Three's A Charm

by Susan Hamilton

It was inevitable -- three guys, three restaurants. Their first restaurant, Moon Time, just celebrated its seventh anniversary. Their second, the Elk, is still going strong after four years.

Just opened last week, the Porch Public House promises to be as popular as its siblings in Coeur d'Alene and Spokane's Browne's Addition. But why yet another restaurant for the trio of partners, John Grollmus, Jeff Meagher and Brad Fosseen?

"We're always looking for something to do," Grollmus says. "The Porch was the right thing to do."

The cozy log cabin overlooking the golf course at Hayden Lake has had incarnations as a tavern and many restaurants. With a little interior redecoration -- opening up the ceiling, bringing in light wood tables and chairs, and adding accents of persimmon and light sage, as well as colorful photos of English pubs -- its new life as the Porch began. And from the looks of things when I visited late last week, that life will be busy. Young couples, families, older folks and golfers were filling the dining room and patio of the Porch at lunchtime.

"Our restaurants appeal to a broad range of people," Meagher explains. "We have a comfortable atmosphere, good food and reasonable prices."

"Our food is different from what you can get at every other bar and grill," Grollmus adds.

Most everything is made in-house at the Porch -- from the unique dressings and sauces to the soups and roasts. You'll find some of the same menu items at the three restaurants, such as the Moon Burger, classic Reuben, gumbo, chicken Caesar soft taco and the chocolate-y Moon Unit dessert.

But the majority of the Porch's menu is new. The ploughman's plate appetizer features assorted grilled sausages, smoked cheddar and bacon potato cakes. The Caprese is a classic Italian salad with fresh mozzarella cheese, basil and French bread. A Southern catfish sandwich is pan-seared, encrusted with cornmeal and topped with house tartar sauce. Specialties include pork satay with spicy Thai peanut sauce and rock shrimp linguini with basil pesto.

I sampled the chipotle chicken sandwich, an interesting m & eacute;lange of heat and sweet. The light breading on the chicken gave it a crunchy texture while the pan searing kept it moist. A honey-and-chipotle dressing added a nice kick, but the basil cream cheese was so subtle that it was lost in the other flavors. The accompanying roasted corn pasta salad shares the same unexpected dressing.

The Porch is the only restaurant of the trio to offer a full bar. It also sports a bigger wine list and good selection of microbrews.

The Porch Public House, 1658 E. Miles Ave., Hayden Lake, Idaho, opens at 11 am daily continuing until 10 pm on Sunday-Wednesday and until 11 pm on Thursday-Saturday. Call: 208-772-7711

Phoenix on Perry Street -- Another resurrection of sorts is taking place on Perry Street. After 11 years as the well-loved Gertrude's Deli and four months as the Yellow Cow Caf & eacute;, the eatery that has served this lower South Hill neighborhood opened last week with new owners and a new life as the Perry Street Soup Pot.

When I stopped by, the Soup Pot's booths and tables were filled with neighborhood folks, families, businessmen and people of all ages enjoying the lunchtime fare. The comfortable atmosphere is enhanced by the d & eacute;cor in white, dark greens and woods as well as whimsical artwork.

Owners Steve and Michelle Ryen live just up the street from the Soup Pot. "We needed something like this in our neighborhood," Michelle says.

True to its name, the Soup Pot features four soups daily, all homemade. Hefty sandwiches are also served. Cold sandwiches include beef, turkey, ham, corned beef, chicken or tuna salad. Customers choose from four breads and seven condiments for their cold sandwiches. German sausage with sauerkraut, Ruben or French dip hot sandwiches are featured as well.

I tasted a savory navy bean soup as well as a spicy German sausage soup. Both were reminiscent of a comforting bowl of Grandma's soup. The sandwiches were indeed large, with a whole sandwich enough to satisfy two people. Daily specials are offered, like grilled pastrami pepper-jack with caramelized onions on herb and cheese bread.

The Soup Pot also offers a Continental breakfast of breakfast sandwiches, homemade pastries -- the apple and raspberry strudel looked tempting -- muffins, breads, doughnuts and bagels.

The Perry Street Soup Pot, at 1002 S. Perry St., is open Tuesday-Saturday from 7 am-3 pm. Call: 535-5010

Frozen Fun -- Now that it's officially summer, it's time to delve into the pleasures of ice cream. Two area shops offer different takes on frozen sweet treats.

In Coeur d'Alene, i.c. sweets features frozen custard, a sweetened mixture of milk and egg whites that is rapidly frozen. The result is a smooth, dense, richly flavored, premium ice cream. Vanilla and chocolate flavors are offered as well as a rotating flavor of the day. Toppings include candies, nuts, fruits and syrups. Specialty sundaes -- from banana split and hot fudge to turtle and strawberry shortcake -- are available, as well as old-fashioned milk shakes, malts, floats and sodas. The Wunderbar cheesecake-on-a-stick dipped in chocolate is imported from Chicago. The i.c. sweets signature drinks mix coffee with frozen custard to make the Javalanche, a coffee frost, mocha frappe and chocolate cappuccino supreme.

The shop on the corner of Fifth and Sherman that opened last month has outdoor tables with views of the lake. Inside seating, walk-up and drive-though windows are also available.

i.c. sweets, at 602 E. Sherman Ave. in Coeur d'Alene, is open daily from 11 am-10:30 pm. Call: 208-664-1549

A shop in Liberty Lake that opened last summer is now one of only two outlets in the Inland Northwest where you can purchase homemade ice cream. Blue Pillar Creamery offers 18 flavors of ice cream -- from Milli Vanilla (made with vanilla imported from Indonesia) and a very rich chocolate to Yummy Bubble-Gummy and Oh, My Apple Pie. There's also gelato (kiwi and coconut flavors) and sorbet for those looking for low-fat alternatives. Mix-ins include sauces, nuts, candies and fruits, as well as brownies and cheesecake.

Owner Christine Slater uses all-natural ingredients in her ice creams and utilizes local producers such as the Nut Factory. Her ice cream is extra creamy and rich and doesn't have air pumped into it, as most ice creams do.

You can watch while your choice of ice cream and mix-in is hand-blended on a frozen granite slab. Your creation is served in a freshly made waffle cone, cup or placed between two freshly baked cookies.

Blue Pillar Creamery, at 1235 N. Liberty Lake Dr., Suite 104, Liberty Lake, is open Monday-Friday from 7 am-10 pm and Saturday-Sunday from 10 am-11 pm. Call: 922-4750

Nine and Counting -- The ubiquitous Rocket Bakery now has a presence further east in the Valley. Located in the foyer of the Valley YMCA, the newest Rocket offers the scrumptious pastries and good coffee that have endeared it to many in the Inland Northwest. Customers can sit by the Y's fireplace in easy chairs or at nearby tables and chairs.

You don't have to be a member of the Y to access this Rocket. It's also conveniently located near the Centennial Trail.

The Rocket at the Y, at 2421 N. Discovery Place, is open Monday-Friday from 5:30 am-8 pm, on Saturday from 7:30 am-5 pm, and on Sunday from 9:30 am-5 pm. Call: 232-0596

Wine at Sunset -- Arbor Crest Winery's Sunday Sunset Concert Series begins this Sunday. The lovely grounds of Cliff House, overlooking the Spokane Valley, are the setting for these events that begin at 5:30 pm each Sunday through September 28. You can bring a picnic and purchase Arbor Crest's award-winning wines.

Some Sundays, like this one, feature local musicians and are free, while others are $25 for national acts like John Hammond. Outside alcohol and minors are not allowed. Call: 927-9463.

Publication date: 06/26/03