Montana Dragon Boat Festival Racers Welcome at The Horse Next September

September 18th, 2012

Although the second annual Montana Dragon Boat Festival is a year away, it isn’t too early to book your lodging and Laughing Horse Lodge is the perfect place to be for your race team and dragon boats. Located just 25 minutes from the race site at Flathead Lake Lodge, the Horse offers up economical yet award-winning hospitality and dining, with the added benefit of beautiful Swan Lake – a perfect practice lake for your team. Reserve your rooms individually or reserve the entire property for your team.

Our special Dragon Team Package includes: 5 nights lodging for up to 26 ( a combination of double occupancy, bunk room and cabin); early-out gourmet breakfast each morning; Welcome BBQ Dinner for your team on the first night; boat and trailer parking; boat launch and secure docking on Swan Lake for pre-event practice; and Farewell Dinner for your team on the last night.  Package price as low as $70 per person dependent upon total occupancy. For details, contact Kathleen at laughinghorselodge@gmail.com.

Spartan Racers Will Get Some TLC from the Horse Next May

September 18th, 2012

The Kalispell Chamber of Commerce, fresh off the incredible success of the recent Dragon Boat Races, is bringing the Spartan Race to Flathead Lake Lodge on May 11 & 12, 2013.  This outrageous (and very muddy) challenge of physical and mental prowess will pit some incredible examples of human engineering against the likes of …well…the likes of you and me. The two day event looks to be a fun way to spend a couple of days watching  fit (and not so fit) but definitely crazy folks pit themselves against a 4 mile obstacle course (including a very large hill) while carrying packs of rocks…just kidding, well only slightly.

For those racers visiting from out of the area, the Horse is offering up a Thursday – Saturday package of a three night stay with early-out gourmet breakfast each morning; a three course dinner with beer or wine upon arrival on Thursday evening; and a fun practice run on Friday up a local mountain (the Horse will provide packs and rocks if requested!). Races begin bright and early on Saturday and Sunday at Flathead Lake Lodge located only 25 minutes from the Horse.

Package 1:  Single occupancy in a queen room, three nights, three breakfasts, and welcome dinner – $155.  Package 2: Double occupancy in a queen room, six breakfasts, and two welcome dinners- $209. Package 3: Four singles in the Bunk Room, 12 breakfasts, four welcome dinners- $660 (or $55/person per day).

The Horse is located  in the village of Swan Lake, eighteen miles south of the host town of Bigfork. Extreme racers are invited to unwind and relax before and after the races while enjoying the award-winning hospitality (and hot showers!) of the Horse. To reserve your package, write to Kathleen at laughinghorselodge@gmail.com.

 

 

 

The Reason Why I Live Here…

August 25th, 2012

I was catering a political fundraiser on Swan River this past summer where many of the invited guests were long-time customers of the Horse resulting in a rather blurred line between being a hired service and just another attendee.

For some guests – those not my customers – the line was not blurred at all. They would not address me nor make eye contact; I was to them, just the hired help – invisible unless needed.  To be gracious, most of these folks were fairly new to the community, coming from metropolitan areas where class lines are more apparent and, I suspect, being held onto with renewed vigor as the ongoing recession brings those ‘with’ a little closer to those getting by ‘without’.

As the event matured and the provided banquet was rendered down to a few remaining (and wilting in the late afternoon heat) crudités, my catering attire was removed, the hair came down, and I became just another professionally dressed guest interested in the politics of the day.  Moving from one conversation cluster to another around the deck, I was now being introduced by friends to those very people who an hour before moved about me as if I were a cipher.

The handshakes; the eye contact; the ‘pleased to meet yous’ were all genuine, as were the brief but unmistakable contractions of the pupils and the slight furrowing of the brows that occur when one’s perspective of reality shifts.

This shift of perspective looms large among the reasons why I stay in such a small community when I obviously enjoy the activities and opportunities of big city life and exploring the lesser known areas of the world through my winter travels.  Although it wasn’t always so.

When I came here 13 years ago –  ‘dragged here kicking and screaming’ by my then partner who ‘just had to be in Montana!”- I justified the move with those trite and true plaudits of “clean air, clean water, open space, blah, blah, blah…”.  It has taken years and much growth to realize that although those might have been a few of the reasons for coming here, the reasons for staying are much more complicated because they revolve around the people more so than the place.

