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Ceviche De Angosta con Pomelo, Simple Elegance in the Wilderness

Tuesday, March 1st, 2011

A Pacific  storm has circled Cala Mia and Isla Boca Brava, the freshening breeze dropping the temperature to near tropical perfection. It is the first day in a month without sun, and I am happy for the change.

The morning begins well before sunrise with a boat ride  to Boca Chica to meet up with Chef Ricardo who is taking me on my first shopping expedition in the provincial town of David. There are no large grocery stores in David  thus our first stop of the morning is a triple wide garage off a residential side street filled with the morning’s fresh produce…melons, peppers, yucca, papaya, guava, pineapple and a variety of lettuces and cabbages overflow boxes and bins. There is a riot of color and chaos reigning in the aisles as farmers bring in their offerings, trading or selling fresh carrots and broccoli, bartering still warm jugs of milk and cream for a bag of butter beans or squash. As I walk around and select what I want to use in the restaurant for the next week, I am amused by the dichotomy of this market experience and those experienced last fall during my trip to Languedoc. Like produce, familiar Latinate faces, but there the similarities end.

The European markets are masterpieces of visual splendor…it is not enough to have a stack of carrots for sale at the Menton halle, no, the carrots have to be laid out in an intricate design, framed by vivid aubergines and the delicategreen gold of artichokes – each farmer’s display trying to out do that of his neighbors’.  In the David market, no such attempt is made. This is a working man’s tiende, the only real display being one of beautiful bags of garlic – grown in China.

But at the end of the day, a carrot is a carrot and a pomelo (grapefruit) will taste the same whether it was crowded in a burlap bag in Panama, or in a geometrically perfect pyramid interspersed with vibrant purple plums in France. So the carrots and the pomelos and a dozen or more relatives are bagged up and loaded into the back of a rented white Kia work truck and off we go to the Super Baru – a combination general store offering hardware, groceries, clothing and butchery…a little bit of everything, and not a lot of anything (except Olive Oil of which there are 27 varieties!).

 It takes two hours going up and down and back up the aisles translating labels and doing menu exchanges in my head to get close to what I want and am envisioning for the dining room in the coming week when it is my turn to head up the kitchen.

Another hour to check out and then back to Boca Chica to meet up with Chombo and the Cala Mia boat.

Loading fresh produce onto Chombo's boat.

When I consider the physical difficulty of getting raw ingredients to this isolated island, the dedication of Cala Mia’s owners and staff to presenting exceptional food is singularly inspiring.

Well, the sky is darkening and a few stars are peaking through the remaining clouds…it is time to head to the kitchen and begin assembling tonight’s offering. Chef has asked me to create a first course using locally harvested lobsters and I am happy to oblige, especially since I have those beautiful pomelos…

Ceviche de Angosta con Pomelo


Freshly poached lobster tail, chilled and loosely diced in large chunks

Grapefruit segments, skins and seeds removed

Cilantro (minced)

Red and Yellow Peppers (demeated), minced

Garlic, minced

Red Onion, minced

Lime juice

Passion Fruit juice

Olive Oil

Salt and White Pepper

Hot Pepper Flakes

Arugula and Mustard Greens

Toss cilantro, peppers, garlic and onion with the lime and passion fruit juices, add a splash of extra virgin olive oil and pepper flakes. Chill for an hour to let the flavors meld. Toss in lobster and grapefruit segments and refrigerate for another hour, stirring occasionally.

Place fresh greens in the bottom of  large martini glasses, leaving a few sprigs sticking out as garnish. Place ceviche into the glasses, distributing the remaining liquid as a dressing for the greens. Serve immediately

Bon apetite!

Finding the luxury of peace and quiet…in Panama and Montana.

Thursday, February 17th, 2011

Cala Mia Sunrise

When it comes to exotic travel, the words ‘luxury’, ‘5 star’ and ‘deluxe’ take on different shades of meaning. Everything is ‘relative’ after all and no more so when exploring the fringes of civilization  (and that includes the Swan Valley of NW Montana!)

During one of my winter explorations a few years back, I took on the responsibility of managing a self-proclaimed 5 star resort on a tiny, basically unknown island in the Dutch West Indies. The website was alluring with beautifully staged photos of beautiful people looking at beautiful scenery, drinking beautiful drinks and eating beautiful food…all in all, pretty darn beautiful…and with a rate sheet to match.

