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Category: Culinary


Ranch Cocktails | Making Haymakers while the Sun Shines

August is the beginning of harvest for most of our Western Montana purveyors. For the ranchers, it’s the end of a demanding haying season. The Ranch cultivates hay pastures during the summer to produce hay for the winter season.

The Ranch grows and harvests hay for our herd of longhorn cattle and horses
Photo by Robert Cole Photography

Former Barn Manager Kari Reasoner explained the importance of hay production in Granite County. “We have 74 horses and a small cattle herd. While we do produce some of our hay on property, we heavily rely on our wonderful neighbors to sell us a supply for the winter months. Small town living at its finest!”


Photo by Eric Bunting Photography


Hay is for Horses (and Cattle)

Horses on average will eat 2-2.5% of their body weight in roughage. This is strictly hay and is the basis of their diet. During the winter when our horses are not used as often, we only feed hay as a maintenance feed program, so an average 1,000 pound horse will eat 20-25 lbs. of hay each day. For our herd of 74 horses, that’s up to 675,250 lbs. of hay a year!


Photo by Eric Bunting Photography

The amounts produced are even more substantial for other hay operations in Granite County. One local ranch produces 2,500 round bales at 1,350 lbs. apiece. This results in over 3 million lbs. of hay produced in three short months. This amount is necessary for feeding large herds of cattle that eat 20 to 32 lbs. per day, with ever larger amounts for pregnant cattle to ensure good body condition and fetal health.

During the summer months when our guests are riding frequently and we are consistently working our horses, they require some additional supplement (just like athletes that are training for a game), so we created a feed program that tailors to each individual horse’s needs.


Photo by Eric Bunting Photography

We use two main types of grain, one geared toward active and young to middle-aged horses, and the other is geared towards our older horses. Through careful measurement and additional necessary supplement for a few specific horses, we do our best to keep their systems healthy and prolong their lives at the ranch as much as possible.


Photo by Eric Bunting Photography

Guests learn about horse health during special programming, such as Horsemanship 101 and Behind the Chutes.


Haymakers are for Humans

Meanwhile our culinary team produces ever-changing seasonal menus and artisan cocktails using local ingredients. Right now, our bartending team is preparing for our second annual Whiskey & Water Weekend next week – celebrating the water of life in our trout streams and in our snifters.

A fly fisherman walks home after spending a fall day on Rock Creek

To honor the height of haying season, they are producing a special switchel-inspired Haymaker’s Punch cocktail or mocktail. Thanks to bartender Lindsey for putting her magic touch on this recipe and sharing it with our community!

Homestead Haymaker’s Punch

“Haymaker’s Punch” or switchel was common in colonial America, where it was used to quench hay harvesters’ thirst during the hot, long hours in the fields. It’s generally made with water, apple cider vinegar, molasses and ginger. We regularly make switchel for our Granite Spa patrons. Bartender Lindsey pivoted from the classic Haymaker cocktail recipe and put her five-star touch on the traditional hydration punch recipe, which can be served with or without local whiskey.

Ingredients:
2 tsp. apple cider vinegar
3 tbsp. fresh ginger simple syrup (see below)
1.5 oz. Glacier Distilling Wheatfish single-malt whiskey
1.5 cups water
1/2 fresh lemon juiced

Method:
1. Make a ginger simple syrup.

Bring 3/4 cup of peeled fresh ginger, 1 cup of sugar, and 1 cup of water to a simmer in a small heavy saucepan over medium-low heat, stirring until sugar has dissolved, then gently simmer, uncovered, 30 minutes. Strain through a sieve, and then cool. Store for other uses in addition to the punch.

2. Add apple cider vinegar, ginger simple syrup, water and fresh lemon into a mixer. Shake well.

3. Strain into a Collins glass with ice.

4. Add whiskey. Stir. Garnish with a lemon round.


Photo by Eric Bunting Photography

Enjoy!



