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The Year in Food 

This year we ate outside, rejoiced in a Trader Joe’s victory and drank a LOT of wine

click to enlarge Diners hiked to David Blaine and his first pop-up restaurant experiment back in April - BEN TOBIN
  • Ben Tobin
  • Diners hiked to David Blaine and his first pop-up restaurant experiment back in April

THE YEAR MOVEABLE FEASTS EXPLODED
It didn’t stay edgy for long. In mid-March, a number of one-off clandestine restaurants and supper clubs popped up all over, hosted by some of the area’s most recognizable chefs. Jeremy Hansen held a 15-course, eight-hour dinner in a white space on Pacific Ave. Adam Hegsted has hosted nearly a dozen dinners on farms and in the common rooms of condo buildings. In order to get to David Blaine’s first Pop-Up Restaurant, you had to walk two miles on the Fish Lake Trail, where you were greeted by heritage beef burgers.

A fourth group, Ghetto Gourmand, was to have a rotating slate of chefs and hosted a pre-launch party at the Muzzy Mansion, but flamed out not long after starting.

There was worry that these things were illegal because the Spokane Regional Health District didn’t have a permit structure for their peculiar culinary model, but Hegsted and Hanson got around this by using existing catering licenses and now — dare we say it? — these edgy, secretive meet-ups are almost de rigueur. (LUKE BAUMGARTEN)

 

 

MAIN MARKET CO-OP OPENS
The Main Market Co-op opened in January, making it Spokane’s first natural food co-operative and filling a need for a downtown grocery store. The green-certified market specializes in organic, sustainable and locally sourced food, and strives to connect food consumers and producers with farm field trips and in-store demos and classes. Freezer lockers are available for rent for those who want to purchase meat from local ranchers, and the deli features a family-style communal dining table. By mid-summer, the initial excitement had worn off and sales began to wane. Shoppers grumbled about high prices and elitist attitudes, leading the board to make some changes. We’ll see if lower prices, new management and longer hours will lure shoppers back. (KIRSTEN HARRINGTON)

THE RISE OF THE LOCAL MOGUL
There’ve been restaurants here almost as long as there have been people. And restaurateurs who own multiple joints aren’t new either (think of the Onion/Franks Diner chain, or the formerly area-conquering Fugazzi).

In 2010, though, we saw an explosion of people opening up second, third and, in a few cases, fifth establishments.

The Sweat brothers annexed another section of Northwest Boulevard, adding the Flying Goat to their already prosperous Downriver Grill. The people behind Scratch (who also operate Rain Lounge) opened a second Scratch in Coeur d’Alene.

Making the reverse move, North Idaho mogul Raci Erdem just opened his third joint, The West Wing, on Spokane’s South Hill.

The well-known Twigs group — which also operates Stix — added its fifth restaurant, putting a fourth Twigs in the gaping maw of Spokane Valley this fall.

El Que technically opened at the very end of 2009, but the fifth restaurant (this one a Mexican-inspired tequilaria) from John Grolmus and the Elk/Porch/Moon Time came into its own after the holidays. (LB)

LET THEM EAT CANDY
Washington voters placed their collective sweet tooth ahead of the state’s budget deficit and officially repealed the candy tax. The National Confectioners Association and local chocolatiers like Bruttles, Halletts Chocolates and Spokandy celebrated the success but say the tax didn’t hurt their businesses or pocketbooks. “The tax was overhyped in the media,” says Spokandy owner Todd Davis. “We felt the effects more so on the tail-end of things.” The tax became obsolete Dec. 2, and candy stores were crazy swamped throughout most of the week. Customers are eating tax-free candy like it’s going out of style. (JORDY BYRD)

SPOKANE FOOD GETS NATIONAL ATTENTION
Guy Fieri, the world-conquering dude chef known for his bleached porcupine spike, bowling shirts and massive personality matched only in size by the wrist watches he wears, came to town in August to film his flagship hit Food Network series Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives.

He spent the better part of a week (his crew was here for two) eating his way around the area, visiting five Spokane restaurants (The Elk, Chaps, Waddell’s, Hill’s, and Picabu Bistro) and two in Coeur d’Alene (Capone’s and Jimmy’s Down the Street).

In separate but related news, this was also the year Latah Bistro’s David Blaine had a recipe for panna cotta featured in Bon Appetit, the seminal journal of food.

