by Susan Hamilton

Spring awakens our senses to fresh aromas, tastes and colors after winter's somber tones. It's the perfect time to head to the lake and indulge in a leisurely dinner. And where better to do it than at Cedars Floating Restaurant on Lake Coeur d'Alene? With a new owner, chef and kitchen staff, as well as an interior renovation, the legendary restaurant has something to crow about.

"We're carrying on the tradition of providing quality food and service that Cedars has always been known for," says new owner Marshall Chesrown. "We're maintaining the traditional Cedar's menu -- featuring the famous salad bar, prime-cut steaks and fresh seafood -- while expanding our dessert menu and daily specials."

Leading the kitchen staff at Cedars is Chef Adam Hegsted, a graduate of the Inland Northwest Culinary Academy and the Art Institute of Seattle. He has honed his culinary skills at several fine California and Seattle restaurants, including the Space Needle. Hegsted presents traditional Cedars favorites in a lighter manner and lets his creativity shine in daily specials as well as in the new menu additions of pan-roasted chicken and pork porterhouse.

Soon after Cedars' reopening in mid-March, we ventured to the Lake City to see what the 38-year-old restaurant had to offer. The deep brown cedar walls and ceiling have been refinished while the nautical d & eacute;cor has been retained. The larger dining room sports new tables, chairs, lighting and carpeting in complementary tones. An expanded, semi-display kitchen gleams beyond the salad bar area, where a slate floor lends an earthy touch.

But on to the food. One of our party ordered the homemade clam chowder, while the rest of us went for the salad bar. Both lived up to our expectations. The chowder was creamy, thick and comforting. The salad bar featured fresh greens and vegetables as well as special salads, like a tasty Mediterranean offering.

Although Cedars is known for prime and certified Angus beef, we opted for some of the fresh fish entrees, house specialties and daily specials. The grilled King salmon with a light lemon butter sauce tasted so fresh, we thought we were at Seattle's Pike Place Market. The accompanying mashed potatoes' earthiness was complemented by roasted garlic. Seafood pappardelle is a Cedars favorite. Chef Hegsted has lightened up its white wine cream sauce that blends saut & eacute;ed Langostino lobster and succulent prawns with tender garlic, tomatoes, onions, mushrooms and wide ribbons of pasta. Braised Chilean sea bass was the special fish of the day with a light chardonnay beurre blanc sauce. A bed of stewed lentils and a topping of thin, fried leeks lent interesting, contrasting textures to the rich, flaky fish. A pan-seared elk chop was tender, moist and not the least bit gamey. Caramelized onion mashed potatoes paired perfectly with the savory meat.

General Manager Rainer Gehres says Cedars has increased entree portions so they're "North Idaho-sized." And it's true. Portions are large enough for a meal and a half. Cedars wine list features Walla Walla wineries as well as well-known California and Oregon vintages.

Pastry Chef Rachel Roberts offers outstanding desserts. Chocolate lovers will appreciate the light tiramisu, with its flavors of espresso and amaretto; the oversized Cedars mud pie's Kona coffee ice cream and layer of rich fudge; and the gooey, warm brownie sundae with chocolate ganache and homemade caramel (this one's definitely for sharing). On the lighter side, Roberts presents a deep fried Xango cheesecake with caramel, banana and cinnamon flavors; seasonal fruit shortcake; and daily specials, like apple crisp a la mode.

Watch for a permanent, elevated, covered walkway into the floating restaurant, as well as a larger dining deck and additional docking for boaters. Lunch will also be served beginning in June from 11 am.

Cedars, at 1 Marina Way in Coeur d'Alene, is open daily from 5-8:30 pm. Call (208) 664-2922.

More Lake City Changes -- Another well-known Coeur d'Alene eatery has recently changed hands. It has also got a new name and flavor.

"I didn't want to deal with the Capers name the fourth time around," says new owner and chef Anthony Hall of his Anthony's Midtown Bistro, while making bread for his restaurant. The former chef at Tubs Caf & eacute; and Silver Mountain says he always wanted his own place.

"I got rid of the front deli case and put in a granite tapas bar," he reveals. "It's nicely lit and has exhibition seating for watching what's happening in the kitchen. It has really opened up the whole restaurant and is quite popular."

Along with the little Spanish snacks, Hall's menu reflects the cuisine of Spain, which is known for its French and North African influences. Starters include calamari stuffed with oreganata, topped with spicy tomato ragu and steamed Manila clams and Penn Cove mussels with chorizo, tomatoes and sweet wine. A Turkish salad and roasted garlic and butternut squash soup are also featured. And do try some of Hall's homemade spent-grain bread.

Hall says he is focusing on quality dinners. A peek at the entrees reveals just that. Zarzuela is a Spanish seafood stew with Langoustines, Penn Cove mussels, Manila clams, fish, prawns, sea scallops, onion and tomato in a saffron and brandy broth. He also offers Turcotte Osso Bucco, a tender veal shank braised in a red wine-tomato sauce, finished with fresh mint and oregano. The oven-roasted yard bird is proving to be a customer favorite. The half chicken is served with a citrus-thyme butter sauce. Beef, fish and vegetarian entrees are also featured. Anthony's wine list is a fine mix of European, California and Washington offerings.

Anthony's Midtown Bistro, at 315 E. Walnut in Coeur d'Alene, is open Tuesday-Thursday from 5-9 pm and Friday-Saturday from 5-10 pm. Call (208) 765-7723.

Wining and Dining -- On April 4, the annual Mostly Merlot benefit for Cancer Patient Care will light up the Spokane Club. The gourmet winemaker dinner showcases merlot from Wineglass Cellars, Three Rivers, Terra Blanca, Gordon Brothers, Arbor Crest and Townshend Cellars. Ray Delfino of the Spokane Club, Chad Michelbook and Michael Lindsey of Quest Casino, Don Rey of Windows of the Seasons, Jason Rex of Fugazzi and Paula Richards of Paula's European Pastries will prepare creative dishes to complement the wines being served. The $100 tickets assist low-income cancer patients. Call 456-0446 ext. 106 for reservations.

The April 6 Taste Washington 2003 food and wine festival will fill the Seahawks Stadium Exhibition Center in Seattle with offerings from 140 Washington wineries and 85 regional restaurants. It includes a cook-off a la Iron Chef, with local chefs competing to create an entr & eacute;e with mystery Washington food products. The $85 tickets benefit FareStart and the Washington Wine Education Fund. Call (206) 628-0888.

Back on this side of the Cascades, the 2003 Festival of Flowers begins April 12 at 6 pm with An Evening of Wine and Flowers at St. Luke's Rehabilitation Institute. The semi-formal wine tasting and auction features fine Washington wines, hors d'oeuvres and creative floral designs as well as unique wine-related auction items. Tickets are $75 each. On Sunday, April 13, two Victorian Teas, modeled after a traditional three-course English tea, will be offered at 11:30 am and 2:30 pm at the Davenport Hotel. Tickets are $40 for adults and $25 for children. Call 473-6006 for tickets to both events, which benefit St. Luke's.

Birthday Bash -- Paula's European Pastries is celebrating its first birthday on April 16 with a tasting of various birthday cakes. Owner and pastry chef Paula Richards will offer a cake seminar at the event, which spotlights gourmet birthday and special event cakes as well as cupcakes and cookies for celebrating that special day. Teas and coffees from Copper Colander's line will complement the celebration, which takes place from 4-6 pm at 2303 N. Ash, Suite 3. Call 466-7171.

Publication date: 04/03/03

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