Family from Jordan serves Middle Eastern, Greek cuisine with show

It all started with a family, a set of recipes and a passion for homestyle food. In 1973, the Azar family moved to the United States from Jordan. After living through four wars, the family decided to move to Spokane in search of a better life.

After moving to the states, Najeeb and Najla Azar bought a 7-Eleven convenience store on Empire Avenue and then purchased the café across from the 7-Eleven. That is where they opened the Azar’s Restaurant in 1980, which at the time was the only Greek, Mediterranean and Middle Eastern restaurant in the Spokane area, owner Katy Azar said.

In 1990, Katy Azar, daughter of Najeeb and Najla Azar, opened another location at 2501 N. Monroe St., which is now the only location in Spokane.

“My mom was a great cook and thought it would be a great idea [to open a Mediterranean restaurant],” Azar said. “And it has done well ever since.”

Like the first restaurant, Azar’s Restaurant on Monroe uses the recipes that Azar’s mother brought to the states.

“We have a unique cuisine,” Azar said. “I cook homestyle meals that are healthy and homemade. There are no preservatives and I only use good oils [such as olive oil]. It satisfies a lot of people’s needs.”

The restaurant has a lunch and dinner menu. The lunch menu consists of a buffet option for $9.95, sandwiches and gyros for $7.95, soups for $4.95 and salads for around $10. The gyros are the most popular lunch item.

There are two different options, the gyro tahini which consists of lightly seasoned beef and lamb meat with tomatoes, sesame seed, lemon and garlic. The other option, gyros tsatziki, consists of the beef and lamb meat with tomatoes, lettuce, yogurt, cucumber and garlic sauce.

“I love the gyro with tahini because they use simple and good quality ingredients,” said senior Eric Mahaney.

Like the lunch menu, the dinner menu also includes sandwiches, gyros, soups and salads but adds the dinner combination plates for around $15. These plates consist of a variety of options including gyros, hummus, falafel and babajanuj.

“I love all of the food,” Azar said. “A combination plate along with a Greek salad is great.”

The menu provides vegetarian, vegan and gluten free options, also.

Along with homemade, quality food, Azar’s also provides a belly dancing show on Friday nights from 6:45 to 8:45 p.m. where an experienced dancer comes in and performs live traditional belly dances.

“We decided to do it for a cultural experience,” Azar said. “It’s a dinner and a show and it’s all authentic.”

Elise Van Dam Staff Writer

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Music review: Album lacks holiday cheer but works for modern music generation

When “Holidays Rule” was released a few weeks ago, Christmas music lovers were likely trembling with excitement. The album is a compilation of Christmas singles from various artists including The Shins, Fun., The Civil Wars and Paul McCartney to name a few. Such a lineup deserves anticipation. As an avid lover of Christmas music, I am always eager to find more once Christmas season arrives. It’s fun to see artists I enjoy put out Christmas albums. The albums often do well. Take Mariah Carey’s phenomenal Christmas album, “Merry Christmas,” for example. It holds, arguably, some of the best classic modern Christmas songs, “All I Want For Christmas Is You” and “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home).” I expected “Holidays Rule” to be no different.

Unfortunately, I was mistaken. Other than a few songs that truly did sound like Christmas music (Paul McCartney’s “The Christmas Song,” Rufus Wainwright’s “Baby It’s Cold Outside” and Fun.’s, “Sleigh Ride”) it was exclusively artists playing songs that sound no different from their regular music aside from the words. For example, The Civil Wars’, “I Heard The Bells On Christmas Day” sounded exactly like, say, “I’ve Got This Friend,” from the album “Barton Hollow,” or the song “Kingdom Come,” another of the band’s more famous singles.

Even Fun.’s, “Sleigh Ride,” which was one of the more “Christmasy” songs on the album, was jammed with random electronic beeps and plunks that sound like they came out of a Buzz Lightyear toy. Hardly the sounds that come to mind at the mention of Christmas music.

