The Office - Russian Bear Cafe - The Fixx - Rick's Press Room 

The Game Called Musical Restaurants

Unless your kids are grown, The Office ain't your new favorite family restaurant. Twenty-one and up, full bar, full menu, plasmas all over the place and—get this—smoking. Thanks to its 21-and-over designation, the new restaurant is one of but a few that can put ashtrays out on the tables and serve food. Having taken up residence where The Rendezvous (which closed several months ago for "remodeling") foolishly tried to make a go of fine dining on Fairview, The Office opens Wednesday, April 2.

It's not, however, the former restaurant reinvented. A spokesperson from The Office says it has a whole different team of owners, who've remodeled the place and, from what we can tell, have a better handle on what will fly on Fairview: a sports bar. TVs, pool tables, dart boards and games make for the sports part, while the menu offerings support that claim with a list of fried apps, burgers, wraps, salads and steaks.

Also new in the world of food and drink is The Fixx, appropriately named to satisfy all of your caffeine needs. Located on the corner of 10th and Bannock streets, The Fixx is just far enough from the glut of downtown caffeinators that we surmise office dwellers in west downtown will be grateful not to have to walk as far. Pastries, quiche and sandwiches are from Le Cafe de Paris, and the coffee is from Eagle Coffee Roasting.

Eagle, however, gets the award for the most unique new eatery. Cafe Russian Bear is officially the valley's only Russian restaurant (hell, I'd bet a Benny that it's the only Russian restaurant in the whole state). Owner Oleg Mironov says he and his wife make absolutely everything on the menu from scratch. That means the borscht, the potato pancakes, the cabbage rolls and the Russian crepes. Yep, Russian crepes, which, according to Mironov are much better than French crepes because they use milk and less egg instead of water. The daily lunch special includes one of these fluffier Russian crepes, as well as a bowl of borscht and a drink for nine bucks. Mironov also whips up a different house special for Friday and Saturday (last week's was beef stroganoff), and the house coffee is Flying M's beloved Purple Bean.

The Office, 6125 W. Fairview Ave., 208-377-2800.; The Fixx, 224 10th St., 208-331-4011; Cafe Russian Bear, 600 S. Rivershore Ln., Ste. 160, Eagle, 208-939-1911.

Meridian's French Connection

Boise food snobs have been so spoiled by the number of Culinary Institute of America grads manning the city's kitchens that the honor is almost an expectation rather than a pleasant surprise these days. (Although, it is worth mention that two of the valley's most noteworthy up-and-coming chefs at Brick 29 Bistro and ONO are classmates of a Boise alma mater.) So, since CIA is so passe, try this on for a change: Roger Verge. The French chef has an international reputation for fantastic food (and at least one fantastic entrepreneurial flop in Manhattan's Rockefeller Plaza), and in addition to running his world-famous restaurant in Provence, consulting on menus from Florida to Japan, and writing a book, Verge also brings along aspiring chefs at his school in Mougins, France.

And that's where you come in. Rick Valenzuela, chef owner of Rick's Press Room in Meridian studied under Verge, and now Valenzuela is offering a few classes of his own. Learn how to pair wine and food Tuesday, April 8, at 6 p.m. The following week on Wednesday, April 16, food takes a backseat to cigars and wine, when the conjoined Treasure Valley Smoke Shop teams up with wine distributors to offer a night of stoking and sipping with a few nibbles from Rick's. And on Thursday, April 17, it's all about the food as Valenzuela cooks up a couple of courses with pairing wines.

Rick's Press Room, 130 E. Idaho Ave., Meridian, 208-288-0558.

This Week's Wine and Dine

Have a family-style Basque dinner in support of the Basque Museum and Cultural Center and Boiseko Ikastola language immersion preschool.

Sat., April 5, 7 p.m., $50 per person. Basque Center, 601 Grove St., 208-343-2671, Basquecenter.com.

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