Thirteen years isn’t a very long time…a blink really, but for me it is a quarter of my life spent in one place. An unthinkable reality 14 years ago when a three year stint in an apartment or a job was considered long –term.  But as the years have moved inexorably onward I find myself caught up in the warp and weave of this tapestry that is the community of Bigfork extending defacto to Swan Lake.

The event on the river last summer offered up in a definitive moment what keeps me here – and in a word it is leveling.  This place has a strange power to level out society’s ‘haves’ and ‘have littles’ -or more accurately the ‘have differents”.

Like water seeking its own level, these folks that would not share anything in the big city, find themselves perhaps at first in some kind of commerce; whether it be firewood, water, grounds-keeping, boat maintenance, etc. But then both parties find themselves invited guests at a fete on the river; or dining next to each other at the Horse; or sharing elbow space and a beer at the Garden Bar.

I love introducing the retired multi-millionaire Republican building a 10,000 sq ft home on the lake to the Don’t Tread On Me man cutting firewood and living in a 600 sq ft cabin off the grid. Watching the interaction – first the commerce, perhaps of buying firewood, followed by the curiosity – of both parties. It is in this display of curiosity that the leveling begins as each begins to learn something of the other and to find respect for choices made, if not full agreement in the choices themselves. By making introductions and watching similar interactions over the years, I’ve learned that those that show no curiosity in the other generally don’t make it here, regardless of what side of the economic scale they are on.

Watching the transition of both sides – the leveling as it were – I can’t but marvel at how quickly we humans can adapt to shifting environments. And much like Darwin’s conclusions, those that won’t adapt simply disappear, or in the case of Bigfork, either put their property on the market and go back into the striated life from whence they came or truly disappear into the wilderness as self-sufficient as their explorer forbearers.

For those of us who stay, however, the rewards are incalculable.

Tantalizing Tuesday’s Chef Tasting & Wine Dinner, July 10th, 2012

July 5th, 2012

Join us on Tuesday for our second tasting dinner of the season. We’re exploring the new take on old Bavarian traditions including a Smoked Trout and Apple Strudel, classic Leberknoedelsuppe, Poached White Asparagus with Hollandaise Foam, and Bolete-Encrusted Tournedo of Angus with Barolo Vinegar Sauce. We’re pilfering some great dishes from the Black Forest and, of course, the wines will be exceptional! $129/couple. Secure reservations required. 406-886-2080

12th Anniversary for ARC Fundraiser in Swan Lake -Huck Pancakes!

August 26th, 2011

 
Swan Lake, MT – The heavy rains in early summer may have alleviated the risk of a hard forest fire season, but for families that lose their homes to fire there is no season, for domestic fire can hit at any time and place.
 
Spurred on by the disastrous Bitteroot fires of 2000, Laughing Horse Lodge joined forces with the American Red Cross to raise monies to assist families who had lost their homes to that devasting blaze. Donating the kitchen and dining room to volunteers and neighbors, owners Kathleen and Richard allowed their home and business to become a catalyst for aid.
 
Eleven years later, the Horse is going strong, and the sense of community responsibility still stronger, as volunteers descend on Swan Lake to assist in the annual Labor Day Huckleberry Pancake Breakfast.“We’ve been told that this is the longest running ‘fund raiser’ of its kind in the valley,” says Kathleen, “but it’s not about the length of time, its about the people who come out to eat pancakes and drop a check in the jar to help someone they will never meet.”
 
Over $50,000 has been raised over the years, all the funds staying in the NW Montana area to aid families. “The magic number is $6000,” states Kathleen, “that’s what we aim for each year during the three day event.” Representatives from the local ARC explain that it takes about $3000 to help a family get relocated and purchase needed clothing and items to set up a temporary home. Overall, eleven families have received necessary assistance from the kindness of strangers enjoying breakfast with friends at the Horse.
 
The 12th Huckleberry Pancake Breakfast for Montana Fire Victims will take place at Laughing Horse Lodge, Milemarker 71.5, Hwy 83, Swan Lake on September 3,4 and 5, 8am to 12 noon. A minimum donation of $6 will receive delicious fresh huckleberry pancakes, sausage, juice and coffee served by your neighbors and friends.  Experienced pancake grillers are welcome in the kitchen for two hour shifts!
 
Can’t make it? Send your check made out to American Red Cross – Montana  to Laughing Horse Lodge Pancake Breakfast, PO Box 5082, Swan Lake, MT 59911. For more information, call 406-886-2080 or visit www.laughinghorselodge.com

Swan Lake Autumn Escape for Wine Lovers

July 23rd, 2011

Although summer is not quite over, we’re looking forward to a marvelous and very colorful fall here in the Swan Valley.  With cool nights already occuring, the autumn foilage should be brilliant…and what better way to enjoy the crisp days of fall than with a roaring fire and a delicious glass of merlot in hand?

