Offbeat Date Ideas

I am thrilled to be part of the All-American City of Spokane, located in the heart of the inland northwest. It is not as well-known as Seattle, which has a larger population, but it is a close second. This means there is a lot to do and a wonderful lifestyle to enjoy. I have dedicated my blog to this town. We have a river between the two sides of the city and the extraordinary Riverfront Park in the downtown area. Residents love to live outdoors and most everyone partakes of skiing, white-water rafting, hiking, camping, boating, or visiting the Centennial trail.

You can see that I am proud of my hometown. It is home to so many community events that I can’t name them all in this short amount of space. We have festivals and assorted gatherings and visitors often attend the Lilac Bloomsday Run, a timed road race of great note. Let’s not forget the Hoopfest, a major three-on-three basketball tournament, as you might have guessed. Now that I have given you a brief introduction, I hope you will stay with me to learn more about this stellar city.

I was at my foot spa the other night, having gone after work to refresh a bit from a weary day. My feet were killing me and I couldn‘t wait to get there. I ran into a friend who has the same passion I do for a vigorous rubdown of my sore feet. I hope this is not too strange for some of you. Try it sometime and you will be an easy convert. Meanwhile, this friend and I got to talking about food and she mentioned that her uncle just opened a new truck in the heart of town. It was within walking distance and we vowed to make the short trek after we both were finished with our masseurs. It was a unique type of cuisine so I have to mention it. If you love barbecue, this “chef” will make you smile. He has a secret sauce that outshines all others and he offers ribs, chicken, or fish. Barbecued seafood is new to me and I found it to be his best entrée. I ate until I was stuffed, said goodbye to my friend, and promised a reprise of this evening’s activities the next time we met at Higher Massage.

You don’t have to be rich to enjoy a fun night out in Spokane. We know how to enjoy ourselves. Recently, my recommended date to a friend was a dinner and movie; but the dinner was anything but standard. If you are an aficionado of food trucks, you would know about our great lineup of choices. I am so enamored with these exotic food venues that whether I am going to an art gallery opening, a visit to the spa for my weekly foot massage, or a concert, I pair it was a different food truck. Once I have gone through the entire list, I start over because each truck has an extensive menu.

Prep Like a Pro

I don’t profess to know everything about cooking, but I have been at it a long time. If experience counts, I have much to tell. First and foremost, I believe in a well-stocked pantry so you can pull a jar or can out in a pinch if the fridge is empty. Most chefs have sauces of every type to spice up any dish without the need to go to the supermarket. What if you like to cook in the middle of the night and experiment with what is on hand? You get up with sudden inspiration. A full pantry will give you the opportunity to experiment.

Mine contains more than sauce. There are six or more varieties of pasta from rigatoni and spaghetti to elbow macaroni and corkscrew shapes. Using the right one makes a dish extra perfect. Meanwhile, I have all the spices in the world. A basic kitchen will house at least ten: oregano, rosemary, thyme, cinnamon, nutmeg, coriander, cumin, all spice, powdered garlic and parsley flakes. Of course powdered mustard and paprika should also sit on the shelf in the company of onion and anise. The more, the better. Remember that some things come in a tube these days.

I am not done. The pantry contains shortcuts like cans of tomato sauce, tomato paste, and whole and/or chopped tomatoes. Soup in packets or cans is plentiful for emergencies and also as the basis of a quick at-home sauce. I line up like items together to make it easy to see what I need at the moment and what I need to restock.

Now that I have covered pantry supplies, it is time to mention another principle that lets you cook like a pro. Doing your prep work beforehand makes it easy to look like a restaurant chef. Here, quality—and I mean expensive—knives are a must or you might as well pack it in. Over time, you will learn to chop with the best of us. Keep produce fresh in the fridge until ready to use. Plastic bags are a godsend; I keep dozens on hand in the afore-mentioned pantry. Everything is visible and in good order. Be sure to wash your fruits and vegetables in the sink. A good Kohler faucet, like the ones at https://www.kitchenfaucetdepot.net/kohler-faucet-brand-review/, helps as the new models are adjustable and flexible. You can turn them this way and that, handy if you have a double sink. The spray can be controlled with the state-of-the art nozzle. Choose the length of neck that best fits your sink. Kohler has a multitude of options. My last piece of advice is never let the pots and pans pile up in the sink. Your Kohler will work overtime and handle it, but the mess is unsightly and eliminates progressive rinsing as you work. Plus you won’t be able to access the garbage disposal.

