bySusan Hamilton

Has this monotonous gray, cold weather given you a good dose of cabin fever? Do you feel like you've watched enough TV and movies lately to last you until next winter? Well, there's an antidote to all this cocooning. It's the abundance of local special events that will entice you off your couch and into some different surroundings, soon to have you celebrating with your fellow Inland Northwesterners.

This Saturday, the Festival of Foodies celebrates all things culinary in our region -- from sampling gourmet fare and libations to remodeling your kitchen or planning a weekend getaway in wine country.

"It's the Inland Northwest food network tied up in a big, fat bow," says Suzie Dunn, events coordinator for Clear Channel Communications, organizer of this event. "We have 65 vendors, with 46 of them offering tastings."

The third annual event features restaurants, such as Eses Bistro, Luigi's, Momiji, Shenanigan's, Twigs and Fugazzi offering tastes of their gourmet dishes to event-goers. Wineries and breweries, like Three Rivers, Napa Ridge, Mountain Dome, Pend Oreille, Red Hook, Yakima Brewing and Northern Lights also present samples of their libations. To top it all off, you can partake of Cyrus O'Leary's pies, Hallett's chocolates, Sandee's Candees and 4 Seasons coffee. For those who want to lift their spirits, a martini bar showcases raspberry vodka and a hot-drink bar features coconut rum hot toddies.

Throughout the afternoon and evening, area chefs will demonstrate culinary masterpieces. John Allen of Vino! will recommend a complementing wine after each demonstration. At 2:30 pm, Chef Nathan Kamae prepares chops stuffed with bleu cheese, sweet onions and forest mushrooms, finished with an apple-onion glaze. Later in the afternoon, Deb Green of Shake, Rattle and Boil and Caf & eacute; Mac makes balsamic grilled vegetable and four-cheese lasagna with a warm bread salad. At 6:15 pm, Fugazzi's Jason Rex demonstrates pan-seared Ahi tuna with an apricot-pineapple-balsamic reduction. Hungry yet?

Live music from Java Kola will keep things hopping in the 4 Seasons Coffeehouse from 3-7 pm.

The Festival of Foodies is Jan. 31 from 2-8 pm at Spokane Community College's Lair Building. Tickets are $15 at the door and $10 in advance, available at Vino! (222 S. Washington St.), Hallett's Chocolate Factory (1419 E. Holyoke Ave.) and University Appliance (9907 E. Sprague and 6960 Government Way, Coeur d'Alene). Call 242-2506.

Calling all Romantics -- Sensual food and chocolate desserts, wine and beautiful music are part of the romance of Valentine's Day. A trio of events this upcoming weekend will fulfill your romantic yearnings.

The Cutter Theatre in Metaline Falls is hosting a special Valentine's event showcasing chocolate desserts and romantic music. The annual event features luscious chocolate creations, like triple-layer chocolate cake topped with chocolate shavings, chocolate cheesecake and chocolate-covered strawberries. Champagne, punch and coffee will be served as well. Award-winning pianist Lisa-Marie d'Aguilar will fill the air with romantic melodies played on a grand piano.

Tickets for the Chocolate Lovers' Grand Piano Concert on Saturday, Feb. 14, at 7:30 pm, are $10 per person. Call (509) 446-4108 for reservations.

What could be more romantic than a formal ball where you can waltz around the room with your paramour, sip champagne and dine on divine cuisine? Allegro's Viennese Ball on Feb. 15 offers all that and more.

The evening begins with an elegant dinner in the Davenport's Marie Antoinette Ballroom. Guests choose between a main course of London broil with Madeira-and-wild mushroom demi-glace or chicken Tuscany stuffed with sun-dried tomatoes, goat cheese and Proscuitto in a port-sherry demi-glace. At 8 pm, a champagne reception in the Hall of Doges kicks off the festivities. A Viennese waltz exhibition by a dance team in the Grand Pennington Ballroom precedes the moment when the guests take the floor while Allegro's Viennese orchestra performs.

