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The minimalist vibe at Twigs is soothing, earthy and pleasingly inviting. The Moroccan beef ($13), little chunks of beef nicely seasoned with a hint of cinnamon among other spices, served with a Gorgonzola fondue, was a happy appetizer. The blue steak sandwich ($12) -- a little steak grilled medium and served on a bun with tomato, lettuce, lemon-garlic aioli and melted Cambozola -- made a bold statement on the first bite, but it was overwhelmingly rich. Pesto-crusted chicken ($17) was a pretty platter indeed, with a bright, fresh taste, and the Under the Sun pizza ($13) contained nearly every meat under the sun: Italian sausage, smoked bacon, roasted chicken, prosciutto and pepperoni. The sticky cookie ($6), a hot chocolate chip cookie with three scoops of vanilla ice cream, hot fudge and whipped cream, is a simple dessert that makes you happy. Like a wild tree, some of the menu items at Twigs may need a bit of pruning, but their unexpected taste combinations are often quite successful -- and lots of fun. 4320 S. Regal, 443-8000; River Park Square, 232-3376; 9820 N. Nevada, 465-8794 (LM)


MickDuff's Sandpoint brewpub is rustic and comfortable, but with flecks of modernity. And a little kitsch. The floors are the original Douglas fir, buffed to a shine. There are massive old-wood pillars. But the walls are painted avocado green, with dark green trim over corrugated tin-roof wainscoting. Decoupaged onto the tabletops are hundreds of arcane beer labels: Acapulco Lime, Funky Monkey, Tube City, Robin Hood Ale. Try their half-dozen ales on their own, or as ingredients in their soups, sandwiches and burgers -- including the Brewers Burger, which for a few bucks extra you can get with the it-meat, Kobe beef. 312 N. First Ave., Sandpoint, Idaho, (208) 255-4351 (JS)

Caf & eacute; Marron

The sunny tangerine-hued north wall marks this casual-yet-upscale neighborhood gathering place as a daily source for morning meals that you'd expect to find at an indulgent weekend brunch. The presentation here lifts the most prosaic breakfast classics above the ordinary, and you can find surprises like salad and sandwiches for breakfast. Doug's French toast ($8) came pinwheeled, dotted with granola and apple, and topped with apple-cinnamon sauce and a dollop of whipped cream. The staff accommodated Marty's hideously pretentious breakfast needs, which included granola and yogurt ($6), a side of French toast ($5), coffee, bottled water at room temperature and a pomegranate mimosa ($5). My avocado sandwich ($9), with two poached eggs shimmying atop slices of avocado, bacon and tomato, all on Bouzies toast, gave me vegetables along with salty earthiness. Luke's Coeur d'Alene Park scramble ($10) gave the simple flavors room to breathe without drowning them. Marron's weekday morning menu defies the egg-meat-starch stranglehold on what constitutes breakfast, and does it with style. 144 S. Cannon St., 456-8660 (AC)


You'd never guess it once was a Boston Market/Carl's Jr. on the South Hill: With its wine bar and patio, Vin Rouge has been remarkably transformed. The bruschetta and crab cakes are a bargain ($3-$4) during Social Hour; the chicken breast with creamy risotto ($14) had a luscious mushroom and Marsala sauce, while the pork chop with apple-currant compote ($15) was quite juicy. The seared halibut ($19) swims in a lemon caper and white butter sauce, accompanied by roasted potatoes and saut & eacute;ed spinach. 3029 E. 29th Ave., 535-8800 (LM)

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