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
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.
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.
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“,
“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…
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.
One has to love the French for their contribution to the art of cooking, especially the names for those of us in the kitchen- chef de tournant; chef de partie, and my favorite – chef garde manger. Beautiful words wrought with layers of meaning, but all boiling down to one thing…he or she is a cook and hopefully a good one!
Well this ‘cook’ is spending the winter on the island of St. John in the US Virgin Islands at the Rosewood 5 Star resort of Caneel Bay, ‘slaving’ away in a kitchen larger than the entire property upon which the Horse sits. As Anonymous once said “It’s a tough gig, but someone has to do it.”
While the Horse sits shivering in sub-zero temps and being buried by that lovely white stuff, I walk a mile and a half to work each day in 84 degrees; spend my day creating dishes with a group of professionals that love what they do and who they do it for (some of the staff at Caneel have been here since the sixties!); and when the work day is done, I clock out and head for one of Caneel’s amazing beaches for a refreshing swim before walking back to my humble abode in the village of Cruz Bay.
Besides the sybaritic pleasures of island life, the real reason I chose Caneel for my winter exploration was the chance of working under their new executive chef, Anthony Dawodu. Dawodu was seduced away from the Boston dining scene by Caneel a few years ago and given a great challenge -restore Caneel’s reputation as a 5 star dining experience and do it quickly.
If you’re familiar with island life anywhere, the word ‘quickly’ is seldom used in conversation; in fact it is anathema to the zeitgetz of living under palm trees surrounded by water. Dawodu, however, was up for the challenge and has, in less than three years, restored the gloss to Caneel – the quality of the dining experience aside, the business acumen and cultural understanding shown is impressive by any standards.
And so, here I am, seeing first hand a resort business recovery model in action; improving my kitchen chops; and filing away ideas, recipes and techniques to bring home to the Horse to make your dining and lodging experience even better in the coming years. It’s a great way to spend the winter, and most importantly, I don’t have to shovel snow!
As the snow begins to sugar the mountain tops here in Swan Lake, I begin the task of closing the Horse for the long winter. First the gardens, so lush and beautiful this year, are cut back and a few tears fall as the last of those glorious hollyhocks are stuffed into the mulch bag – their seed pods carefully saved for gorilla gardening around the neighborhood. Those monstrous hanging baskets of sunrise pink petunias are delivered back to the nursery and the drip systems are drained. The herb garden – so prolific this summer – gives up the last sprigs of lovage, savory and tarragon to flavor the fall stew bubbling on the back burner.
The highway is quiet, the lake even more so. No jet skis, boats or swimmers – just flocks of migrants heading south stopping in for a quick bite and respite. This is my favorite time of year – full of gold light and the smell of winter on the air. The few visitors coming through the door are a hardy breed seeking stillness and ready for any weather Nature may send their way.
It has been an amazing season thanks to the many returning guests who over the years have become good friends. And so many new faces that portend an even rosier future for the Horse. It has been 10 years since the doors opened and what a wonderful ride it has been…fascinating visitors and guests, exciting stories of traveling adventures, quiet moments on sunset contemplations and the absolutely wonderful gratification of knowing that my staff and I have contributed in some small way to making special memories for you and your families.
Although the lodge will be closed November 1 thru April 30, we won’t be idle…upgrades and improvements will take place over the winter to make your 2010 stay even more comfortable. On behalf of Nikki, Cooper, Sampson and Juliet – thank you – for the hikes, the cookies and the new vocabulary (Sampson has incorporated a distinct New Jersey accent and now knows the main theme to Encounters of the Third Kind!)
For all our new and old friends – have a safe and exceptional winter. We’ll be looking forward to welcoming you back to the Horse next year. Kathleen
As the air becomes laden with the crisp smells of fall, the Horse’s kitchen fills with the aromas of savory stews bubbling on the back burner. Join us for classic French cassoulet, our famous Hunter’s Stew and our simmering fondue – the Gorgonzola Basil Hot Pot. Of course, the full menu is also available featuring prime angus steaks and prime rib, unique vegetarian offerings and wild, hand-line caught fish.
For reservations, call 406-886-2080.
The Horse is quietly celebrating its 10th year of providing the most intriguing and delicious menu in the valley, but the best kept secret in the Flathead may be a secret no more. Guests have been posting their reviews of the Horse on the nation’s number one independent travel review site – www.tripadvisor.com – in ever increasing numbers, catapulting the Horse to the number one position in the region. Ranked highly in areas of quality, value and service, the Horse continues to deliver consistently great food, affordably priced in an atmosphere of warm Montana hospitality.
Chef/Owner, Kathleen Moon and her superb staff make certain that every visitor has a personal and singular experience, a sentiment stated over and over again in the reviews posted at tripadvisor and bedandbreakfast.com. ‘We’re not for everybody,” admits Moon, “the lodge offers up clean and comfortable, yet very basic accomodations with few amenities beyond the natural beauty of the Swan Lake area…so if you need the pool, the in-room TV, cell service and a perfectly stirred martini…we’ll help you find a nice hotel in Kalispell. But if you want quiet solitude, the company of a sweet dog, a great bottle of wine and a good book, with fabulous food (of course!) then this is the spot.”
To discover the charms of this Laughing Horse, visit www.laughinghorselodge.com and book an overnight stay, or just come out for the some delicious dining and music.