I hope I have helped you think about kitchen organization. It should get you in the mood to start an exciting and appetizing new dish.

Pub Quality Taste at Home

Party tips are coming your way. I promised them in this blog and today I will help you learn to entertain friends or family at home with a kegerator. I have found this form of serving beer to be novel and fun; all the guest love to serve themselves. Plus, you can change out the brand you serve and even include specialty home brew.

Let’s start the lesson with the necessities for a basic bar. If you don’t have a wine cooler or beer fridge, it doesn’t matter. You can put a small under-the-counter unit in most confined spaces. Get what is called an “apartment size.” Stock it with lemons and limes along with your favorite beverages. A wine rack that holds a dozen bottles can sit on the counter next to your bar sink. If you have a drawer for tools so much the better. Otherwise you can improvise with a small basket that matches your décor. Among the tools should be a sharp paring knife, lemon zester, corkscrew and beer can opener at the very least. A few towels will help keep things neat.

I love a display shelf on an adjacent wall for beer glasses, wine goblets and assorted barware for mixed drinks. It looks nice although you need to pop them in the dishwasher from time to time. They are what my mother calls “dust catchers.” No matter. When guests arrive, they are within easy reach. I like to serve beer so it keeps things simple. All I need is the one mini kegerator, which I bought from https://www.crackacoldone.net/best-mini-kegerators/, and some quality suds. Occasionally I will go the distance and get out the scotch, gin and vodka. If this is your style, keep club soda on hand and some orange juice to make a Tom Collins. Learn to make a wine spritzer for hot summer nights. I love a champagne kir but then you need some blackberry liqueur. I don’t stock all the usual types of liquor as I am not a restaurant. Ha! I feel like it sometimes when I give parties. Meanwhile, I like to give someone the beverage of their choice among the most basic.

When the kegerator is visible, people flock to it to see how it works. They know the contents will be the best. Otherwise there is no point. I happen to have a double faucet version so people can do a taste test and make their selection. The party revolves around the unit and beer aficionados are more than content. I think I might have converted a few people to regular beer drinking as a result of my kegerator parties. If your friends are one dimensional, you probably don’t need a full bar at all. If you want to give it a go, buy your supplies at a discount store, knowing they will last a long time. Liquor doesn’t “go bad.” If people know you can make mixed drinks, they will ask for their favorite or even show you how.

When Your Clothes Smell Like Your Dinner

There is a lot about cooking I like; and there is one thing I don’t. Have you ever spent an afternoon preparing dinner only to find that your clothes smell even the next day? Who wants to wash them or take them to the dry cleaners (expensive!) every time you make a meal? This is the strangest side effect of my favorite pastime. So how do you remove smoke smell from clothes and make sure there is No More Smoke Smell? Do you know any good tips or tricks?

Another way that your dinner remains in your clothing, oddly enough, is when you dine out at a barbecue restaurant that uses meat smokers. Even hibachi style places generate a lot of smoke. The residue lasts for hours. I hate to avoid my favorite spots just because of a little telltale odor. I just don’t want to think about the consequences every time I go out. It totally spoils all the fun.

It is time to take matters into my own hands when it comes to cleaning or washing. Smoke is like dirt; it isn’t permanent (as a rule) and it comes out in due time. I suppose that airing everything out on the patio is a good way to start to reduce some of the smell before dumping it all into the washing machine. I tried deodorizing spray, but it leaves its own sweet odor in place of the original cigarette or cooking smoke. It is a good temporary fix that lasts a few hours. There is nothing like a good machine washing with a few drops of lemon or eucalyptus oil. You can also put one of those store-bought sheets in the dryer for a nice fresh scent. The drycleaners also know just what to do. At first, I thought I would only wear ugly, old clothes to my barbecue places; but I now know that this isn’t necessary. They must be machine washable—the only criterion.

