Spokane meets Buenos Aires -- or at least an outpost of the Argentine capital -- at PRAGO, the newly opened and long-awaited Argentine caf & eacute; at Riverside and Browne. Inside, the pressed tin ceiling and exposed brick wall showcase 19th-century Spokane while the sleek, ultramodern lighting fixtures and copper trim evoke 21st-century global cosmopolitanism.
This latest venture from the partners behind the former Spike Coffeehouse -- Patrick Walsh and Tommy Corley -- has been a long time in development, but it is truly a cross-continental collaboration. Walsh's father, Dr. Tom Walsh, is a surgeon and lawyer who has a home in Buenos Aires and owns the Argentine version of Prago in the Palermo neighborhood there. The three joined with two other partners to bring the Spokane edition to life.
Argentine cuisine blends Italian and Spanish influences, says Walsh, and Prago's menu -- while small at the moment -- illustrates that principle. The empanadas are savory turnovers of Spanish lineage: pastry envelopes filled with meat, vegetables, spices and just a hint of something sweet. On the day we visited, the warm beef empanadas, served with chimichurri sauce (sort of an Argentine pesto), took the chill off the sudden fall weather.
The Italian side of the menu highlights a handful of panini sandwiches; we tried the prosciutto, sun-dried tomato and provolone combo, which came with chips and a side of olives. Walsh also offers tapas choices such as mixed Greek olives and a cheese plate.
At the bar, you'll find lots of wines, along with a good selection of Scotches. "We try to showcase the Argentine wines," Walsh says. "They're really good."
The Malbec, for instance, is a red-wine grape grown in Bordeaux that's found a new home in the vineyards of Argentina. While French winemakers use it in relatively small quantities in blends, the Argentines bring the grape front and center as its own varietal.
Prago opens early and serves pastry and bagels in the morning; Walsh has plans for a panini French toast, but for now you'll have to catch him on the right day. Of course, there's a full espresso bar. "I like being a caffeine engineer," Walsh quips.
-- ANN M. COLFORD
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Prago Argentine Caf & eacute;, 201 W. Riverside Ave., is open Mon-Fri 7 am-2 am, Sat 10 am-2 am. Call 443-0404. On Thursday Sept. 21, from 4-7 pm, Prago hosts a wine tasting featuring Argentine wines, small plate samples and music from the Tedesca String Quartet, all for $12. & r &
& r & All About Fresh STORES & r &
There's nothing like fresh-picked fruits and veggies. And with the growing popularity of organic foods, more people are looking for places where they can get local, organic produce. So it's no wonder that the 2-1/2-year-old FRESH ABUNDANCE now has a South Hill storefront for its growing local, organic produce delivery business.
"People in the neighborhood are joining so fast, it's like locusts when we have a produce delivery here," says co-owner Eden BrightSpirit Hendrix. "Customers can come in and shop around our store. We also have a once-a-month meet-the-farmer day here."
The storefront features produce, like apples, squash and peppers. Milk, cheese and eggs, as well as frozen local chicken and beef are available. Honey, pasta sauce and herbal remedies line the shelves, as well as the full Bi-O-Kleen line of home-cleaning products.
"One of our goals in Fresh Abundance is unconventional as far as grocery shopping goes," Hendrix explains. "We strive for zero waste, so we use a full repack system. Our members return empty jars and containers so we can refill them, and they are used only by that family."
So how does Fresh Abundance work? Members pay a yearly fee of $35 and a one-time registration fee of $15. Fees support People for Environmental Action and Community Health (PEACH), a local nonprofit organization focused on environment-related health issues. Members can place orders online through Fresh Abundance's website, via phone or e-mail.
"Anyone can shop at our store if they spend $20 or less; otherwise, they need to be a member," says Ellicia Milne, director of operations. "We also offer discounts and waive our regular fees for low-income food assistance."
As with any organization, there are rules: For delivery, orders must total at least $35 and be placed by 10 am the day before scheduled delivery. For pickup orders, members must call in before 10 am that day and pick up between 4 and 6:15 pm.
"We started Fresh Abundance because the grocery system doesn't work well," Hendrix explains. "Food products travel so far and sit on shelves so long, they're not fresh anymore. Our goal is to eat local and support local agriculture."
-- SUSAN HAMILTON
& r & Fresh Abundance, 1001 W. 25th Ave. (at Lincoln), is open Mon-Fri 10 am-6:30 pm, Sat 10 am-3:30 pm. Call 533-2724 or visit www.freshabundance.com. & r &