by Susan Hamilton and Christina Kelly & r & EURO-SAVORY RESTAURANTS & r & There's a decidedly European flavor on downtown Spokane's north bank. When Alpine Bistro and Bakery Company opened earlier this month in the former Genova Bakery on North Monroe Street, the new owners showcased their European heritage.

Owner Carl Burgi is "full Swiss" and his wife Nicole spent time in France. They already had a few years' experience with donuts, lunch and coffee from their Nifty Fifties Doughnuts and Espresso bakery in Mead. But why open another eatery?

"Our customers kept asking if we did pastries because they love our doughnuts," explains Nicole. "We finally found a place when Genova moved out, although we hadn't planned on baking bread. So we bought Genova's equipment and recipes, and brought their employees back. Now we can expand what we were offering up north."

What they're offering is breakfast and lunch items with everything made fresh on-site. And if you're wondering, yes, Alpine bakes bread fresh daily --making its sandwiches all the more delectable. Besides the usual lunch fare of soup, salad and deli sandwiches, Alpine offers what Nicole calls "Swiss-based" fare. Some of the continental food selections include a European tuna-rice salad, a German potato salad, bratwurst, Swiss macaroni and cheese, and quiche with cucumber salad.

Breakfast includes waffles, breakfast sandwich, biscuits and gravy. On the sweet side, Alpine has doughnuts (of course), scones, muffins, cinnamon rolls and pastries. Later in the afternoon, pie, cheesecake, brownies and cookies will satisfy your sweet tooth, complemented by coffee and tea from Pleasant Blends.

And how about the atmosphere?

"We've tried to make it as relaxing as possible," says Nicole. "It's a European deli-type atmosphere."

Cozy tables and chairs are surrounded by dark green walls and deli cases. Adding to Alpine's European flavor, display windows out front feature signature pastries and baked goods, Green Bluff products and Pleasant Blends coffees and teas. "Now if we can just get the aroma from our bakery piped out front, it'll be just like a European shop," Nicole says. -- Susan Hamilton

Alpine Bistro & amp; Bakery Company, 810 N. Monroe St., is open Mon-Fri 6 am-5 pm. Call 327-7040.

BEST OF 2005 WINE & r & Nearly every winery in the Spokane region improved their wines last year. Barrister released a new Cabernet Sauvignon that is tasty now, but will be a knockout after a few months of cellaring. Robert Karl and Grande Ronde produced outstanding Cabernet Sauvignon. Townshend Winery's 2002 Syrah was released this year and is drinking well now after several years in barrel. Arbor Crest continues to improve their Bordeaux blend called Dionysus, and its Sauvignon Blanc.

One of my favorite white wines this year was the 2004 Fidelitas Semillon. I checked with the winery and there are still small amounts available. This wine brings pear, lemon and apple to the mouth with a delicate balance of fruit and oak. It is a great food wine for white fish, chicken and more delicate foods.

I became a big fan of Whitman Cellars 2003 Syrah, released last year and sold out at the winery. This wine has black cherry, tobacco, cedar and spice in the nose and a long finish. The Walla Walla region continues to produce great wines, and Syrah is becoming more distinctive in that region.

Columbia Crest wines are the best value of Washington state wines on the market. From their less than $10 red and white wines to their reserve Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon, this is the winery to choose for your house wines. Their wine portfolio this year was very good, including the outstanding 2002 Walter Clore Private Reserve Red Blend, featuring ripe raspberry, blueberry and cherry with oak-influenced mocha and roasted coffee flavors.

One of the better-value Merlot wines came from Hogue Cellars in Prosser. Their Genesis label Merlot, about $16 to $18, is a lot of wine for the price.

My favorite new trend from 2005 was the proliferation of "pink" wines -- dry Ros & eacute; meant to be consumed early and young for the perfect summer quaffer. This isn't your pinkish zinfandel or a cotton candy swill, but really good, dry wine that can be served with everything from potato salad to grilled chicken and BBQ ribs.

With more consumers choosing wine, 2006 promises to be another big year for wine locally, regionally and nationally. Stay tuned here for the highlights. -- Christina Kelly

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

Tuesdays-Sundays, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Continues through Feb. 13
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