Appetizers are to dinner what aperitifs are to wine: a little something before the main event. But can’t they be a meal on their own? Deciding if the dining adventure is ideal for an hors d’oeuvres-centric meal depends on the restaurant. Rest assured this appetizer-only dining trend is happening at local eateries everywhere, and with few exceptions, the restaurants are ready for you. It’s true that the original purpose of the appetizer was to tide one by until dinner, but many of today’s starters are stealing the show. Opting to order two or more appetizers allows the diner to be indecisive. Go ahead, get a little of this and some of that instead of committing to a single entrée. Most restaurants recognize the appeal of the small plate and have responded with delectable offerings from the simple to simply extravagant. Diners confess to being quite fond of chatting with friends over drinks and ordering an array of appetizers to share. The following is a regional culinary to-do list to discover the art of the appetizer, complete with suggested libations.
144 South Cannon Street, Spokane, WA
We can’t give enough praise to this regionally inspired Italian restaurant that’s tucked in the historic Browne's Addition neighborhood. Co-owners and dynamic duo Chef Anna Vogel and General Manager Bethe Bowman have worked at notable restaurants on both sides of the state. They’ve taken the best of those experiences and added their own ideas, making this thoughtful restaurant a sure thing for diners. Taste the passion in the house-made pastas and desserts. Enjoy the sustainable fresh fish and produce, and naturally raised meats. Begin your culinary adventure with the Prosciutto di Parma, prosciuttoenhanced with balsamic figs, house-made mozzarella, basil, and fig syrup. Pair this flavorful appetizer with a classic Manhattan, or better yet, Italia’s own Figgy Manhattan. You’ll definitely be back to this alluring and charming eatery.
Anthony’s at Spokane Falls
510 North Lincoln, Spokane, WA
Anthony’s is a family of unique restaurants sprinkled throughout the Pacific Northwest. On the corner of Spokane’s iconic Riverfront Park, overlooking the river and upper falls, is where you’ll find Anthony’s at Spokane Falls. The menu features fresh Northwest seafood and produce, and there’s an unparalleled view of the river cascading over Spokane Falls. The view provides an awe-inspiring backdrop for the dining experience. Due to restaurant’s prime location, they’re famous for their weekday prix fixe four-course “Sunset Dinners.” The appetizer menu features many fresh-catch selections, but try the Hawaiian Ahi Nachos. This dish features traditional Hawaiian poke served on house-made taro chips with wasabi aioli. Pair this with a fresh Mojito, the classic cocktail from Cuba that is packed with fresh mint, lime juice and rum, and topped with club soda. This pairing is perfection, and it comes with a view.
Waddell’s Pub and Grill
4318 South Regal Street, Spokane, WA
This neighborhood pub atop the South Hill is named after Rube Waddell, a Hall of Fame southpaw pitcher with a wicked fastball and a serious hard curve. At Waddell’s Pub and Grill, they’re serious about Beer.
They’re consistently rotating more than 80 percent of their 50-tap-handle lineup. And then there’s the food. This is pub food done right. There are plenty of great, mostly hearty selections, but try the generous starter of Jeanne’s Sweet Potato Fries. They are seasoned with Waddell’s famous Rube's Squirrelly Seasoning and house-made dipping sauce. Brown ale is an ideal pairing and more specifically, Rogue Hazelnut, a brown ale with hazelnut added for richness. Both the fries and the beer have sweetness on the end, which the beer brings out. Good news: you can purchase Rube’s Squirrelly Seasoning at Waddell’s and shake it on your home cooking.
Northern Quest Resort & Casino
100 North Hayford Rd., Airway Heights, WA
The slots might prove unlucky for you, but your taste buds will always be lucky at this fine dining establishment located inside the Northern Quest Resort & Casino. Executive Chef Bob Rogers, Chef Tanya Broesder and Sommelier Eric Cook form a powerful team that insures diners a big win. Masselow’s menu features tribally inspired dishes and an array of regional wines. The tribal culture is infused into the dining experience, right down to being greeted in Salish, the indigenous language of the region. Masselow’s is famous for steak, so we suggest the starter Carpaccio of Prime Tenderloin. This appetizer is perfectly prepared with virgin olive oil, cracked pepper and caper-berries. The restaurant’s wine cellar has more than 600 bottles to choose from, and there’s a talented sommelier to guide you. With red meat, you can’t go wrong with a Washington Cabernet Sauvignon or a Malbec. Try Nelm’s Road Malbec, a big wine with texture. In Washington State, the Malbec grape has become increasingly popular and is now giving the Cabernet Sauvignon grape a run for its money.
