If food were art, I just worked my way through the Louvre, nine paintings at a time.
Over three nights tucked in the woodsy chic world of Paws Up in Montana, a place where well-heeled families and couples looking for a romantic escape fill their days fly fishing, aiming shotguns at neon-orange sporting clays, and trying their hand at moving a herd of cattle from one pasture to another, I ate some of the most beautiful food of my life.
The Green o: A romantic, adults-only retreat
The green o is the newest corner of the 37,000-acre resort that opened in 2005 on a former sheep ranch in western Montana. Unlike other sections of the resort, the Green o (named for the green circle that the rancher, whose last name was Greenough, painted on his livestock) is adults only. Guests stay in modern treehouses or sleek glass and metal homes nestled among swaying pines.
I’m no foodie, but the food was other worldly, from the rhubarb and chamomile ice cream sandwich waiting in my cabin’s mini-fridge when I arrived, to the homemade potato chips and dip with caviar I nibbled at lunch to the nine-course meals I tossed back each night at the property’s Social Haus.
Beets weren’t just boiled pink orbs, they were chopped, mixed with local flathead cherries, infused with something that tasted vaguely like a campfire (in a good way) and formed into diamond-shaped filets. I ate gorgeous mushrooms and venison and pheasant brined for 48 hours and served with sunchokes. I tasted fennel and a frozen palate cleanser made with gin, tarragon, and green tapioca. I grilled a thin strip of pork belly on a sizzling hot river rock. One memorable dish, called a terrarium, arrived in a mist-filled glass dome that, when lifted, revealed a cluster of tiny carrots and radishes and purple onions buried in a layer of bright green basil puree the color of fresh moss, over a layer of pureed kohlrabi.
The mysterious menu at the Green o
The menu, delivered on a sheet of stiff, bone-colored stock, always oozed mystery. One course of last night’s meal read, simply, “crudité.” That didn’t prepare me for what the server slid in front onto the table. It looked more like something you’d pick out at the neighborhood nursery than what you’d eat at an exclusive restaurant.
A miniature farm’s worth of leafy greens billowed from a terra cotta pot. But everything – save the clay vessel – the chef assured me, was edible. I zeroed in on a tender shoot and plucked it gently forth, like a farmer harvesting the evening crop. A tiny carrot emerged from the soil, along with a bit of soil – a crumbly brown mixture of toasted hazel nuts (a thing here, I’m told), chicory and roasted onion ash.
I popped it in my mouth. Like almost everything else here, it blew me away.
Food, as art. I’m a fan.