Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The Best Meal of My Life

I had such a wonderful weekend. It's been a long time since I've had such fun. The weekend started off with me cooking Jon dinner on Friday night. One of my New Year's resolutions is to cook dinner once a week. I love to bake, just not cook. Or at least have never felt comfortable with cooking. After some early successes (thank you, Pioneer Woman and Ina Garten), I decided to take on the more complex (for me) dish of beef bourguinon. I was inspired after reading/watching Julie and Julia and it seems like the "thing" to do these days. Let me just tell you... it was so amazingly yummy! And I'm not even a huge beef lover! I think Jon really liked it too, and he has a much more gourmet palate (thinks nothing of chugging raw oysters) than me.

But no... the beef bourguinon was not the "best meal of my life." That was to come a night later. Jon and I decided to make our Valentine's celebration extra special and head to Missoula to go on a REAL date. Yes, you heard me. We traveled ALL that way for 1) babysitters and 2) good restaurants.

Missoula does not disappoint when it comes to culinary offerings and there is nothing we like more than a good meal. When we travel, our trips are mostly based around food (and for me - shopping!). We research, read reviews, and then pick the best restaurants in each particular town. One of our favorite things is to find that gem of a restaurant that is not necessarily expensive, but has a cult following.

When we had the summer in Missoula, we made a list of restaurants we wanted to try. We were able to hit each one and came up with our new list of Missoula favs. I grew up in Missoula and both Jon and I went to college there. I was amazed to find out I hadn't even been to all the best places - even with living there 20 plus years. Also, there are quite a few new restaurants that have opened in the past year or so. So when we made our Valentines plans, we had a pretty excellent selection.

We wanted a restaurant that took reservations. Just didn't want to deal with the Saturday night crowds all vying for the same great table. We debated between a couple of places, but settled on The Pearl because of the romantic atmosphere and excellent service. And when I say "excellent" I mean it. The Pearl has service down. They do not rush you. They let you take your time and enjoy each course. So we went with that. I am blown away by their desserts and was ready for my chocolate fix.

All our plans changed when we heard that The Silk Road was taking reservations for Valentine's weekend. Jon and I had often reminisced about our meal there last summer. We loved the concept of the tapas menu from the countries surrounding the historic silk road. Plus, the family behind The Silk Road are Missoula culinary gods. So here is where the best meal of my life comes in. I am not joking, The Silk Road does not disappoint. It was the best meal of my life. I do not say this lightly, because I have eaten in a lot of amazing places at some pretty great restaurants. Once the food started to arrive, Jon and I kept on wracking our brains trying to think of a meal that topped what we were eating. Paris? No. New York? No. San Francisco? No. Miami? No. Seattle? No. Beijing? No. Las Vegas? No. We just could not think of anything that compared. That is how good it was.

Now I know some of you are thinking - really? Better than Paris or San Fran? To me, it really is. Maybe it's because we've been stuck in the Clancy compound too long, but I just could not pick an experience that stood up next to this one. And just maybe it's because this perfect restaurant is in Missoula, Montana of all places that makes it even more special. You see, I love that town and I celebrate when awesome things happen to it. Awesome things like The Silk Road.

So this is what we ate (portions are small and allow for lots of sampling!) It was so hard to choose...

-Hummus Traditional Syrian style with tahini and pine nuts (if I see hummus on a menu, I have to get it)

-Ahi Tuna Poke with sesame, scallions, lime juice, tamari, served on a sesame crisp (Jon mentioned that he could eat vats and vats of this)

-Lamb Racklette encrusted in Dijon, herbs & panko, with a mustard-lamb reduction

-Crab Dip with sherry and cheese: Chesapeake style (oh lordy this was good. what do they put in this???)

-Cassoulet of duck confit, butifarra sausage, house cured pork & French beans topped with duck cracklings & herbs

-Gnocchi pan seared with local organic squash in hazelnut brown butter, topped with fried sage (they had me at gnocci...)

-Arancini crispy rissotto balls stuffed with goat cheese, served in a pool of fennel cream sauce (my favorite! I could have eaten 10 of these! I asked a server, who I also went to highschool with, how she could stop herself from stealing the arancini everytime she went into the kitchen? She told me that the restaurant had to get a new policy because all the servers were eating too much! She also mentioned the extra 15 lbs. she gained didn't help)

-Shareen: crisped farro with pistachios, oranges, cardamom & apricots (new flavors I had never tasted before. Amazing!)

-Chocolate Calzone filled with raspberries & cream cheese (so so good for a V-day dessert!)

-Apple Torte: buttery, rich & dense, filled with honey crisp apples sauteed in butter, drizzled with dark caramel sauce (so french and so buttery good)

One super cool thing is that the restaurant lets it's fans vote on each season's menu, so I felt I had a part in choosing the AMAZING selection we had. I voted back in December or January and was hoping we would get to try it. And boy did we try it! Towards the end of the meal we were getting sad because we do not live in a place with great food like this. It only makes us want to travel more. We are getting excited for our trips coming up to Park City, UT and to Seattle. Maybe we will find a meal to top this, but it would be hard. Each and every item was perfectly prepared and seasoned. I tried new things that I have never tasted before. It was a perfect evening.
Pin It!


Chelsea and Cody said...

It sounds like the perfect evening...and thanks to you my mouth is watering!

Blalock said...

The Silk Road really is that good! No where else in the world has food that comes close, at least nowhere I've eaten. Abe is such a gifted chef. Next time you go, look for a large brass pot above the bar mirror. Jack bought it in Afghanistan for Ray.

Barbara said...

Yum! I've only been to Silk Road once and we were there for five hours. I love the slow eating, small portions, lots of wine....ah, so nice! Sounds like you had a very wonderful and much deserved date night!

Reagan and Trevor's Mommy said...

Hi! New reader catching up on handsome Jack's miracle story. Couldn't stop myself from wondering if the Chesapeake style crab dip meant it had Old Bay seasoning in it. I'm originally from that area and would bet money on it. :-)

Ashley said...

Oh wow! With all this hospital food I'm eating this post made me super hungry. Glad you had a great Valentines a few years back. How they are still as awesome as this one!