by Susan Hamilton

When winter's gray days are still upon us, we often dream of exotic travel destinations in sunnier climes. Our thoughts may take us to India, with its intricate diversity of people, scenery, colors, music and unique tastes found in the subcontinent's cuisine.

Right here in the Inland Northwest, a visit to Delhi Palace opens up the vibrant world of Indian cookery. The spices and unusual treatments of meats and vegetables that are authentically Indian are well represented in this new restaurant. The menu features curries, tandoori specialties and a large selection of vegetarian entrees.

Owner Manoj Kumar brings his experience working in Indian restaurants in Los Angeles and Seattle to Delhi Palace. His partner and chef, Gurdeep Singh, also shares a background in Indian restaurants.

If you haven't experienced Indian food before, Delhi Palace's daily lunch buffet is the perfect place to start. It offers 15 items that change daily, ranging from vegetarian and meat curries to tandoori chicken, all for $6.

At dinner, I sampled an array of dishes that showcased Singh's expertise. The Mulligatawny soup is a rich blend of flavors -- lentils, chicken, rice, vegetables and spices. The tandoori surprise is a sampler of marinated chicken, lamb, fish and shrimp cooked in a traditional brick and clay oven. This method of baking over direct heat produces a smoky taste and sears in the natural flavors. Savory mint and sweet tamarind chutneys are wonderful dipping sauces for the meats.

Chicken tikka masala also utilizes the tandoori roasting style. It is served with a delicately spiced sauce that is smooth as silk. Lamb jalfraizies are served alongside spiced, pan-roasted lamb with lightly saut & eacute;ed bell peppers, tomatoes and onions. A rich, creamed spinach sauce complements the succulent shrimp saag.

Delhi Palace features freshly baked tandoori breads, one with fresh garlic and herbs. Special rice dishes include Kashmiri rice, an aromatic blend with fruits, nuts and vegetables. Authentic desserts and beverages (like a mango lassi) are also offered.

Delhi Palace, at 11114 E. Sprague (just west of Bowdish), is open daily from 11 am-3 pm for lunch and 5-10 pm for dinner. Call 927-0500.

New York, New York -- There's another new deli in town that features food from the East -- Coast, that is. Loren's Deli offers true New York deli-style eats right in our own backyard. Loren Deranleau brings 30 years of experience with delis and catering around the country to his newly opened restaurant on the North Side.

"We cook all our own meats and potato chips," he says. "We even have New York frankfurters. One of my customers says we have the only true deli in Spokane."

Deli sandwiches include roast beef, corned beef, pastrami, turkey, ham, chicken salad, tuna salad and egg salad -- all served with a kosher dill pickle. Hot corned beef, pastrami, French dip, meatball, prime rib, Philly steak and meatloaf are all popular sandwiches. Salads, soups and chili are also menu items are Loren's.

In true New York deli style, Loren's offers full breakfasts. Items include freshly baked pastries, muffins, scones, cinnamon rolls, croissants and omelets. Breakfast burritos are also featured, with sausage, bacon and "taters." For those with big appetites, the breakfast platters will fill you up with everything from country eggs Benedict to biscuits, sausage and gravy. Pancakes, waffles and French toast are also offered, as well as espresso drinks.

Loren's Deli is just north of the Wandermere Center, at 12802 N. Hwy. 395. It's open Monday-Saturday from 6:30 am-9 pm and Sunday from 6:30 am-6 pm. Call 465-9696.

Beyond Doughnuts -- When we find something we like, we often can't seem to get enough of it. Four local spots have recently expanded their offerings to satisfy that demand.

Fresh doughnuts, for example, are just plain irresistible. The Donut Hole's potato-raised doughnuts are now available at a new location just off North Division as well as at the shop on Garland. Danish pastries, cakes and breads are also featured.

And that's not all. They also offer lunch items made with freshly baked bread. A pizza boat on French bread, ham and turkey sandwich, Polish dogs and daily soup or chili comprise the Donut Hole's lunch menu.

The Donut Hole, at 113 W. Indiana, is open Monday-Saturday from 5 am-5 pm and Sunday from 6 am-2 pm. Call 326-1300.

Break for Lunch -- Some people just like to cue up for lunch. At least that's what customers at Far West Billiards are wont to do. Beginning this month, Far West is open for lunch beginning at 11:30 am daily.

The menu has expanded, too, with new items like garlic shrimp served with warm bread (to soak up the juices), saut & eacute;ed clams or mussels (a whole pound of 'em!), a Far East chicken burger, penne Bolognese and hearty borsch soup.

Far West Billiards, at 1001 W. First Ave., is open Monday-Friday from 11:30 am-closing, Saturday-Sunday from 1 pm-closing. Call 455-3429.

Cosmo at Night -- The jazzy Cosmopolitan Caf & eacute; in the Valley is now serving a full dinner menu. All the better to enjoy the more than 125 wonderful wines that owner Tim Hanley has assembled. And he ought to know, with his 12 years of experience as a Northwest wine distributor.

The new dinner offerings have an international flair. A peek at the menu reveals Cosmo's camarones, a shrimp appetizer saut & eacute;ed in lime and garlic and a traditional Mediterranean salad Nicoise. Pasta con pollo, with chicken in a white wine cream sauce, and champagne salmon with proscuitto also highlight the Cosmopolitan's dinner menu.

The Cosmopolitan Caf & eacute;, 321 S. Dishman Mica Rd., is open Monday-Friday from 11-3 pm for lunch and Tuesday-Thursday from 5-9 pm and Friday-Saturday from 5-10 pm for dinner. Call 922-4935.

Taste Testing -- It's your big chance to taste a cutting-edge, five-course luncheon prepared by the Northwest's up-and-coming chefs. You know it's going to be good because it's graded.

Each Friday from now until March 7, graduating SCC Culinary Arts students whip up extravagant lunches at Orlando's. The tab is only $14 per person. You must preregister. Call 533-7283.

Let's Party! -- Mardi Gras brings out the reveler in many of us. Now you can party for worthy causes at three upcoming area events.

On Friday, February 28, you can celebrate at a Mardi Gras Ball in all four of the Davenport's ballrooms. The masquerade parade begins at 8:30 pm, followed by dancing to four different bands. A full buffet of Southern specialties will be served at midnight, complete with festive beverages.

A silent auction includes original artwork, high-end wines and getaways. Guests may choose the local, non-profit organization that a portion of their $125 per-person ticket benefits. Call 777-3109.

On Saturday, March 1, you can come in costume to another Mardi Gras celebration. The Exchange Club of North Spokane is hosting the party at Center Pointe that benefits the Boys & amp; Girls Club of Spokane County. Taste Caterina wines, enjoy a dinner of Cajun-style food, music and an auction at the third annual event. Tickets are $35 each. Call 462-0294.

The seventh annual Wine, Stein and Dine on March 8 at 7 pm presents an evening of fine wine and microbrew tasting as well as a dazzling array of appetizers and desserts. More than 60 area wineries, microbreweries and restaurants will offer their best for tasting at the Greyhound Park and Events Center. Participants include Arbor Crest Winery, Wyvern Cellars, Big Sky Brewing, Cricket's Steakhouse, the White House Grill, Tanglewood and Cuisine Cargo. The event benefits the Post Falls Education Foundation. Tickets are $35 per person. Call (208) 665-1919.

Publication date: 02/20/03

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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