Dining Out, Dining Outside & r & The glorious summer weather here in the Inland Northwest is made for outdoor dining. With long days, low humidity and few airborne pests to mar the experience, our region is one of the best for al fresco meals. Many local restaurants offer patio dining, and the experience is always a blend of the scenery and the food.
Hands down, the best view in town while dining out is at Anthony's HomePort downtown by Spokane Falls. During late spring and early summer, when the river is at its thunderous peak thanks to the snowmelt, the sight of foamy torrents rushing through the two basalt-lined cataracts of Spokane's upper falls is nothing short of breathtaking. Mesh umbrellas shield the sun-shy on the multi-level patio, and if you can take your eyes off the river long enough to read the menu, you'll find plenty of worthwhile options.
If the view at Anthony's is dramatic, then the scene at Riverview Thai is sublime. All that water power that gets released downstream is present as potential energy as the river flows swiftly but smoothly behind the restaurant's building on Trent Avenue. Overarching trees shade the lawn behind Riverview, but the food provides the drama and spice.
When you've had enough bucolic scenery and long for simple human contact, that's the time to visit the Elk in Browne's Addition. The neighborhood hangout ambience extends beyond the doors of this venerable institution to encompass the patio overlooking the traffic circle at Pacific Avenue and Cannon Street.
Have a Picnic in the Park & r & Continuing the outdoor living theme, pack a picnic and head out to the nearest neighborhood park. Spokane and Coeur d'Alene are blessed with wonderful green spaces, islands of pastoral tranquility in the midst of the urban and suburban sprawl. The City Park and Tubbs Hill in Coeur d'Alene; Manito, Comstock and Riverfront parks in Spokane -- these are the classic destinations for those with a stuffed wicker hamper and a hankering to eat under the trees or the wide Northwest sky. But there are dozens of other options if you're looking to spread your blanket in a place that's a bit off the beaten path -- or maybe closer to home.
For instance, just west of town, along Inland Empire Way and Latah Creek in Vinegar Flats, you'll find Wentel Grant Park, a square of green tucked inconspicuously next to Hangman Valley Garden and Nursery. There's playground equipment and swings, a basketball hoop, a backstop, the burbling sounds of the creek -- and hardly any people. You won't find any picnic tables here, so bring along the blanket and chairs, but you'll have plenty of space to spread out and commune with nature.
Farmers Market Class & r & OK, you've heard it before, but here's the deal: The farther away your food comes from, the more fossil fuel it takes to get that food from the farm to you. No matter how conscientiously the food is grown (or raised or caught), transportation adds a lot of weight to the ecological footprint of your meal. But don't despair -- there's a way to shop and not feel guilty. A trip to your local farmers market is the answer.
Again, we're lucky here in the Inland Northwest because we're blessed with a plethora of local markets all across the area, gatherings where we can meet the growers and buy dinner at the same time. But if you're stumped by spelt or awed by orach, then Spokane Community College has a two-day class that will help. Chef Peter Tobin of SCC's Culinary Arts program is offering a noncredit class called "Using the Farmers Market" on Tuesday and Wednesday, June 20-21. Students will meet at the school on Tuesday morning to view a film about local food production and discuss the implications of food shopping choices. On Wednesday morning, students will reconvene at the Spokane Farmers Market at Second Avenue and Division for a guided tour and shopping trip with Chef Tobin. Then they'll return to the school to prepare the food they've purchased.
"I want to have a fun day with it," Tobin says. "I see it as a low-key class about what it means to shop locally. The idea is to get the message out in a fun way."
The fee for the class is $40, and students should expect to spend an additional $15 on food during the shopping trip. To register, call SCC at 533-8010 and ask for Item No. 6480.
If a class is a little too formal for you, then check in with the Friends of the Farmers Market and get the schedule for the popular "Shop With the Chef" series. On Wednesday mornings throughout the summer, local chefs will visit the market and lead shoppers on a tour of the vendors' stalls, pointing out which items they'll be buying for their own kitchens and offering suggestions on how to prepare the seasonal delights. Check at the Friends' booth at the market or e-mail director Eli Penberthy (firstname.lastname@example.org) for details.
Turn Your Home Into a Resort & r & One way to conserve both money and energy this summer is to stick close to home. Sure, it's nice to get away sometimes, but relaxing at home is possible if you approach it with the right frame of mind.
First, set the environment: a hanging basket of impatiens or a big pot of geraniums will brighten even the smallest porch or patio, and caring for a living green thing will put you in touch with the weather and the natural world in a simple yet direct way. Next, if possible, set up a water feature. This could be as elaborate as a pond, as simple as a tabletop fountain, or as kitschy as a kiddie pool and sprinkler. The point is two-fold: tranquility and cooling.
Now you need a chair -- a nice, wooden Adirondack chair, perhaps, or a hammock in the shade, if you've got the space. Even if it's a plastic resin knockoff or a folding lawn chair, get yourself someplace comfortable to park your butt. Next comes the appropriate cold beverage: a frou-frou umbrella drink, some real iced tea or your favorite brew in a frosted glass. You know what you need.
With all the accoutrements in place, you're ready to tackle the hardest step. Turn off the television. Unplug the phone. (Yes, even the cell phone.) Shut down the computer. Disconnect anything that rings or goes beep. Close your Day-Timer. Take off your watch. Sit down and listen to the sounds all around you: the birds, the bugs, the bus, the neighbor's dog. Relax and take it all in. Notice your own breathing as it slows and becomes regular. The day stretches ahead of you, open and unstructured.
Welcome to your unique, personalized summer resort, designed just for you.
DON'T MISS & r & Pack an elegant picnic lunch and drive up the winding road to ARBOR CREST'S CLIFF HOUSE -- or just pick up some wine and cheese at the winery's tasting room. Spread out on the lawn or grab a table and enjoy a free concert (Sundays, June 18-Sept. 24, at 5:30 pm) as the sun sets over the city. (No one younger than 21.)
PIG OUT IN THE PARK is the granddaddy of summer food events, held for five days over Labor Day weekend in Riverfront Park. More than 40 local restaurateurs show off their stuff. It may not be "green" (although it's close to home for most) or "healthy," but it sure is fun.
They range from uptown to down home, but ICE CREAM SHOPS seem to be blossoming across the area. New super-premium chains (Cold Stone Creamery, Maggie Moo's), lighter offerings (Ferrante's, the Swordsman) and venerable icons (Doyle's) prove that we can never have enough choices for our frozen desserts.
A traveling exhibit from the Smithsonian explores the food history of the United States with displays and special events, including "Food and Identity in North Idaho" on June 15 at 7 pm. You can check out "KEY INGREDIENTS" daily though July 8 at the Hayden Public Library.