Thursday, September 24, 2009

Big Sky, Big Eats!

I'll admit it, I didn't have huge expectations when it came to food in Montana.  Yes, I expected steaks to be good, I mean heck, it's CATTLE country, for goodness sakes.  But other than that, I was just hoping to get some decent grub here and there.  Boy, did I get a wake-up call.  Big Sky Country has got it goin' on!  Well, except for one meal...  Here's the rundown:

Capers in Kalispell - My, my.  They had a Buffalo Steak special.  If they have it again when you're there, GET IT.  Ordered medium rare, it was like a perfectly seared filet.  If this is what "lean" tastes like, if this is what "better for me" tastes like, I'm in.  All the accompaniments of the grilled vegetables, wild rice, potato cake.  Don't tell me you're not drooling at the viewing of this picture!
I started with the Gorgonzola and Pine Nut tart.  Um.  I appreciate the creativity, but it's just too much.  Take the Tomato Bisque, instead.  That thing is smooth, creamy, and as tasty as tasty can be!  Brick oven pizzas are quite good, but don't get it if someone else gets the Buffalo Steak, because you'll just kick yourself and pine for your company's fare.  

Taste of Whitefish - the first night we were there, we happened upon a food festival.  Can you believe my food karma?  I swear.  Two very notable booths.  Latitude 48 in downtown Whitefish had homemade gnocchi panfried and then combined with a light wild mushroom (including some black truffle shavings!) and truffle oil cream sauce.  Yum!!  I went back for a second helping after going through everything, and one of the servers said, "Back for more, eh?"  Out of all the people who go through this booth, I can't believe they called me out.  The other restaurant is Cheffy's a bit outside of town.  They had a nice, delicate tuna tartare that was Asian inspired and just delightful.  I would like to say that I went there for a second time, and no one gave me a hard time...

Tupelo Grille in Whitefish - If you have anything in Whitefish, it must be the LowCountry Shrimp & Grits at Tupelo Grille.  And might I recommend, spice it up!  It is UP THERE with the Buffalo Steak.  I wish I had a picture of it, but it didn't last that long.  6 large beautifully grilled shrimp sat atop and aside a cake of grits.  Over all of it was a creamy, luscious creole sauce that brought everything together so wonderfully.  I wish I had some here...

Breakfast Joints - In Whitefish, the breakfasts were big, but not the best.  You'll find them to be fine, but know that elsewhere in Big Sky, there are more kickin' places.  Buffalo Cafe, Swift Creek Cafe, Bean Hive - all fall into this category.  We heard that Loula's is a local favorite.  We didn't try it, but you should.  

In East Glacier, Whistlestop is GREAT.  They specialize in stuffed French Toast.  Delicious, but hope your arteries are prepared.  Omelettes are quite good as well.  Two Medicine Grill is closest to a diner than anything else in town - it's narrow with a counter and stools and some tables set up in the back.  

In Missoula, we ate at The Shack twice, and we had three breakfasts to be had.  The varieties of omelettes is quite a lot, and their Chorizo sausage one is piquant, leaving you wanting more.  The other day I had the wild chantrelle and jack cheese with spinach and onions added.  Yum!

Serrano's in East Glacier - Who would have ever guessed that in the "blink and you missed it" town of East Glacier Park, there is one of the best Mexican restaurants?  3 nights in town, we ate there for two.  Party Nachos are like a frat party gone totally out of control.  Lots of all sorts of stuff layered with cheese upon cheese.  It was ridiculous to think we could eat that as our appetizer.  You've been cautioned.  Chile Relleno is sublime.  Deep fried, so easy with it, but you can get it ala carte, and you should.  The Mole is one of the most complex and developed I've ever had.  And I KNOW chocolate.  One night I also got the Diablo Stew.  Moist, braised pork that was incredibly tender was in a spicy tomato-based soup, only I didn't think it was spicy enough.  So they brought out a Habanero paste, the hottest pepper around.  I kept adding, thinking, hey I have some left, I should use it.  Dummy.  It went to a nuclear level, and I thought I might die after 10 minutes.  But ever the glutton for punishment, I kept eating.  By night's end, I was crying, sweating, sniffling, but all the while, smacking my lips.  Really good.

Whistlestop in East Glacier - Okay, I know I already talked about this, but we also went to this location for dinner the one other night.  Their BBQ is really quite good.  The chicken is of the dark meat variety, keeping it ever moist.  Pork Ribs rock, too.  Platters are plentiful, and you should be happy at the end of it all.  But what you should really get?  The Polish Dog.  Bart, the Polish guy who's been "stuck" in East Glacier for about 8 years, brought the best of his culinary arsenal along.  He covers it with a sauerkraut that is a great blend of sweet, sour, salty.  He knows what he's doing.  Get it.

Silk Road in Missoula - This place is new, and Missoula should be happy it's around.  The concept is food from all along the Silk Road, tapas style.  So you can taste a whole bunch of different things.  It's a wonderful culinary adventure!  We got the Pork Chilaquiles - tender, moist, tasty.  Ceviche - with watermelon!  Great addition.  Shrimp and Mushroom dumplings - the dough casing was a tad dried out, but overall, a very nice dish.  Lasty, the Shanghai Beef Noodle bowl - not the best I've ever had, but certainly good enough to be enjoyed.  It's a GREAT concept, a GREAT place.

Scotty's Table in Missoula - One of the places I kept reading about.  Not everything on the menu is worth the high price you will pay, but the Pork Duo and the Ratatouille certainly are.  The Pork Duo consists of two HUGE tender, fall-off-the-bone Pork Ribs with meat that came 2 inches off the bone.  When I say HUGE, I mean HUGE.  Nestled in between them was a cube of Pork Belly that was equally delicious but totally dwarfed by its rib brothers.  An adobe sauce and a tomatilla sauce, creamed corn and corn on the cob accompanied it, and it was a dish worth its price.  As much as I like the movie Ratatouille, I had never had it.  Finally, I did.  A vegetable lasagna, and I imagine this is close to what Anton Ego tasted in the movie that moved him so much.  It was quite delish.  Skip the Pork Ragu Papardelle.  It's disappointing in comparison.

Nara in Missoula - This is a Korean BBQ and Sushi place.  They have the grills inside, just as they should for a real Korean BBQ place.  But besides the sushi, which was decent, don't get anything else.  The Banchan, which included kimchi, spicy cucumbers, spinach, and bean sprouts were awful.  Just awful.  Kimchi is supposed to be fermented in all its spicy glory, not rotten.  Awful.  I can't say it enough.  The BBQ was okay.  Marinate beef slices in bottled teriyaki sauce, and there you have it.  The udon noodle soup was bland bland bland.  Yuck.  

And a last call out to the Microbreweries out there.  Special nod to KettleHouse and their Cold Smoke brew.  I could use some of it right now.  So awesome!

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