Enter COTTAGE CAF & Eacute;, with its carefully designed English-cottage charm: tapestry-upholstered booths, dark wood tables and box-beam ceilings, multi-paned windows, a fireplace in the foyer and purposely sunny walls.
Since their teens, 27-year-old owner/managers Kim and Drew Baker have each worked in the food industry in such venues as the Coeur d'Alene Resort (Kim), the Old European, and Waffles and More (Drew). "Drew has a huge breakfast-house background," says Kim.
The menu boasts "Home Cooking" and "Home Made," and the Bakers' knowledge of what breakfast customers want shines through in their choice to make all the menu items from scratch. The O.J. is fresh-squeezed and served chilled in a large glass ($3). Containers of real half-and-half adorn the table along with assorted flavored creamers. But there's no hint of those tiny jam packets -- the jam is the real thing. Not freezer jam even, but honest-to-goodness made-in-house raspberry jam, with all the taste and texture you might remember from the days when anyone went to the trouble to make it.
The biscuits are tender and moist, and the gravy... oh, my goodness. I'm generally leery of restaurant gravy, but this rich country gravy is seasoned with salt and cracked pepper and a hint of sage from its bits of real sausage. Two biscuits with gravy can be yours for $6.
My companion ordered the chicken-fried steak and eggs ($10) and had just one comment after the initial bite: "This is the best chicken-fried steak I've ever had."
If various incarnations of eggs and pastries aren't what you're looking for, there's a full lunch menu available too. Say you're really wanting a burger and a pint for lunch -- or breakfast: They'll hook you up with an assortment of brews including Guinness and Kokanee Gold on tap as well a selection of wines. A Sunday morning favorite is the Mimosa ($4).
It's all good, but I'm still thinking about that raspberry jam. "We've thought about (packaging it for sale in the restaurant), but we want people to have a reason to come back," says Kim.
Oh, there's a reason to come back all right. It's the most important meal of the day, and a most delicious one, too.
-- M.C. PAUL
Cottage Caf & eacute;, 6902 E. Appleway Blvd., Spokane Valley, is open Mon-Sat 6:30 am-2:30 pm, Sun 7 am-3 pm. Visit cottagecafespokane.com or call 928-8888.
DINING Top That Glass
& lt;span class= "dropcap " & "I & lt;/span & wanted to have a restaurant that served food the way I eat... just ordering appetizers and creating a meal between us," says Kris McIlvenna of the new 315 MARTINIS AND TAPAS restaurant she and husband Bob recently opened in the Greenbriar Inn.
Obtaining their liquor license opened the door to expanding Greenbriar, a downtown Coeur d'Alene building that has -- throughout its 100-year history -- served as apartments, a home to Tridentine nuns, even a bordello in the 1930s. The interior is vintage Victorian with dark-paneled wood trim, jewel-toned walls, and plush fabrics. Winter would be ideal for the fireplace front room while the main room -- with its doors thrown open to the wrap-around deck and gazebo garden area -- is optimal at any time of year.
Since 1984, the building has been a special events center and five-room bed and breakfast, where the catering menu ranges from barbecues to wedding cake to... tapas.
Tapas -- from Spanish, meaning covers -- have become the rage in restaurants hip to the trend of trading large, expensive dishes for sharable portions of lower-priced yet full-flavored mini-meals.
At 315's "soft" opening, invited guests were treated to salads, European-inspired dishes and desserts. Salad starters included the "stack" of gazpacho ingredients ($5) -- tomato, cucumber, red and green onion, roasted peppers and baguette slice -- as well as rib-eye Caesar with horseradish demi-glace ($8). The melt-in-your-mouth-good smoked salmon cake had a light, crispy exterior topped with zesty jalape & ntilde;o tartar. Many dishes include a side of spring greens.
Nibbles start at $3, with options like spiced almonds or marinated olives, perfect with fresh-baked bread and cheeses. Main dishes, like melon and chorizo sausage with artichoke hearts and orange-tarragon vinaigrette, are priced from $5 to $8. One can only hope the marinated chicken with Gruy & egrave;re and white cheddar cheese, avocado, tomato and prosciutto-wrapped melon, bleu cheese-stuffed olives and picado sauce reappears on the menu soon.
Specials abound. Tuesday is "Group Therapy," featuring martinis like Fuzzy Freud ($9) -- with O.J., Stoli citrus vodka, Cointreau and peach Schnapps. Thursdays take off with wine flights, and Friday means live music. Future additions include more soups in the cooler seasons and select dishes available in "dinner" portions.
-- CARRIE SCOZZARO
315 Martinis and Tapas, 315 Wallace Ave., CdA, is open Tue-Fri 3:15 pm-close (usually 11 pm). Visit www.greenbriarcatering.com or call (208) 667-9660.