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by Inlander Staff

The Clark House -- A relic of opulent turn-of-the-century times, Hayden Lake's Clark House offers more than just a meal. Its history is steeped in mystery and tragedy. Dinner here is by reservation only and is a five-course affair. Entrees change each night, although there is always a beef tenderloin. Prices are from $48 to $54 per person, with an additional and mandatory 20 percent gratuity. The main courses on our visit included the fresh salmon stuffed with Dungeness crab, cream cheese and chives and covered in a Dijon buerre blanc sauce. It was nicely prepared and rich with lots of sweet crabmeat. The Clark House tenderloin of beef with forest mushroom bordelaise was nothing short of massive, and very tender. The sauce added a pleasant counterpoint. In all, this was a very satisfying plate. 5250 E. Hayden Lake Rd., Hayden Lake, Idaho. Call: (800) 765-4593. (LM)

Twigs Bistro -- Twigs offers food and atmosphere that manages to transcend commonly held food court dining conceptions. The lunch menu of the day offers an array of intriguing and competitively priced choices, including sandwiches and wraps ($5-$6), soups, salads, topped baked potatoes, combos and a section called "hot off the grill" where you choose among seven options (battered fish, cheeseburger deluxe, crispy chicken sandwich, ham and Swiss melt, etc.) and get fries and a 16 oz. soda in the deal for $5.95. The Chicken Caesar Wrap with chips ($5.50) was a winning mixture of tender chicken, romaine lettuce, diced tomatoes and artichoke hearts with tangy Caesar dressing in a basil flour tortilla. Delicious and surprisingly filling -- and worth the 20-minute wait we experienced. 808 W. Main Ave. in Riverpark Square. Call 232-3376. (MC)

Downriver Grill -- The Downriver Grill (a locally owned neighborhood spot on the North Side) occupies a former florist's shop just a little past Audubon Park on Northwest Boulevard. The interior is sleek and modern but warm and inviting. The Tuscan pasta salad, with penne pasta, feta, tomatoes, artichoke hearts and kalamata olives ($6 half, $8 whole) was a meal in itself. The yellowfin tuna entree ($14) was served with avocado and mango salsa, couscous and saut & eacute;ed vegetables. Cooked as ordered, it was quite tasty, and the mango salsa had just the right blend of sweet and tart. Service was unfailingly attentive, courteous and lighthearted. This place was packed on a Sunday night, so plan ahead. 3315 W. Northwest Blvd. Call: 323-1600. (LM)

Mootsy's North 9 -- The interior of Mootsy's North 9 is clean and offbeat with plenty of space to park it and original paintings and framed rock posters embellishing the richly colored walls. The menu features an interesting and tempting assortment of pizzas, sandwiches, and "extras." The sauces are handmade; pizza dough is hand-tossed. The toppings range from standard to gourmet. The North 9 ($8.25 / $18.95) is a spicy olive oil-based pie (no red sauce) topped with mozzarella, goat cheese, sun-dried tomatoes, roasted garlic, pine nuts and fresh basil. There's the Santa Fe ($6.75 / $17.95) with mozzarella and cheddar, lime-marinated chicken, black olive and red onion, and topped with fresh tomato and fresh cilantro. Take your pick from a total of 11. You really can't go wrong. The slice-and-salad combo ($4.95) is a steal. 9 N. Washington St. Call: 838-0260 (MC)

Paprika -- Paprika is home to some of the most inventive dishes in the Inland Northwest. Even the appetizer list harbors intrigue. Included are fresh-roasted local porcini mushrooms with gremolata served over grilled toast ($8) and roasted artichoke stuffed with saffron-potato puree and topped with toasted bread crumbs ($7). Entrees are just as creative. The seared pepper-crusted ahi tuna ($22) was teamed up with horseradish mashed potatoes, grilled onions and a fresh tomato vinaigrette. The roasted spring chicken with morel mushrooms ($19) was moist and flavorful. 1228 S. Grand Blvd. Call: 455-7545 (LM)

Huckleberry's Bistro -- All of the menu items here are created with natural and organic ingredients whenever possible, and the variety of foods prepared fresh daily is staggering. They do breakfast, lunch and dinner. Soups are $2 a cup, hot sandwiches and entrees are $6 or less. Cold salads range from $6 to $9 a pound. The hot lemon chicken sandwich ($6 with salad) was generous, with saut & eacute;ed chicken breast topped with tomato and covered with creamy lemon-garlic pan sauce on a thick slab of asagio ciabatta bread. It was substantial, peerless in ingredient quality, delicious and messy. The curried red lentil salad has a smooth texture and a very subtle curry flavor, with sweet currants and vinaigrette for balance. 926 S. Monroe Call: 624-1349. (MC)

Capsule reviews are written by Lauren McAllister (LM), Mike Corrigan (MC) or Marty Demarest (MD), unless otherwise noted.

Publication date: 1/15/04

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