While “Holidays Rule” is certainly not my taste, it definitely finds a way to make the songs work. It has done what most, if not all, classic Christmas artists have done in the past. I would define Frank Sinatra’s Christmas albums, or Bing Crosby’s, Mariah Carey’s or Point of Grace’s Christmas works as classic Christmas music. To put it in perspective, those albums are not very different from each respective artist’s normal music, save for the addition of some sleigh bells and violin and flute runs. “Holidays Rule” has simply conformed “Christmas music” to the popular modern times, just as Frank Sinatra and Mariah Carey did in their time.

I won’t be listening to “Holidays Rule” this year, or likely any year, but many people will enjoy it. It’s an album that, while I’m hard pressed to call it true Christmas music, defines its musical era and works for those who cling to that modern era.

Peter Duell Staff Writer

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Food Review: Ultimate Bagel is just that

There is no doubt that life as a college student is busy, and sometimes it is hard to find time for the most important meal of the day: breakfast. At The Ultimate Bagel on 1217 N. Hamilton Street, a wide variety of options are available which are quick and easy so that breakfast doesn’t have to be skipped.

Twenty years ago, The Ultimate Bagel opened its doors in North Spokane and is now located next to Gonzaga’s campus. After several owners, Christi Chapman and her husband currently own the business and have kept the standards the same: homemade bagels and cream cheese made from good, quality products.

“We have a product that is different,” Chapman said. “We have a lot of control of the product and everything that goes into it, so we make sure that we use good quality ingredients.”

The menu consists of bagels and cream cheese that are made from scratch by Chapman’s husband who makes all the bagels inhouse. Customers can come in and order a bagel with cream cheese for around $4. They also serve breakfast and lunch sandwiches and soup.

“Every day I have a hard time deciding which bagel I want,” Chapman said. “The Snickerdoodle paired with pumpkin cream cheese is great. It’s a combination of sticky and sweet.”

Some  other options include traditional flavors such as blueberry and onion, as well as less common flavors such as sun-dried tomato and jalapeno asiago cheese.

Like the bagels, the cream cheese flavors come in the regular options such as plain and strawberry, and also in different flavors such as pumpkin and honey almond.

“I like the asiago bagel with either herb or sun-dried tomato cream cheese,” customer Susan McDaniel said. “You can’t get it anywhere else. It is just amazing.”

In addition to the bagel and cream cheese options, Ultimate Bagel also serves breakfast sandwiches such as, “Egg”cellent Bagel ($4.95) that consists of any flavor bagel, egg, Tillamook cheddar cheese and Canadian bacon. They also serve lunch sandwiches such as the bagel melt ($4.95) which is an open-faced bagel with melted cheese and a choice of meat.

All of the options on the menu looked amazing and it was hard to pick which kind of bagel to try. The employees were helpful and asked questions such as, “Are you thinking something savory or sweet?” I tried the sun-dried tomato bagel with plain cream cheese. The bagel could have been toasted a little more, but overall it was soft and the spread was creamy. The bagel was filling and kept me full long past lunchtime.

Elise Van Dam Staff Writer

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Food review: Coeur has extra cozy factor for over-coffee chats

Coffee shops. They are an ideal place to go when you want to study, read a book, chat with friends or have that awkward “define the relationship” talk with your potential significant other. Coeur Coffeehouse has a comfortable atmosphere with delicious coffee where all that can happen.

Mike Garrison opened Coeur Coffeehouse on 701 N. Monroe St. in June 2012 because he likes coffee and wanted to open a business that would encourage community throughout Spokane. Garrison’s goal for the business is to provide a comfortable atmosphere where the baristas are friendly and serve high-quality coffee to their customers, employee Keaton Violet said.

“We wanted to serve coffee to the people of Spokane,” Violet said. “And it is cool to connect to someone over something as simple as coffee.”

Another goal is to support local businesses. The  shop only uses one type of milk — bought locally from Spokane Family Farms — which pasteurizes the non-homogenized milk at lower temperatures.

