Posts Tagged ‘Bigfork lodging’

Paraphrasing Potter Stewart

Monday, May 27th, 2013

I found myself praying for someone to yell “Fire!” (unfounded of course); for a really, really small earthquake; for the pregnant woman in the tenth row to go into labor. Please go into labor…Now.

The reason for my prayers? Bad art…truly bad, bad art; compounded by the inability to escape the crowded theater.

I – a lover of all things artistic and an artist myself –  found myself sitting in the jewel box Teatro Municipal Santiago this last December for a world premier production that I’m certain had Arnold Schoenberg’s bones restless in their grave.


Advertised as a concert, COTH, was more performance art…the kind of performance art that results from two or three really talented – disparately talented –artists sitting around a chipped Formica table  in a sweltering 6th floor walkup smoking too much dope and consuming too much KFC. Unemployed artists trying too hard to come up with a unique idea that will utilize and showcase each of their talents…think Ishtar or Heaven’s Gate.

I imagine their smoke-induced conversation…

Artist 1 “I’ve got these four Lipizzaner-type horses that are really talented- they can dance and play dead and they don’t mind if I dress up as a giant mordant butterfly and ride them around and around and around and around and around in circles in really dim lighting.”

Artist 2 “I’ve got this really great yogic body that with a very small, tight thong (and a can of silver spray paint)will really show off my ass…oh, and I can move very, very, very slowly.”

Artist 3 “I love Alan Berg and I’ve got a box of crickets.”

And yes, I paid money for this –along with several hundred others.  I don’t know if the robust applause at the conclusion was just for that – the conclusion, or perhaps they actually saw the Emperor’s new clothes.

There have been a few times in my ‘cultural arts attendance’  past when I’ve wished for Scotty to energize me away from the scene of the crime, and I must be truthful in admitting they all share a theme – atonal noise, umm, excuse me, music.

My first “is this art?” experience came at the hands of Peter Sellars, the then newly appointed artistic director for the Los Angeles Opera. Known for his cutting edge, out of the box view of the world – this is the man who cast Amanda Plummer as Juliet at the LaJolla Playhouse– Sellars decided to take a bite of the Alan Berg oeuvre and Wozzeck came to the LA stage. Known for its harsh subject matter, ugly language, and interminable, unapproachable atonal score, Wozzeck – at the hands of Sellars, became even uglier as it was set in a third world Latin American guerilla camp with the cast tromping around in fatigues and army boots, against a backdrop of camo netting, and, I swear, the buzz of mosquitoes.  Although I was appalled by what was being presented on the stage, I was even more so by the audience.  In a textbook case of mass hallucination, Wozzeck and Sellars were embraced and adored. The opera wasn’t ‘bad’, it was ‘challenging’ and Sellars was seen as a genius.

The second experience came in the historic La Scala Opera House in Milan just two years ago. I’ve tried numerous times during my travels to Europe to attend a performance at La Scala, to no avail. Opera tickets are reserved out nearly two years, and my schedule doesn’t allow for such advanced planning. However, when I arrived in Milan with a friend,  I immediately checked the La Scala box office, and  quell surprise, there were tickets available to a non-opera performance that very night.  Disappointed that it wasn’t an opera, but joyous at the opportunity to participate in a live performance, I purchased the tickets. The house was packed, mostly tourists like us just wanting a chance to see the inside of this glorious building where Toscanini premiered the beautiful and haunting works of Puccini.

As the lights dimmed, the opening act – an a cappella quartet – walked to center stage and presented a beautiful selection of classic secular and religious songs in Latin and Italian. Their voices filled the house, rich and nuanced. So far, so good.

And then the main act. The lights came up on five men sitting in a semi-circle – a violin, a guitar, a cello, an upright bass and a viola. Ahh, chamber music…lovely. The crowd clapped their acceptance, and around us, hundreds of young people – students apparently – opened up what appeared to be music scores. Wow, a world premier, this is going to be memorable! And so it was.

