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Fresh & amp;amp; Tasty


EVENT French Connections & r & & r & & lt;span class= "dropcap " & T & lt;/span & hings have been tough for restaurants in the past month. January is always slow, but our recent spate of snowstorms has really put a damper on dining out. To entice customers to venture out, restaurants have to get creative, and that's exactly what Chef Tim Hartman and partner Jeff Jenkins are doing at VIN ROUGE.

First, Hartman revamped the menu, adding in some new items and removing others. The new tuna tartare small plate ($10) -- blue fin, ginger, avocado, daikon, chives, wasabi -- is a delightful blend of clean, fresh flavors with a hint of spring, while lunch dishes like the pork carnitas ($9) and the grilled lamb sandwich ($10), spiced with garam masala, deliver plenty of cold-weather comfort.

Next came a lineup of special events including a PARISIAN WINE DINNER next Thursday, Feb. 28. Joining Hartman in the kitchen for this five-course French culinary tour will be his longtime friend Chef Shilo Pierce. The team matched each course to one or two French wines -- except for the warm orange-kissed crepes dessert, which is paired with Grahams 10-year Tawny Port. A variety of hors d'oeuvres will be served with a Louis Roederer Brut premier Champagne; the fish course will feature seared coquilles (sea scallops) in red wine mignonette, served with brunoise vegetables and accompanied by a white Burgundy. After a salad course -- roasted asparagus, poached quail egg and leek-scented hollandaise -- served with a Chateauneuf du Pape, the entr & eacute;e will be a rabbit fricassee. Wines for the main course are Chateau Fourcas Loubaney Listrac-Medoc (1999) and Chateau Bernadotte Haut-Medoc (2003).

Hartman has other events planned as well, including a romantic Valentine's Day dinner tonight and a special night of opera on Sunday, March 2, with Tammony Spencer. The combination of good food and fun events should be enough to break through the winter doldrums.


The Parisian Wine Dinner at Vin Rouge, 3029 E. 29th Ave., is Thursday, Feb. 28, at 6 pm. Call 535-8800.

BENEFIT Eat That Tune

& lt;span class= "dropcap " & T & lt;/span & oss out those low expectations of fundraiser food -- the rubber chicken dinner might be history after the Holy Names Music Center unveils its GRUB JUMP fundraiser this week.

The Spokane nonprofit, which provides music education and instruction to local residents of all ages, has gone gourmet. Benefactors will be able to dine out at Bluefish, Vin Rouge, Little Garden Cafe, O'Doherty's Irish Grille, O'Doherty's Irish Pub, Great Harvest Bread Company, Mojo or Kim Do restaurants Thursday, Friday or Saturday and HNMC will receive 10 percent of either a specific meal's or an entire day's profit.

"I just think it's an important opportunity and an easy way for people to go out, have fun, and support the music center," says HNMC Director of Development and Marketing David Asplin. The idea to decentralize the dinner was developed by one of the center's board members whose daughter had held a similar event out of state with great success.

The donations will support scholarships and operating costs for the community music school serving more than 1,000 students each year, many of whom attend the Mukogawa Fort Wright Institute, Asplin says.

Steven Brower, owner of Mojo, Spokane Valley's high-end fast-gourmet destination, was asked to participate in the Grub Jump by regular customers with ties to the music center.

"You know ... they're just starting this out, we wanted to help get that ball rolling and it's for a great cause," Brower says.

His Spokane Valley eatery will be adding a special four-cheese and spicy sausage lasagna and a decadent chocolate mousse napoleon to the menu as a fundraising-specific option. The special will be available all three days.

Asplin, who also teaches music theory at HNMC is looking forward to sampling the seafood at Bluefish on Friday.

"I've been saving up all my money just for this weekend," he says. "I'm going to hit as many of them as I can."


Grub Jump, a fundraiser for Holy Names Music Center, takes place at participating restaurants Thu-Sat, Feb. 14-16. Call 326-9516.