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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Masselow’s raises steaks

Quest’s fine dining alters approach

Gone are the white tablecloths.

Long known for its upscale elegance and fine dining, Masselow’s at Northern Quest Resort & Casino has lost its linens and added another word to its name: steakhouse.

“We wanted to make this restaurant feel more approachable,” said executive chef Bob Rogers. “It’s still the same level of quality” – and prices. But the aim is to make Masselow’s a not-just-for-special-occasions restaurant. “I want people in town to say, ‘Man, I’m in the mood for a good steak,’ and we’re front of mind.”

Rogers had been tossing around the idea for about a year or so. It took only about three months to make the transition, which was in place by the end of April. To prepare, Rogers visited steakhouses in Seattle, Portland and Las Vegas, and learned he didn’t want Masselow’s to be “just” a steakhouse. “I didn’t want chicken or salmon as an afterthought.”

The new menu focuses “on something that everybody understands, which – of course – is beef,” Rogers said. “We sold more steaks than anything on the menu anyway, so why not put a little more energy into it?”

Now, there’s an entire page of steak offerings – “ridiculously marbled” rib eye, porterhouse, New York, filet mignon – as well as another page of other entrées, including both new and familiar dishes. Look for old favorites such as the Chilean sea bass and saffron prawns.

But, Rogers said, “We did stuff on here that I wouldn’t have done before. We did a crab cake.”

He also added a charcuterie platter, baked potato, tuna tartare, sweet corn pudding and seasonal risotto. The crispy, boneless free-range chicken is new, too. Order it by the half ($27) or the whole ($38).

Single-portion steaks run from $32 to $59. The most expensive – a 40-ouncer that’s meant to be shared – is $110.

“We’re getting guys coming in here and ordering them for themselves,” said Rogers, whose 21-year-old son ate one by himself to celebrate his recent graduation from Gonzaga University.

Masselow’s is buying beef from three companies: Fulton Provision Co. in Portland, Ameristar Meats in Spokane and Angus Meats in Spokane.

But gone from service are the amuse-bouche and intermezzo, or first bite to whet the appetite and palate cleanser between courses.

“We wanted a more put-your-elbows-on-the-table kind of feeling,” Rogers said, noting guests would often pop into the restaurant only to pop back out. “I have to wonder, at some level, did the tablecloths scare them away? How do you convince somebody when it looked like it did before that they were OK in jeans and a cowboy hat?”

Rogers estimates the new focus and missing linens have increased dinner traffic by about 30 percent. Masselow’s still offers breakfast seven days a week, but – as before – no lunch. It’s closed Monday and Tuesday nights.

The steak emphasis isn’t the only change. Since starting there as general manager a year ago, certified sommelier Eric Cook has increased the wine offerings from 120 to about 330 labels and added Riedel crystal glassware. There’s also a new, climate-controlled wine cellar in the front of the house with large windows to entice passers-by outside the restaurant.

Masselow’s Steakhouse at Northern Quest Resort & Casino, 100 N. Hayford Road in Airway Heights, is open 5 to 10 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday and 5 to 9 p.m. on Sunday. Call (509) 481-6020. On the Web: http://masselows.com.

Beautiful Grounds

She’s the beauty. He’s the beans.

The brother-and-sister team of Elly Allen and Joe Johnson opened their combination beauty bar and coffee shop last fall on the mezzanine level of the Liberty Building.

“The concept was my sister and I wanted to combine our talents,” Johnson said. “She’s a master aesthetician. I’m a master coffee mixologist.”

Their 310-square-foot space fits two tables, two bar stools and one salon chair. One side of their menu spotlights her services: facials, waxing, threading, lash extensions and makeup. The other side features his beverages: Italian sodas, espresso and nitro coffee, which Johnson calls “the latest coffee craze.”

Cold-brew coffee is taken through a filtration process, then infused with nitrogen to produce a cascade of bubbles – “like a Guinness,” Johnson said. The result is creamy, smooth and dense, but sweeter than regular cold brew. It’s also topped with a fizzy head of foam, much like a porter- or stout-style beer.

For the past couple of years, nitro coffee has been appearing in large metropolitan areas. For example, Stumptown Coffee Roasters – with locations in Portland, Seattle, Los Angeles and New York City – debuted its nitro coffee in June 2013. But, Johnson said, “I’m the first in Spokane to do it.”

He learned about the coffee style late last year in an online video: “They showed how they did their process. It didn’t seem right to me, but I loved the concept.”

Johnson debuted his version in March. He uses Roast House coffee and worked with the local roaster to develop a special blend and grind.

Johnson makes his nitro coffee from four different Roast House coffees: Batz (chocolaty, fruity, floral), F-Bomb, his most popular nitro with “a caramel start and golden raisin finish,” his custom Beautiful Grounds blend with “a milk chocolate start and raisin finish,” and the full-bodied Ride the Edge with “a dark cocoa taste and a truffle finish. It would be the dark beer of the four.”

Johnson offers two nitro coffees per week. But he won’t reveal his exact method, only that “It’s very precise” and “It’s about a weeklong process to make one batch.”

While it’s booze-less, Johnson is hoping local bars will start using nitro coffee in craft cocktails. “It mixes well with beer and spirits,” he said.

Johnson would also like to see his nitro coffee on tap at local tap houses. Meantime, at $4 or $5 per cup, it’s the most expensive beverage on his menu. Grunts and growlers are also available to go.

Other specialty coffee drinks at Beautiful Grounds include the Hug with white chocolate, caramel and raspberry flavors and the China White mocha, which comes with a fortune cookie. Specialty Italian sodas include Tainted Windex Italian with blue raspberry and watermelon flavors and Psycho Summer with huckleberry and peach flavors.

The siblings were born and raised in Spokane. Allen, 34, graduated from University High School, attended Eastern Washington University, then quit college to go to beauty school. Johnson, 38, graduated from Rogers High School and moved to the West Side, where he worked in coffee shops up and down the Interstate 5 corridor before returning to Spokane.

Beautiful Grounds, located in Suite 102 above Auntie’s Bookstore at 402 W. Main Ave., is open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday. Call: (509) 939-9617. On the Web: beautifulgrounds.net.

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