The five musicians began to beat up on their instruments. Strings were struck, tongues were clucked, the floor was stomped, and chairs were picked up and dropped. Sharps and flats were flung at each other and the beatings of the poor instruments continued for an hour. A brutal, ugly hour in which the students followed along in the score, quietly oohing and awing at the brilliant daring of the composer while Puccini, Verdi and Rossini wailed in the darkness. The saving grace for this evening was that both of us were able to find humor, albeit quietly, in the pretentious performance and the even more pretentious audience.  As we left La Scala, I looked at my friend (and to paraphrase past Supreme Court judge Potter Stewart) said, “I can’t define what is ‘bad art’, but I recognize it when I hear it.”




A Damp Beginning…but Adventure Awaits in Patagonia and Santiago

Wednesday, December 26th, 2012

Day 22 – Patagonia

I’ve been here for twenty two days, Here being Patagonia– the Chilean side. I’ve come for the fishing and my fly rod has been wet for twenty one days (it sits on the porch) – twenty one days of buffeting wind and monsoon rains that have blown out the Yelcho River and turned the towering Andes into a sci-fi fairy land of a thousand waterfalls criss-crossed with vivid rain bows.

Although I’ve not actually gotten on the water, I have had several hours of dry land (ok, really wet land) casting practice with sinking line; and am learning  to tie my own flies.

Despite the rains, the clients who have come to Puma Fishing Lodge in these weeks have all departed most pleased with their experience. Traveling via the comfortable PUMAII across Lago Yelcho to Rio Futalafu, our last group of six caught on average 100 fish a day. Massive browns and feisty rainbows, most in the 6 -10# range, were the standard each day and everyone was successful.

A new group arrives today and I am doing last minute prep on the menus and packing food for the transfer from the lodge to the PUMAII for a five day cruise. Although my main responsibility is chef, our American guests have invited me to fish with them and our Montana guides have assured me that there is a big brown with lots of attitude just waiting for one of my newly tied flies.

Day 31 – Patagonia

Rain. Rain. And Rain. Oh, did I mention ‘rain’?

I have seen the sun all of two days and not complete days at that.

Gentle rain, wispy rain, curtains of rain, solid walls of rain. Cold rain.
Warm  rain. Vertical  rain. Horizontal rain. And when the wind gusts, rain that appears to travel right back up to the sky.  And I won’t begin to describe the winds…we’ll save that for another day.

I think I am over rain, but it is not quite over me yet, so I am running away for Christmas. Running north to Santiago. Beautiful, hot, dry Santiago. For a few days I will have the opportunity to complain about the heat and use my lip balm to counteract the arid mountain air.

Day 35-38 – Santiago

SUNSHINE! I feel like Snoopy doing a Happy Dance, chasing my tail in glee. The Ice Breaker wool, polypro and rain jacket are stashed away and the trekking skirt and cotton blouse are on-as well as the sunscreen.

Santiago is vibrant as Christmas approaches. Not quite the shopping insanity of Estatos Unidos, but the pressure is obviously building.

I have embraced the Latin dining schedule (which is a bit tough as I am very much a morning person), spending my days walking and exploring finally sitting down at 10pm for a leisurely dinner. Christmas Eve I treated myself to dinner at one of Santiago’s finer establishments – Baco – an evening of indulgence beginning with a sinful foie gras accompanied with a delightful DryFarmed Old Bush Vine Carignan 2010 (Maule, Chile). (Since California has now outlawed foie gras -and other states will most likely follow- I seem to have acquired a taste for it…and yes, I’ve also acquired the necessary guilt to enjoy it completely.) An unidentified baked local chevre came next atop some beautiful, seemingly just picked lechuga. The cheese was aromatic and  pungent with just enough rind chew to embrace the silky core. A classic cassoulet followed brimming with duck and sausage. My two hour dinner (now approaching 11:30pm) was topped off with a fresh berry zabaglione and restretto.  Strolling out into the balmy evening air amongst hundreds of others enjoying the coolness, I almost missed the rain…not!

