As those of you on the West or East Coast and in the South get a taste of what winter in Montana feels like, we in the frozen northwest are now planning for the coming season. We spend an awful lot of time brainstorming on how to make those of you who vacation with us have the experience of a lifetime. What comes from these sessions is that what makes this place special: the people.
You might expect that a blog from the ‘HR guy’ would naturally be about the people, but in this case it rings true. A large portion of our guest comments are about how different our staff is, who share their way of life and provide a window into the Montana lifestyle.
Trail riding isn’t something our cowboys and cowgirls stage so guests get a western experience. Our wranglers ride their own horses on days off. Fishing guides take you to their special spot on the river and they take you down rivers they fished as a child. They share a part of the Big Sky that keeps them here.
The pace is slower, the journey less crowded with time to think and dream and breathe. Our people understand that and don’t get in the way. What our guests say is that our staff makes them feel like they belong and they treat them like friends. I guess that’s why so many people come back and ask for staff by name. Friendships have been formed from great life experiences and isn’t that what a vacation is supposed to be. Our people hope to see you soon.
– Brad Lassiter, Director of Human Resources
We are really excited to be featuring wines from Casey McClellan and Seven Hills Winery for our Walla Walla in Montana event April 3rd and 4th. Seven Hills is the oldest vineyard in Walla Walla and has been a pioneer in Washington State for many years. Seven Hills Winery has a broad range of wines that should be fun to work with. Chef Coffel is looking forward to the pairings and has started to work on number of menu items tailored to Seven Hills wines. We’ve tried a nice crisp Riesling recently and a nice Red Mountain Cabernet as well. I look forward to trying Casey’s version of Viognier which has always been a favorite grape of mine.
– Kevin Kapalka, Director of Food & Beverage
A quick hello from a Winter Wonderland called The Resort at Paws Up. Looking outside and seeing how beautifully white everything still is, we can take a moment to reminisce about the great Christmas we celebrated here together. Christmas is a family event and we have been lucky to have such an extended Paws Up family during this time. To hear the jingle bells of the horse drawn sleigh, and to see our Guests cuddled up under blankets and enjoying the majestic surroundings of Greenough under falling snow, looking forward to a hot cup of cocoa at the end of the trail. That is the true feeling of Christmas. Our Guests ice skating until dark, or enjoying the tubing down the hill, knowing that there will be a nice fire burning in their homes, warmly decorated for the season and a scrumptious dinner awaiting them, brought smiles to their faces.
In a combined effort of some of our wonderful Guests and Paws Up staff, we had Frosty coming alive in the front yard of the Reception Barn. Their hands were getting cold, but the results were amazing.
Christmas 2008 was what you would hope Christmas to be and we are looking forward to Christmas 2009 and welcoming all of our Paws Up family back. Happy New Year from all of us in the Lodging Department.
– Wonny Rengersen
The New Year’s Eve festivities are in full swing – guests are enjoying dinner, games, conversation and of course, libations. Chef Wes’ menu is a big hit as usual, starting off with a fun amuse of a Lobster Corn Dog with Carrot Ketchup. As one guest told me, “you know you’re in a high-end place when the corn dogs are made from lobster”. Other highlights of the evening include an Oyster Sampler with Preserved Lemon & Whitefish Roe, Ahi & Passion Fruit-Truffle Vinaigrette, Cucumber & Champagne Mignonette; Squab Roulade with Foie Gras & Wild Rice Stuffed Cabbage, Minus 8 Vinegar; Marrow Bean Soup with Smoked Pork Won Ton; Seared Ahi with Ricotta Gnocchi, Fennel Purée, Olive Mousse and Poached Lobster with Celery Root-Potato Purée, Spinach, Black Truffle, Cognac Butter. After dinner it is off to the Tank & Trough for games, Texas hold’em, fireworks and music by Mudslide Charlie. If you haven’t experienced the beauty of a fireworks display reflecting off the snow on a crisp Montana New Year’s Eve, you just don’t know what you’re missing. As we approached midnight, the crowd grew more and more excited, not just in anticipation for the New Year, but also because one of our guests (who just happens to be a famous drummer) had joined the band for an awesome jam session. Midnight brought cheers, toasts and well wishes for new friends and old. The forecast calls for another six inches of snow tonight so 2009 will arrive in a fresh blanket of white. Happy New Year from all of us at Paws Up. Cheers.
