Thursday, December 26, 2013

But really, in Montana sleigh bells ring...

We all know the song, 'sleigh bells ring, come and listen...'  Out here this really does happen, and not just during the Christmas season.  Lone Mountain offers a trip back in time via a sleigh ride dinner.  It's cooler than Miles Davis, an igloo, or a hipster.  What about a hipster playing Miles Davis while living in an igloo?  Not sure on that one.

Anyway, when you arrive, Belgian draft horses are waiting, hitched to wooden sleighs.  Horses are creatures of habit, and so learn to work with one another, but only one other.  Larry and Curly always pull together, and would never dream of working with Mac.  Likewise, Mac only works with Charlie.  Not even a Moe could break up that first duo.

Eight to twelve people fill a sleigh, and you share a blanket with your neighbors, hoping to impart a little warmth to each other.  A softly spoken "Larry, Curly, hup" sends you off into the woods.  Snow-covered douglas fir and lodgepole pine tower over you while the moon peaks through the opening in the trees, lighting the way.  The stars of the Big Sky state complete the overhead blanket of Mother Nature.

Three times on the way up the hill the horses must stop for a rest.  The pines seem to exude a hush that nobody dares disturb save the tinkle of a bell as a horse shifts its weight.  In that moment it is easy to ignore everything else and solely contemplate you, in these woods, with these trees, people, and horses.

The rest of your life is just so much white noise.

Finally, the soft glow of the North Fork cabin comes into view.  You welcome the blast of heat when you disembark the frigid wooden sleigh and step in the door.  Propane lanterns hang from the ceiling and candles dot the room as you settle in to one of the large, communal tables.  At the front of the cabin towers a giant cast iron cookstove, that once roamed the country in a railroad car.  Behind it stands your chef and host for the evening, an 'old salt' who has been doing this for years.

Out of the beast pour warm, honey-molasses rolls, steaming root vegetable soup, Montana raised prime rib, roasted red potatoes, steamed vegetables, and bacon-sauteed mushrooms.  The chef, a character even off stage, leans over his cast iron throne to the nearest table, "Can I ask you a personal question?  How's the prime rib?"  Over the soft murmur of forks and knives a born-and-raised Montanan with a guitar sings his own folk songs and tells stories.  They might be true.  They might not.  A giant pot of cowboy coffee makes its way around the room after dinner as you enjoy the giant stove's last production-shortcake, topped with berries and whipped cream.

It is tough to leave the cabin, what with a belly full of hearty vegetables and prime rib.  But the trip back down the hill is a little warmer than the way up, thanks to the couple glasses of wine and the coffee that leave you with a warm, fuzzy feeling.  The simple folk tunes help fortify you mentally against the outside world full of to-do lists and worries, as you hum choruses to the jingle of the sleigh bells back down the hill.

Is the meal good?  Damn good.  It might not be the avant-garde kobe beef tartar served with micro greens and essence of balsamic and cherry foam, but who cares?  Simple is good.  Salt, pepper, and beef are a trio that can go a long way together.  Was it a Broadway show?  No, but I am sure you found yourself enjoying it as much if not more by the way you hummed those tunes afterward.  There is no need to reinvent the wheel or the flavor of a well-cooked meal.  In many ways previous generations had it good, and I invite you to try it, if only for a night.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Frigid Temps & Awesome Rents

The other day in Bozeman after a brutally cold night, -29°F to be exact, one of my friends summed up Montanans' reply to the frigid temperatures, "We don't hibernate, we recreate!"  Indeed, the previous night downtown Bozeman hosted its annual Christmas Stroll, closing off Main Street and setting up booths for food and nonprofits, while the stores all stayed open and some screened films or hosted bands.  Santa made an appearance as well.  You would think -11°F would scare people off, but no, it was packed.  Needless to say, hot cocoa was literally the hot commodity that evening.

Back in Big Sky, I am moved in to Lone Mountain Ranch, where I will be working as a PM server in the dining room.  Originally, they put me in the A-frame, which has their ski shop on the bottom floor, but that room did not have a kitchen, so when a spot opened up in the Schaap House on top of the hill I jumped on it.  Check it out.  Upgrade.

OK, you might be convinced, but maybe not enthusiastic.  Let me show you my view.

Million dollar view or multi-million dollar view?  Either way, I'll take it.  Now it is time to get outside and recreate.  Today's forecast is calling for a relatively balmy high of 27°F.  Woohoo!