People tell me that they can’t get smells out of wool. When they walk around in public, they know they reek. Someone inevitably complains when they board a bus. I think they are not giving it any real effort. Don’t they know you can buy “smoke exterminator” online. Clorox makes an odor defense spray—love the name! Fight it with all your might! One friend told me that he has an air purifier at home and places any smelly items in the same room. It works very well. He likes to wash them anyway just to be sure. You get used to the smell and don’t realize that a bit of an odor remains.

Most people deal with cigarette smoke obtained second hand from closed-in places. You never think about what gets into fabric or your hair in a restaurant, and I mean a non-smoking one. Now you are alerted to the possibility and know just what to do!

Good Fun for the Whole Family

Are you looking for a new kind of fun? Do you need a novelty to lure the kids in your life away from their video games and cell phones? Is date night looming and you want to surprise your girlfriend or wife? I have the answer. Here is what I do. I love a trampoline. You can find them at specialty recreation places and the gym. Now, I wouldn’t go there for a special day or night out, but you can practice a bit and show off. Ha! If you can manage a few knee tucks, half or full twists, seat landings, straddles, flips and somersaults, or pikes, you will wow the crowd, not to mention your date or family. Get on board with the latest craze and have fun or workout. Play some music for an extra boost. I find that I jump higher when it is to a great beat.

If kids or grandkids are involved, I look for a nearby festival or theme park that has a moon bounce or other trampoline variation. There is usually a variety of entertainment for young ones who get bored. They gravitate to food trucks, crafts demonstrations, and live music venues. With my flock, it is always back to the trampoline for more. They need a break, sure, but they never get tired of the buoyancy. Who does love being high off the ground? You feel like you are flying and free as a bird. When it comes to wholesome fun for everyone, a trampoline is the way to go. You just need to make sure to find the right trampoline brand for that matches your needs and budget. I have tons of photos on Instagram and Facebook to prove it.

You can plan a birthday party for kids around the device. I create games and competitions so I can give out prizes: the best and highest jump, the most “advanced” trick, the coolest double jump, and the longest sequential bouncing. You can think up anything on your own. The prizes don’t have to be a big deal, just something the kids want like candy or a game. I let my kids wear costumes and masks on these special occasions to maximize the fun.

Jumping on a trampoline means taking a turn unless the amusement park has more than one. It doesn’t matter the size, from mini to regulation. Kids don’t need a lot of space. The good news is that these parks have spotters for extra safety. The equipment is always in top shape so accidents almost never happen. Parents never need to worry as they do on the scary roller coaster rides. The kids love the atmosphere of the bustling park. They prefer it in my family to miniature golf, a movie, or a day at the beach. Give them a trampoline and they are off and bouncing their little hearts out. In fact, they are so overjoyed that I want to gift them a home size trampoline in the near future. They can’t seem to get enough!

What Makes a Great Outdoor Spot to Eat?

You say food, I listen. Let’s talk about what you love to eat. I will share my own joys in the realm of sizzlin’ cuisine. This means fun food that everyone loves because it is inexpensive, tasty, readily available (in Spokane) and out of this world. Foodies unite! Let’s keep our palates busy. While Washington is known for starting major coffee chains that have spread far and wide, it is also a bastion of great food and drink. We have a plethora of restaurants and we love to eat out. If you are a visitor looking at a guide book, you will see Clover, Frank’s Diner, Milford’s Fish House, and Mizuna—selections in different price ranges. I would include Clinkerdagger, just for the name, and Wild Sage American Bistro. Sante Restaurant is also on everyone’s list. Meanwhile, I am looking to share the best outdoor eateries with my blog readers today.

If you want to know what I look for, it is above all the menu. It must be varied with dishes made to perfection. It should be in a good, easy-to-reach location and offer comfortable seating and some nice scenery. I enjoy places with nature views as much as the street scene. If it has wobbly tables, it gets one strike. If the waiters are snotty, it gets another. It must have music. I expect outdoor speakers (wireless of course) to transmit just the right tunes for the spot, but that’s only one of the real benefits of owning them. The rest you can find here: https://www.outdoorlightandsound.com/key-benefits-outdoor-speaker-systems/. It can be too loud or intrusive. The nice feature of such systems is that they are adjustable. You can move them about as they are portable, and you can control the sound quality and volume. In the long run, it is all about the food, but ambience says a lot.