Christmas Day will find me on a tour to Valparaiso and Vina del Mar on the coast…more sunshine and more suncreen! Merry Christmas.

The Reason Why I Live Here…

Saturday, 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.

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

Wednesday, 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.

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!

A Heartfelt ‘Thank You’ to Old and New Friends from the Horse on Finishing Our 10th Year

Thursday, October 15th, 2009

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.Kathleen on porch

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

Laughing Horse Lodge Ranked #1 – Best Food in the Valley!

Tuesday, August 11th, 2009

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 – – 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 ‘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 and book an overnight stay, or just come out for the some delicious dining and music.

Swan Lake’s Laughing Horse Lodge a Welcome Respite for Traveling Vegetarians

Thursday, July 2nd, 2009

 In Montana, beef is royalty, but occasionally even a carnivore craves greens and fish and the kitchen at Laughing Horse Lodge is pleased to oblige. The menu presented by chef/owner Kathleen features many dishes based on organic and natural ingredients that can be stepped up with responsibly harvested fish including sushi-grade Ahi and line-caught Alaskan Salmon.

 For a warm summer evening try her signature Polynesian – organic baby farm greens tossed with dried organic cranberries, diced apples and ginger glazed pecans topped with a seared Ahi steak and fresh gorgonzola crumbles drizzled with a zingy wasabi ginger dressing…and that green stuff on the edge of the plate? It’s not guacamole, but freshly made wasabi…sizzling!

 Kathleen’s large entrée salads – The Rancher, The Yucatan Stack and the Polynesian – are meals in themselves, but if you are looking for something with a bit more heft, put in an order for the Organic Basil Pesto Linguini brimming with gently sautéed vegetables, or the Mango Ahi served on a bed of organic wehani red rice steaming with the flavors of Thailand.

 And so that our carnivore partners don’t feel left out, there’s a 14oz natural Buffalo Ribeye served up with a tantalizing Wild Berry Glaze, natural Angus Sirloin aged to fork-tender perfection, Angus Prime Rib and of course, the famous ½# steak burger served on a homemade foccaccia bun.


Wild Salmon, Savory Black Bean, Natural Chicken or Steak...The Burger is King!

Wild Salmon, Savory Black Bean, Natural Chicken or Steak...The Burger is King!

The dining room is open Wednesday through Sunday at 5pm with a public brunch Saturday and Sunday 8am – 2pm.

Reservations definitely suggested…406-886-2080.

Laughing Horse Lodge A Haven for Foodies in the Flathead Valley

Thursday, July 2nd, 2009

Now in her tenth year as owner, chief cook and bottle washer, Kathleen continues to bring in the rave reviews for Laughing Horse Lodge from locals and visitors who have discovered this Swan Lake dining ‘secret’.

This season, Kathleen heats up her menu with nightly specials from the ‘over the top’ Asian flavor sensation of Saffron Soba Noodle Cake to the Norman Rockwell down home comfort of savory meatloaf floating in a sea of Crimini Mushroom Prime Rib gravy.

The Horse offers a laid-back, old Montana dining experience where the value is on the plate – mostly organic, always fresh and totally delicious ingredients prepared with care, presented with joy and affordably priced.

So if you are a foodie looking for the best the Flathead has to offer, take a short drive to Swan Lake and see what Kathleen is cooking up for the evening… “hmmm…all natural Tuscan-style Black Angus Prime Rib, or a large steaming bowl of clams swimming in a broth reminiscent of late summer nights in Capri?”

The dining room is open 5pm Wednesday – Sunday for dinner with a public brunch offered Saturday and Sunday 8am – 2pm. The kitchen is closed Monday and Tuesday night so that Kathleen may bring her creative skills to the private homes of the Bigfork/Swan Lake area for parties from 12 to 100.

 Reservations definitely suggested…406-886-2080.

Natural Porterhouse Pork Chop on a Green Chili Frittata

Natural Porterhouse Pork Chop on a Green Chili Frittata