by Susan Hamilton

Life along the river has a flavor and vitality all its own. The RiverWalk area near Trent and Hamilton is experiencing a renewal that may have something to do with the adjacent Spokane River.

"The river is integral to Thai culture and life," says Carl Wilson, owner of RIVERVIEW THAI RESTAURANT. "And our new location at RiverWalk is just like looking out on the Chao Phraya River in Bangkok."

From the tall windows of the dining room, every seat at the new site has a view of the flowing Spokane River. And the spacious outside dining area is a tranquil spot for an intimate lunch or dinner.

Beginning this week, Riverview Thai's popular and exotic cuisine is back after a short closure while moving from its former Flour Mill location. Head chef On Wilson, who was born and raised in Bangkok, prepares customer favorites, like chicken seasoned with garlic and Thai spices, topped with a signature peanut sauce.

"There are three parts to our success -- great service, flavorful food and ambience," Carl declares. "We'll recreate the same feeling of being in another world at our new location."

Riverview Thai is open Monday-Friday from 11:30 am-9 pm, Saturday from noon-9 pm and Sunday from noon-8:30 pm. Call 325-8370.

Ken and Margie Dupree began RENDEZVOUS EVENTS early this year in the Bayou's former banquet room, hosting business and social events. Last weekend they began holding live music shows in the former Fat Tuesdays Room with local band Delbert.

"We're going to have all-ages and 21-and-over shows featuring local bands and national acts as well," Ken Dupree says.

Catering services for weddings and events are provided by Carnegie Square Bistro, which is also owned by the Duprees. Call 483-8368 for information about concert venues and Rendezvous Events.

NORTHERN LIGHTS BREWING COMPANY rounds out the triad of new RiverWalk businesses. The popular brewery will move from Airway Heights to its new digs sometime in May. It will take over the former brewery, bar and some dining and kitchen space.

"We've outgrown our brewing system in Airway Heights," says owner Mark Irvin. "We've been looking to move to Spokane for years because we are Spokane's brewery."

Irvin says he will also open a restaurant at the new location with "an eclectic menu of pub food." In the evenings, on a rotating basis he will feature surf and turf with fresh sheet menu items.

"We'll be able to do retail here as well as running a pub," Irvin declares.

"It's a great mix with the brewery, Thai restaurant and us doing shows," Dupree adds.

Who can pass up an evening of gourmet chocolates and desserts, fine champagne and coffees? With more than 500 people attending last year's CHOCOLATE and CHAMPAGNE GALA, the event has gained in popularity every year.

The 18th annual event next Friday begins with chocolate and champagne sampling at 7 pm. Delicacies from Boehm's, Tipton's, Spokandy, Just American Desserts, Great Harvest, Quinn's and Spencer's will be served. Live and silent auctions follow with vacation packages, a car, original art and jewelry up for bid. From 9:30 to midnight, guests will kick up their heels to the big band sounds of Tuxedo Junction and feast on gourmet hors d'oeuvres.

The casually elegant evening benefits the Sexual Assault & amp; Family Trauma Response Center (SAFeT), which assists victims and witnesses of sexual and domestic violence, violent crimes and sexual harassment. SAFeT also operates a 24-hour rape crisis hotline and has therapy and support for victims.

The Chocolate & amp; Champagne Gala is Friday, April 12, at 7 pm at the downtown DoubleTree Hotel. Tickets are $40 in advance and $50 at the door. Call 747-8224 or 325-7328.

If you're looking for quality Italian food, head north. LITTLE ITALY, on the North Side, has an outstanding new Fruitti di Mare dinner special on Friday nights. The succulent mixture of fresh clams, mussels, scallops, shrimp and Alaskan king crab steamed in garlic and white wine is bathed in a savory red or white cream sauce and served atop linguine, with fresh tomatoes and basil scattered throughout the dish. The accompanying Caesar salad is the real deal, with an anchovy bite you can taste. A nice Italian, Washington or California wine from Little Italy's list will blend well with your dinner, as will the soothing Italian music.

The eatery also features 24 gourmet pizzas, including the West Coast's only Pizza Bolognese, according to owner Jim Schilling. The deep-dish pizzas are made fresh using a secret New York Italian recipe and covered with Little Italy's own tasty sauces.

Little Italy may be one of Spokane's best-kept secrets, but it shouldn't remain so for long. The restaurant, located at 7458 N. Division in the Northgate Shopping Center, is open Monday-Thursday from 11 am-9 pm and Friday-Saturday from 11 am-10 pm. Call 487-7777.

Does the secret to our Best New Restaurant winner, SAM'S ON REGAL, include one of its cooks? The Black Box Cooking Contest sponsored by URM Foods in Coeur d'Alene last month was won by Tim Hartman, a cook for the South Hill restaurant. The 20 competing chefs had 45 minutes to create a dish using surprise ingredients. Will we be seeing Hartman going up against the Iron Chefs next?

If you missed the sold-out wine dinner at SOLSTICE last month, here's another chance. Tamarack Wine Cellars, an up-and-coming winery in Walla Walla, is presenting a Winemaker's Dinner at the Liberty Lake restaurant on Sunday, April 14, at 5:30 pm. The five-course dinner will be accompanied by exclusive wines from Tamarack. Cost is $65 per person. Call 892-5901.

Colville Corn Maze & Pumpkin Patch @ Colville Corn Maze & Pumpkin Patch

Through Oct. 31, 11 a.m.-7 p.m.
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