The tortelloni—plump, pillowy pockets topped with wild mushrooms, crumbled Calabrian chili sausage, fennel slivers and crispy sage—were perfection. So were the pappardelle ribbons that topped my husband’s plate along with shredded pork shoulder, Parmesan and winter greens.
It was our initial visit to Peter Froese’s first restaurant, the casually elegant chef-driven Gander & Ryegrass, and we were celebrating. The occasion was my belated birthday, but each course of this dinner was something to relish in and of itself.
Tucked into a prime spot in downtown Spokane’s historic Liberty Building, Gander & Ryegrass offers refined, unhurried, multi-coursed dinners, which Froese describes as “Italian-inspired long-course meals.”
Froese didn’t go to culinary school but learned on the job. His résumé includes stints at Mizuna, Central Food and Ruins in Spokane. His fare is influenced by visiting Florence, working in Seattle at Altura and for renowned restaurateur Ethan Stowell, and—before that—in the kitchen at this very location when it housed Santé Restaurant & Charcuterie, a cornerstone of the Spokane dining scene from 2008 until its closure in 2019.
“I worked here five years ago, and it really pushed me further into whole-animal butchery and charcuterie,” Froese says. “We’ll continue a little bit with the legacy of Santé—just with my own spin.”
Froese bought the restaurant from founders Jeremy Hansen and his wife, Kate, who recently moved to Philadelphia so the James Beard Award semifinalist could become executive chef at Fork and its sister restaurant, High Street on Market.
In the spirit of Santé, he’s cooking in the tradition of European fine dining. His favorite way to dine “is in long courses.” So give yourself plenty of time. The expectation is you’ll linger leisurely at your table “for two hours at least,” savoring each artful dish — unrushed and basking in the moment as much as the exquisite cuisine.
“This is how I love to eat, and I want to share it with you,” Froese says. “It’s not rushed, but there aren’t too many lulls. Pacing is important, and we pay attention to that.”
On the night of our visit, there wasn’t too much of a wait time between courses — just long enough to keep the conversation going, sip on a cocktail or glass of wine, and anticipate the next dish.
Froese truly making the menu his own, putting his own thoughtful takes on dishes starting with a signature staple that reflects his passion: pasta, prepared as it should be — made in-house daily, by hand, from scratch.
“I really love pasta,” Froese says. “I want to butcher animals in the morning, and I want to cook pasta at night.”
I started with octopus—tender, dramatically plated and accompanied by white beans and arugula. My husband opted for salad: chicory apple with hazelnuts and Gorgonzola Picante. The second course was that dreamy pasta.
There were two options for the third course. I went with the scallops—they cut like butter—with wheat berries, dandelion greens and mushrooms. My husband got the strip loin. It was juicy, smoky and paired with hearty vegetables—potato, carrots, cabbage—but plated in such a beautiful way as to make them all appear delicate.
The delicacies continued in between courses with chef’s choice amuse-bouches, such as bread and butter or a palate-cleansing orange granita topped with halved kiwi berries.
Rounding out the options on the streamlined but well-curated menu were beef crudo or sweetbreads with charred sweet potatoes and pickled daikon to start and risotto with Taleggio, balsamico and charred radicchio as a second plate.
After dinner, there was a choice of Camembert with squash and honeycomb or—on the sweeter side—chocolate cake with mascarpone semifreddo and dark chocolate mousse. We split the cake and left feeling satisfied but not overly full with plans to return with an even bigger appetite.
In addition to the three-course offering, Froese also does a “Marathon Dinner” with about 10 or 12 different plates. He plans to change the menu with the seasons as well as to suit his creativity.
Since opening in the fall, Gander & Ryegrass has also introduced a daily apertivo hour with cocktail and small bite specials featuring Chico Bay oysters and smoked steelhead rillettes.
“So far,” he says, “the first steps we’ve taken are exactly what I want to be doing. And it’s always going to be growing and evolving.”