The Flying Goat has a lovely outdoor patio with a fire pit. It is cozy in the winter and refreshing in the spring and summer. Strategically placed umbrellas populate the area for protection from sudden showers—we do get them up here. The restaurant gets very high ratings and reviews due to the combination of fabulous fare and the environment. Customers rave about the “great place and staff.” The atmosphere always gets mentioned. As yet, I haven’t seen any comments on the music, the fact that it isn’t live and comes from speakers. No matter, I will be the first.

If you like specialty beers locally brewed, this is the hot spot for locals. It can get crowded on certain nights, which to me only adds to the fun. Plus, the curry chicken pizza is to die for—the best in Spokane. I love trendy places that appeal to people of all ages. The Flying Goat is relaxed and casual and the perfect place for a date or group party. My friends sum it up nicely: “great staff and awesome food.” What more do I want: eating outdoors!

Eat Fresh: Go to a Farmer’s Market

You probably hear it all the time: you need to get (or stay) healthy, it’s one of the best things you can do for yourself, etc. Sometimes when you enjoy food it can be hard – not to say we all eat too much, just that some of the best tasting foods are not necessarily the best things for you, health wise.

But there are plenty of ways to make food that’s healthy for you taste amazing, too! And the best way you can do that is the same way the top restaurants around the country: by using the freshest ingredients possible.

Many chefs work hard to cultivate beneficial relationships with farmers in order to get the best meats, produce, vegetables, and other items to stock their fridges and pantries. What about the rest of us, who don’t have the backing of a fancy kitchen and large orders behind us?

Relax! Spokane has an amazing farmer’s market with over 25 regular vendors. Located in downtown Spokane, the market runs Wednesdays and Saturdays from May through October. If those times don’t work for you, there are plenty of others! There’s the Fairwood Farmers’ Market on Tuesday afternoons; the Kendall Night Market, also on Wednesdays but open later; The Thursday Market in the South Perry District; then on Friday afternoons, you’ve got Emerson Garfield Farmer’s Market. Liberty Lake operates on Saturdays. There are plenty more, too, you just have to look online or in your neighborhood and you’re bound to find one.

Before you run off to the next farmer’s market, here are some tips to be sure you come home with a good haul:

First things first, before you go, look online and see what types of vendors will be there. If you’re looking for certified organic fruits and vegetables, you can check in advance to see if there will be any organic farmers attending. If you’re looking for meat or flowers, check availability beforehand and you’ll be sure not to leave empty handed.

Next, be flexible. You might want a specific type of apple only to find out it isn’t in season anymore. Talk to the farmers and explain what you’re looking for. There might be a substitute they can offer. And if you enjoyed what you purchased, remember to let the grower know when you go back!

Also, don’t be afraid to buy in bulk. There are plenty of options to make your farmer’s market items last: think about freezing, canning, or drying items so that you can enjoy your purchases long after the growing season is over. Another great idea is to bring family and friends along so that you can purchase items that you all need together—you can get a bulk purchase price but without the actual bulk after dividing it among yourselves.

Lastly, don’t expect everyone to have a credit card option. Some do and some don’t, because using credit cards often cuts into their already thin profit margin. Bring some cash with you. The vendors will appreciate it!

Late spring through early fall is a great time to be out and about in Spokane. Take a few nice days to explore a farmers’ market and your next home cooked meal will be both fabulous and healthy.

Dine Around Sandpoint

Just 75 miles outside of Spokane is a town called Sandpoint, Idaho. You may never have heard of this particular place, as there’s only about 7,000 people there. However, if you’re a foodie, you really should find the time to visit. What it lacks in population, it more than makes up for in eateries!

They have an amazing celebration called Dine Around Sandpoint.It is a fun and festive event for foodies that encourages people to eat at various places around town. Each time you go to a participating restaurant during the month surrounding their Winter Carnival, you will receive a ticket. The ticket serves as your entry into a prize drawing; depending on the year and the restaurant, you can get some great things as prizes – sometimes you may win bottles of wine, sometimes a gift certificate. However, the grand prize is really worth the effort: one meal a month free for a year for you and a guest. The more participating restaurants you eat at, the more you increase your chances of winning a prize. Talk about a food lover’s dream!