“While the milk may be more expensive,” Violet said. “It tastes way better and is also good for you.”

Though Coeur Coffeehouse buys milk locally, the shop purchases coffee outside of Spokane through a free trade company called Stumptown Coffee Roasters in Portland, Ore.

Along with local ingredients and homemade syrups, Coeur Coffeehouse uses a device called Chemex, which was created in the 1930s. The Chemex is an hourglass-shaped glass container that brews a measured amount of coffee grounds through a filter placed at the top. It makes what is called pour-over coffee.

“I am passionate about pour-over coffee,” Violet said. “It allows you to taste the differences in the various types of coffee that we provide.”

The menu also consists of lattes, mochas, drip coffees, espressos and a small variety of tea. The Moroccan mint tea is strong, but refreshing.

For me, coffee is one of my go-to drinks that helps me through a busy schedule. While a tall mocha at Coeur Coffeehouse costs $4.35, versus the same size mocha at Starbucks for $3.42, it is worth buying a cup from Coeur because of the local products and free trade option.

The décor of the shop also makes a difference in the experience. The atmosphere is simple, yet cozy — perfect for reading or chatting. The customer service made the visit complete. The baristas were friendly, knowledgeable of their product, and excited about coffee in general.

Elise Van Dam Staff Writer

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Movie review: ‘Cloud Atlas’ soars

A young composer struggles to complete his magnum opus before his death. A hard-nosed journalist seeks to uncover the truth behind her source’s mysterious death. A synthetic clone yearns to see a life above ground.

These stories are connected. These stories are different. These stories are the same.

Cloud Atlas” is an absolutely stunning work of cinematic triumph, spanning several centuries and incorporating many diverse genres. Directed by Lana and Andy Wachowski (“The Matrix Trilogy,” “V for Vendetta”) and Tom Tykwer (“Run Lola Run”), “Cloud Atlas” is an adaptation of the 2004 science fiction novel of the same name written by British author David Mitchell.

“Cloud Atlas” is a treatise on the nature of the human soul told through six overlapping narratives. At first, the quick cuts between the six different narratives seem jarring and out of place. However, true comprehension of the film comes from understanding that the story is linear, not chronological. Events happen in a pseudo-logical progression, although not necessarily during the same time period.

The narrative leaps from 17th century period piece, to post-apocalyptic drama, and then back to contemporary comedy with little effort. While the movie itself is just under three hours long, there is an overall feeling of oneness that emerges from the six divergent stories. The conclusion of the movie remains extremely satisfying without sacrificing depth.

The film is visually liberating, as one might expect from the Wachowski brothers. I’m not just talking about the dystopian splendor of a futuristic Korea. Makeup and wardrobe for “Cloud Atlas” deserves some serious kudos, as many of the actors in the film portray different roles in different storylines, often going unrecognized until the very end.

Without giving too much away, one of the best moments in the movie was seeing Hugo Weaving (“The Matrix,” “V for Vendetta”) cross the gender line in his role as a Nurse Ratched-esque character.

Tom Hanks and Halle Berry both deliver formidable performances across the spectrum, and Jim Sturgess (“Across the Universe,” “21”) delivers a surprisingly compelling performance as a talented young composer. Although, to say one character excelled above any other would be a lie. With an ensemble of this caliber, it’s no surprise they cast every actor multiple times.

“Cloud Atlas” may get confusing, and while three hours might seem like a long running time for a movie with no hobbits in it, “Cloud Atlas” is definitely worth the price of admission.

“Cloud Atlas” Timeline

1859: A notary falls ill returning to England, carrying a very important contract.

1930: A penniless, deviant musician corresponds with his ex-lover while working for an aged composer.

1975: A reporter for a “soft” media magazine catches the scent of a scandal, but before she can learn anything, her source is murdered.

2012: A British publisher finds unexpected success, and unwanted attention, after one of his writers crashes a fancy party.

