CASUAL Chic Wheat & r & & r & & lt;span class= "dropcap " & W & lt;/span & hich is more important to a sandwich: bread or all the stuff in between? If you're ga-ga for grains and wouldn't eat white bread for all the spelt in Spokane, then you'd probably say bread is the foundation for all things sandwich. And you'd cheer to know WHEAT MONTANA has moved west with its first two Inland Northwest locations (with more to come).

Recently opened along Highway 95 in Coeur d'Alene and on South Regal in Spokane, Wheat Montana's Bakery and Deli is a well-orchestrated alternative to conventional shops. With its burnt orange walls, light-toned wood, corrugated tin trim and tractor motif (painted on windows and etched on chairs, with a few counter stools even made of actual metal tractor seats), it has a faint Starbucks slickness. Big Sky coffee brews while breakfast-goers order bagels, biscuits and gravy, and fresh-baked goods like scones, muffins, bear claws and colossal cinnamon buns twice the size of my fist. Made-to-order sandwiches like vegetarian, a grilled club, a classic Reuben, and design-your-own options all feature bread made from wheat grown on the Folkvard family farm in Three Forks, Montana.

The North Forty ($5.25 half/$7.45 whole) is your basic turkey and cheese (provolone) dressed up with tasty roasted red peppers and basil pesto, while the Homestead adds bacon, guacamole and Swiss to the better-than-basic turkey. Sandwiches are served with your choice of an apple or (corn) tortilla chips (an odd choice for a bakery specializing in wheat). The Wheat Chili in a bread bowl ($5.75) -- made with wheat berries, bits of sausage and a hearty tomato base -- was perfect for a cold winter day.

In addition to the prepared food, Wheat Montana offers its own Prairie Gold grain products (flour, whole wheat, cereals, mixes) for sale as well.

With prices comparable to fast-food purveyors and an emphasis on healthfulness -- their wheat, according to the Website, is free of chemicals and pesticides, doesn't use any genetically modified varieties and goes from "field to the table with no irradiation or pasteurization" --Wheat Montana offers a fresh and refreshing alternative for those who believe it's all about the bread.


Both Wheat Montana Bakery and Deli locations (4334 S. Regal St., 448-2345; 405 W. Neider Ave., Coeur d'Alene, 208-667-3354) are open Mon-Fri, 6 am-8 pm, Sat 6 am-7 pm, and Sun 7 am-6 pm. Visit

WINE Tapas This

& lt;span class= "dropcap " & G & lt;/span & iven our fortunate merging of both good restaurants and local wineries, we've got plenty of options for wine-and-food events. Among my favorites are the wine dinners pairing chef and winemaker in a creative pas de deux of flavors, aromas and textures, and that's just what's coming up on Saturday at 1228 TAPAS. Chef Jerry Schraeder joins John Allen of Vino! and winemaker Larry Lehmbecker of Vin du Lac Winery in Chelan for a WINE DINNER -- a four-course meal, conceived and prepared by Schraeder, complemented by five wines from Vin du Lac. During the meal, the three creative minds will hold forth on the match-ups.

The evening begins with crab risotto and the playfully crisp viognier, a 2006 vintage made from Columbia Valley grapes. Viognier is a lesser-known varietal than other whites, but more and more Washington growers are finding it works well in our climate.

The salad course -- mixed greens with Maytag bleu cheese and bacon in pomegranate vinaigrette -- will come to the table next along with Vin du Lac's chardonnay, which the winery touts for its "pear-apple and mild lemon-lime citrus flavors."

Tenderloin beef tips with a chanterelle mushroom sauce and potato cake comprise the entr & eacute;e, accompanied by two of the winery's reds: the 2005 Cuvee Rouge blend and the 2004 Barrel Select Merlot. The Cuvee Rouge -- it just means "Red Blend" -- combines merlot, syrah, petite sirah, cabernet sauvignon and malbec for a lush blend of flavors and characteristics.

The final course pairs a Bananas Foster croissant with the just-released 2006 Ice Wine, made from both Gerwurztraminer and Riesling grapes that were left on the vine in Chelan County until the first frost and then picked while frozen by very chilly winery workers.

While we're on the subject of wines, Vino! begins monthly surveys of European wines starting next Thursday with a class, "Introduction to Bordeaux Wines." Learn about classic varietals, blends and winemaking techniques from the Bordeaux region of France by sipping wines with a small but convivial group of explorers. And best of all, there's no final exam.


1228 Tapas Wine Dinner with Vin du Lac winery is Saturday, Jan. 12, at 5:30 pm at 1228 S. Grand Blvd. Cost: $55. Call Vino! for reservations at 838-1229.

"Introduction to Bordeaux Wines" is Thursday, Jan. 17, at 6:30 pm, at Vino!, 222 S. Washington St. Cost: $45. Call 838-1229.

Open Studio at The Hive @ The Hive

Wednesdays, 4-7 p.m. Continues through Feb. 22
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