– Jim Nielsen
Merry Christmas from all of us at Paws Up. Christmas Eve was a beautiful day that found our guests basking in the sun while they played outside in our big backyard – ice skating, horseback riding, snowmobiling, tubing and dog sledding were the top draws. Christmas Eve evening brought our annual kid’s craft party where our younger guest made tree ornaments and decorated cookies – a little overindulgence of sugar just helps keep up the holiday spirit. The highlight of the evening was of course the visit from Papa Noel…Saint Nicholas…Father Christmas…Kris Kringle…Pere Noel, the head elf himself, Santa Claus!! Santa visited the kid’s party and then made his way to guest homes to deliver toys and good cheer. Here is a picture of me giving him some last minute instructions (and of course my last minute wish list – peace on earth, the end of the recession and my very own Rock’em, Sock’em Robots). Christmas Eve dinner was terrific, highlights included Seared Beef Tenderloin with Crispy Cheese Curds, Mustard Braised Kohlrabi, Onion Marmalade and tradition with a twist: Lacquered Goose Breast with Chestnut Stuffing, Delicata Squash, Maple, Broccoli.
Horse drawn sleigh and wagon rides have been popular all holiday season; here is a shot of our fine Norwegian Fjord team, Pete and Re-Pete. They have been busy every evening taking guests on rides through the homes.
Christmas Day brought fresh snow and cloudy weather, the perfect day to curl up in front of the fire and enjoy the company of the ones you love. Many of our guests did just that, while others spent the day checking off those activities they hadn’t had an opportunity to try yet. Dinner preparations are in full swing. Taking a look at the menu, I can’t wait to try the Roasted Elk Loin with Dried Cherry Porridge, Kohlrabi, Cherry Syrup and the Baked Montana – Huckleberry Ice Cream, Almond Cake, Meringue and Chocolate Huckleberry Sauce.
Happy Holidays from all of us at The Resort at Paws Up and best wishes for the New Year.
– Jim Nielsen
After much anticipation, the snow has finally arrived in The Blackfoot Valley! We have 6-8 inches on the ground now and anticipate much more in the coming weeks. In fact, the extended forecast is predicting a White Christmas! We’re hoping that this much snow and the very chilly temperatures will bring the snow geese by on their migration. They came by last year, so we hope they make an annual pilgrimage to Paws Up. I love this time of year at The Resort. As I type this, I’m looking out the window of my office across our expansive meadow and up to the Scapegoat and Mission Mountains–all blanketed by white. I can’t wait to get out on a snowmobile and out of the office.
Christmas is only a week away and we’re ready. We can’t wait to celebrate the holidays with our guests. Santa’s on his way…and we’ll make sure he leaves on time to deliver presents to the rest of the world. Last year, we caught him relaxing with his feet up in a Big Timber Home, and had to remind him that he had many more places to go. We also found his reindeer flirting with the ladies of our resident elk herd. It won’t happen again. We promise.
– Jim Nielsen
Greetings from frosty Montana. “It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas” around here; trees, lights, and decorations abound and the ice skating rink looks ready for a triple-sowkow. The forecast is for continued cold weather and snow, so we are all looking forward to a “White Christmas”.
Some great news for all of you foodies out there, we have our first feature chef and vintner for Montana Master Chefs 2009. Texas’ own, Kent Rathbun of Abacus, Jasper’s and Shinsei Restaurants will join us fresh off his defeat of Iron Chef Bobby Flay on Iron Chef America.
Our first vintner on the books is the renowned winemaker and owner, John Williams of Frog’s Leap Winery. This landmark Napa Valley winery has consistently produced world-class wines and has the best motto in the wine business: “Time’s fun when you’re having flies” and the only cork that says Ribbit! when you uncork the bottle. We are off to a great start and the soon-to-be-announced chefs and vintners are equally as impressive.
All you fans of Bravo TV’sTop Chef, keep an eye on this season’s competition from New York. One of the competitors will face off against Stephanie Izard, the winner of The Top Chef Cook Off Challenge from Montana Master Chefs 2008 in MMC ’09. Who will it be? Stay tuned.
