by Susan Hamilton

We stand out like a sore thumb and that's just what we wanted," proclaims co-owner Cheryl Sieveke of the restaurant she and her husband Bill recently opened. "It's definitely a different atmosphere."

For Coeur d'Alene's Sherman Avenue, Wild Bill's Cookhouse is different. Peanut shells on the floor, a cozy gas stove in the middle of the dining room, the rough-hewn brick wall covered with posters of Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show and humorous signs all add to the Western ambiance. John Wayne movies and rodeo on the corner TVs, country-Western music, a buffalo head and stuffed jackalope on the facing walls complete the rustic d & eacute;cor. It's hard to believe a few months ago this was Jimmy D's Stonegrill, but a transformation has taken place.

The menu at this comfortable eatery draws on the Sieveke's previous successful area restaurants -- down-home food with a creative twist. When I stopped by Wild Bill's last week for lunch, I was impressed with the tasty fare. The huckleberry meatball starter is an interesting blend of savory seasoned meat complemented by a huckleberry sauce that isn't overly sweet. A boat of 10 meatballs is circled by "buffalo chips" -- flat, seasoned, deep-fried potatoes. Made-from-scratch soups rotate daily. The chicken rice soup I sampled was smooth and hearty.

Wild Bill's Colt 45 chicken wrap has an impressive stand-up presentation. Its combination of chicken, peppers, onion, tomatoes, sweet corn and black beans in a chipotle-flavored tortilla is accented by a kickin', housemade Southwest dip. No wonder it's one of the most popular lunch items. The barbecue beef sandwich offers a tender, tangy taste, as does the pulled pork sandwich. Wild Bill's also serves buffalo burgers, which are lower in fat than beef or chicken.

A look at the dinner menu reveals an array of steaks, ribs, barbecued chicken, burgers and seafood items. Wild Bill's Friday night special is rustlers' ribs with huckleberry barbecue sauce. Saturday night it's prime rib. Do save room for desert. Chocolate decadence, hot fudge brownies, huckleberry and cherry-almond cheesecake are featured.

Wild Bill's Cookhouse, at 320 Sherman Ave., is open Monday-Thursday from 11 am-8 pm, and on Friday-Saturday from 11 am-9 pm. Call (208) 765-8470.

Chocolate Confections -- Speaking of deserts, there's a new shop in town that specializes in chocolate truffles. Paula Richards, formerly of Paula's Pastries, recently returned from Europe, where she was scouting out the best of these confections in Paris. Now she offers the delectable sweets in her shop, the Vintage Truffle. The rich blends of chocolate, butter, cream and sugar are flavored with cr & egrave;me de menthe, Earl Grey tea, cappuccino, huckleberries and peanut butter to name but a few.

In Europe, chocolate truffles are accompanied by coffee. In keeping with tradition, Richards offers coffee and tea samples at her shop. Bulk gourmet coffees and teas -- from l'orange coffee to mountain huckleberry tea -- are available in the charming shop. Specialty iced cookies and confections, like blackberry brandy cordials and chocolate covered sunflower seeds, are featured as well.

The vintage part of the shop showcases one-of-a-kind antiques and collectibles. Teapots and cups, furniture, clothing, hats, linens and pillows are scattered about the cozy rooms. Catch the grand opening party this Wednesday from 4-7 pm.

The Vintage Truffle, at 101 E. Nora Ave. (at Ruby), is open Tuesday-Friday from 11 am-6 pm and Saturday from noon-4 pm. Call 466-7171.

Hot Off the Fire -- Solicitor's Corner is a comfortable eatery that's been a staple in north Spokane for more than eight years. New head chef Nathan Kamae is shaking things up a bit with a new lunch menu.

"It's more upscale," Kamae reveals. "I'm bringing the menu items together with a contemporary Northwestern rustic theme."

Diners should be pleased with new dishes like an Oriental chicken salad, featuring stir-fried chicken and veggies with toasted sesame dressing served on a bed of chilled udon noodles tossed in creamy wasabi sauce and topped with crunchy won tons. New sandwiches include a Tuscan chicken panino with seasoned, grilled chicken, mozzarella, fresh tomato and pesto as well as an Italian vegetable sandwich highlighting veggies and mushrooms saut & eacute;ed in Italian dressing, with provolone cheese and mildly spicy pepper aioli on rustic bread. Specialties, such as slow-cooked beef in Guinness Stout, and weekly fresh-sheet items, like Southwestern flatbread steak chili, add to the mix.

So how is the new menu being received?

"There's a huge 'wow' factor in the dining room," Kamae says.

Watch for the new Solicitor's dinner menu coming at the end of this month.

Solicitor's Corner, at 6301 N. Division (at Francis), is open Sunday-Thursday from 7 am-9 pm and on Friday-Saturday from 7 am-10 pm. Call 465-9554.

Love That Pizza -- Confirming that pizza is, indeed, one of our favorite foods, Figaro's Pizza has opened yet another shop in Spokane in just six months. This one's on the upper South Hill and is already doing a booming business. Figaro's offers a "we-bake, you-bake" concept, where customers can either pick up hot pizza or take it home to bake in their own oven.

"We're doing more baking than taking," reveals owner Don Blehm. "I wish I had more ovens."

Figaro's claim to fame is that it uses dough that's made fresh daily, housemade sauce, real cheese, choice meats and fresh produce on its pizzas. It also offers some interesting pizza combos, like the Creamy Garlic Club with two kinds of bacon, chicken, onions, diced tomatoes and housemade garlic sauce; Mama's Favorite, featuring pepperoni, sausage, mushrooms, olives and green peppers; and a 12-topping Classic with the works--bacon, salami, pepperoni, sausage, beef, pineapple, mushrooms, olives, onions, green peppers and tomatoes.

Pizza sizes range from a 16.5-inch giant to an 8-inch low-carb pie. Figaro's also features lasagna, calzone, salad and breadsticks.

Figaro's Pizza, at 3303 E. 57th Ave., is open Sunday-Thursday from 11 am-9 pm and on Friday-Saturday from 11 am-10 pm. Call 443-8900.

Early-Spring Benefits -- "The Lands Council works tirelessly to protect and sustain our most cherished woods, waters and wildlife," says Mike Petersen, executive director of the Lands Council.

This Friday, one of the Northwest's most active conservation groups holds its ninth annual Lands Council's dinner and auction. A no-host bar begins at 5:30 pm. For the sit-down dinner, guests can choose from London broil or vegetable Wellington, along with select wines and a tuxedo cake dessert.

Silent and live auction items include an electric guitar signed by members of R.E.M., river trips on the Lochsa and Clark Fork Rivers, week-long vacations in private homes in Cabo San Lucas and Kauai, and art sculptures by Raymond Dahl. Live music by the Strolling Strings provides a classical background for the evening.

Tickets for the Lands Council's dinner and auction, on March 19 at the Ridpath Ballroom, are $40 per person. Call 838-4912.

The following Friday, the second annual Cask & amp; Keg benefits the Spokane Valley Firefighters Association. This fund-raiser features wine and beer tasting from well-known Northwest wineries and microbreweries. Percy's Caf & eacute; Americana will provide the scrumptious hors d'oeuvres to complement the beverages being sampled.

Cask & amp; Keg also features a silent auction with unusual items as well as a wine store.

The March 26 benefit begins at 6:30 pm at Decades, 10510 E. Sprague. Tickets are $30 per person. Call 536-3262.

Publication date: 03/17/04

Vaccination Happy Hour @ Spokane Arena

Wed., June 16, 5-7 p.m.
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