The menu at participating restaurants is often prix fix and contains multiple courses, so you’ll get your money’s worth every time you dine. There were over 30 different vendors participating last year, so if it continues at the same pace, you will be thankful that you have an entire month to dine your way around Sandpoint! Even then, you will have to put in some serious effort to hit every place on the list!

For place much smaller than Spokane, Sandpoint has a surprising variety of eateries, and many of them partake in this great event. This is great news, because it means there are a lot of different options for you to choose from. There’s steakhouses, Mexican restaurants, Thai cuisine, American eateries, bistros, cafes, breweries, pizzerias, sushi restaurants, and more. If you aren’t up for a full meal, there are also coffee shops and bakeries to pick from. In other words, you’re bound to find whatever you’re hungry for. They even did a Carnival Beerfest and Bar Crawl last year.

This unique concept started in 2008 to get people out and eating around town (hence the name) at a time of year that people weren’t really going out as well as a great way to promote the Winter Carnival. This contest has really promoted the local cuisine and has gotten people from places nearby (like us over in Spokane!) out to eat in places we might not have attempted otherwise. That’s good news for the town, the local economy, and for us foodies!

We really hope that this is an event that will continue for years to come and that other places develop their own, similar programs. It’s a smart way to support local restaurants and get people involved in their community. The next time the Winter Carnival rolls around, you should make the trip out to Sandpoint to taste some of what it has to offer. Who knows, you might even win a prize!

How to Find Food Trucks in Spokane

Some of the best chefs around aren’t cooking in restaurant kitchens for other people anymore. Instead, they’re taking matters into their own hands, traveling the city and serving food from their own mobile kitchens. That’s right, we’re talking about food trucks! If you haven’t tried a food truck lately, we’re going to revoke your invisible foodie card. You’ll find some of the most interesting, innovative cuisine that Spokane has to offer and some great local chefs who might never have had the opportunity to shine in a more traditional kitchen.

But, because food trucks are so, well, mobile, it can be difficult to find what you’re looking for. It certainly isn’t the same as making a reservation at your favorite place, driving over and getting your favorite table. Let’s think about this realistically for a moment: where do you find anything anymore? The internet, of course! Don’t worry, we’ve got advice for those of you who are looking for something specific as well as those of you who are food truck novices.

If you’ve already tried a specific food truck and fell in love with the cuisine, the best for you to start your quest is by looking on social media—a successful truck will often post where they will be so their fans can come and get their fix. Check Facebook, of course, but also check places like Instagram. Even if the food truck’s social page hasn’t updated with location info, people may use the name in a hashtag and that can let you know where to go.

What if you’re talking to your friends and you’re ready for a culinary adventure? Lucky for you, you don’t have to go crazy driving around and wasting gas in the hopes of catching sight of a truck to stop at! Check the website or social media feed for the Greater Spokane Food Truck Association. There’s over 25 different trucks on there, everything from soups to BBQ to Tacos to desserts. Not only can you find each truck’s hours and schedule, you can even get contact information and see sample menus.Even better, you can use them to cater your next event. How great is that? Yelp also has a great list if you search for food trucks in the area.

If you want to hit up a bunch of food trucks at once, never fear! There are lots of food truck events around the city for you to go to. Check out the list on Eventbrite for what’s coming up so you can be sure to be there. There’s cool stuff like Restaurant Wars II and Grubbin’ that cater specifically to the food truck aficionado, butyou’ll also find food trucks are the food service of choice at many popular public events around the city.

Great food is all around you! The next time you’re at a festival or walking around your neighborhood and you see a food truck, stop and give it a try. You never know, you might have just found your new favorite chef!

Great Local Dining

Dining out is such a treat, isn’t it? From exploring new flavors and cuisines to ordering the usual while sitting at your favorite table, living in a foodie town like Spokane can be an amazing experience. Everyone has their preferred haunts, of course. But if you’re looking for somewhere to eat, here are some of our favorite places:

For breakfast and brunch, try The Kalico Kitchen. While the food is inexpensive, it is still of great quality and the service is definitely good. The selection is great, especially when you’re with picky eaters, those who never order the same thing twice, or a large group.