2144: A genetically-engineered clone recounts the story of her education in what may be her last interview.

104 years “after the fall”: A tribal man living on the Big Island of Hawaii grows suspicious of the technically advanced race who visit his village.

Lucas Thayer Staff Writer

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Food review: Vegan juice joint serves fresh drinks

Cucumber, romaine, pear, pineapple, spinach, coconut water and agave syrup are not in the average smoothie or juice. But at Method Juice Cafe those ingredients, along with many more, are used to make delicious smoothies and juices.

In early September, Nick Murto and Tyler Lafferty opened Method Juice Cafe on 718 W. Riverside St. in downtown Spokane. Their reasoning behind the café was to show the Spokane community the benefits of healthier food options in comparison to processed and artificial food, manager Amy Robinson said.

Method focuses on two main goals: keep it fresh and keep it natural. All the juices and smoothies are organic, vegan and contain no soy or corn products.

“Our drinks are completely transparent — all organic all the time,” Robinson said.

Every smoothie starts with a base of almond milk, rice milk or coconut water. Then, organic fruits and vegetables are added to the mix. Finally, depending on the smoothie, agave sweetener is added. The menu consists of six juice options and six smoothie options.

“My favorite juice is the Vital,” Robinson said. “I love the taste, the energy and the bio-nutrients it gives me.”

The Vital juice consists of apples, carrots, beets, kale, lemon and ginger.

“I tried the Source smoothie,” Whitworth senior Abigail Pavelko said. “It tasted like a peanut butter and jelly sandwich in my mouth. I also liked the fact that every ingredient was all-natural and fresh.”

Along with the smoothie and juice options, the cafe also sells salad entrees and snacks, such as trail mix. In the next couple of months the store will add individual-sized, organic oatmeal to the menu. For every oatmeal sold, the cafe will donate one to the local food bank.

The Foundation and Source smoothies are blends any smoothie lover would go for.

When I think of smoothies, Jamba Juice is what first comes to mind. I think of smoothies filled with sorbet, frozen fruit and sweet juices. Do not get me wrong, Jamba Juice is great, but at Method Juice Cafe, both smoothies made me feel like the food that was put into my body would actually help keep me healthy.

The drinks tasted creamy and fresh. While dates are not my favorite fruit, I still enjoyed how rich and filling the Foundation smoothie was.

Even though it takes some driving to get there, the tasty options make the 20-minute drive well worth it.

Elise Van Dam Staff Writer

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Music review: Mumford & Sons keeps its sound steady

Few contemporary artists have the ability to create and deliver music that grabs a hold of a person’s heart and soul and squeezes out every feeling, every emotion, every drop of life and splays it across a canvas of song.

Mumford & Sons are among the few and do so quite well. In its debut album, “Sigh No More,” Mumford & Sons sets itself apart from other mainstream groups by creating a unique sound that is good but inflexible at times. It is soft, followed by a punch of vigor, then suddenly receding. And people love it.

On Sept. 25, Mumford & Sons released its second album, “Babel,” and with it came the same rich and passionate instrumentals and vocals.

The music in “Babel” has soul, finesse and power in its simplicity. The melodies aren’t complex. The notes and chord progressions are nothing new.

What makes Mumford & Sons different in “Babel” is its ability to force all of its being into the songs and then blow them up to that iconic Mumford & Sons sound on the album and in live performances.

“Frontman Marcus Mumford’s impassioned and rasping vocals give the air of a man who is at least singing for his supper and, on occasion, even his life,” said Ian Winwood of BBC, regarding the sounds of “Babel.” “[The songs] flutter like a quickly beating heart, melodies drifting in and out of focus as the moods shift from gentle refrain to dominant force. It’s beautiful and stirring.”

Other critics were not so impressed. However, many who rated the album lower did not dislike the music itself. What disheartened them was the lack of progression in the sound and style of Mumford & Sons. They heard “Sigh No More” and loved it. They expected a grander, more majestic and advanced tone in “Babel,” but instead got just grand and just majestic.