"It's just a magic evening," says Beverly Biggs, Allegro's artistic director.

"The Viennese waltz is considerably faster than the American waltz. That's why we offer a complimentary Viennese waltz lesson," Biggs explains. "This waltz just captures the imagination of your feet and heart. It feels like flying."

To add to the late 19th-century ambience, Viennese chocolate torte with raspberry coulis and kaffee mit schlag (heavy whipped cream) will be served. Some guests arrive in horse-drawn carriages and period clothing, while others don formal gowns and tuxedos.

Allegro's Viennese Ball, on Sunday, Feb. 15, at the Davenport Hotel is $90 per person; dinner is $35 per person. Call 455-6865 for reservations. Call 455-8888 for hotel packages.

Fine French wines, haute cuisine and a comfortable atmosphere are all part of a special dinner at Laskar's on Feb. 16. Vino! has teamed up with Laskar's creative chef, David Goldman, and come up with a special offering.

Highlights of the five-course dinner include a smoked duck crepe and butternut squash ravioli paired with a Lucien Albrecht Alsace Tokay pinot gris. The main course is an elk loin chop with a huckleberry-cabernet-syrah reduction sauce and baby vegetable ragout complemented by a Mas Carlot cabernet-syrah.

This intimate affair is sure to please any romantic epicure. Laskar's wine dinner, on Monday, Feb. 16, at 6 pm, costs $75 per person. Call 838-1229 for reservations.

Party, Dine or Drink -- Depending on how you want to celebrate, there are three distinct events in diverse locales the following weekend.

It's billed as an event that gets "as close as you can come to a Mardi Gras celebration without being in New Orleans." During the second annual Mardi Gras Ball on Feb. 21, all four of the Davenport Hotel's major ballrooms will resound with music -- from contemporary and swing to Dixieland and blues. Libations include the French Quarter Hurricane and Coeur d'Alene Brewing Company's special Mardi Gras microbrew.

Festivities kick off at 8:30 pm with the costumed krewes parading through all four ballrooms. After all the dancing and merrymaking, a "spread of savory New Orleans-style food is served around midnight," according to Roland Herriges, chairman of the Mardi Gras coordinating committee. Guests will sup on Creole scrambled eggs with crawfish and andouille sausage, country-style eggs with herbs and goat cheese, French toast, fried oysters with remoulade sauce, and blackened salmon on dirty rice, among the many offerings.

All profits from the Mardi Gras ball will be distributed to Inland Northwest charities. Mardi Gras guests can choose which charity will receive a portion of their ticket cost. Partygoers can come in costume, black tie or business professional dress.

Tickets for the Mardi Gras Ball, on Saturday, Feb. 21, are $125 per person. Call 777-3199.

That same night, the Cutter Theatre is hosting a tasty trip to India. The Epicurean Adventure to India is the second stop in its ongoing tour around the world's cuisine. Dinner items include tandoori chicken, najra dal, basmati saffron rice with peas and cashews and naan. East Indian dancing and singing, performed by Ritu Sharma, will accompany the dinner.

The Indian Epicurean Adventure at the Cutter Theatre in Metaline Falls on Saturday, Feb. 21 at 6 pm, costs $20 per person. For reservations, call (509) 446-4108.

If you want to head over to the west side of the state, there's a microbrew fundraiser, also on Jan. 21. Seattle's Museum of Flight is holding its second annual "Hops and Props" event. Guests can taste the gourmet offerings of 38 breweries, with catering by McCormick & amp; Schmicks and Tully's coffee. Two bands will perform and guests can experience aviation history at the museum.

Tickets for the Museum of Flight's Hops and Props microbrew tasting are $50 per person. Call (206) 764-5720, ext. 218.

Come on. Put down your TV remote and make plans to celebrate at one of these festive events.

Publication date: 1/29/04

Evergreen State of Consciousness Five Year Anniversary @ Washington Cracker Co. Building

Sat., Jan. 28, 5 p.m.-1:45 a.m.
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