View our other cocktail recipes:

Category: Culinary


Autumn Harvest Highlights

Locavore’s Delight

Fall seems to start at a gallop in Granite County. As we wrap up the hay harvest, it’s easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of daily life. One often has to remember to stop and enjoy the moment. Stop, reflect and celebrate. 


The Ranch offers a different dining experience every night. Executive Chef Josh Drage’s locally sourced Relais & Chateaux meals are one of our guests’ favorite luxuries.

This year we have many reasons to celebrate at our annual Autumn Harvest Celebration. We’ve just been honored by Forbes Travel Guide as one of the most luxurious hotels in the world.

Their brand new Verified List includes just 58 hotels from all over the world, judged on 900 standards and chosen as “top performers in the standards that focus on sumptuous comfort, as well as extravagant choices and conveniences afforded to guests… .The featured hotels lavish you at an unparalleled level from the moment you arrive,” according to  Jennifer Kester of Forbes Travel Guide.

Our Autumn Harvest Weekend focuses on local Montana culinary and natural treasures. On Thursday, we’ll kick off the celebration with a Montana Craft Cider Dinner created by Executive Chef Josh Drage and paired with local ciders from Missoula’s Western Cider.


Perfecting Western Cider. Photo by Rio Chantel.

On Friday, we’ll be highlighting Montana’s cultural treasures at our Western Rendezvous. Saturday will culminate in a Fall Harvest Dinner featuring grammy-winning musician LeAnn Rimes. Other weekend activities include a ‘Slow Food, Small Plates’ dinner, campfire session with Montana band shōDown, a Ranch cocktail party and a Happy Trails Brunch on Sunday. See the full itinerary here. Read more…

Category: Culinary


Sweet Life of Bees, Year Two

Join us as we follow our new colleagues—the bees—through their second year homesteading in the Rock Creek Valley. The story is in reverse chronological order so scroll down to start from the beginning, or read more about their first year on The Ranch.  

Chapter Three: Lessons Learned

by Kelsey Bruns, Beekeeper, Master Naturalist and Little Grizzlies Kids Club Coordinator

A Growing Year

I am constantly amazed and humbled by the complexity of the hive. One of the first things I learned from my apiarist mentor was that once you believe you know everything about beekeeping you should quit because that means you are a terrible beekeeper.

Instead, you should always be learning from the hive. That comment has stayed with me. This season there have been many surprises and unforeseen circumstances with the hives, a less-than-bumper crop of honey, and yes, there has been a lot of learning.


We sold jars from our 2017 at this year’s Autumn Harvest Celebration. Photo by Kelsey Bruns.

For me, beekeeping is an intricate dance of manipulating the hive. As a beekeeper you are constantly assessing the hive and reacting quickly enough to know what your next move is going to be. Knowing how to read a hive is imperative to a healthy and successful hive. This can be as easy as moving frames from point A to point B and as complex as listening for different intonations of the buzz of a hive. This season there were many instances to practice observation and react to what the hive was telling me.

A Product of our Environment

Spring was very wet and cold this year, and our summer came in strong and left quickly. Two things need to happen for any plant to produce nectar: warmth and moisture. The warmth and moisture allows the plant to bloom. But the golden ticket is to have both these things happen over an extended amount of time. With no moisture in the ground, the flowers may be present but they will not produce nectar.


Spring green soon changes into a tawny landscape during the summer in Philipsburg, Montana. Photo by Drew Baker Photography.

Lacking these two integral factors left the hives with less than enough time to collect a enough nectar to turn into a large crop of honey. As one can imagine, this can be quite frustrating for a beekeeper. I feel for the local farmers when the weather is just not conducive for a bumper crop that can support their livelihood.

A Tough Call

With all this being said, I can blame the weather all I want for the lack of honey, but the reality of this year’s less than exciting honey crop was also due to the health of the hives. For reasons unknown, two hives lost their queens. To make matters worse, these two hives lost their queens right before the nectar flow.

As a beekeeper, all your work is for the nectar flow. You work to ensure you have the strongest hive possible with the most bees that are foragers right as the nectar comes on. With no queen continuously laying eggs to keep hive numbers up, and forager bees coming of age, a hive simply lacks the bee numbers and the appropriate cohort of bees to collect nectar.


