Pronounced "ben-yay," it used to be if somebody from the Bonners Ferry wanted a real beignet, they had to up and go down to New Orleans in the French Quarter to the Cafe Du Monde French Market Coffee Stand but not no more.
Now you can get genuine New Orleans-style beignets and a good cup of coffee, along with the good chatter and company of Judie Sowards, who after a long and exciting life has finally settled down to do what she's looked to doing for years, having opened Grama J's Beignets in the Bonnerport Building off the city parking lot in January.
Born and raised in Spokane to a father who was an internationally acclaimed Gospel musician, Judie traveled a lot, and after she finished college in Seattle, she embarked on a career as a theme party planner, traveling cross country constantly, but always loving New Orleans especially, where she began a life-long love affair with beignets, "square doughnuts without a hole," as she describes them; yeast-raised mounds of warm perfection dusted with powdered sugar or piled with eggs, cheese, ham, sausage or bacon to make a breakfast or lunch treat that it unsurpassed.
After her marriage of 29 years ended in divorce, Judie retired to Spokane to take care of her aging parents; her mother coping with Alzheimers, her father, severely injured in a plane crash in 1961 and finally slowing down due to the constant pain.
Out for a ride, they found the Paradise Valley Inn and Bonners Ferry, and this became their "home away from home" in the years before her parents passed away. They rented the Inn for one grand summer from spring to fall, and Judie, already liking Bonners Ferry and Boundary County, fell in love with both the place and its people.
Last August, availing herself the opportunity to caretake the Inn, she began thinking of bringing beignets to Bonners Ferry, and with it some of the ambiance of the French Quarter.
Grama's Beignets opened January 5, a friendly, cozy nook where you can sit and visit. If you have no one to visit with, Grama J is wonderful company who'll have you smiling and chatting away in no time! It's a place to relax, enjoy soft jazz and an aroma that's straight from heaven!
While her menu has been limited to beignets and coffee, milk or soda pop, she has now added crepes, filled with banana, Nutella or raspberry, and soon with local fruits and fillings as they come in season.
"This is the perfect job," she says with animation. "I've been wanting to do this all my life! Life is all about people. I love people and I love entertaining, so this is just fun!"
Already she's built a loyal cadre of regulars, and if you decide you can't help but become one, be sure to ask her about a coffee cup.
Grama J's Beignets, 6371 East Kootenai Street, is open from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday, which leaves her time to keep up with her father's business in Spokane as well as to look after the Inn.
Take your laptop or electronic device as there's free WiFi, and she's also planning to start a youth night, offering a place for kids to play games, watch shows, enjoy pop and crepes and beignets and visit and have fun.
In addition, Grama J's is available for parties, meetings and other gatherings after 3 p.m.
If you plan on going in, make it quick; she's closing Grama J's for two weeks in April to go to Arizona to be the real Grama J to her two beautiful grandkids!
To learn more, call (509) 230-4470 or, better yet, stop in and say "hi!"