I’m perfectly satisfied with the latter. Mumford & Sons’ powerful yet often gentle sounds stir the soul and emotions and move them in ways that few other contemporary musicians can. I am delighted Mumford & Sons stuck to its passionate style. I am delighted with the lack of change.

Peter Duell Staff Writer

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Theater review: Play about musical flop ‘produces’ laughs

Actors sing about Hitler and dance around the stage in a comedic fashion, to tunes such as “Springtime for Hitler,” “I Wanna Be A Producer” and “Der Guten Tag Hop-Clop.” What play might this be, you ask? The Spokane Civic Theatre’s latest production of “The Producers”.

“The Producers,” based on Mel Brooks’ 1968 film of the same name, was adapted as a musical by Brooks and Thomas Meehan, his longtime friend and writing collaborator. The comedic story tells of how a failing producer and a nervous accountant team up to produce the worst musical possible and try to win over investors for their Broadway flop. With engaging characters and ridiculous humor in every scene, this musical is sure to entertain.

The Spokane Civic Theatre cast does a tremendous job with the play, completely engaging the audience in the story with witty jokes, fantastic musical talent and perfect dance numbers throughout. However, it is a play meant for more mature audiences, with sexual humor prevalent from the start.

Lance Babbitt, who plays Roger DeBris in the play, said rehearsing and preparing for the play was a fairly long process, but that it has been well worth the effort.

“Comedic [musicals] take a little longer than other types. It was a very intense process,” he said. “It took about nine weeks, when it normally takes about six weeks. We had a lot of fun; we’re a very close cast.”

The cast members are from a variety of backgrounds and are different ages. Some have been in the profession for many years and others are acting for the first time.

Babbitt said his favorite part of working with the cast is being able to see all the fun things each person does. He said some actors will go from being a pigeon puppet, to a stormtrooper, to an old lady just within a few scenes.

“Backstage is madness. We have a million costumes and it’s really crazy, but we have a lot of fun,” he said. “And when it finally clicks it’s just an amazingly fun experience.”

Mark Pleasant, who plays Leo, the neurotic accountant-turned-producer, said he loves many things about portraying Leo, including the dynamics of working alongside Jerry Sciarrio, who plays Max, the other producer.

“I love the relationship that Jerry and I share onstage,” he said. “I love my leading lady, and I love the physical comedy of [the play].”

“The Producers” shows at the Spokane Civic Theatre Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights at 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. through Oct. 21. Tickets for students are $22. Student rush tickets may be available for $11 the night of the play if there are seats still available.

Meghan Dellinger Staff Writer

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Book review: Harry Potter and The Casual Vacancy — Wait, What?

J.K. Rowling has moved from children-friendly fantasy to the grim world of poverty, politics and scandal in her new book, “The Casual Vacancy,” released on Sept. 27.

Rowling has sold more than 450 million copies of her Harry Potter series, making her the world’s first billionaire author and richer than the Queen of England. This success was a substantial leap from her starting point as a clinically depressed single parent surviving on state handouts, according to the Hindustan Times. This humble beginning is a greater influence on her new book for adults than it was on the whimsical fantasy world of Harry Potter.

"The Casual Vacancy” takes place in a fictional, small English town, reminiscent of those in which Rowling spent her youth. The town of Ragford is shook to the britches when parish councilman Barry Fairbrother dies. Not because Fairbrother was dearly beloved, but because of the empty chair in the parish council he left behind. Middle class villagers plot and war with one another to elect someone sympathetic to their cause. Each with their own agenda of what to do with the Fields, a poor neighborhood outside of their quaint village.

In the framework of this rather dull conflict, Rowling explores themes such as single parenthood, prostitution, adolescent lust and heroin addiction. Though the characters, to varying degrees, are monstrous, the plot dim, and the themes dark, the book has been described as quite comical — a dark comedy rather than a postmodern reflection of middle class politics.

