Posts Tagged ‘dining in Swan Lake’

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 Horse – “Seasonal Sensation” Featured in Montana Magazine

Thursday, September 20th, 2012

The April issue of Montana Magazine featured The Horse in an article written by Sydne George. Titled “Seasonal Sensation”, George captured the true nature of the lodge and owner Kathleen Moon in words and photos that reflected the warmth and hospitality that for thirteen years has been the hallmark of this small Swan Lake lodge and bistro.

From the initial welcome by Nikki and Cooper, the two resident golden retrievers, to the morning ‘hello’ from Sampson the African Grey parrot, guests quickly understand that this is not a ‘motel as usual’ stay.

Currently celebrating a luxurious fall, the Horse is offering up a two night all-inclusive package featuring great wines and Chef Kate’s signature dishes from the kitchen. To discover this ‘seasonal sensation‘ before the late October closing, visit to learn more about the Fall Package and to make your reservations.


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.

Dust off that Fly Rod! Spring is almost here…sort of!

Wednesday, March 2nd, 2011

Ahh…the smell of spring is in the air! Well, not quite yet, but it isn’t too early to dust off your fishing rod and make your “Winter Is Over!” plans for visiting Swan Lake and the Horse. Our popular Spring Fisherman’s Getaway is back! Join us between May 20th and June 29th for our all-inclusive package for two: 2 night’s lodging with dinner and breakfast, and complimentary bottle of wine upon arrival…for only $259! And don’t forget to bring the pup – non-smoking dogs welcome!

[When making your secure on-line reservations, please write ‘Spring Specia’l in the Notes. You will receive a price-adjusted confirmation by email within 48 hours.]

The Horse Featured in AAA’s Via Magazine!

Wednesday, September 29th, 2010

“It’s all about the food!” and this fall readers of AAA’s Via Magazine shouted that loud and clear. From Kirkland, Washington to Swan Lake, Montana readers of Via wrote to tell of their favorite breakfast and brunch places in the Northwest. Montana rated three cafes -yours truly the Laughing Horse Lodge, Main Street Overeasy in Bozeman and the Stray Bullet Cafe in Ovando.  So take a ride this Sunday down to Swan Lake -the fall colors are spectacular- and enjoy some delicious fare including Huckleberry Peach Pancakes, Huckleberry Chevre Stuffed French Toast and the best omelet you’ve ever had!

Sunday Brunch at the Horse runs from 9am to 2pm. Reservations for parties of 5 or more are required due to limited seating.

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

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.