The Inlander Staff & r & & r & THE MELTING POT & r & & r & Enter a bubble of civility at the Melting Pot, where it's all about the experience. The rich red walls and dark wood accents create a cocoon of warmth, while dim lighting induces a sense of calm. All your food for the evening is cooked in a cute little pot on a cooktop built right into the table. The cheese fondue is mixed tableside by the wait staff and served with crisp tart apple slices, bread cubes and mini carrots. We cleaned out that little pot, using bread to wipe clean the interior. The main attraction included bite-sized chunks of a lobster tail, marinated chicken, steak, shrimp, filet mignon and pork tenderloin, four little butternut squash ravioli and a small bowl of broccoli, carrots, mushrooms and red potato to be cooked in the bubbling pot. For dessert, there's chocolate fondue in many incarnations. 707 W. Main Ave. (Crescent Building, Second Floor, Skywalk Level), 926-8000. (LM)
THE TWO-SEVEN PUBLIC HOUSE
A new entrance, combined with rustic corrugated metal siding and stained wood timbers, gives the place the feel of a modern mountain lodge with a serviceable al fresco dining area. The Two-Seven features hearty, unpretentious food in a casual setting, like its siblings (the Elk in Spokane, Coeur d'Alene's Moon Time and the Porch in Hayden). The Manila clams ($13), in a fragrant beer-based broth with garlic, butter and fresh ginger, were tender and delicious, with a clean finish. The creamy curry salad was perfect salad for a warm summer evening, with crisp red grape halves, crunchy candied walnuts and celery. Entr & eacute;es feature comfortable foods prepared in appealing combinations, like the Italian meatloaf sandwich and the exotic salpicon -- shredded beef that was falling-apart tender and flavorful, with chipotle peppers, jack cheese, red onions and roasted poblano peppers, beside lightly grilled flour tortillas. Service throughout the evening was efficient and pleasant. The Two-Seven is a happy addition to the growing community of locally owned neighborhood restaurants on Spokane's South Hill. 2727 S. Mount Vernon St., 473-9766 (LM)
On a cold night, we opted for warm comfort: moist, fragrant and meaty "Wild Turkey Bourbon" pork loin chops served with deliciously sweet and smoky cider-glazed apples and onions, garlic mashed potatoes and chef's vegetable ($13). Our Bardenay Club sandwich ($8.50) was three inches of house-roasted turkey breast, ham and thick, peppery bacon with fresh lettuce on toasted, cracked-wheat sourdough ($8.50). The apricot-walnut couscous side was a delight of tastes and textures -- firm couscous with little chunks of apricot, golden raisin and walnut. Bardenay takes its beverage service seriously. I settled on a Lavender martini ($6.25), made with Hpnotiq vodka-liqueur, peach schnapps, cranberry juice and Zardetto Prosecco sparkling wine. Its faint floral scent promised warmer days ahead. 1710 Riverstone Dr., Coeur d'Alene, (208) 765-1540 (CS)
WINDOWS AT THE RED LION HOTEL
This room-with-a-view restaurant is too good for just out-of-towners. We started with bacon-wrapped prawns ($9), three good-sized crustaceans wrapped in smoky bacon with baby bok choy and a yummy, sweet-hot cilantro garlic sauce. The forest mushroom soup ($6) was almost blindingly rich, but the meaty sliced mushrooms were really allowed to shine in the creamy base, no doubt aided by the healthy drizzle of white truffle oil on top. With the bread course came a delightful surprise -- a generous portion of a lovely olive tapenade. My grilled smoked duck ($19) with a ginger-molasses glaze was grilled with a sweet sticky sauce, leaving the skin crisp and flavorful, the inside smoky and rich. The menu is reasonably priced, with options from Asian to Italian to Northwest in style. 303 W. North River Dr., 326-8000 (LM)
The ambience at Villaggio is upscale: a dozen dark wood tables, folded white cloth napkins, little red table candles, new age/fusion jazz background music. Pizzas from the brick wood-fired oven are the tasty highlight, like the Vegetariano ($15) -- a 12-inch, irregularly shaped platform for a thin layer of tomato sauce and a gardeners' feast of caramelized onions, mushrooms, roasted eggplant, peppers, artichoke, and millimeter-thin slices of zucchini. The caramelized onions also add a layer of texture and flavor to the Insalata Villaggio ($10), with arugula, pear slivers, walnuts, gorgonzola and fig balsamic vinaigrette. A fully stocked bar serves wine, martinis and other mixed drinks. If you judge pizza by the inches per dollar, Villaggio might disappoint you. But if your judgment is based more on quality than quantity, you'll find a nice experience. 2013 E. 29th Ave., 532-0327 (DN)
The new one is smart and funny and action-packed, and it’s bigger and better and sleeker. And Downey does it again, this time ramping up Stark’s arrogant wisecracking, telling anyone who’ll listen (mostly women) that, via the creation of his powerful Iron Man suit, he’s brought years of uninterrupted peace to the world.