by Susan Hamilton and Suzanne Schreiner & r & Lure of Chinese RESTAURANTS & r & What draws us irresistibly to Chinese food? Is it the wealth of flavors and textures and the exotic ingredients? Or are we lured by the artful preparation and presentations? All those elements are significant. But the quest for harmony is also an important feature of Chinese cookery, which is achieved by contrasts. The four basic flavors -- sweet, salty, sour and bitter -- are sometimes balanced in the same Chinese dish.

Tasty House, a newly opened Chinese restaurant in the Spokane Valley, features Cantonese Chinese cuisine, which is characterized by diversity. From its wealth of available ingredients to chefs who brought their rich cooking styles to this region in southeastern China, Cantonese food offers a cornucopia of flavors.

"We provide authentic Chinese food with a Cantonese style," says owner Jimmy Lo. "Most Chinese restaurants in Spokane serve Americanized Chinese food."

Fried rice is a Cantonese specialty, and Tasty House offers six variations of this dish. Chicken, shrimp, barbequed pork, beef, vegetable and Yang Zhou (pork and shrimp) fried rice are all on the menu. If you're a moo shu fan, you'll enjoy Tasty House's moo shu chicken, beef, barbecued pork, shrimp and vegetable options. If you're not familiar with this stir-fried creation scrambled with eggs and rolled in small, thin pancakes, it's a delectable dish.

Lunch at Tasty House features combinations, such as beef string bean, barbecued pork fried rice and General Tso's chicken. Lunch specials include orange crispy chicken, deep fried prawns and beef broccoli (all sans MSG). Tasty House's extensive dinner menu features combinations (like chicken lo mein, pork fried rice and sweet-and-sour chicken), as well as pineapple chicken, beef with oyster sauce and prawns with honey-glazed walnuts.

"Asian and non-Asian people are really liking the food we're serving," Lo proclaims. -- Susan Hamilton

Tasty House, at 8901 E. Trent (at Argonne, next to Starbucks), is open Mon-Thurs 11 am-9 pm, Fri 11 am-9:30 pm, Sat 12-9:30 pm. Call 891-6333.

Corks Away BENEFIT & r & Now in its 12th year, the Cork and Keg Festival showcases more than 100 wines and 30 handcrafted beers, including Laughing Dog microbrews (all the way from Ponderay!) and Spokane's own Robert Karl and Lone Canary wineries. That's a lot of palate-pleasing opportunities, so do remember to pace yourself.

Where there is drink, there must also be food, of course. Chef Peter Tobin and the aspiring chefs of SCC's Inland Northwest Culinary Academy will be serving up tasty nibbles of every description. It's good practice for them, but they have an ulterior motive, too. Those ticket dollars go toward three annual scholarships and help cover students' expenses while competing in the American Culinary Federation's Knowledge Bowl this spring in Hawaii. (We're not sure how chefs demonstrate their knowledge, but we're picturing torch-the-cr & egrave;me-brulee contests and white-toqued competitors feverishly vying to create the poufiest meringue.)

You can also get 15 percent off bottles from participating winemakers at the Wine Store and bid on wine racks and gift baskets in the silent auction. Be warned, though: About 500 devotees of the grape and the hop will be squeezed into that ballroom, too. So bid generously -- and often. -- Suzanne Schreiner

The Spokane Cork and Keg Festival will effervesce on Friday, Nov. 11, from 7-10 pm in the ballroom of the Red Lion Hotel at the Park, 303 W. North River Dr. Tickets: $40. Must be 21. Call 467-7744.

Fly in Your Soup EDUCATION & r & In the Western world, when it comes to the man-bug interaction, the story is usually bug bites man, not the other way around. But in much of the world, man bites back. From Australia to Thailand, more than 500 species of bugs are on the menu.

On Nov. 4, entomology students at WSU -- and anyone else who is interested -- will have a chance to sample insect cuisine in all its variety. Professor Richard Zack wants his students to see insects for the dietary staple that they are to the many people who rely on them as a source of protein, fats and vitamins. Anyone for a piping hot mealworm taco? -- Suzanne Schreiner

The Bug Buffet is on Friday, Nov. 4, from 11 am- 1 pm, at the Compton Union Building's Cascade Room at WSU-Pullman. Call (509) 335-3394.

American Original: The Life and Work of John James Audubon @ Northwest Museum of Arts & Culture

Tuesdays-Sundays, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Continues through Sept. 19
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