Light Touch Garners Kudos For Upstairs, Downtown Chef

A local chef recently nabbed some high-profile publicity.

Karla Graves, chef-owner of Upstairs, Downtown, was mentioned in a national magazine in the same paragraph as the legendary “21” Club in New York City.

In the current issue of Cooking Light, Graves received a pat on the back for her innovative recipes in The Arizona Heart Institute Foundation Cookbook, a compilation of low-fat recipes from cooks around the country published in 1993.

The Cooking Light article said recipes from chefs including Graves and the man in the kitchen at “21” are proof that healthful recipes needn’t be boring.

Graves is flattered by the attention but is taking it in stride. In fact, she hadn’t even seen the article until a customer pointed it out.

One of the recipes Graves contributed to the cookbook - the baked sole roulades - will be featured on her new spring menu.

The spring offerings, which will make their debut the first week in May, will focus on lighter seasonal fare. For starters, she has plans to increase the number of seafood offerings.

Among the new items are a Chilean sea bass baked with tomatoes, garlic and fresh basil served on a red pepper puree and the aforementioned sole dish, which involves wrapping delicate sole filets around a savory mixture of spinach and roasted red peppers seasoned with dill and basil.

Other springtime arrivals include a roasted lemon chicken infused with flavor by tucking herbs in between the skin and the meat, a salmon mousse served over asparagus with a cucumber sauce and a warm duck salad. The new soup will be a curried red lentil garnished with yogurt.

Upstairs, Downtown is located in the Bennett Block on Howard Street between Main and Spokane Falls Boulevard. The phone number is 747-9830.

New menus sprout for spring

The vibrant flavors associated with spring have prompted several restaurants to introduce new menus.

The II Moon Cafe, ever pushing the creative envelope, has debuted a breakfast menu that includes panfried trout. Yes, trout for breakfast. And it’s wonderful.

The boneless, butterflied trout had a nice, mild flavor and was served with eggs, hash browns and toast.

Other new breakfast offerings range from the mile-high omelette - the chef’s take on the Denver with a mixture of sweet yellow, green and red peppers - to the green eggs and ham. It’s eggs Benedict with an attitude, using a green tomatillo sauce instead of Hollandaise.

The II Moon also has introduced a new section of the menu dedicated to people in a hurry. The quick and lite specials include the Northern Exposure (an egg, a pancake, bacon and hash browns) for $2.75, a bowl of tropical fruit served with yogurt and the good old continental.

Seniors will receive a discount from 7 until 9 a.m. weekdays.

The II Moon is located at 300 W. Sprague.

On the South Hill, Luna continues its innovative ways with chef Brett Fontana’s new spring menu.

Highlights include a mango-glazed prawn appetizer, pizzas with marinated cod or carmelized onions, goat cheese, black beans and fresh slaw and 17 new main course offerings.

Among the inspired entree selections are a braised lamb shank, an artichoke-stuffed salmon with red pepper-vegetable sauce, a peppered New York steak served with scalloped potatoes and tuna linguine with green olives, asparagus and capers.

At the Anaconda Grille, my favorite neighborhood bistro, they have started offering a primavera dish with spring veggies, a linguine with fresh Manila clams in a citrus butter sauce, a salmon fettucine with a rich Gorgonzola cheese sauce and a risotto based on a Spanish paella with clams and grilled chicken sausage. The grilled duck with a soy-plum sauce often served as a special has become a regular fixture on the spring menu.

Diners will have to wait to try these new dishes, though. The Anaconda will be closed starting Saturday through April 29 while the owners take a well-deserved vacation.

Following its recent face lift, the Coyote Cafe added a lineup of affordable lunch and dinner specials.

For lunch, several combinations are offered for $4.95 including spinach enchiladas, a beef taco and cheese enchilada plate and a chili con queso beef burrito, which is a flour tortilla stuffed with shredded beef and topped with a chili-cheese sauce.

At dinner, all specials run under $8. They include a marinated chicken breast covered with a chili-cheese sauce, a chicken fajita chimichanga and a combination plate with a fish taco and a spinach enchilada. All meals are served with rice and beans.

A lesson in chardonnay

When it comes to Idaho wine, everybody knows the giant Ste. Chapelle. But few people realize a smaller producer is widely regarded as the best winemaker in the state.

Brad Pintler, owner-vintner of Pintler Cellar, will show off his chardonnay collection during a special dinner next Thursday at Jimmy D’s Wine Cellar in Coeur d’Alene. The winemaker will pour his 1987, ‘88, ‘89, ‘90 and ‘92, as well as a reserve chardonnay in both its finished and unfiltered states. The event is billed as a wine seminar, and, indeed, it will be interesting to taste how these chardonnays have developed over the years.

The wines will be served with a three-course dinner, which includes a smoked salmon Caesar, pestomarinated chicken served over an artichoke and sun-dried tomato pasta and a peach kuchen over a raspberrybrandy sauce.

The dinner is $18, which is a bargain considering the extensive selection of wines. Seating is limited, so call early for reservations at (208) 664-9463.

Jimmy D’s Wine Cellar is located at 313 Sherman in Coeur d’Alene.

Small bites

Congratulations to Taco Time in NorthTown Mall for picking up a prestigious corporate award. It was one of only 20 Taco Times around the country to receive a five-star rating from its parent company.

The selection involves meeting strict quality standards and passing the scrutiny of “mystery shoppers,” who dine anonymously and evaluate the food and performance.

CI Shenanigan’s and El Sol de Mexico have been added to the list of Spokane restaurants that offer twofor-one dinners on the Entertainment card.

A reader called to rave about a new Italian restaurant in Colville, Wash. Cafe Italiano serves a sophisticated lineup of appetizers (asparagus sauteed in butter and garlic), beef, chicken and the usual lineup of pasta dishes, along with a selection of Greek meals, including moussaka and dolmades (stuffed grape leaves).

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