When you’re looking for a good lunch with some interesting atmosphere, the Safari Room Fresh Grill and Bar is an exceptional choice. Part of the Davenport Tower, their lunch menu in particular is impressive. We love the Lemon Basil Chicken Salad as well as the Kentucky Hot Brown Sandwich.

If you’re up for some amazing pizza, please try The Flying Goat. They’ve got some of the most delicious and creative pizzas in town. Our favorite is the Dalton, which has BBQ sauce, pulled pork, onions, and coleslaw. They also have a great selection of beer and wine. Because beer and wine go great with artisanal pizza!

Speaking of beer and wine, a great place to go for pub food is the Rusty Moose Bar and Grill. While you can get a regular burger, the Moose also serves venison, elk, and bison, too. Just remember to save room for dessert, as their after-meal offerings are amazing. Smores for the table or a Lodge Mud Pie, anyone?

If you’re looking for delicious seafood, Clinkerdagger is a great place to visit. Between the food, the lovely décor of the restaurant, and the beautiful Spokane River views, this place is a sure winner. If you can’t decide between the seafood and the steaks, try the Rock Salt Roasted Prime Rib & Grilled Salmon, the best of both worlds!

Our favorite date night restaurant is Scratch, located in the Davenport district. The lobster mac and cheese is phenomenal, and so is their Osso Bucco. The food is great, made and prepared fresh, and the atmosphere is upscale without being pretentious. It might not be everyone’s first pick for a romantic meal, but that’s because they’ve probably never had the seafood trio!

The best all-around place to go, day or night, is probably Frank’s Diner. It’s busy, and certainly not the largest place to eat (it’s literally a train car). While you can argue that it’s diner food, it has high-quality ingredients and is skillfully prepared. Most of the menu items have been locally sourced, which elevates Frank’s above other casual diners in the area. It’s hard to pick just one item off their menu that we love!

So these are some of the places that we like to go. Tell us in the comments where you like to eat and what’s great to order there. This way we can create a restaurant guide for all of us to experience new places and try different menu items!

The Chinese Lantern Festival

Spokane’s Chinese Lantern Festival is amazing for so many reasons: the acrobatic and martial art performances are incredible, the rides and lantern painting are a blast for the kids, while the fantastic cultural displays and the art are truly fantastic. And who could forget the jaw-dropping lanterns! These handcrafted creations will truly take your breath away. For six amazing weeks, Spokane’s Riverfront Park is transformed into a mecca of Chinese culture, with performances and new experiences offered daily.

Butof course our favorite part of the Chinese Lantern Festival is the food! Inside the park, you’ll find some great, authentic Asian cuisine as well as American standards. There are food trucks, representations from local restaurants, coffee, and even a beer garden! What’s not to like about that?

You’re probably wondering why this particular festival caught our attention, as food is probably not the first thing you think of when you picture a Chinese Lantern Festival (and if you’ve seen some of these lanterns, you might forget about food entirely. That’s a pretty big compliment coming from us). Back in its inaugural year, 2015, they had a James-Beard nominated chef, Jeremy Hansen (the owner and executive chef of Santé, located right here in Spokane), recreating various culinary traditions every week for festivalgoers. It was pretty impressive, and it kept us coming back for more.

Every year the lanterns are different, and that isn’t just because the first year most of the lanterns were destroyed in an awful windstorm toward the end of the festival.It makes it worth the price of admission for those of us who look forward to the event every year and plan to make it part of our annual routine. The festival organizers try to make each year bigger and more impressive than the last, and so far they are succeeding. Another great thing about the festival is that they listened to people last year and lowered the price of tickets. All the more reason to attend!

The lanterns truly are spectacular, and you’ll enjoy them even more on a full stomach of delicious food. This is definitely a must-see event, even for those who don’t live in the city. If you are interested in attending the Chinese Lantern Festival at some point, note that it traditionally runs from the end of September through early November. And, for those of you who have never been to Spokane before, or who haven’t set foodin the Pacific Northwest in general, be prepared. The festival is completely outdoors and it goes on no matter the weather—rain, snow, or shine! Plan accordingly, and don’t say we didn’t warn you!