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Wednesday, October 16, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Running Tab: An unexpected community is discovered at Yards dinner

UPDATED: Tue., Sept. 17, 2019, 4:56 p.m.

Hawaiian Crispy Nori Cracker Poke is the first dish served during dinner at the Yards Bruncheon on Sept. 12. (Don  Chareunsy / The Spokesman-Review)
Hawaiian Crispy Nori Cracker Poke is the first dish served during dinner at the Yards Bruncheon on Sept. 12. (Don Chareunsy / The Spokesman-Review)

Moving is difficult – duh, right? – but beyond the challenges of physically transporting your home from one place to another, a few aspects of relocating to a new city that are sometimes overlooked are the loneliness, loss of community and the unknown of a new city.

When I moved to Spokane – or returned, to be more accurate – on April 27 to start the job of food editor here at The Spokesman-Review two days later, I had an advantage because I had graduated from Gonzaga University many moons ago and returned almost yearly since then to visit family.

But moving was still difficult. Despite the family and small handful of friends here, and the welcoming colleagues at The Spokesman, there were still those moments of alone time, not necessarily by choice, uncertainty and doubt.

Fortunately, that changed in July.

I received an invitation from Ken Dupree, special events director for Eat Good Group, to attend a Birds and Bubbles dinner hosted by Wandering Table and its chef, Ian Wingate, but seated at the Yards Bruncheon across the corridor.

As I wrote in my story about the Birds and Bubbles dinner in August – it was a fried chicken and champagne bounty – it was a marvelous evening of comfort food and conversation, and, at $35, plus taxes and fees, it was reasonably priced for a multicourse meal with flowing champagne.

I met Dupree, his wife Margie and their daughter, all of whom were working during the dinner at the Yards that evening. I met Tyler, who was pouring the bubbly as the evening’s liquor vendor. Tyler has since followed up about taking part in his food podcast. Wingate impressed with his menu.

I met a bunch of regulars of the monthly meal (now less often, but at least once every few months). Dave, a polite older man who, despite his dietary restrictions, enjoyed the fried chicken and bubbly, as did his partner in crime.

Tom, a jovial man, shared stories of previous dinners at the Yards. Joanne teaches yoga and is a global traveler. One couple was celebrating a milestone anniversary. There was a sprinkling of young people, too, including a gay couple … well, they were at least two gay friends.

When I returned to the Yards last Thursday for a meal of global plates and cocktails, many of the same attendees from Birds and Bubbles were at the dinner, and my guest and I were seated at the table with them: Dave, Tom, Joanne, the longtime-married couple and more.

Many of them told me that they had read my Birds and Bubbles feature (thank you, sincerely, for reading The Spokesman-Review), and they welcomed me back warmly. I honestly didn’t remember all of their names, but I will remember their hospitality, kindness and smiles.

I was told that about half the attendees were regulars and there were quite a few newcomers thanks to my story in August. I don’t know if I believe it, but what a nice thing to say and share. If it’s true, it’s a double-edged sword – the secret’s out.

One regular, who wasn’t at Birds and Bubbles last month, stood out in his WSU clothing (he’s an alumnus), his railroad uniform, cap, striped overalls, boots and all. He felt underdressed (he wasn’t), was charming and appreciative and enjoyed the food, many of the dishes new to him.

Speaking of the food, it was, once again, delicious, adventurous – and again a reasonable $35 per person. Seriously, how do they make money from this? The evening’s menu:

Hawaiian Poke with Crispy Nori Cracker; Korean Honey Butter Wings with Cucumber Kimchi and Pepitas; Greek Horiatiki Salad with Beet Hummus; Portuguese Braised Pork Belly with Clams, Sausage and Potatoes; Israeli Zhoug Roast Leg of Lamb Dukkah Preserved over Lemon Couscous Salad; and Persian Phyllo with Honey Mouse and Sohan Asali.

And the evening’s two cocktails: Pacific Northwest Huckleberry Lemonade (it was spiked, of course) and Jamaican Rum Punch. Guests enjoyed both beverages … repeatedly. The chef also accommodated one attendee with dietary restrictions (gluten and dairy).

While sitting there enjoying the meal and talking with my new friends, I thought to myself, “These people are amazing. This food is amazing. I want to return as often as possible.” How often does one say that in life? Next month’s dinner menu is a return to fried chicken and the usual pairing: beer.

Cheers to that – and thank you for welcoming me to Spokane. It hasn’t always been easy, and it won’t always be easy, but it’s worth the work – and the new memories.

Portuguese Braised Pork Belly with clams, sausage and potatoes is served at the Yards Bruncheon on Sept. 12. (Don  Chareunsy / The Spokesman-Review)
Portuguese Braised Pork Belly with clams, sausage and potatoes is served at the Yards Bruncheon on Sept. 12. (Don Chareunsy / The Spokesman-Review)

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