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Smart Cookies 

by Leah Sottile

No offense to all you chefs out there, but your job looks easy. Now before you point your freshly-sharpened Wustofs at me, I'll blame that Emeril guy - he's so simple and blas & eacute; about preparing food, throwing handfuls of spices at pots of soup, chopping vegetables dangerously close to his fingertips and yelling "Bam!" every chance he gets. That guy is a dork.

But pastry chefs - those are the ones who fascinate me. There's no throwing of ingredients in their field, no "eye-balling" of culinary creations. These folks pore over pastries like Swiss clockmakers, mixing and blending with the utmost care, icing cakes with slow precision, displaying their work with pride on ornate stands under glass lids. They are artists catering to the most indulgent part of diners' palates. They are the creators of decadent masterpieces that customers "save room for."

So it makes you wonder why there are so few places that accommodate the sweet tooth around Spokane. Are Spokanites too picky about their desserts? Are ganache and tiramisu too complicated, and DQ sundaes and boxes of Entenmann's too convenient? All are probably true, and that just makes those places that do have great desserts stick out more on the citywide dessert menu. Among those is Luna, the South Hill sanctuary for gourmet meals, fine wines and some of the best sweets in town.

Unlike most local eateries, Luna employs a full-time pastry chef. That means that Luna's dessert menu is just as important as the main one - and you can be pretty sure you won't be eating anything that has the name Pillsbury attached to it.

"We have everything from cakes to real decadent desserts," says Vicki Hoffman, Luna's pastry chef. "Everything is made from scratch," she adds. "I don't work from bags of mix."

So Luna is serious about dessert, and they're good at making it. But that doesn't mean you'll always have room for it - especially if you've shoveled down one of their signature salads in addition to your meal along with a few glasses of wine.

Knowing that bellies can only get so full, owners William and Marcia Bond have decided to offer their desserts even to their fullest patrons. How? You can take them to go.

That's right, Luna is now packaging up slices of their Coconut Cream Cake (a recipe Hoffman created, now being picked up by Bon Appetit) and Chocolate Caramel Nut Tart for you to take home if you just can't resist. But cake isn't the extent of it - now you can take home loaves of Luna's popular artisan breads (for $3.50 a pop) and even bags of those delicious caramelized walnuts you oohed and ahhed over while eating your Luna salad.

And if cake and decadent desserts aren't your thing, pick up a bag of cookies. Yes, Luna sells plain old normal cookies -- but God, are they good. Baker's dozen bags of mouth-melting peanut butter, double and triple chocolate, and shortbread toffee cookies are on display right inside the restaurant's front doors.

Believe me, after downing a bag of those peanut butter cookies, you'll want to make Hoffman your kids' godmother - or I guess you could just thank her by buying some every week.

Luna will also sell its Saturday-Sunday Sweet Bread on weekends, a rolled cinnamon walnut loaf popularized at their weekend brunch. You can take those to go, and make sure you get a container of the Citrus Cream Cheese Butter that served with it.

My advice to you is to plan on integrating a new workout program as one of your upcoming New Year's resolutions, and get up to Luna and spoil your sweet tooth for the rest of the year.

Luna is open Monday-Friday at 11 am, and Saturday and Sunday at 9 am. Last seatings are at 10 pm. Luna is located at 5620 S. Perry St. Call 448-2383.

Eat Some Beasts -- Speaking of New Year's diets and workout promises, maybe holding off on those through January is a good idea, too. Why? Well, the Wild Game Feast, of course.

The sixth annual Wild Game Feast will be held on Jan. 15 this year, with Coeur d'Alene Inn chef Gene Tillman cooking up all kinds of wild beasts for you to ravish this year. The meal is a four-course extravaganza of exotic tastes - with this year's menu ranging from smoked salmon pitas with cream cheese, to firecracker alligator Caesar salad and braised venison.

To scoff at such an event would be simply un-Inland Northwest-like of you.

The Wild Game Feast will be held on Jan. 15 at 6 pm at the Coeur d'Alene Inn, 414 W. Appleway, CdA. Tickets: $50. Must preregister. All proceeds benefit the North Idaho College Alumni Association and NIC Student Scholarships. Call (208) 769-7806.

Publication date: 12/09/04

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