No matter what the temperature is outside, Tupelo Grill on Central Avenue is always one of Whitefish's hottest dining spots. Perhaps it's due to owner-chef Pat Carloss' easygoing manner and hospitable way. Most likely it's his flavorful "Continental cooking with Southern flair."
Southern cooking in Montana? Yessir. "It's amazing that way up here people are so open-minded and ready to try it," says Carloss, who grew up on Cajun cuisine in Louisiana. Since the restaurant opened seven years ago, it's doubled in size and the menu has graduated from muffulettas to full-fledged Cajun fare with a homemade spice-blend kick. Tupelo's bestsellers are traditional Southern recipes with a twist. For shrimp and grits, for instance, the shrimp are grilled, laced with a spicy tasso cream and served over creamy grilled grits. Chicken and dumplings is buttermilk-fried chicken breasts served with mustard-sage dumplings in a rosemary-tomato cream. The gumbo, made with duck, chicken and andouille sausage (imported from K-Paul's in New Orleans), is popular, too. Ditto the blackened orange roughy with crawfish étouffée.
Along with Carloss' change in food since he opened the restaurant, came a new sophistication in décor. Southern folk art and photography line the textured walls. Diners-locals, along with skiers from nearby Big Mountain-cluster in wooden booths and sneak peeks into the kitchen. Two years ago, the restaurant's wine list received a Wine Spectator Award. "It just keeps getting better," Carloss says. "We've found our niche."
Daily après-ski toasts are a requirement for any successful ski trip. Here's a start.
Ski and Sea
You can almost smell the Pacific from Whistler, B.C.'s Rim Rock Café & Oyster Bar, long revered for its ocean-fresh seafood (not to mention potent "painkiller" martinis). Beyond the massive, namesake rock at the entry, the décor is plank floors, wood beams and candlelight. Rim Rock classics include chilled oysters with champagne vinaigrette, grilled lobster, salmon infused with chevre and crab, and ahi tuna with wasabi beurre blanc. Be sure to check the specials on chef Rolf Gunther's daily "fresh sheet," too. For landlubbers, caribou, lamb, duck and filet mignon will satisfy.