The Guardian’s critic, Theo Tait, said it was "no masterpiece, but it's not bad at all: intelligent, workmanlike, and often funny."

Though the humor, being cynical and Britishly dry, may not be enough to swing the book away from crushing depravity.

New York Times book critic Michiko Kakutani said, "The real-life world she has limned in these pages is so willfully banal, so depressingly clichéd that 'The Casual Vacancy' is not only disappointing — it's dull."

If the reader doesn’t find the huffing and puffing of depressingly small-minded townsfolk dull, then there’s nothing to worry about, nothing but the utter lack of likeable characters that is. The success of “The Casual Vacancy” is going to have more to do with the name on the cover than the teenage temper tantrum that is its 500 pages.

When the title of her new book was released in April, it made international news. When the cover image was released in July it made an even greater stir, to the extent of design “gurus” being hired to analyze the cover’s mysterious design. Reporters had to sign stacks of paperwork to simply touch a manuscript, even the publishers weren’t allowed to read it, according to The Guardian. “The Casual Vacancy” has arrived with as much gossip, speculation and secrecy as a presidential election.

Rowling’s new book sold over a million pre-order copies based on her name alone. To die hard fans, this book has more hype than the second coming, but in the end, it may be overwhelmingly disappointing.

Luke Eldredge Staff Writer

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Music review: Dave Matthews Band boasts its refined sound in new album

The Grammy Award winning group, Dave Matthews Band, released its new album, “Away From The World”, on Tuesday, Sept. 11, relieving fans’ much anticipated tension. Media reviews range on a spectrum  from “boring and weak” to “impressive and beautiful.”

“I’ve been listening to Dave Matthews Band for a long time,” freshman Curtis Hunter said. “I bought their new album and was very impressed. It was classic Dave Matthews. All their music is beautiful. This album is no exception.”

Dave Matthews Band is known for its smooth melodies with strong vocals and jazzy riffs backed by horns and keys. “Away From The World” followed suit but did so with a more refined,  mastered style.

Approaching its second decade of existence, DMB has taken its time to craft and perfect its style and sound. The album represents this tone well. While the distinct sound of Dave’s voice and classic saxophone remain, the grittiness has been cleaned away.

Many might find this attractive and enjoyable,  while others prefer the sometimes sharp and rough sounds of the “old” Dave Matthews.

“While ‘Away From The World’ is nice, I found it almost too perfected,” sophomore Eli Casteel said. “What made Dave Matthews so fun to listen to was the imperfections — you didn’t know what they were going to do with a song when it starts. [‘Away From The World’] is too predictable, too boring. It lulled me to sleep.”

While big-name bands will always have mixed reviews and opinions, DMB has remained noticeably consistent over the years.  “Away From The World” is not excluded from that pool.  The classic sounds one can expect from DMB all remain. What sets its new album apart is the way DMB took that sound and refined it to create a nicer, polished tone.

I have always been a fan of DMB’s ability to fuse jazz-like sounds with a more or less rock style base. I am a jazz enthusiast, so hearing DMB focus slightly more on that in “Away From The World” was refreshing. It is not my favorite DMB album, but it is still classic Dave Matthews, which is always fun to listen to. There is so much talent in the group, and they manage to orchestrate their music incredibly well.

Peter Duell Staff Writer

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Vintage parlor serves up sweets

Life can be sweet when you have a big scoop of ice cream on a hot day, and Doyle’s Ice Cream Parlor can provide just that.

Doyle’s Ice Cream Parlor first opened its doors in 1939. Due to the Natatorium Park down the hill from the parlor and the trolley tracks that came down Boone Street, the ice cream parlor became a hot spot for both commuters and amusement park lovers alike.

Since 1939, the culture and layout of Spokane has changed drastically. The land where the Natatorium Park sat is now a mobile home park and the trolley tracks on Boone Street have been overtaken by asphalt and cars, yet Doyle’s Ice Cream Parlor  still stands as a beacon of what it once was, serving its locals with old time favorites.

