Tuesday Feb. 16th, 2010

Eating at The Emerson

Samantha Fleming

I thoroughly enjoy dining in a restaurant that has a little history behind it. I tend to gravitate toward historic buildings utilized for new purposes. The eclectic energy present in a room that has had many uses other than just housing a restaurant is indescribable. The Emerson Grill is one of these places. Its location in The Emerson Cultural Center (corner of Olive and South Grand, which used to be Emerson Elementary) has definitely made its mark as a hot spot in Bozeman for diners who appreciate authentic yet inventive Italian fare. The warm, inviting décor, and low lighting transform this old school room into a romantic venue. Pair that with divine cuisine and you have one of my favorite locations in the Gallatin Valley.
I visited the Grill one recent evening. We were seated promptly in an antique booth. Pillows on the seats made for a very cozy seating situation. Candles throughout the room combined with the light snow falling outside made the environment very inviting. The room was packed, and rather loud. Oddly enough, that did not take away from the experience. I would have been more concerned if it was not busy on a Saturday night. As I glanced over the menu I was impressed by it’s simplicity. I really dislike restaurants that have huge menus. The fewer items, the better. Quality not quantity. As I was eating Italian food, I naturally chose a glass of Pinot Grigio which was served in a charming little decanter. I began with an order of Caprese. The soft Buffalo Mozzarella combined with tomatoes, basil, balsamic vinegar and sea salt was the perfect intro to the meal. It was followed by the Organic Spinach Salad. A large portion of fresh spinach, Kalamata olives, red onions, hard cooked eggs, and topped with a hot bacon vinaigrette. The salad provided a light, yet satiating texture with the bacon and onion additions. Intensely flavorful. I have a hard time not ordering mussels whenever I see them on a menu. The description of Prince Edward Island Mussels in a leek, carrot and cream broth sounded too good to pass up. Mussels from Prince Edward Island are grown naturally in the nutrient rich Canadian waters. Sustained naturally without the use of feed or additives, these mussels are renowned for superior quality. They were cooked exquisitely, and the leek essence really did its part to enhance the dish.
The entrée decision was difficult to say the least. There were many items that truly sounded amazing. The Carbonara with peas and shallots. The Bresole, steak stuffed with breadcrumbs and parmesan braised in a rosemary marinara. The Duck Breast with mashed sweet potatoes and a balsamic cherry reduction. I finally settled on the Risotto of the day. Risotto is my “world is going to end tomorrow, eat your favorite thing” item. Risotto is an amazing Italian comfort food consisting of arbio rice cooked through a painstakingly arduous process. The risotto I ordered was creamy with Italian sausage and red peppers. I have a hard time remembering when I have had it better. Every item I ordered was cooked by a chef who obviously knows Italian food well. Nothing was too heavy or filling.
I am not normally a desert connoisseur. I really don’t have a penchant for sweet items. On this evening though, after hearing the nightly dessert specials, the Profiterole sounded like the perfect ending to a perfect meal. Profiterole consists of house made puff pastry, vanilla ice cream in the middle, and drizzled with chocolate. They resembled little ice cream sandwiches. The hot, savory pastry and the cool sweet vanilla ice cream was the necessary balance I was craving. The Grill offers a nightly diverse dessert menu. The entire meal from beginning course to the dessert was timed perfectly, and had impeccable flavor.
The Emerson Grill always has events, wine tastings, and weekday early dinner specials happening. Some examples would be the a Pizzette (a flatbread pizza) and 2 glasses of wine for $20. A perfect date night combo. They also offer ½ priced pasta options. They have a new addition to the restaurant, Emerson North, a small room that offers some items off of the menu and a wine selection. A great place to meet up before a concert or play at the Emerson Cultural Center. It offers the option to have a quick drink or appetizer without having to sit through the formal dining process. The Emerson Grill has become well know for its catering and private dining options. Needing a space for a large group? The Ecce Gallery is converted to a private dining room for such occasions. The art adorning the walls makes for a nice setting while dining. They are capable of catering for parties up to 250 in the Emerson Ballroom as well.
There are many reasons to visit the Emerson Grill. Not only is it a locally owned and operated establishment, but the use of area sustainable foods and products enhance the experience. They offer gluten free pasta. The price of the food is quite affordable for the quality. The servers employed are well trained and easily answer any questions. Surprise your significant other, or good friend with a visit to the Emerson Grill. Valentines day is just around the corner. Reconnect over a nice bottle of wine and fantastic meal in this charming location.