by Susan Hamilton & r & In the midst of holiday shopping, you need sustenance to keep you going. Something that will warm you down to your freezing toes and fingers, something tasty and satisfying, not to mention quick, is high on many shoppers' lists.

Downtown Spokane's Liberty Caf & eacute; fills the bill quite nicely. Situated in a street-level corner of the historic Liberty Building, the eatery adjoins Auntie's Bookstore. The day I stopped by, Christmas carols were drifting throughout the building, and holiday shoppers and couples taking a respite from the cold occupied the cozy, granite-topped tables sprinkled throughout the high-ceilinged room.

Meals begin at the deli-type counters at the north side of the caf & eacute;, where large cases display salads and desserts. Ordering is done off a board high on the wall above or from menus at the counter. Waiting our turn in line afforded us just enough time to decide on Liberty's myriad offerings. But be prepared to wait to have your order taken if the caf & eacute; is busy.

My companion was intrigued by Frankenstein's vegetarian cousin ($6), a garden burger with onions, tomato, lettuce and green peppers on toasted bread. Instead, she moment by the Japanese Yakisoba noodles with stir-fry vegetables ($6).

We took a seat at a window table while awaiting our order's arrival. Many of the tables afford a view of busy Main Avenue. Or you can enjoy the watercolors of scenes by local artists adorning the cafe's rust-colored walls. Although it was late lunchtime on a busy Saturday, it wasn't long before our order appeared.

My companion's soup gave off a wonderful aroma from the homemade stock. Bits of chicken, veggies and dumplings (small but homemade) all added their essence to this savory soup. "It's just like my Grandma's chicken soup with an Asian hint," said my friend.

My curry had its own exotic fragrance. Coconut milk from the curry sauce gave the dish an aromatic appeal. The flavorful, crunchy veggies and tender chicken got a nice kick from the heat of the curry, which was reminiscent of curries I'd sampled in Thailand -- warming, pungent and tasty. A very generous serving of veggies and chicken was enfolded in the spicy sauce. I would have preferred a bit more of the jasmine rice to offset the spiciness of the curry, but it wasn't missed too much.

It turns out that Chicken Little was right -- at least, as far as Liberty Caf & eacute;'s sandwiches go. My companion pronounced the grilled chicken breast tender. With melted Swiss cheese, tomato, lettuce and honey mustard on toasted sourdough, it produced a pleasantly flavored sandwich. Liberty Caf & eacute; also offers a variety of custom-built sandwiches, with your choice of bread, lean meats, cheese and various additions. Half and full sandwiches with soup or salad are all on the menu, as are espresso beverages, sodas and juices.

We were so full after lunch that we shopped awhile in Auntie's before returning to the Liberty Caf & eacute; for dessert. A couple at the table next to ours shared a delicious-looking fruit tart. When I asked them how it was, they replied that the berries were still slightly frozen but that otherwise it was delectable.

My friend and I were in the mood for cookies, however. And Liberty Caf & eacute; has plenty to choose from -- all of which are large. We decided on a frosted ginger molasses cookie ($1.50) and a macadamia, coconut, chocolate chip cookie ($1.50), finishing up with a big brownie ($1.50). The ginger cookie was a bit dry but still good for dunking in hot tea or cocoa. Its buttercream frosting added a nice richness. The macadamia cookie's exotic ingredients were an exceptional blend of textures (chunky, flaky and soft) and flavors. And the brownie was nothing but moist, chewy, fudgy, chocolaty goodness.

We'll go back to Liberty Caf & eacute;, especially when shopping downtown. After all, there are so many menu choices amid the ambience of the Liberty Building.

Liberty Caf & eacute;; 404 W. Main Ave.; Open Mon-Sat 9 am-9 pm, Sun 11 am-6 pm; Call 747-6449.

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