So if you haven’t had the chance to leave the office or the ranch this summer, now is the time to make your plans to let Kathleen and her staff spoil you rotten with good food, good wine and a comfortable bed.

Our fall package includes:

Two nights of lodging for two
Gourmet dinner for two each evening with a bottle of wine personally selected by Chef Kate to compliment your meal. (Dinner includes one appetizer, two organic lodge salads, two entrees and one dessert.)
Gourmet breakfast for two each morning including French Roast Coffee and freshly baked scones.
Package Price $289 (gratuity not included)

Our autumn package is available September 7 – October 30, Wednesday to Sunday only.

 

Optional add-ons:  

Enjoy a two hour trail ride up the Swan Front to view the magnificent autumn colors. Two hour ride for two – $140

Experience the beauty of Swan River in all of its glorious fall foliage with a Guided River Float for two. Three hour float with brown bag lunch for two – $150

Bliss out with your own private in-room (or weather-permitting, lake-side) massage. One hour massage $75, two consecutive massages $140.

When Booking Your Autumn Escape: When making your secure on-line reservations, select your two nights and in the note field write: Autumn Special. Include in the notes any add-ons. Upon finishing your reservation, you will receive an automatic confirmation for rooms only…Kathleen will adjust your reservation with package details and pricing and resend a new confirmation.

We look forward to welcoming you to the Horse.

Annual Beer Tasting at the Horse…what else can we do on a rainy Tuesday evening? Drink Beer!

June 14th, 2011

Our annual World Tour of Beer at the Horse is just around the corner, and like last year, the Horse will be the perfect place to cozy up with your friends as the rain continues to pour. 

The pros from Rocky Mountain Wine Distributors will be on hand with some exquisite and unique beer finds from Europe, the US, and  South America – 12 new beers and a table laden with the efforts of ‘yours truly’ and my new staff. 

We’ll be serving up Baked Figs wrapped in Bacon, fresh Ahi sashimi with wasabi sauce, smoked salmon sushi, over-the-top buffalo wings, and, my favorite, pork carnitas mini tacos with Gloria’s fresh salsa. And of course, we’ll be pulling out the stops on dessert…nothing like a fresh rhubarb and strawberry tart with a Belgian berry beer!

The Horse will add a few of your favorites to our Beer Menu for the summer  along with our draft offering for the season are three local beers – Great Northern Brewery’s Wheatfish and Kettlehouse’s Cold Smoke and Double Haul IPA.

The Tour begins at 6pm on Tuesday, June 21, at the Horse located at Milepost 71.5 on Hwy 83. $25 per person (beer tasters and eaters) and only $10 for designated drivers (non-drinkers). Reservations required. 406-886-2080.

 

Pacific Rim Cuisine Featured in First ‘Free Fall’ Tuesday Chef’s Tasting & Wine Dinner

June 1st, 2011

Join us for our first ‘Free Fall’ Tuesday on  June 14th as we explore the culinary offerings  of the Pacific Rim.

Put your taste for epicurean adventure (say that fast three times!) into our hands for an evening of beautiful food inspired by the great chefs of Singapore, Maui and Kauai, Hong Kong and even San Francisco. We’ll be featuring all natural meats, wild fish, organic cheeses, and, for the first time, organic greens and vegetables from the Horse’s garden! Each course will be matched with a wine selected by Rocky Mountain Wine Distributors.

 

Our Pacific Rim Menu

Ceviche of Prawns, Scallops and Lobster  -in passion fruit citrus over organic spicy micro greens and slivered green papaya

 Brie and Mango Quesadilla in Roasted Tomato Tortilla   -with cilantro macadamia nut pesto 

Roasted Maui Onion and Goat Cheese Salad  -organic Tyee spinach and fresh mandarin orange with Haixin basil vinaigrette

 

Grilled Natural Pork Tenderloin Medallion and Wild Mushroom Polenta  -marinade of Makers Mark and fresh pineapple juice with warm pineapple chutney

 

Chilled Sticky Black Rice Ball Infused with Ginger and Maui Honey  -with young coconut ice cream

Secured reservations are limited to 24 people. Dining room opens at 6:30pm, dinner begins at 7:00pm. $65 per person with wine, $39 without wine.