As the weather turned cool, the bees started to clump for winter. This act helps the bees to stay warm while exuding less energy. Photo by Kelsey Bruns.

Even after this event, I still had hope for my hives. I repaired these hives with bees from the two strongest hives in the apiary and patted myself on the back for a job well done. But to my dismay one of the new queens in the hive did not mate well and was a drone layer (only produced male bees, not female worker bees), and thus this hive was once again doomed. Being an optimist, I went into the strong hives once again to repair the damaged hive and this queen took.

Finally, all of the hives were back to normal. But because of my optimism (or potentially my stubbornness), the two strongest hives that I used to heal the weak hives had suffered. I ultimately decreased their bee numbers, and in return, these hives produced less honey.


Female bees taking advantage of their last sunny days in the Rock Creek Valley before their winter stay in the Bitterroot Valley. Photo by Kelsey Bruns.

I had to make this decision along the way and I had my reasons. The question was, should I let two hives die and let the strongest hives stay strong and produce an amazing honey crop? Or should I save two hives and sacrifice the amount of honey I would get in the end? I reasoned with the second option, which roots in my philosophy of beekeeping.

The purpose of beekeeping for me is not how many pounds of honey I harvest; it is for the mere appreciation I have for them. Understanding the honeybee hive is a wonder. Something so complex, yet so perfect and simple, that it hasn’t changed in millions of years.

The hive is a beautiful super-organism that our society will always be indebted to and that I will forever be in awe of.

The bees are now set up for success in which they will over-winter well.  They now reside in the Bitterroot Valley for a second winter where the climate is less harsh and the spring flowers come early. Cheers to the bees. I am always ready to learn.

 


Chapter Two: A Live Hive That Thrives


Spring Turns to Summer

Spring in Rock Creek Valley was quite a dramatic season. This past winter we had an above average snow pack and thus, in return, we have had an extended high water season for Rock Creek. We hope the extra precipitation will mean a healthier eco-system in the long run.


A honeybee on a rosebush. Photo by Kelsey Bruns.

Now that the water is down, the fly fishing is up! As spring progresses into summer, the hives are busy, gathering pollen and trying to recuperate from the long winter.


Beekeeper Kelsey fishing in Southwest Montana. Read more…

Category: Culinary


Mixology Hour: Bringing Home the Art of Craft Cocktails

While whiskey straight up may be the stereotypical cowboy drink, it’s certainly not the only option for wetting your whistle in the West. The Ranch at Rock Creek is an experiential oasis, perfectly suited to a martini before the Homestead Supper Club, a Negroni as a fireside aperitif, or a margarita by the pool.

The Motherlode Cocktail sits ready to be enjoyed after mixology hour in the Great Room
Read on to find the recipe for this cocktail, The Motherlode. 

Cocktails are a cultural experience, steeped in centuries of creative pairings. The beauty of mixology is that you can adapt recipes to the setting, the season and the individual.

Bar Manager Ned Derosier’s cocktail menus in the Silver Dollar Saloon and the Great Room change frequently to highlight local spirits and seasonal abundance. For example, summer cocktails might feature foraged sage, huckleberries and Flathead cherries. You’re sure to get a taste of wild Montana when you saddle up to the bar.

Artisan cocktails in the Silver Dollar Saloon at The Ranch at Rock Creek luxury guest ranch
In fact, you can literally saddle up to the bar in the Silver Dollar Saloon. 

Read more…

Category: Culinary


Fresh Picks From Autumn Harvest Weekend

We’ve just enjoyed one of our favorite times of the year—our annual Autumn Harvest Weekend. While our Instagram followers experienced this celebration in real time through video “stories,” we wanted to hand pick some farm-to-table festivities to share with our Blog at Rock Creek readers. Before this blog ends, you’ll find a recipe for a cocktail that’s sure to be as bright and invigorating as a harvest moon.