The Inland Empire isn’t exactly seen as a culinary mecca, but we’re starting to get noticed. (LB)

WINE GETS SERIOUS
The wine scene buzzed with activity this year, with DrinkNectar.com blogger Josh Wade encouraging Spokane wine lovers to sip and post their thoughts on Facebook and Twitter with his virtual wine tasting events. Spokane Wine Magazine hit the racks in November, and Wade’s Nectar Tasting room is set to open Jan. 7.

Don Townshend (Townshend Cellars) continued to expand his empire by taking over the reigns of the Caterina Winery and Lone Canary, giving Caterina’s home in the historic Broadview Dairy a facelift in the process.

Spokane welcomed its 17 th winery with the opening of newcomer Overbluff Cellars’ tasting room in the old Cobblestone Bakery building. SipofSpokane.com made its debut, giving “locapours” another place to follow wine news, and eight local wineries received high marks in Paul Gregutt’s latest edition of Washington Wines and Wineries. (KH)

THE INLAND NORTHWEST PRODUCES THE GOODS
While restaurant coverage is our bread-andbutter, food production stories gave us plenty to chew on this year. The expansion of Victor’s Hummus, for example, had us salivating for products previously only available at the Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture’s Café. We said a hearty salaam to sesame, jalapeños, basil and sweet/nutty Chocolate H’Mousse available at select grocers. In Sandpoint, Idaho, Litehouse Foods has been a beacon for 50-plus years, recently adding apple cider to a diverse line that includes dressings, dips, freeze-dried herbs and cheeses. The company also announced the acquisition of Seattle-based Green Garden Foods and the construction of a new facility in Utah. (CARRIE SCOZZARO)

NORTH SPOKANE GOT ETHNIC
And we’re not just talking Tex-Mex and “Chinese” food.

We don’t want to overstate the point (north Spokane had Thai and Vietnamese, Chic-A-Ria and, of course, De Leon before 2010) but this year in the North Side —especially between the river and the hill — good ethnic fare flourished.

Queen of Sheba Ethiopian in the Flour Mill blew our minds, as did El Mercado del Pueblo and Asian World Market, both on north Division. La Esquina Mexican Café on Monroe is a charmer, but has awkward hours.

Further north, two sushi places opened (Sushi Track and Sushiwah Teriyaki on Hastings Road).

2009 had brought Kusina Filipina to N. Francis Ave and the excellent Ha Ha’s Grill House (Korean fusion) to Garland Ave in Hilllyard.

2010, though, just brought it. (LB)

TRADER JOE´S!!! AND SOME OTHER CHAINS
Spokane finally made the big guys sit up and take notice. After years of dashed hopes and swirling rumors, Trader Joe’s fans are rejoicing. The chain of specialty grocery stores plans to open a Lincoln Heights location sometime next year.

Montana-based Italian restaurant chain Ciao Mambo is set to open at Riverside and Lincoln, promising that if the atmosphere and friendly attitudes don’t seduce you, the pasta will. And conveyor-belt sushi hit Spokane with two new kaiten-style sushi restaurants. River Park Square welcomed Bellevue-based Sushi Maru to the scene, and North Spokane’s Sushi Track Teriyaki Grill offers your favorite sushi and teriyaki on a revolving track. (KH)

THE YEAR SMALL PLANET WENT WEST
Small Planet Tofu’s final day of production at its Newport, Wash., location was Feb. 15. “Tofu Phil” Spiegel moved his 17-year-old company to the greener soy-based pastures of Vashon Island.

Why? “Survival,” Phil told us. “Small businesses are struggling and I’m one of them … And plus, it’s tofu.” Small Planet is well loved here, but Seattle is a much friendlier place for soy. Small Planet, which retained its brand name, now shares production facilities with another small organic tofu concern, Island Spring Organics. In addition to splitting rent, he’s looking forward to putting more effort into growing the business. “I’ll be able to focus on promotion, sales and marketing — become that tofu celebrity I’ve been striving for years to be,” he said in February.

Phil said he was going to use all the same distributors (Spokane Produce, Charlie’s, FSA, etc.), and promised there would be no interruption in Spokane’s tofu supply. That has proven true. You can still get Small Planet packaged around town, and in the watery bulk bins at Huckleberry’s. (LB)

click to enlarge BEN TOBIN
  • Ben Tobin

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