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Culinary Creativity Dished Out At Scc’s Inexpensive Orlando’s

Fri., Jan. 31, 1997

Orlando’s just might be the best-kept restaurant secret in Spokane.

This is a place where you can score incredibly imaginative food - a five-course feast - for $8. Eight measly bucks.

You might not have heard about it because it’s tucked away in the halls of academia at Spokane Community College.

The restaurant is run by advance and graduate students of the college’s culinary arts program. And after a recent visit to the weekly “Presidential” lunch, I would give them an “A” for effort.

A new menu is created each week for this sit-down served in a small, somewhat sterile room that is softened by linen tablecloths and fresh flowers at every table. Classical music played in the background and the lighting was suitably dim for an elegant mid-day repast.

The meal started with a squash mille-feuille, which our smooth server explained was French for a thousand layers. (Though it was really more like a mini-lasagna.) This lovely pasta dish was served on a rich, creamy walnut sauce accented with a slightly sweet red onion confit.

The salad course was a warm pear with greens in a light vinaigrette and that was followed by an intermezzo, which is a fancy way of describing a palate-cleansing course. This was a blackberry tea and it was the only weak link in the lunch. It reminded me of Kool-Aid.

But that impression faded with the arrival of the elegant entree, a seared duck breast, nicely cooked a light shade of pink, accompanied by a savory sausage made from the bird’s leg meat. The duck was complemented with a slightly sweet plum sauce.

Finally, dessert was a real Northwest version of a Napoleon. Feather light, crispy pastry was layered with a cinnamony sweet apple filling.

And to top it all off, the coffee service was a treat. In addition to the ubiquitous packets of sweetener, guests can ladle fresh whipped cream into their cup of joe and sprinkle it with chocolate shavings. The only other place I’ve seen that done is at Beverly’s at the Coeur d’Alene Resort.

Along with this formal “Presidential” lunch, there’s a menu served Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday that includes such upscale entrees as red snapper en papillote, medallions of pork served with apple-fennel chutney and pasta shells stuffed with crab. On Thursdays, there’s a buffet with a different theme each week.

The prices are astonishingly affordable, with everything on the daily ringing in at under $5. The buffet is $5.95.

Also, each quarter, a couple of special events are planned. On Feb. 7, there’s a Winemaker’s Dinner that features creative courses such as a crab-filled chicken breast, blood orange and winter beets salad and a roasted leg of lamb served on braised lentils with an herb spaetzle. Caterina chardonnay and sauvignon blanc will be among the wines poured.

That dinner starts at 6 p.m. and it costs $27.50. There are only a limited number of seats left for that event.

Reservations are required for the weekly Presidential lunch and for the special functions. To save a spot, call 533-7283.

Clinks continues

I munched pea salad at Clink’s last week on what was supposed to be its last day in The Flour Mill.

But it looks like that popular restaurant is staying put - at least until it can work out the soap operalike details over the former Salty’s space with the city.

(In case, you missed it: Clink’s was due to move into the old Salty’s digs, but no lease was signed and at the last minute, the city of Spokane expressed interest in that choice piece of real estate. At this point, all we can do is speculate about the city’s grand design there.)

So, for the time being, you can still enjoy that Clink’s burnt cream and signature pea salad in the Mill. But stay tuned for details of this ongoing saga.

Famous potatoes

Mashed spuds were named the dish of 1996 by Restaurants & Institutions, a trade magazine.

Not just the plain jane whipped spuds, but those with ethnic accents like sun-dried tomato bits or with flavored with olive oil and roasted garlic. Of course, the old-fashioned, swimming-in-gravy taters got their due, too, as comfort food remained a strong theme.

Now, that’s a trend I can sink my fork into.

Just a thought

Statistics show people are eating out more often than ever before.

The only problem is that every one is going out on Friday and Saturday night.

Did you realize, fellow diner, that many restaurants are open most every day of the week? It’s much easier to line up a table and get more attentive service on those slower days. At least, that’s what I’ve found.

Maybe you get more attention on a weekday because restaurateurs are delighted to fill their tables on Tuesday or Wednesday.

On-line vittles

There’s a lot of garbage on the internet, but if you sift through some of the junk, you can find a gem.

Like the CuisineNet. It offers restaurant reviews of major cities including San Francisco and Seattle.

Browsers can search for a likely eatery by entering the neighborhood, the type of food and the price range. (Not surprisingly, I had no luck locating an Afghan restaurant in San Francisco’s Chinatown.)

The restaurant reviews are concise and, often, critical. I got a kick out of the suggestions on what to wear. Many said diners would be comfortable in jeans. One, however, said Dockers should be worn.

Guess I won’t be going there.

Check out CuisineNet at

, DataTimes

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