The sad reality however, was simply that, sad. The owners couldn’t or wouldn’t see that their 5 star resort was barely clinging to 2 stars. Yes, the position of the hotel 2000’ up on the cliffs over a wild, wind-whipped beach offered a 280 degree of the Caribbean – spectacular. Yes, it was the only property on island that boasted both a tennis court and a fresh water pool, both now in less than pristine condition. And yes, the rooms were spacious and cool with breath-taking views from every angle. But. And it was a very big but…the paint was peeling, the curtains and linens frayed and bleached by too much sun, mildew creeping into every corner, the dining room looking like a nursing home cafeteria…you get the picture…and I was the extent of the staff. But the owners didn’t, and were still trying to charge upwards of $500 a night…a rate that on any of the sister islands within a short boat ride would have truly gotten you 5 star luxury in the form of 600 count Egyptian cotton linens, room service, elegant dining and a professional and discreet staff.

Once the owners handed over the property and left for their vacation, I dug in with some really deep cleaning, painting and scavenging the best furniture, art and linens to make at least three of the rooms, the lobby and the dining room somewhat approach luxury…my goal was simple…try to meet the expectations of those few people who had made reservations during my tenure. I also implemented a procedure whereby the guests, upon lighting from their taxi, were given a ‘beautiful’ tropical cocktail and walked out to the pool deck with that stunningly ‘beautiful’ view. My hope (and it worked pretty well) was that the ‘Wow!’ factor would blind them to the reality of the rest of the property.

But that was then and this is now…and ‘now’ finds the Horse tucked away safely under the winter snow and me on an isolated Pacific island off the coast of Panama – Isla Boca Brava in the Archipelago Chiriqui – working at Boutique Hotel Cala Mia (which means My Coast in Castellan). Before arriving at the hotel, I wondered if their ‘beautiful’ website would stand up to reality…and I have not been disappointed.

Perched on a peninsula with both sunrise and sunset, between the waves of the Pacific and a lovely bay, the hotel would be considered luxurious by any standards. The luxury of Cala Mia is not however in 600 count sheets or over-the-top room amenities… the sense of luxury comes from the care that the owners Max and Vittoria have lavished on their little corner of paradise. From the individually designed bungalows redolent of Tuscany in their warm colors and soft contours (each with unlimited hot water on demand), to the personal responsibility they have taken in making this tropical escape as environmentally friendly as possible with complete solar power, recycling and an organic farm producing probably the only truly traditional Dutch Gouda in all of central and south America.  The couple,  full-time residents of Panama for 16 years, have also committed themselves and the resources of both the hotel and the farm to supporting several indigenous families of Ngobe by donating a percentage of sales to the groups and providing jobs (a rarity on the island).

Guests stepping from the water taxi (the only way to arrive at Cala Mia) are greeted by another form of luxury…a well-trained, attentive, yet discrete staff* that seems to know what you want before you do. Upon delivering your bags to your ocean or bay view bungalow (no check in required), the staff quietly disappears leaving you to discover what true luxury is…quiet…no cell phones, no TVs, no clocks, and nothing more pressing than making sure you remember that dinner is served at 7:30.  

[*A caution for celebrities considering a vacation to the island…Cala Mia will be good for your soul but not for your ego – most likely you won’t be recognized – no less bothered for an autograph!]

If you can tear yourself away from the simple pleasure of sitting on your private patio looking out onto a blue-green horizon shadowed with more islands and towering cumulous clouds scudding by like sailing galleons, you’ll discover a jungle echoing with the eerie chatter of howler monkeys and rare birds calling to each other in the tree tops. Jeweled butterflies flit through the undergrowth, as colorful as the traditional Ngobe dresses worn by the smiling women who care for your room each day. And if the pure sybaritic pleasure of doing nothing tires, open air activities abound – horseback riding, hiking, fishing, diving, and kayaking.

I’ll be on island at Cala Mia for the next six weeks, welcoming a unique group of travelers who have made their way here for something that has become a rarity in our fast-paced lives…the simple pleasure of simply being.

I look forward to returning home to the Horse in April and preparing it for your summer visit…and to sharing with you the luxuries of Montana and the simple pleasures of the Horse.


