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Beverly’s Premier Spot For Special Occasion Dinners

People often pick my cerebrum about where to celebrate life’s special moments and have a great meal all at the same time. That can be a tall order.

However, I have no reservations about recommending Beverly’s at The Coeur d’Alene Resort as the region’s premier special occasion dining spot. Its incredible view, gracious service and quietly elegant decor provide a fitting backdrop for an impressively broad menu.

Many hotel restaurants play it safe by serving mostly mainstream selections and, to be sure, the prime rib is one of the hottest sellers at Bev’s. But steaks and the like are nicely balanced with such inventive dishes as halibut and mussels in a Thai curry broth, a vegetarian version of sushi and a cheesy eggplant tamale pie.

Remarkably, every table in this two-level dining room has a view of the water. The restaurant and lounge run the entire length of the hotel on the resort’s seventh floor. I like the room’s soothing colors and gorgeous copper sconces. The place is elegant, but comfortable at the same time.

The offerings change seasonally at Beverly’s. After studying our summer menus, we started our meal with a couple of appetizers. I opted for a dish that featured two of the season’s freshest flavors: grilled asparagus with a morel mushroom cream sauce. The fat stalks were grilled tender-crisp and had that sweet, slightly nutty flavor that makes asparagus such a seductive vegetable. They were accompanied by a dollop of hearty polenta in a pool of morel mushroom cream sauce that was out of this world. A touch of marsala wine in the sauce accentuated the earthy, exotic flavor of these rare, wrinkled mushrooms.

My companion chose the firecracker prawns ($8.50) on the advice of our waiter. However, I later heard our server pushing something else at another table, so I doubted his sincerity. Until the dish arrived, that is.

My companion was impressed with the plump prawns seasoned with cayenne and black pepper. They were blackened, Cajun-style, but still tender and moist. However, an angel hair pasta that was coated with a creamy sauce was too rich for the prawns.

Why not extend the Louisiana focus by pairing the prawns with some red beans and rice or a Creole dipping sauce?

Other tempting first courses include an Indonesian satay made with grilled ostrich or sea scallops wrapped in pancetta, an Italian bacon.

Too often, I think diners overlook appetizers in favor of soups or salads. At Beverly’s, I suggest skipping the ubiquitous Caesar and ordering a starter.

For my entree, I ordered the salmon - a roasted King filet farm-raised in British Columbia. What most intrigued me about this meal was the accompanying side of lobster mashed potatoes. Unfortunately, I knew there was trouble when my plate was dramatically revealed from under its copper dome cover (a ceremony that can be either annoying or amusing, depending on your mood). I smelled bacon.

There were flecks of the smoky meat throughout the potatoes. It had said nothing about this important ingredient on the menu or I would have ordered something else. (I don’t eat bacon.)

Our waiter, however, saved the day by checking back in a timely manner to see if we liked our meals. He apologized and quickly replaced my whipped spuds-with-bacon with garlic mashed potatoes. Now, I could concentrate on that generous chunk of lobster meat plopped into the middle of the mound of potatoes.

At this point, the salmon almost seemed secondary. It was fine, a little on the dry side. But the dark, rich red wine sauce surrounding the fish perked it up considerably.

My companion couldn’t resist another crack at the prawns and ordered a Southwestern-style grilled chicken breast paired with smoky prawns served atop a bed of black bean salsa. Served with a citrusy jicama slaw, the entree proved a harmonious combination.

Next visit, I’ll be tempted to order off the prix fixe menu. “A Taste of Beverly’s” lets diners choose an appetizer and a soup or salad off the regular menu and then a selected entree. For $49.95, guests can also choose from a selection of wines that the menu promises “will flow as freely as water” during dinner.

I don’t usually do dessert, but succumbed to the suggestion of our waiter, who raved about the souffles. (Because it takes at least 20 minutes to prepare, you should order a dessert souffle when your dinner arrives. Unless, that is, you like to linger.)

We ordered the huckleberry version - souffles also come flavored with Godiva chocolate or Grand Marnier - and it had an intense sweet-tart flavor but was feather-light. The perfect meal-ender.

Service throughout our meal was top drawer - from the warm greeting at the entry to the knowledgeable advice of sommelier Sam Lange, who reigns over a large, award-winning wine cellar.

My chief beef with Beverly’s has to do with the servers, but it’s something over which they have no control. In such a classy setting, why require the staff to dress as if they’re going to a garden party? Can the costumes - the floppy hats on the waitresses seem especially out of place - and go with the more traditional black and white garb.

Still, that minor criticism doesn’t detract from what makes Beverly’s special. They’ve put together the right mixture of traditional and creative food in a knockout setting. That’s worth celebrating.

Beverly’s is open daily for lunch and dinner. Advance reservations are a must in the summer. From Spokane, the toll-free number is (800) 688-4142. In Coeur d’Alene, call 765-4000, extension 23.

, DataTimes