The Pearl Café ~ Missoula, Montana
Tables at The Pearl Cafe featured in SizzlnCuisine.com
It seems that French food has gotten my attention lately. Maybe it was back when Bittersweet Bistro’s Gina Garcia offered those deliciously creative and savory crepes on Spokane’s South Hill. Maybe it was when Madeleine’s Café and Pâtisserie opened in Downtown Spokane with those beautiful melt-in-your-mouth French pastries, and then Jeremy Hansen of Sante introduced Spokane to the taste sensations of charcuterie. Or, maybe it was when Fleur de Sel came to Post Falls all the way from Billings, Mont., bringing all points of France they know so well and take their inspiration from? French country or city sidewalk food, the French have got my attention.

I grew up watching Julia Child’s passion for French food on public television. The extensive processes intrigue me, the flavorful results fascinate me, and the visual delights satisfy before the taste sensations even brush my lips. I feel so at home with the flavors, the textures and the presentations that French food brings to the table that I crave more and seek them where ever I go these days; especially when you can find them here in the Northwest.

This is why I chose The Pearl Café on a recent trip to Missoula, Mont., for one of Mitch Silver’s collector car auctions. Here we were, hungry and on the hunt for something fabulous after the auction setup, and four great recommendations came our way: The Pearl Café, RedBird, The Silk Road and Scotty’s Table. Since they were all downtown and we could do a quick drive by/walk by to check for curb appeal, I could easily convince Mitch of the curb appeal I found most interesting. Little did he know, I had already decided, sight unseen that The Pearl was the one. Regardless of what the actual curb appeal would be I would say it’s the one because … the French have got my attention of late.

Good decision. Even with other notable restaurants that Missoula is known for, I am glad we—or rather I—chose The Pearl. The entrance hall was lined with local awards of excellence, the greeting was warm and inviting at the curb and once inside, and the service was as friendly as the greeting, and the whole staff worked together for the experience.

With the extent of the menu it was difficult to choose. There was a little something for everyone including the traditional Bacon- Wrapped Scallops for the less adventurous. We started with a tasty array of cheeses, sipped up the Mushroom Bisque with browned butter and dill, shared an avocado, pear, pecan and blue cheese salad, and got a little more adventurous with each taste. My entrée was the Seafood Mixed Grill that had a surprising taste-popping chili aioli and smoky tomato butter with fresh jalapeño sauce that really zinged up the usually buttery seafood dish. Mitch had the Veal Chops with Morels and smashed red potatoes with a creamy morel and Madeira sauce.

And I thought I couldn’t stand one more bite but then … it is a French restaurant. So, we got the Blackout Cake with sweet and salty pecan and coconut caramel, served with brown-sugar ice cream.

Thanks Mitch, for being my favorite person in the world and for tolerating my passion for the French these days. Missoula isn’t really known as a culinary destination, but yes, we did find The Pearl there ... in Missoula.

PHOTOS AND STORY BY: JEANETTE DUNN

 Reprinted from Idaho Cuisine Northern Edition 2011-2012 IdahoCuisine.com