MAX at Mirabeau
Mirabeau Park Hotel
1100 North Sullivan, Spokane Valley, WA
Nestled in Spokane Valley’s Mirabeau Park Hotel & Convention Center is a swanky modern restaurant and luxurious lounge simply referred to as MAX. We highly recommend you get to know MAX. An appetizer is like a first impression, and MAX makes a good one. Although the skilled culinary team offers more than a few options, the Oyster Shooter Trio is a standout: hand-shucked oysters with pepper-infused gin, pickled beet and horseradish. This appetizer is sensational, but pairing it with the proper drink makes it even more wonderful. A surefire match is bubbly, but we prefer MAX’s perfect gin martini. You can cap off the workweek at Martini Fridays, or the live music and dancing on Friday and Saturday nights make for a perfect date night.
309 Lakeside Avenue, Coeur d’Alene, ID
It doesn’t have to be old to be a classic. Uva Italian is relatively new but the recipes are vintage. This family-owned, family-run restaurant uses inherited recipes gently passed down from generation to generation. Chef Steve depends on the freshest ingredients and when available they are organic and locally sourced. These thoughtfully chosen ingredients are essential for their made-from-scratch recipes.
The house made bruschetta is made with Roma tomatoes, garlic and basil. It is served on crostini and drizzled with a balsamic glaze and shaved Parmesan. It’s remarkable. Why not go all Italian by pairing it with the iconic Italian red wine, Chianti? Of course, like any Italian restaurant, Uva has several Chiantis to choose from. Pair the classic bruschetta with Viotollo Chianti, available by the glass or bottle. Its balanced acidity, fresh fruit notes and smooth finish complement the bruschetta. Bravo, continua così!
Corkhouse Kitchen & Bar
1400 North Meadowwood Lane, Liberty Lake, WA
At the Corkhouse Kitchen and Bar, located in Liberty Lake, you get a trifecta of a restaurant, wine bar and coffee house. Patrons enjoy locally sourced ingredients crafted into unique versions of their favorite foods, made daily from scratch. Try the Graham Cracker Calamari: squid coated in graham crackers and fried with goat-horn peppers, served with arugula and lemon aioli. Pair this flavorful appetizer with the refreshing taste of a Cucumber Gimlet. This classic cocktail is comprised of botanical-infused Uncle Val’s Gin, muddled cucumber, lime and simple syrup. The bar/coffeehouse is an intimate gathering place with local musicians adding to the experience. Guests feel right at home next to the stone fireplace, or during the warmer months, on the lovely patio.
Fleur de Sel
Highlands Day Spa
4365 Inverness Drive, Post Falls, ID
It’s no surprise that Chef Laurent Zirotti specializes in French Bistro cooking and Northern Italian dishes. Zirotti was raised in France and influenced in the kitchen by a French mother and Italian grandmother. At just 15 years of age he begun a three-year program at Thonon-les-Bains, a prestigious hotel and catering school in the French Alps. After a deliciousinternational career at notable restaurants and a ten-year stint at a Mediterranean bistro in Billings, Montana, Laurent and his wife Patricia took on a new adventure by opening Fleur de Sel at the Highlands Day Spa in Post Falls, Idaho.
The restaurant focuses on fresh local produce and regional bistro French cooking, as well as Northern Italian dishes. We like that their appetizers are listed on the menu as shared plates. Go international with the Foie Gras Panna Cotta, described as “la belle farm” foie gras, brown-glazed turnip jam, sesame savory tuiles and black truffles. We adore the idea of adding a French bubbly to this extravagant starter. You can’t go wrong with the Dom Pérignon, but a more affordable and still brilliant champagne choice is the N.V. Bolinger, Cuvée Spéciale, Brut. Merci beaucoup, Laurent!
