Posts Tagged ‘eating in 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.

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

Huckleberry Peach Pie and the Swan Lake Huckleberry Festival

Friday, July 10th, 2009

It is that time of year again! Huckleberrys and peaches – a match made in culinary heaven. Barbecuing with friends this summer?  Insure your welcome by showing up with a fresh  Huckleberry Peach Pie-your hostess will love you and you’ll be on the top of the list for more invitations!

Place your orders by Wednesday at 12 noon by calling 406-886-2080 and your pies will be ready for pickup at 4pm on Friday. Pies serve up to 8 people for $25. In addition to pies, Kathleen can create a sinfully sweet Bavarian Cream Huckleberry Torte for $19.

Come out to the Swan Lake Huckleberry Festival on August 8th at the Swan Lake Day Park and explore the many art vendors. Come early and stop into the Horse for a delicious breakfast of huckleberry peach pancakes or huckleberry & goat cheese stuffed French Toast. The Horse is open for breakfast and lunch on Saturday and Sunday, 8am to 2pm.   Looking for more tasty huckleberry treats? Check out Eva Gates Homemade Preserves and Vicki’s Montana Mountain Classics in nearby Bigfork!

Montana’s Rob Quist and Nashville’s Tim Ryan Return to Laughing Horse Lodge

Tuesday, July 7th, 2009

Returning for what is sure to be a sell-out performance, Rob Quist and Tim Ryan will be telling their musical stories of the West in the garden at Laughing Horse Lodge on September 5th. Two years ago, these two troubadors held the audience at the Horse spellbound – each man is an accomplished artist but together they are magic.  So make your reservations today…$5 cover or purchase dinner at the Horse…by calling 406-886-2080 or dropping an email to  The performance will begin at 7pm in the cozy garden of the Horse which is located at milemarker 71.5 on Hwy 83 in Swan Lake, Montana.  Dinner and overnight lodging is available.

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.