Fat Trout Force the Horse to Change Dining Room Hours

Wednesday, September 8th, 2010

It’s fall…arriving a bit early this year, but this is Montana and the weather is  fickle as a teenager’s heart. But with the cooling weather comes one of the best times of the year in the Rockies…crisp days, clear nights, the aroma of wood fires floating on the evening air, and, most important, fat and sassy trout

One such trout – a particularly rotund specimen of approximately 20 inches – has forced me to alter my dining room schedule for the fall allowing me one more evening to try to land ‘her holiness’.  There are many  great reasons to live in Montana, fall trout fishing is one of the best…and spending a stolen evening on the river with a 5 wt in my hand beats standing over a hot stove, even if I’m cooking up some special fare for great friends and visitors. So please forgive me, but I’ve changed my dining room hours to Thursday – Sunday, 5pm – 9pm for dinner and Sunday Brunch, 9am – 2pm…on the flip side, I have extended my season through the holidays.

The lodge dining room is available Monday – Wednesday for private dinners and events for 12  to 56 persons. So if you are planning a holiday party, special family get-together or just a night with good friends, include the Horse in your plans. We’d love to host your event here or help you give a stellar performance in your home.

So here’s to a great fall, brilliant fishing and a delicious dinner at the Horse..see you soon. Kathleen

Winkota Baskets by Local Artist Presented at Laughing Horse

Sunday, August 8th, 2010

Avid flyfisherman and local craftsman, Steve Wingard, is presenting several of his artisan Winkota baskets at the lodge this fall. Beautifully crafted from local Swan Valley materials, each basket is a replica of an original used for centuries by local Indian tribes. Blending White Birch bark, black Spruce root and white cedar (along with several other wildcrafted and collected materials) Wingard begins the slow and thoughtful process of bending and molding to create each unique piece, many taking days to complete.  The baskets are available to discerning collectors. View the art pieces at Laughing Horse Lodge or at

Al Fresco Dining in the Horse’s Spectacular Garden!

Tuesday, June 15th, 2010
The Garden is open for your sipping pleasure!
And what a garden it is this year…so leave your daily stress at the door
and enjoy a delicious glass of wine and an al fresco meal while you bask in
the golden silence of a lovely Swan Lake evening.
To celebrate the arrival (finally!) of summer, this weekend we’re presenting a refreshing Mediterranean Antipasti Plate for two
with two glasses of Gain Bay Cabernet  (a Stag’s Leap appellation) for $25. You’ll enjoy freshly char grilled and marinated
vegetables bursting with the flavors of Sardinia, an assortment of Greek olives, hard Italian meats, and yeasty French artisan
bread with rosemary olive oil perfect for dipping. 
Reservations: 406-886-2080
PS. Thanks to our many swallows and brown bats, the garden is mostly mosquito-free!

What to do on a rainy afternoon in June….Drink Beer!

Saturday, June 12th, 2010

Our second annual World Tour of Beer at the Horse was another resounding success, albeit, a more subdued and dignified affair this year with the soothing guitar of local NPR celeb John Floridis and 26 true beer afficianados huddled over their note cards and Angus Sliders. The pros from Rocky Mountain Wine Distributors pulled out some exquisite and hard to find beers from Europe, California, Pennsylvania and South America – 14 in all were served along with a table laden with the efforts of our new “Kitchen Slave”, Andrea Wight.

(Andrea doesn’t like the term chef or cook so we are calling her KS as

This horse loves the Belgian Duvel!

she has been slaving away in the kitchen learning our menu and creating some wonderful new dishes drawing on her recent experiences at Caneel Bay in St. John  and Zola’s in State College PA.)

Andrea spent the afternoon turning out an array of canapes that would make any beer drinker salivate…Beer Battered Mushrooms with Chipotle Dipping Sauce, Angus Sliders with Arugula and Horseradish Cream, Poached Shrimp, Smoked Salmon and Dill Cucumbers, Classic BBQ Wings, Ahi Sashime with Wasabi Ginger Sauce and the piece de resistance…bittersweet chocolate and raspberry truffle squares to accompany the Lindeman’s Frambois (a Belgian raspberry beer that is the nectar of the gods!).

The highlight of the evening was Xingu, a black Brazilian beer that to my pallet tasted like roasted figs…and I love figs.

