samson, the focus at Sapphire has shifted decisively toward booze.

Elements of the molecular gastronomy remain, though, in jalapeno and cherry foams that drape spice and tang evenly over the cocktails they adorn (no more having to bite down on a maraschino like a schmuck).

And so long as you’re not a late eater (which would disappoint your personal trainer anyway), the limited late menu shouldn’t be a problem. Samson has taken the postmodern gastronomy and a respect for tradition and crafted a playful mix of flavors and textures that will occupy the palate.

His molecular toolbox is augmented with an array of traditional bitters (peach, walnut, orange, celery, Peychaud’s, etc.), classic liqueurs (Fernet-Branca) and all-but-disappeared ingredients (egg white, pickled fennel) in a way that makes modern the ritual of consumption.

The most straightforward update is a whiskey sour ($8), which tops Buffalo Trace straight bourbon and sour mix with a dollop of cherry foam.

When the kitchen is open, it offers a tasting menu that is a restrained mix of salads (pomegranate arugula, Caesar kale, both $7), bowls (tomato fennel and Italian sausage, $6) and pies (Moroccan chicken, $8; pepper beef, $9). It was closed by 10 pm last Saturday, but our drinks came with a carafe of peanuts.

The baked brie (with rosemary puff pastry, olive tapenade, $8) wasn’t missed on this occasion. The Agave del Sol ($9) — El Jimador, agave, lime and a stout, silky jalapeno foam filling the mouth with heat and a little sweetness — felt like a small bite all by itself. (Luke Baumgarten)

Sapphire Lounge • 901 W. First Ave. • Weds-Thurs 5 pm-midnight, Fri-Sat 5 pm-1:30 am • 747-1041

Get Lifted

Doug Martindale did a lot of traveling while working in the telecommunications industry, especially throughout the Northwest. And over the years, Seattle’s Red Hook Brewing became one of his favorite stopping points. Eventually he developed a taste for brewing his own beer, joining the ranks of what the American Home Brewer’s Association estimates are 1,000,000 other home brewers nationwide.

Today, Doug and his wife, Nadine, serve their love for beer in Post Falls, where Highway 41 meets Interstate 90, in the modest Biplane Brewing space — part taproom and part tankroom, which outputs 80-100 gallons of beer each week.

The taproom doubles as a meeting place for like-minded brewers and beer-lovers, as well as a filling station for the increasing to-go business of refillable 64-ounce growlers ($11) and 2.25-gallon “party pigs” ($42). Regular brews include the Sopwith Camel (a sweet, hoppy IPA), the Pusher Pale Ale (named for a 1910 DIY biplane), and the hearty Bristol Bulldog Brown Ale, with its chocolaty, malt flavor. For microbrew newbies, their Curtiss Jenny Cream Ale will have you switching from store-bottled lagers.

BiPlane’s seasonal beers include the Gloster Gladiator Bourbon Barrel Porter — which is as robust as it sounds, with a four-malt mix — and the occasional “guest” beer, such as Lost Coast’s 8-Ball Stout. Try a pint ($4) or discover a new favorite through sampling. Four five-ounce tasters will run you $6.

Although his grains come from Spokane, getting the rest of his ingredients can be a challenge. His biggest issue, Martindale says, is keeping up with orders. “You can make beer 24/7,” he says, “but if you don’t have a place to put it …”

Any readers willing to volunteer storage in their bellies? (Carrie Scozzaro)

BiPlane Brewing • 4082 E. Primrose Lane, Post Falls • Open Sun-Mon, 11 am-7 pm, Tues and Thurs, 11 am – 8 pm, Fri-Sat 11 am – 9 pm • biplanebrewing.com • (208) 683-0369

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