Posts Tagged ‘Dining near Bigfork’

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.

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.