Sunday, May 11, 2008

Random Bits: Bread Crumbs

Local biz diva Nils Rosdahl has come through again with the juicy scoop about what's going down at 4th and Appleway in the empty lot that used to house the burned-down 7-11 complex. Panda Express will be opening their 2nd Coeur d'Alene outlet at the busy intersection, which means that if you're a drive-thru person like me, your take-out will still actually be semi-hot by the time you get it home. Not that it was such an agonizing stretch to drive the extra 5 miles to the other location, but hey, gas ain't cheap these days. To be honest, the last few times I've eaten there, I've felt pretty yucky afterwards - the new Beijing beef made my tummy just about explode. At Panda Express, the trick is to find your safety zone and stick with it - for me it's the Orange Chicken, steamed rice and veggie bowl. Cheap, satisfying, and now just up the street.

Woah, I think I might have outscooped even Nils on this news. There's a kind, older gentlemen who periodically shows up at the place I go for Karaoke and brings the house down with his spot-on, fabulous Frank Sinatra songs. He usually appears long enough to sing two songs, then disappears. I've always known him as Larry, but one of my spies told me the other night that he is actually in the process of having his name legally changed to Frank Sinatra. Whether that's true or not I dunno, but what I CAN confirm is that he has purchased the ill-fated Mike's CDA Cafe building (the original Topper for you old timers) at 18th & Sherman and is transforming it into "Sinatra's", an Italian place with a full blown Frank Sinatra theme.

Look for lots of memorabilia from the original era of ol' blue eyes and nothing but Sinatra on the stereo. I haven't heard an opening date, and when I drove by to peek the place looked like it still needed quite a lot of work, but he's already put a listing in the yellow pages online, so hopefully soon. Seems like Italian is taking over Mexican as the region's most overdone restaurant genre, but I have a feeling this place will be quite unique.

I'm kind of getting a little excited for Le Piastre, the French/Italian bistro which opens May 16th in the former Cafe Doma spot on 5th & Sherman. Owner/Brix Chef Adam Hegsted has spent plenty of time pimping the concept of Cd'A's first "tapas style" restaurant to the press, so let's hope it lives up to the hype. The idea is that you can order several small, reasonably priced plates in order to sample a few different dishes in one go. There's already an attractive Le Piastre website up with it's full menu listed in all it's pretentiously gourmet glory. Depending on your palate, these possibilities will either make your mouth water or confuse you slightly and make you head up the street to Zip's instead:

*Yukon Potato Hash with Fried Oyster and Poached Egg
*Chorizo and Green Olive Omelet with Manchego
*Salmon Gravlax with Crustini, Onion Jam and Sweet Butter
*Ricotta Gnocchi with Grapefruit Tears and Fried Crab
*Beer Steamed Mussels with Crispy Potatoes and Roast Garlic Milk
*Charred Octopus and Chorizo Salad

There are dozens of these odd little dishes, as well as more standard fare such as cheese plates, traditional breakfasts, and homemade juices including Kumquat, Vanilla, and Basil. I'm looking forward to experiencing some of the more unusual flavors they have to offer - naturally, expect a full get Out review soon.

Other tasty tidbits:

* Rockin' Robin Restaurant came under new ownership not long ago and not much has changed except for the fact that for the first time in the much-beloved Government Way greasy spoon's history, they are now open past 2 p.m. In fact, they have an entirely new dinner menu and are now open 7 days a week until 9 p.m., so if you can't live without Cd'A's most perfect chicken fried steak, home-style meat loaf, or the sassy waitresses with 80's flair, you now have all afternoon and evening to get your fix.

*I used to spend every other summer in California and one really cool thing we used to do down there was go to these massively huge outdoor flea markets, where you could get anything, literally ANYTHING you could dream up for very little cash. I've never seen any flea markets in the Northwest anywhere near the same scale, but we do have the Sagle Swap Meet, just south of Sandpoint on US95, which opened for the 2008 season last weekend. I've certainly found bargains and oddities there that have made it worth the trek: piles of $1 used CD's, stacks of kitschy old home interior magazines from the '60's, an autographed photo of David Bowie (truth!). If you can bear to sift through a lot of garbage and learn to ignore the "old man booths" (mysterious rusty tool parts and outdated electronics), you'll find some treasures you just have to drag home with you.

*A Nickel's Worth ad for "Poochies World Famous Hot Dogs" on Seltice Way next to Polaris in Post Falls led my work pal Kim and I to check the place out on our lunch break, only to discover it was still yet to open, despite the promoted opening date of May 1. Rats! Get it together, Poochie kids, we work just a few blocks down the street from you and are hoping to become regulars, provided that your food is as good as you say and that you ever actually open for business.

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