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Vine and Olive

Image courtesy of Batch Bake Shop

Few restaurants open in their first week demonstrating excellence, professionalism and polish, and yet Vine and Olive under the leadership of Naomi Boutz and executive chef Paul Mason managed to do just that. It is truly, in every sense of the word, Coeur d' Alene's new "it" spot.

When I first spotted the sign in the popular Riverstone community, I was immediately intrigued, and set out to find the owner of this promising new eatery.

Inside, it was still an empty shell that formerly housed an Aeropostale clothing store, but when I met with Naomi, her eyes lit up vividly while she began describing what would find its new home here.

Her vision was for a neighborhood establishment with a casual but beautiful atmosphere, and making sure both the food and wine were front and center.

Hiring chef Paul Mason was nothing short of brilliant - coming from the current US food hotspot of Chicago and packed with experience from top rated restaurants such as Next (of the Alinea group) and The Girl and the Goat. She envisioned a menu with European sensibility - what you’d get at a cafe overseas, and simply but beautifully prepared. This vision has been executed to perfection. His grasp of classic techniques blended with modern flavor combinations is a refreshing addition to the North Idaho food scene.

Naomi and Paul invited our Tastemaker team to come to a blogger/media preview lunch, and we were all excited to try their highlighted menu items. We arrived to see a bright, new restaurant with a deftly capable service staff ready to take care of each of us like we were family. When the first few menu items came out, the entire table became quiet (which is rare, because food people LOVE to talk!).

Each course seemed to be better than the next, with each of us selecting favorites as the meal progressed. While we looked carefully for execution errors, we found none.

Each of the starters were truly addicting. The first to go at our table were the crunchy chickpeas, which were flash-fried in rice flour and finished with salt and sugar, and quickly behind them were the acorn squash frites with spicy mayo, braised octopus with sundried tomatoes and feta, and the sweet potato ravioli.

The bright, lemony caesar salad was next, and then house cured king salmon with sweet pickles, and for many of us, the star of the show that we still dream about - the chicken liver mousse with blackcurrants and rye. I'm not particularly a liver fan, so I was hesitant to try this one, but it easily (for me) was the best menu item of the day. I have gone back several times with this particular item on my radar! I would eat it every week if I could. It is rich and well-balanced, with the currants lending a sweetness without being cloying. The salad was a fresh and welcome addition of texture with crisp crostini as an anchor to the luxurious mousse.

While their focus is small plates, the main dishes certainly held their own as well if you're looking for a more traditional meal. We enjoyed the scallops with ajo blanco, chorizo and brussel sprouts particularly. The sauce was beautifully complimentary to the fresh and beautifully seared scallops.

The steak frites were exceptional -  the classic midtown staple refined and accompanied with a delicious aioli and fries with a crisp exterior and yet almost romantically pillowy inside. The steak was cooked to order and was seasoned with finesse. It was juicy, and satisfying for even the pickiest eater.

We were delighted to learn that all of the pasta is made in-house, so the pasta aficionados may rejoice! The carbonara has a thicker, more substantial noodle than a traditional spaghetti, and a wonderfully satisfying al-dente preparation. The over easy egg resting atop the noodles when cut provides a luxurious sauce and the salty bite of pancetta rounds out the ultimate comfort-food dish.

 Lastly, the sweet potato ravioli with brown butter, pumpkin seeds and sage all made fresh was a lovely sweet and surprising dish. It was seasoned delicately, and the richness of the brown butter rounded out each bite.