a la carte 

Life of Reilly

Plantain gnocchi with a salty, thick and ripe cheese sauce; pecan-encrusted trout; seared tuna and watercress salad with walnuts and an orange glaze; lobster tails and mango chutney melting on sweet garlic butter; squash, stuffed with tart apples and cranberries; dense Irish soda bread dipped in Tupelo honey; sweet potato soup; dark rich beer; crisp ale; the triple-fermented sweetness of Trocken Beeren Auslase; an aged port; a stiff martini; a passionate glass of red wine; a cup of extraordinary joe—some of us live for these things. These things and a good cigar now and then.

Dining in or dining out, the world of the edible seems sometimes unnavigable. There is too much to taste or create, too much to savor and enjoy in one lifetime, on one trip. From cookbooks to chef’s specials to internet sites dedicated to the preservation of “Slow Cooked Foods” (www.slowfood.com), the infinite universe of indulgence is always beckoning to be explored. Sometimes it beckons to quell the appetite, like the indulgence of largest item on any menu in the world: a whole roast camel, stuffed with a whole sheep’s carcass that has itself been stuffed with cooked chickens, which are in turn stuffed with. And the fish have been stuffed with boiled eggs. The strange and unusual in other cultures always flips even the seasoned gourmet’s stomach. This is the gut of the art of eating, the appreciation of all things edible.

Every so often, something rumbles in the world of Missoula’s own stomach. Infamous and beloved restaurants close or change owners, new cafes are born, some rise again. Festivals and traditions celebrate the taste of the town, from the Farmer’s Market to Out to Lunch at Caras Park. The gourmet spirit is alive and well in western Montana, supporting hundreds of restaurants ranging from the side of white rice to the side-of-brown-gravy varieties.

No roast camel, but a strange enough sampling graces menus across town to delight those who look for the better-than-unusual in a night out at the table.

As long as I keep my weight under a metric ton, I should be able to forage the city, and the world, for the best in gastrodelight. But the lure is always too great, whether it’s a premier vodka or a home-made cobbler, a magic coffee with four liqueurs, a thick gooey brownie or a whole roasted camel. Until I tip the scales, though, I’ll be touring the town and the planet in celebration of the art of eating every week in “A La Carte.” Meet me here.

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