by Susan Hamilton

It's won the Inlander poll for best burritos for the last two years. So it's no wonder that SONIC BURRITO had to expand to accommodate all those satisfied customers. Sonic's new digs are located at 1415 N. Hamilton -- only a few blocks north of the former shop.

"We've created an incredible environment," says owner Jeanette Ryan. "The marlin is still with us, and we've added some fun, metal artwork from Texas as well as metal work by Mark Camp of the Shop."

The Sonic Boom, Thai, Ragin' Cajun, Mediterranean and Fajita burritos remain staples, along with myriad hot sauces. And you can still create your own burrito from the fresh ingredients at Sonic.

So what's new on the menu? Four brand-new salads -- Southwestern, Oriental, Mediterranean and chicken Caesar -- come with their own fresh dressings. Rotisserie chicken, build-your-own quesas, fire wings and teriyaki wings are also new items.

Sonic offers microbrews and wine as well as live entertainment at the new location. This Friday, Sam Andress plays his blend of folk rock, and bass player Darin Shafer will take the stage on Saturday.

With the new location have come expanded hours. Sonic Burrito is open Sunday-Wednesday from 11 am-9 pm, Thursday from 11 am-10 pm and Friday-Saturday from 11 am-11 pm. Call 484-4158.

If this spring weather has you itching to travel, how about experiencing Tuscany? The central Italian region is renowned for its full-bodied wines and hearty cuisine.

A six-course Tuscan-influenced WINE DINNER AT THE ITALIAN KITCHEN will make you feel like you've gotten away to the Tuscan hills without leaving Spokane. The dinner, next Tuesday evening, features the best of the Sangiovese-based wines paired with Italian Kitchen's rich and flavorful cuisine.

The dinner begins with a sparkling Zardetto Prosecco and bruschetta. Seafood stuffed mushrooms follow, matched with a creamy Vernacchia di San Gimignano 2000. Tuscan-style penne pasta with artichoke hearts, sun-dried tomato and goat cheese will be served with a classic Castellare Chianti from 1999. Medallion of Bistecca Fiorentino is the entree, complemented by a 1998 Altesino Rosso.

If all these Italian wines have your head spinning, wine expert John Allen of Vino! and David Bronlewee, a representative of top wine importer Leonardo Locasio, will be on hand to unravel their mysteries. You can also greet Ken Belisle, formerly of Shenanigan's, who is the new general manager of the Italian Kitchen.

The Tuesday, May 21, wine dinner at the Italian Kitchen begins at 6:30 pm and costs $55 per person. Call Vino! (838-1229) for reservations.

More than 30 Inland Northwest restaurants, vintners and beverage suppliers will fill the Spokane Arena next Wednesday evening with their wares for tasting. The eighth annual TAKING A BITE OUT OF HUNGER extravaganza benefits Spokane's Second Harvest Food Bank.

Chefs from Beverly's, Clinkerdagger, Quinn's, Riverview Thai, Sam's on Regal, Aracelia's and many more will treat guests with tasty dishes. Desserts and confections from Just American Desserts, Guittard Chocolates, Great Harvest and Mary Lou's Homemade Ice Cream will also be featured. The event also features wines, microbrews, coffees and teas.

More than $50,000 worth of items is up for auction at the event. Highlights include a voyage "In the Wake of Lewis and Clark" with Lindblad Expeditions, golf packages at some of the area's best courses, various Northwest getaways and an Arbor Crest wine tasting.

"This should prove to be a perfect opportunity to have fun while working toward a goal of alleviating hunger in our community," says Susan Faltermeyer, director of development for the Second Harvest Food Bank.

"Each month, the SHFB serves more than 15,000 people through a network of emergency food box outlets in Spokane County," Faltermeyer says. "Our food banks are seeing a 13 percent increase in clients while donations of food have fallen."

The May 22 event begins at 5:30 pm. Tickets are $50 per person and can be purchased at all area Rosauers stores or at 534-6678 ext. 233.

There's something about a good doughnut that's irresistible. And four new area shops are offering temping handmade versions of the delectable pastries.

The DONUT DEPOT sprung up at 2323 N. Ash just last month. Owners William and Phyllis Tetter offer more than 30 varieties of handmade donuts, including the rocky road donut with chocolate frosting topped with walnuts, marshmallows and chocolate chunks.

Earlier last month, FLY BY ESPRESSO opened at 1220 W. Francis. One of the owners, Casey Murphy, owned a coffee shop of the same name in Browne's Addition several years ago. Fly By offers hot, fresh-raised doughnuts only until 10 am, because they have a short shelf-life. Cake doughnuts are available throughout the day.

Nine Mile Falls was the only place you could get "melt in your mouth" doughnuts until THE DONUT HOLE opened a second location at 632 W. Garland this month. Head baker Tim Fitzgerald says the potato flour that he uses in his doughnuts creates a unique texture and taste.

Finally, who hasn't heard the hype about KRISPY KREME donuts, which is scheduled to open a shop in the Valley next month? The establishment at 15401 E. Indiana will be the second Krispy Kreme donut store in Washington state.

China Bend Winery in Kettle Falls is holding its 8th annual GRAND RELEASE PARTY Memorial Day Weekend to celebrate its latest award-winning organic wines and gourmet foods. From noon to 5 pm on May 25-27, the winery will feature live music and the works of local artists and craftsmen. Treats from the barbecue will be offered or bring your own picnic to this free event near upper Lake Roosevelt. Call 800-700-6123.

Music Finds a Way: The Spokane Symphony @ Northwest Museum of Arts & Culture

Tuesdays-Sundays, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Continues through Jan. 10
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