French café offers relaxation amidst busy downtown

Located in the heart of bustling downtown, but with the atmosphere of a quaint country kitchen, Madeleine’s Café & Pâtisserie presents Spokane with a portal into European culture. Mother-daughter team Deb Green and Megan Vanstone opened the café in October 2008 with the hope of bringing a little bit of Parisian influence to their hometown. They were inspired by a trip they took to Paris during Vanstone’s junior year of high school.

“[French culture] sucks you in, and it’s hard not to want to bring it back,” Vanstone said. “It’s a simpler way of life.” Green and Vanstone’s trip to Paris did not begin to form into the vision of Madeleine’s, though, until Vanstone’s college days.

Attending University of Idaho, Vanstone struggled to decide on a course of study. Finally, she realized that she wanted to take advantage of what she calls “the chemistry in the kitchen” between herself and her mom.

“Growing up, I had helped my mom [with her catering business] ever since I could hold a knife,” Vanstone said.

Once they had developed their business vision, Vanstone decided to pursue pastry school, and attended the San Francisco Baking Institute. Upon her graduation, the mother-daughter team launched their business with versatility in mind.

“We really offer so many different options,” Vanstone said. “We cater to someone who wants just a cup of coffee in the morning and someone who wants a full meal,” Vanstone said.

Aside from serving many needs, family has always been important within Madeleine’s. Vanstone’s younger brother and sister, and two of her cousins work in the restaurant, she said. Additionally, her husband and father help out when it’s needed.

“Even my grandparents chip in during busy times like Hoopfest doing things like handing out Gatorade,” Vanstone said.

Many of the recipes featured in the café are heirloom recipes from Vanstone’s grandmothers and great grandmothers.

Those that are not family recipes are usually tested out during weekly family dinners, such as their popular roasted corn salad, which is Vanstone’s favorite savory item sold at Madeleine’s.

Her absolute favorite food item, though, are cinnamon rolls, which she describes as summing up her love of French culture.

“I think part of the idea of country French food is the comfort of it. Part of what drew us to this food is that it’s gooey and warm, and that’s a cinnamon roll.”

Story by Lindsie Wagner

Links

madeleines-spokane.com Madeleine’s website

www.uidaho.edu University of Idaho

www.sfbi.com San Francisco Baking Institute

 

Local restaurant overlooked

Tucked away in a neighborhood on the South Hill, Luna is one of Spokane’s finest restaurants, yet it remains relatively undiscovered by students. First functioning as a construction yard,  to a green grocer, then a post office and finally a restaurant, Luna has seen many drastic changes over the years.  The result is a quaint restaurant that is easily handicap accessible and incredibly well landscaped.

The inside has a similar feel to the outside as it seems as if the landscaping has been brought in with flowers on every table.

“I thought the lighting was cool,” junior Kendra Leggett said.  “It wasn’t really bright, but you could still see.  It was like a candle lit dinner.”

Leggett went to Luna with a number of girls as a going away party.  They reserved a table in advance and ordered desserts.

“The service was great,” Leggett said.  “As soon as we came in they knew who we were … and afterward the waitress was willing to take pictures of us because we were all dressed up.  She was very accommodating if we needed anything.”

The wait staff is very down to earth and approachable.  They make sure to be available as needed.

“They put the napkins on our laps for us,” junior Jennay Smith said.  “That has never happened to me before.”

Those who know of Luna tend to think of it as a high-end and expensive restaurant.  This can turn students away, especially those on a tight budget.

Luna is on the high end, with a cheap meal on the Saturday brunch menu being $11 dollars, but for those who are willing to share meals other options are available.

“We have fabulous pizzas,” said front of house manager Kara Siemens.  “Our pizzas are only $15 dollars and easily feed two people.”

Dedicated to going green, Luna composts most of their vegetables, recycles everything possible and even uses compostable garbage bags.

Luna’s staff also grows their own garden from which many of their ingredients are pulled.  The garden lies directly between Luna and the affiliated Bouzies Bakery.

“Our chefs are very proud of the garden, they even work in the garden themselves,” Siemens said. The restaurant considers its menu to be “inspired local Northwest” cuisine because whenever possible, what they don’t grow or make themselves, Luna purchases from local farmers. Greenbluff is one of Luna’s regular contributors along with numerous growers from the valley.

With Luna dependent on local farmers for produce their menu changes regularly with the seasons.  Entrees change at least four times a year and sometimes two or three dishes will change within the season because Luna is dedicated to using freshest and most appealing crops available.

“We are showcasing items as they come in season,” Siemons said.

For more about Luna visit www.lunaspokane.com.

Story by Lauren Otheim

Photo by Maria Chumov