The Horse added a few of the more popular finds to our Beer Menu for the summer including Victory Prima Pils, Einbecker Pils, Duvel Belgian Golden Ale, Samuel Smith Oatmeal Stout and Ayinger Brau-Weisse. On tap for the season are three local beers – Great Northern Brewery’s Wheatfish and Kettlehouse’s Cold Smoke and Double Haul IPA.

If you’re looking for a relaxing escape for a few hours or an evening, take a drive over to the Horse, grab a cold one and set yourself down in our glorious garden…heaven is that close.

Wine Tasting in the Garden Today! Bring a shovel…

Tuesday, May 4th, 2010

This Week’s Recipe: Haitian Canned Milk and Cornmeal

Monday, February 1st, 2010

If I were at home in Montana this winter, the sorrow that is Haiti would be nothing more than some occasional conversation over coffee.  A footnote of well-meaning but mostly uneducated comments; an expression of sympathy in the form of  a check to the Red Cross; and a good night’s sleep after a nice dinner with friends at La Provence or Showthyme.

But being less than 300 miles distant from the epicenter, with many of my co-workers still uncertain  if the silent  family member is dead or alive, or worse, slowly dying without food or water, the tragedy is immediate and the impact visceral.

My first reaction on hearing the news and seeing it in the faces of those in this small community of St. John, was to hi-jack the first boat heading west and offer my assistance … a lone, English-only speaking white woman would save the day or at least try. A romantic, if absolutely insane idea, but there it was. Luckily there was no such boat in the harbor and common sense returned, along with a much more focused idea for offering what assistance I could.

What follows is an account of events that have happened over the past week, are occurring now,  and which the outcome is yet unknown…a journal as such, chronicling my attempt to assist a Dutch foundation, Heart for Haiti, secure food for their 400 children and staff in the Port au Prince suburb of Bon Repos.


Grilled Portabello & Cognac Mousse on “FAHcaccia Crostini – a Horsey Twist on an Island Favorite

Friday, January 15th, 2010

For anyone who has been behind the scenes in large resort/hotel kitchens the knowledge that the bakery department is an entity all unto itself is not new. For this neophyte however, it hadn’t occurred to me that one department out of so many would operate by its own set of rules, separate from the rest of us.  Taking a spin on the old adage “the rich are different”, well, professional bakers are ‘different’ as well.  Alone in their separate-and-more-than-equal quarters, these scientists of flour, sugar and heat create a world much like that of the Manhattan Project: secretive, non-communicative, internally focused, incredibly tense,  and well, simply put, quite a bit ‘above’ the rest of the hoi poloi. To enter their time-defined and time-constrained domain, one must have a clear-cut purpose, be succinct in their request, and most importantly, have a good explanation for why they are intruding into the inner sanctum in the first place.

On the occassion of my first ‘friendly visit’  into the heady realm of the Caneel bake shop, I thought I had all three bases covered – my clear-cut purpose was to obtain a sheet pan of focaccia bread; my request was (to my ears) succinct; and my reason was simple, I needed it to make crostini for a party later that evening.  

Upon entering the shop and approaching the nearest member of the bakery team, I smiled and delivered my request in my best Oliver! voice, “Please sir, may I have a flat of focaccia bread?”, a smile firmly in place upon my face.

Without looking up from his work table,  “Fah”, came the unsmiling response.

OK, I thought, I’ll  say it your way…”Yes, may I have some Fah caccia bread”. 

 “FAH”, came the response again, faster, more terse.

 “Alright, FAH ccacia bread”, I replied just as quickly.

 “FAH!?” came at me like gun fire, dark eyes finally making contact.

Taking a deep breath, I replied “Yes…”, very slowly.

 ” I want some FAH“,

and louder,

CA CIA bread”. 

(The slower and louder being the universal and universaly silly response when one is talking to someone who obviously does not understand your language.)

 “FAH?!!!” came at me with a scream of time-wasted frustration and a snarl that had me taking a step back.

 “FAH! CAH! CCIA! BREAD! ” I returned in equal frustration.

 Throwing up his hands and shaking his head in defeat, he took a different approach proving that when something is universal, it is truly universal…very slowly, enunciating each sylablle in his island version of English, and rather loudly, he asked,

 “WHAT    DO    YOU    WANT    THE   FOCCACIA    FAH?” ?” 