Twenty-one years ago Jerry Gill became the owner of the ice cream parlor, but it did not come easily.

“I didn’t know one thing about making ice cream,” Gill said. “The recipes and people have helped out a lot.”

For many years he wanted to buy the parlor and bring it back to life after it had been closed from 1986 to 1990, but various circumstances made it a struggle.

“I came here when I was a little kid,” Gill said. “I lived two doors down from the shop and I knew the history, so I wanted to save it.”

Just when it seemed like he would never own the shop, opportunities opened up and it fell into his lap, he said.

Despite former struggles, the homemade ice cream and unique decor kept customers coming back for more. Gill and the employees still make homemade ice cream and waffle cones using original recipes from the beginning to the parlor’s existence.

Besides traditional ice cream flavors, the menu includes banana splits, root beer floats and sundaes. The eclectic decor of the shop makes it stand out from other ice cream venues. Each of the walls are covered with retro memorabilia from old soda advertisements to antique toys,  including race cars and Mickey Mouse dolls.

Keith Kelley is Whitworth University’s director for the center of service learning and community engagement and a West Central resident. He has a passion for building community and telling others about the uniqueness of West Central.

“As a community member, it is so special to experience such a wonderful, living relic of Spokane’s history,” Kelley said. “It’s always a delight to congregate with neighbors and enjoy delicious homemade ice cream on a warm summer evening.”

Doyle’s Ice Cream Parlor has become a local favorite for all ages. People from all over Spokane County come to enjoy a scoop of ice cream. Gill said grandparents come in with their grandchildren and tell them stories about how they used to come into the parlor for a treat when they were little.

Elise Van Dam Staff Writer

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Music review: The Avett Brothers delivers album of contrasting emotions

You know those songs that seem to capture your soul and before you know it your toes are tapping and your head is swaying? Well, the Avett Brothers has mastered the mysterious art of connecting listeners to symbolic meanings much deeper than a mere scramble of lyrics. I’d call it an erratic mixture of emotions that somehow all flow together. Know what I mean? It’s like one moment you’re singing along to a melancholic verse, and the next your heart is pounding to the upbeat and synergistic chorus.

Scott and Seth Avett have been into music ever since they were young and once played in a rock band named Nemo. Eventually, in 2000, the band became The Avett Brothers (Bob Crawford was added as Bass guitarist) and it was not until two years later that they hit the road running and released their debut album “Country Was.”

The band’s music is a combination of country and folk, and has a modern day Beatles vibe mixed with the blues of Doc Watson. I saw the Avett Brothers live this summer at Red Rocks Amphitheatre in Denver, Colo., and their passion flowed out from their voices and collective instruments in all directions; all coming together to create this magical noise.

The Avett Brothers released their newest album, “The Carpenter,” on Sept. 11. Once again they have hit the target with the overarching goal of music: relating to their audience and capturing the pure, simple peace that music brings.

Similar to previous albums, this one is so very real, and when you really listen to the words they pull you towards a conundrum of pensive thought. Every song is a story, one that pulls you in and makes you feel at home with the melodic folk beat. And in each is several lessons that we can all connect with.

In the song “Once and Future Carpenter,” Scott Avett sings, “Well we’re all in this together, If I live the life I’m given, I won’t be scared to die.” How many of us are constantly wishing for something better than the circumstances we’ve been given instead of simply living without fear of the future. Motivational, right?

Looking at the band’s big success album, “I and Love and You,” the Avett Brothers’ new album returns to the rebellious arrangements and whimsically jaunty lyrics of that and earlier albums. As is seen in their song, “Through My Prayers,” the contagious background humming of the cello and the elevating picking of the banjo chime perfectly through their song’s mixtures of light and dark, comedy and tragedy, and fast and slow. Check out “The Carpenter” and get ready for a roller coaster wave of emotional enrapturement.