Seasons of Coeur d’Alene
Fresh Grill Bar
209 Lakeside Ave, Coeur d’Alene, ID
With an imitate dining room, vibrant bar and romantic fireplace lounge, Seasons of Coeur d’Alene has quickly become a destination in North Idaho. Executive Chef Scott Miller is classically trained. He has an impressive résumé and a passion for food. Miller believes the best dishes come together when love, simple ingredients and the chef’s excitement work in harmony. When those three elements are present, the passion will shine through the food. All that and more are apparent in Season’s signature appetizer, Crabby Cakes. This choice may fall in the category of edible art, as this masterpiece is comprised of blue crab, jalapeño corn relish, house-made tartar sauce and a fried basil leaf. This dish is visually stunning, as well as delicious. The delectable Crabby Cakes are offered during Happy Hour and during Ladies Night on Wednesdays. Spokane wines such as Latah Creek Wine Cellar’s Pinot Gris or Nodland Cellars “Bebop” Riesling are great accompaniments that complement the dish without competing with it.
2501 North 4th Street, Coeur d’Alene, ID
Expect an experienced culinary staff that understands the importance of plating. At Satay Bistro, when your dish arrives, it’s almost too pretty to eat. Almost. This restaurant and caterer understands the importance of the hors d’œuvre, but naturally we’re suggesting a satay. You can’t go wrong with food on a stick. Try the Thai Peanut Chicken Satay, perfectly grilled marinated chicken served with a Thai peanut dipping sauce. It’s hard not to suggest wine as a pairing since Satay Bistro has a stellar cellar. However, we think you’ll love pairing the Thai Peanut Chicken Satay with a Sake’tini. Go for the Thai Basil Cu’tini, which is made from Sho Chiku Bai sake, muddled cucumber, Thai basil, fresh squeezed grapefruit and agave nectar. Careful, this place is habit forming.
Trinity at City Beach
58 Bridge Street, Sandpoint, ID
Waterfront views? Check. Live music? Check. Full Bar? Check. Located on the shores of Lake Pend Oreille next to Sandpoint’s popular City Beach, is Trinity. Through its windows, the beach and mountains provide an inspiring lake view. Experience their modern cuisine, and be sure to try the Korean Chicken Wings on the lounge menu. They're crispy fried, then tossed with a house sweet-and-sour Korean glaze, and garnished with sesame seeds and green onions, with a dipping side of sweet soy. Try the Asian flavors with an Oregon Pinot Noir: the relatively light body makes it a good choice for spicy food. A stroll along the beach is recommended before or after your visit to Trinity.
Saffron Mediterranean Kitchen
125 West Alder Street, Walla Walla, WA
Welcome to Saffron Mediterranean Kitchen, a little slice of the Mediterranean in downtown Walla Walla. Tucked in Walla Walla wine country, Saffron reflects the best aspects of food, service and atmosphere. The restaurant is small and intimate, so reservations are strongly recommended. Even if you don’t have a reservation, the wait is worth it because Saffron is a big deal. Highly acclaimed chef-owner Chris Ainsworth’s Chicken Bastilla Moroccan flatbread is a must. This flavorful starter features spiced chicken, almonds, brown butter, yogurt, ras el hanout, cilantro and a poached egg. With regard to pairing, a redZinfandel is a winner with relatively spicy dishes because it complements the complicated spices. Walla Walla is developing quality Zinfandels, including those from Thurston Wolfe and Forgeron Cellars.
Marcus Whitman Hotel
6 West Rose Street
Walla Walla, WA
Nestled inside the historic Marcus Whitman Hotel, The Marc offer fresh flavors to delightfully entice patron’s palates. The Pacific Northwest inspired cuisine has received numerous accolades including being recently named “Restaurant or the Year” by the Washington Wine Commission. The team of remarkable chefs, lead by Executive Chef Scott McLean focus on plating fresh and in season cuisine. Collaborating with local growers, as well as growing their own micro-greens, produce and herbs from their rooftop garden, the kitchen is also known for innovative wine pairings for the Northwest inspired offerings.
Start off with the comfort of their Pacific Northwest Seafood Chowder, made with razor clams, salmon, bacon and Yukon potatoes. This classic dish pairs perfectly with Chardonnay. Try the Marcus Whitman private-label chardonnay.
"I like a cook who smiles out loud when he tastes his own work.”
Robert Farrar Capon
Article by Laurie L Ross. As published in the Essential Guide 2016-2017 edition