To make your reservations, call Chef Kate at 406-886-2080 or email laughinghorselodge@gmail.com.  Laughing Horse Lodge is ranked #1 on TripAdvisor.com.

Where’s Waldo? Or in this case, Where’s Chef Kate?

March 16th, 2011

Winter is quickly loosening its grasp on Swan Lake, although the shadowed snow drifts will probably remain until well into May. But with the temperatures nearing 50, thoughts turn to spring and the inevitable crush of a fun-filled, visitor-packed summer.

While the Horse still slumbers under several feet of snow, and Chef Kate still lingers somewhere near the equator, plans are underway for an exceptional year of good food, music and even better Montana hospitality at Laughing Horse Lodge.

So where exactly is our intrepid hostess? We caught up with Kathleen at a remote 5 star eco-resort on the west coast of Panama where for the past few months she has been guest chef, teacher, student and explorer…a typical winter for this 12 year Montana resident.“I originally came to Panama to build up my Spanish so that I could bring in a South American guest chef for the summer and have a way of communicating in the kitchen,” says Kathleen. But not satisfied to have just one ball in the air, the study trip turned into a temporary gig at one of Panama’s newest luxury resorts, Boutique Hotel Cala Mia located on an isolated Pacific island in the Archipelago Chiriqui.

“This has been an experience in self-sufficiency and creativity,” laughs Moon as she recounts the first trip to Isla Boca Brava…a two hour journey by bus, cab and boat from the nearest town. “ I arrived all jazzed only to discover that there wasn’t a single piece of chocolate on the island and it would be two more weeks before anyone was going shopping back on the mainland.”

Surrounded by troops of howler monkeys, noisy parrots, and a 3’ iguana living in the thatched ceiling of her bungalow, Kathleen went to work (without chocolate) with the property’s Italian owner Vittoria Ghini, establishing a Spanish-language SafeServe-style  training program for the kitchen, setting up an on-line reservation system, and giving the island chef a break each week. “It’s been a real struggle in the kitchen being ‘forced’ to work with fresh fish and lobster brought to the dock each afternoon,” Moon quips, a smile in her voice.  “I’ve also learned a bit about making artisan cheese…and in Panama of all places.”

Ghini, and her Dutch husband Max, opened the resort 4 years ago and  support the dining room at Cala Mia with an extensive organic farm and dairy operation located a few kilometers east on the island. Fresh arugula, herbs,  aubergine, peppers, tomatoes and a dry-land rice are produced, as well as organic butter, cream and an outstanding Gouda.

Building and maintaining a luxury eco-resort and an accompanying organic farm with a small but state of the art dairy processing facility would be a challenge even in the US or Europe, but to do so on a remote second-world  island with a single car ferry (built by Max) and the feat becomes extraordinary.

“These people are impressive,” states our traveler, “my highest complement to Vittoria and Max would be that with their independence and entrepreneurial abilities remind me of many of the Montanans I’ve befriended over the years.”

Kathleen returns home just in time to participate in the annual Taste of Bigfork on May 1st.  She’ll be bringing with her new ideas and a renewed dedication to providing even more organic offerings on her already outstanding menu.

The dining room at Laughing Horse Lodge reopens May 20th with dinner served Wednesday – Sunday, from 5pm. Reservations are highly suggested.

Howlers in the trees.

A ‘Taste’ for Adventure – Freefall Tuesdays at the Horse!

March 9th, 2011

Freefall Tuesday’s at the Horse

This summer our popular Chef’s Tasting and Wine Dinners become Freefall Tuesdays, where you put your taste for adventure into the capable hands of Chef Kate and her creative kitchen staff.  Freefall is a five course tasting experience loosely inspired by a specific region of the world, with each course paired with wine selected by the chef and a local wine expert. Using only the freshest ingredients available from local farm-to-market growers, organic meats and wild fish, each menu is sure to stimulate and please the most discerning of foodies.

Freefall is limited to 24 guests with secured reservations required. Freefall is $129 per couple with wine, ($34 per person without wine).

Last summer’s series was a sell-out, so reserve early!

Our epicurean explorations:

June 14 – Polynesia

June 28 – Portugal

July 12 – Tasmania

July 26 – Afghanistan

August 9 – Sri Lanka

August 23 – Guadalajara

September 13 Freefall End of the Season Missoula Farmer’s Market Menu with Guest Chef

 For reservations: email Kate at laughinghorselodge@gmail.com