Fresh & amp;amp; Tasty

by Ann M. Colford and Susan Hamilton & r & & r & San Francisco Signature DINING & r & There's a certain mystique about sourdough bread. It harkens back to the days of the California Gold Rush, when miners took sourdough starters from San Francisco into the Sierras where they panned for gold. The tangy flavor and chewy texture are produced from wild microorganisms in the starter that thrive in the Bay Area's unique climate.

A newly opened eatery near downtown Spokane capitalizes on the famous flavor of San Francisco's sourdough bread -- in its edible offerings and d & eacute;cor. The Sourdough Place features sourdough sandwiches, soups and salads, as well as uptown d & eacute;cor.

"People are saying we have the best breads in Spokane," says co-owner Ryan Koohns. "The sourdough bread that we offer, as well as high-end meats and fresh veggies, makes us unique."

Take the Sourdough Place's popular roast beef sandwich. More than four ounces of thin-sliced, high-quality roast beef is piled on a six-inch slab of sourdough bread (or sweet wheat or French bread), with your choice of Swiss, provolone or cheddar cheese; condiments (including horseradish, Dijon or honey mustard); and fresh veggies from onions to cucumbers. Other sandwich offerings include pastrami, club, turkey with bacon, French dip and Italian -- all with a variety of cheeses, veggies and condiments. The Sourdough Place even has grilled cheese or PB & amp;J sannies for the kids.

"Our bread bowls are really popular," Koohns says. With soups that change daily -- like tomato Florentine and cheddar cauliflower -- in tasty sourdough bowls, it's no wonder. Salads range from hearty chicken Caesar and customized house salad with fresh veggies to pasta and potato. Finish off your meal with Rocket Bakery brownies, cookies and bars.

"The atmosphere is unique for a sandwich shop," Koohns adds. "It's got an old California feel, with black and white photos of San Francisco on the walls, brick fireplace and counter."

The Koohns name may be familiar from the family's 30-year-old residential painting business in Spokane. But why jump from painting to the restaurant business?

"I've wanted to work in a restaurant since I was in junior high," Koohns explains. "We're not afraid to go out on a limb." -- Susan Hamilton

The Sourdough Place, 821 N. Division, Suite A (in the Jewelry Design Center building), is open Mon-Sat 10 am-7 pm. Call 327-1444.

Light My Way PUB & r & Sherman Avenue in downtown Coeur d'Alene is the place to go for shopping, for browsing and for people-watching in the Lake City. (Now it's the place to stare at all the cool new fountains on the street corners -- the new fundraiser, a la the moose of two summers ago.) All that hoofing around can build an appetite, however, so it's a good thing the main drag boasts plenty of dining establishments.

The newest place to nosh and down a cold one -- while keeping one eye on the four televisions above the bar and one eye on the street life -- is the Beacon, a spacious, nautically inspired pub in the former Old National Bank building. Next door to Brix, its upscale cousin (the restaurants share owners), the Beacon kept the flavor of the original building, including high ceilings, exposed brick and a vintage oak floor, but with lots of windows in its prime corner location. Photos and prints of lighthouses adorn the walls, while the giant four-sided bar anchors the center.

The menu isn't big, but it's serviceable: several beers on tap, a dozen wines by the glass, all the usual suspects. The coffee is great; it comes from Doma, whose retail space is right up the street. The food is pub grub standard, with several appetizers ($2-$6), a couple of sandwiches, a burger, fish-and-chips and pizza ($6-$9).

For our late afternoon pick-me-up, we shared a selection of appetizers: beer-battered onion rings ($4), Caesar salad ($3.50) and the intriguingly named saut & eacute;ed popcorn ($2). The rings came as big, thick slices of sweet onion surrounded by a generous layer of deep-fried batter and served with a surprising and good horseradish dipping sauce. The breading got a little thick and heavy in places, but where it was thinner it was tasty with just the right amount of crunch. The Caesar was basically a basket of chopped Romaine with croutons that tasted homemade, all done up in a tart lemony dressing. We were curious to try the popcorn -- how does one saut & eacute; popcorn, anyway? -- and were happy to find just a basket of fluffy, crunchy popcorn, seasoned with a hint of salt and not the least bit oily. Overall, the Beacon lit the way to a satisfying respite from the hard work of touring the town. -- Ann M. Colford

The Beacon, Sherman Avenue and Fourth Street, Coeur d'Alene, is open Sun-Thu, 11 am-11 pm; Fri-Sat, 11 am-2 am. Call (208) 665-7407.

Louis Comfort Tiffany: Treasures from the Driehaus Collection @ Northwest Museum of Arts & Culture

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