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Running Tab: Hanging with Chad: Chef White discusses Zona Blanca’s new home, Steel Barrel’s new menu and more

UPDATED: Mon., Oct. 19, 2020

I caught up with Spokane chef Chad White over the weekend, and this is no easy task, as the extraordinarily busy man truly has a plate that runneth over – like a lot.

For this catch-up, the “Top Chef” Season 13 cheftestant and James Beard nominee discussed the 2020 Whiskey Barrel Weekend at Coeur d’Alene Resort, his just-announced new location for Zona Blanca, his just-announced new menu for Steel Barrel, his new project with Mt. Spokane Ski & Snowboard Park and his new winter menu at Arbor Crest Wine Cellars.

Are you already exhausted just reading that, too? Well, and White is currently juggling even more commitments. But let us start with the second annual Whiskey Barrel Weekend, where White led a sold-out Maker’s Mark whiskey cooking class on Saturday afternoon and made an incredible salmon tostada.

“It was a lot of fun, but I didn’t get a chance to participate in anything else,” White said. “They invited me, I arrived 30 minutes before the class, gave the class, then rolled back to Steel Barrel. But the Coeur d’Alene Resort is such a world-class destination, and they always take such good care of me.”

White took care of the class attendees, as well, not only earning raves for the flavorful culinary creation paired with Maker’s Mark, but also telling participants that he would email them the recipe. The salmon tostada is an item you will see on the menu at Zona Blanca, the restaurant for which White received a James Beard nomination this year and now has a new home.

Zona Blanca is moving into the former Rocket Bakery at 157 S. Howard St. in the 1905 Holley-Mason Building – whose current and former tenants include the Spokane Shock, Washington Trust and Lewis and Clark High School – and is aiming to be open by mid-December. White is applying for a liquor license, which the former Zona Blanca at 154 S. Madison St. did not have.

“The historic building is run by RenCorpRealty, my same landlord for Zona Blanca and High Tide 1, so I have a great and loyal relationship with them,” White said. “The location became available, and it fit our budget.

“It has the right kind of charm that I’m looking for. There is a wall situated right along the railroad track just like at the former Zona Blanca, so it will feel the same way but with a change in look and scenery.”

Meanwhile, Steel Barrel, which shared space with Zona Blanca, has expanded into the full space on Madison and brought on White as a consultant via his company Chad White Hospitality Group, which he launched in June. White assisted with a kitchen expansion and created a very interesting new menu of … meatballs?

“Meatballs are really good with beer, and Steel Barrel is an industry hangout with a dive bar vibe,” White said. “The menu doesn’t take itself too seriously. It’s meant to be great, fun flavors and very approachable.”

White has taken a street food approach – global flavors from around the word – and made them into meatballs. The names of the meatballs should give you an idea of the fun play on the food: Al Pastor, Banh Meat (with pickled carrots and daikon), Doner Baahb (lamb and spices), Plain Jane, Nashball (“hot” chicken), Godballer (Italian), Beanball and NW Kimmi (with kimchi)

The menu will be available to the public in mid-October, White said.

The final two projects White discussed – Arbor Crest Wine Cellars and Mt. Spokane Ski & Snowboard Park – are related because they both involve Jim van Loben Sels. White and Arbor Crest announced a menu partnership in May, and it was launched in July. It has been so successful that White was asked and just completed a winter menu for Arbor Crest.

“The Mediterranean menu is now shifting to a winter-style menu that is a lot heavier. The summer menu was bright and vibrant, and winter will be a richer and rustic vibe to warm people up,” White said.

The changes and new menu mean Arbor Crest, at 4705 N. Fruit Hill Road in Spokane Valley, will now be offering dining indoors all winter long, in lieu of the fireside music series, that begins on Nov. 1. The current plan for hours of sit-down dining is 12-5 p.m. Sundays through Wednesdays and 12-7 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays.

White shared a preview menu, which he warned is likely to change, as is his typical style, and it included beef carpaccio, persimmon salad, saffron mussels, veal osso bucco, lamb and pork meatloaf and cardamon chocolate mousse. I am making my reservation now.

Jim van Loben Sels was so happy with White’s work at Arbor Crest that he invited the chef to work with Gabe Cruz at Mt. Spokane to streamline the kitchen and work with the culinary team. “There are big changes in store for the next season, and we hope to offer more exciting cuisine in line with the menus at Schweitzer, Breckenridge and McCall,” White said.

Whiskey Barrel Weekend

Wrapping up Whiskey Barrel Weekend at Coeur d’Alene Resort on Friday and Saturday, I must commend the resort for hosting such a successful event during the pandemic.

While the events were scaled back in number of attendees, the Friday night dine-around and tasting event and Saturday golf and three classes – White’s cooking class, a mixology demonstration and a four-whiskey tasking with Maker’s Mark – were all sold out.

And the final and signature event, the Whiskey Dinner at Hagadone Event Center, was well-attended and featured Maker’s Mark cocktails and, served behind plexiglass, deep fried baby back ribs, chicken tenders, macaroni and cheese, oysters (my favorite of the evening), prawns, kielbasa, elk sausage, ribeye, salads and desserts (crack pie, chocolate domes and parfait).

Here’s to next year.

Rind and Wheat

Chef Ricky Webster’s Rind and Wheat opens in two weeks in the former Glorious Artisan Bakery at 1516 W. Riverside Ave. in Browne’s Addition, and Webster hosted a sneak peek of his cheese and bakery menu at Hidden Acres Orchards last Wednesday.

The fall evening and gorgeous setting could not have been more perfect and featured cheeses, sourdough sea salt crackers, rosemary garlic focaccia, sourdough country loaf, golden plum honey jam, pear financiers, apple bacon and onion turnovers, apple frangipane tarts, pear and blue cheese filo bites and pumpkin whoopie pies.

Hidden Acres Orchards supplied all the evening’s produce – from delicata squash and pumpkins to pears and apples – and I now truly understand why residents love Green Bluff and its more than 30 farms. I want to spend as much time there exploring this autumn.

Wonder Saturday Market

Last Wednesday, we reported the first season of the Wonder Saturday Market in the Wonder Building at 835 N. Post St. We have good news to report from Kim Deater, who oversees the market: As the summer market ends this Saturday, a fall and winter market will launch on Oct. 17 and continue through Dec. 19.

Deater said the hours will still be the same – 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturdays – and she expects that the market will max out at 18 vendors offering bread, chocolates, pies, fall produce, microgreens, mushrooms, jams, honey, salsa, soaps, candles, jewelry, pottery, leather, eggs, beef, wine, hard cider, cheese, gourmet vinegars and oils.

People’s Waffle Truck, Evans Brothers Coffee Roasters and High Tide Lobster Bar will be open during the market, and Webster is planning pop-up events. Deater emailed me on Saturday: “We were insane this morning. We broke all our attendance records. We were all blown away and quite happy!”

Birdie’s Pie Shop

And Birdie’s Pie Shop has some good news that continues its success since opening last December at 1003 N. Spokane St. in Post Falls. Appropriately, a little birdie has told me that the owners have purchased a location in Hayden for a second Birdie’s Pie Shop and will continue to run the Post Falls outlet. Sweet!

OK, now I really am exhausted, but what an exciting time to be living and dining here.

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