Christina Spencer Staff Writer

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Film review: False guru fools them all

Intrigued by the popularity of Eastern spirituality in the United States, New Jersey filmmaker Vikram Gandhi began research for a yoga documentary. Instead of completing that project, Gandhi addressed the competitive, insincere and downright corrupt practices witnessed in gurus in both America and India in his film “Kumaré.”  Backed by a degree of skepticism developed at an early age, Vikram Gandhi demonstrates the illusions of spirituality.

Donning the disguise of spiritual guru, Sri Kumaré, Gandhi establishes a life-changing alter ego in his film, “Kumaré: The True Story of a False Prophet.” As Kumaré, Gandhi grows out his hair and beard, adopts the loose, colorful garments of the berber tradition and mimics the voice of his grandmother while embarking on his journey in Arizona.

As anticipated, Kumaré acquires a following of devoted students, all who revere his assumedly authentic and wise teachings. Doling out impromptu blessings and gibberish chants, the guru meets some exceptionally quirky individuals and shares a part in deeply personal growth.

Still, perhaps the most touching progression is that of the narrator and guru himself. Though Gandhi remarks that he is shocked by the faith individuals have in someone no different than themselves, he too begins to believe in the rituals of his own creation. Eventually, Gandhi says that his ideal self is given life in the character, Kumaré.

“Kumaré” is a thoughtful and challenging documentary with an engaging accompaniment of humor and emotion. This film challenges the audience to question the authenticity and authority of spiritual leaders. It asks the viewer to consider beliefs and religious practices outside their own, no matter how unusual. At the insistence of Kumaré himself, one is encouraged to find the guru inside him or herself.

“Kumaré: The True Story of a False Prophet” will be playing at the Magic Lantern Theatre (25 West Main Avenue in downtown Spokane) at 2:30 p.m. and 8:45 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, 7:30 p.m. on Sunday, and 8:45 p.m. Monday through Thursday.

Laryssa Lynch Staff Writer

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Now open: McClain’s Pizzeria

All it takes is dough, tomato sauce and cheese to make a basic pizza; but the cooks add so much more at McClain’s Pizzeria. Matt and Mi-Mi Heilman opened McClain’s Pizzeria (10208 N. Division St.) on Sept. 4.

Matt and Mi-Mi worked for Subway Sandwich Shop for a combined total of 39 years before they opened their own business. The idea to start a pizzeria came from Matt’s experience working at his friend’s family pizzeria. His friend used the recipes to start McClain’s Pizzeria in Hailey, Idaho. The Heilmans bought some of the recipes from the original McClain’s pizzeria to start their own. They are not currently a franchise, but are working on it.

The founding principle of McClain’s Pizzeria is based on a simple equation: good customer service combined with good products results in a good business.

“We know that our product is different from other pizzerias in Spokane,” Mi-Mi said. “It is simple but different.”

The Heilmans believe that their product is different because they make their dough fresh every day and add a secret ingredient to make it stand out from other restaurants.

The Heilmans also make their own sauce, use an Italian cheese that is new to the United States and only buy high-quality produce as ingredients for their recipes.

“The pizza was good,” customer Meaghan McCluskey said. “The sauce was tasty and had just the right amount of spice. Also, the gluten-free crust had a good taste; it did not taste like cardboard.”

The menu consists of pizza, sandwiches, calzones, salads, spaghetti and wings. Customers can build their own pizzas by choosing different meat, vegetable and cheese toppings. Or they can choose a specific type of pizza, such as the McClain’s Combo that includes Canadian bacon, pepperoni, sausage, mushrooms, black olives and red onions. The menu also includes vegetarian options such as a veggie sandwich, a veggie combo pizza, a build-your-own calzone or salads.

The Heilmans are hoping to add single pizza slices to their menu starting in the upcoming weeks in an effort to attract more college students.

“We just want it to be a fun atmosphere where you can watch your food being made,” Mi-Mi said.

Elise Van Dam Staff Writer