 Comprehension dawned in this imbecile…’fah’ was ‘for’.  After a hurried explanation, the focaccia bread was acquired, and this island version of Laurel and Hardy went their separate ways.

And this, gentle reader,  is what the ‘ FAHcaccia was fah”:

Portabello & Cognac Mousse on Focaccia Crostini – Simple and simply delicious!

Ingredients:  Focaccia,  portabello mushrooms, cognac, cream cheese, white pepper, kosher salt, fresh basil and mushroom marinade of olive oil, garlic and balsamic vinagar.

Acquire some day-old focaccia bread or other artisan style, heavy-bodied bread and cut into 1/4″ slices. Brush the slices with a slurry of olive oil and garlic. Cut the slices into bite size pieces and lay out on a baking tray. Bake in a 275 degree oven for approximately 15 minutes or until golden and crisp. Set aside to cool – do not refrigerate.

Remove the stems and gills from two portabello mushrooms and place in a ziplock with enough marinade to fully coat the mushrooms. Let soak for at least 1 hour.  Place the mushrooms on a hot grill, cooking both sides for approximately 5 minutes or until soft and showing some char. Remove and let cool.

Place cream cheese and a splash of cognac in a Cuisanart and blend until fluffy and smooth. Add chunks of the grilled mushroom (equal to the amount of cream cheese), blending completely. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Blend a few minutes more until the mixture has the consistency of warm butter. Remove to a bowl, cover and refrigerate for an hour.  Place the cooled mixture in a pastry bag (a ziplock with a corner nipped off works great) and squeeze onto the crostini.  Top with this slivers of basil and serve.

If you want to reduce your labor time, put the mousse in a nice bowl, sprinkle with the basil and present it as a dip for the focaccia ‘chips’.  Note: when you’re barbecuing, throw on some red peppers, red onions or other strong flavored vegetable and then store them in the freezer until you’re ready to use them to make your own version of grilled vegetable mousse.

Until next week…

Chilled Roasted Fig and Goat Cheese Soup from the Islands to You!

Thursday, January 7th, 2010

A good friend recently asked “What’s the purpose of chilled soup?” – understandable coming from a man that builds beautiful homes around the valley (to steal and paraphrase from our esteemed US Postal Service) ‘through rain, sleet, snow and dark of night’. When  you’re working 30 feet off the ground, placing 600# roof skins in a blinding snow storm, chilled soup is most likely not on your mind – but winter does pass, and come mid- August, when the temps sneak into the 90s and the work or play day is through, there’s nothing quite like an al fresco dinner on Swan Lake with good friends and simple yet beautifully crafted food.

Each day at Caneel, I am charged with creating a chilled soup for lunch and with a large pantry and lovely produce to choose from, it’s a joy to be experimental (and for those of you who dine at the Horse, you know how I love to experiment!).  This week’s offering, although served chilled here on St. John, is also scrumptious served warm and is a spin-off of the Horse’s Mushroom and Brie Bisque.

Chilled Roasted Figs and Chevre Soup

Ingredients:    Fresh Figs (canned Kamato may be substituted out of season), fresh pears or apples, bananas, plain yogurt, guava or mango juice, brown sugar, virgin olive oil, cumin, white pepper, Kosher salt and chevre.

The key to a richly nuanced chilled fruit soup are the natural sugars existing in the fruit that -paradoxically- are only released with heat. Large dice your flat of figs, two apples or pears, and a couple of bananas and place in a bowl. Sprinkle the fruit with a bit of dark brown sugar (or honey), a pinch of cumin, salt and pepper and just enough olive oil to lightly coat the fruit when tossed. Place the fruit on a baking sheet and place in the oven at 425 for approximately 15 minutes, or until the fruit begins to brown. Remove and let the fruit cool to room temperature. Place the fruit in a Robo Coupe or Cuisinart with juice and yogurt and blend (I like my soups with some texture so I  forego the blender). Drop in chunks of tangy goat cheese and mix gently keeping bits of pure cheese suspended in the soup. Refrigerate for a few hours and serve with some fresh mint or basil. Yummm! Sweet and tangy, just like island life!  Until next week….I’m out of the kitchen today and  and heading out for a sail…take care.