– Jim Nielsen
The Wheels on the Bus Go ‘round and ‘round…as the carbon footprint goes down and down….
This past summer at the Resort at Paws Up we began looking even more closely at our carbon “evil ways,” and made many adjustments. Perhaps the one that carried the biggest unexpected punch was the purchase of a school bus.
We paid $5000 for a bus in excellent shape, and quickly found the most colorful and fun driver in all of Montana. On the first day that “Dale”, the driver, loaded the bus with 12 employees they all left the resort singing out the windows.
His ridership very quickly grew to an average of 30 employees per day, though I suspect the singing waned and more iPods joined the commute. Dale picked his riders up daily in Missoula, Montana and drove them 35 miles to the Resort in Greenough–located in the heart of the Blackfoot Valley.
Not only did all of the riders save on gas, but we only paid $50 per day in diesel, plus Dale’s time….and the collective footprint of the Resort was reduced greatly. Just one of many efforts the Resort is making to contribute to “The Greening of Greenough”.
Mentioned on Eco Luxury Living
When I called Bradley Ogden after 20 years I expected him to say, “who?” But, instead we had fun catching up about our time at Campton Place in the Eighties – a time when his culinary expertise was taking San Francisco by storm. After I departed Campton Place, Bradley’s fame sky-rocketed, though we suspect no connection here.
I followed his openings and successes, mostly from afar, only dining in one more of his great restaurants. When we were thinking about which chefs to invite to our 2008 Montana Master Chefs event, I told the rest of our team…”I know Bradley Ogden” and they all snickered. Okay, so I meant…”I knew him when he was just starting out” and, “yes that was 20 years ago, and no we had not stayed in touch!”
I called him anyway.
When we met in the reception barn on the first night of the event we exchanged warm hugs and kisses, then we wondered where 20 years had gone, denied that either of us had aged, began talking about the rest of the 80’s team at Campton Place, and eventually mingled with the other guests. It was so great to see him again…and just as wonderful to enjoy his masterful cooking two nights later.
Bradley’s infectious personality is only outdone by his abilities in the kitchen, and after 3 days of fun with him, twenty years felt like yesterday.
– Terre Short
During my original stint at Paws Up, we introduced the Montana Master Chefs event to rave reviews and ecstatic guests. The timing of my return was impeccable as my first weekend back happened to be the 3rd annual Montana Master Chefs event. This years event was amazing, with Chef Bradley Ogden of the Lark Creek Restaurant Group, Chef Daniel Humm of Eleven Madison Park, the Resort’s own Wes Coffel as well as Bravo TV’s Top Chefs: Stephanie Izard and Casey Thompson. The Vintners were of equal stature with Richard & Anita Funk of Saviah Cellars, Cyril & Blakesley Chappellet of Chappellet Vineyard & Winery and Pete Przybylinski of Duckhorn Wine Company. One of my ‘tiresome’ tasks as GM is that my wife and I have to attend each and every dinner and are forced to consume great quantities of fine food and exceptional wine. The highlights, gastronomically speaking, of the event for me were Wes’ Roast Squab with Compressed Dixon Melon, the ’06 Duckhorn Merlot, Daniel’s Nova Scotia Lobster and his amazing dessert that paired so beautifully with Saviah’s ‘06 Une Vallée Walla Walla Valley Red Wine, and Bradley’s Short Rib & Veal Sweetbreads with the ‘05 Chappellet Signature Cabernet.
I also had the opportunity to again, be the MC for The Top Chef Cook Off Challenge. This year’s competition featured a Montana Master Chefs first, the guest challenge. Matt and Teresa McCarty faced off in Battle Short Ribs, with Top Chef’s Stephanie and Casey acting as Sous Chefs. Matt ended up victorious in this “battle of the bungalow”. Casey and Stephanie then squared off in Battle Pheasant, after a scare where they thought they were being given live birds, they were presented with pheasant breasts and the twenty-minute battle ensued. Stephanie was named the winner in this hard-fought contest. Both Matt and Stephanie will be back to defend their titles in ’09.
For more information on this year’s event as well as past years, please see www.montanamasterchefs.com, we hope to see you in 2009.
– Jim Nielsen