Read more…

Category: Culinary


Entertaining in the Legendary West

Silver spurs, gold nuggets and riding off into sunsets—these are the icons of the legendary West. Since the Western states were formed and the barbed wire was strung, the Rocky Mountain states have changed in a myriad of ways (notably, with more indoor plumbing and fewer gun battles with road agents), but it’s still retained a wildness that’s rare in our modern day. In Montana, cattle outnumber people by 2.6 million to 1 million. In our neck of the woods there are more dirt roads than paved.

cattle_drive

Legendary adventures remain available for people willing to drive or fly a little further into the heart of the West. As The Ranch at Rock Creek has grown over the past six years, we’ve retained the feeling of our historic homestead roots. We appreciate that our partners in the travel industry celebrate our local ranching culture and allow us to remain, at heart, a Gold Country ranch. Of these partnerships, perhaps Relais & Châteaux is most notable for its appreciation of local food and culture.

Dutch oven cooking is a big part of Western cuisine at The Ranch at Rock Creek, a Relais & Chateaux luxury resort

Although this collection started in the chateaux and kitchens of France, Relais & Châteaux were quick to recognize there is no one way or one place to live well. Each region of the world can elevate their local cuisine, local culture and local art to higher standards, allowing guests to drink in the experience. This week, we’re pleased to announce two pieces of exciting news in concert with our Relais & Châteaux family: the release of their new book, The Art of Entertaining, and the new Legendary West Route du Bonheur.

Read more…

Category: Culinary


Celebrating Culinary Arts Month

Gourmet Food with Big Sky Balance

National Culinary Arts Month couldn’t come at a better time. Summer produce is rolling in and The Ranch kitchen is highlighting Montana’s freshest food with creative, ever-changing menus. We want to recognize the chefs, servers, managers and purveyors that make The Ranch’s dining experiences shine.

As part of the Relais & Châteaux commitmentsExecutive Chef Josh Drage and his talented team focus on making our cuisine a reflection of local tradition while delivering a first-rate luxury experience. We want to thank our staff members who achieve this precise balance every day of the year.

In a recent TripAdvisor review, Claire V., wrote, “The freshness of the food rivaled that of my favorite restaurants in New York City. The service was remarkable and is clearly a top priority of management. While the Ranch at Rock Creek is certainly ‘high-end,’ it is not stuffy.”

Members of our evening culinary arts team enjoy the Fourth of July celebration
Members of our Evening Culinary Team on Fourth of July. Left to Right: Executive Chef Josh, PM Servers Alex, Kaylen, F&B Event Manager Christina, Executive Sous Chef Ben, PM Server Willie. Photo by Willie MacDade.
Read more…

Category: Culinary


Sowing Seeds for Autumn Harvest

Anticipating Our Annual Farm-To-Table Festival

Guests enjoy a night in the Silver Dollar Saloon during the Autumn Harvest Weekend

We don’t want to wish a beautiful Montana summer away, but we are already planning for one of our favorite celebrations of the year—the farm-to-table festival we call Autumn Harvest Weekend. When the hay is baled and stacked, the pumpkins are picked and kids are back in school, we’ll take a weekend to appreciate Western Montana’s rapid and abundant growing season. Here are three reasons why we can’t
wait for October to arrive. Read more…

Category: Culinary


Silver Dollar Saloon: Val-Gal-Pal-entine’s Cocktails

DSC00533

Welcome to the Silver Dollar Saloon

As Valentine’s Day approaches, our bartenders in the Saloon and Great Room aren’t content to just chill the champagne in anticipation of the celebration. They have been busy creating a seasonal cocktail menu that will give guests a taste of winter in Montana with Big Sky spirits and local ingredients. Just like Chef Drage’s menus, the cocktail menus change frequently, highlighting the holidays and activities that we enjoy. Read more…

Category: Culinary


A Ranch Christmas: Eat, Drink and Be Merry!

Christmas boots hang from the mantel at The Ranch at Rock Creek

“Eat, Drink and Be Merry” might be the perfect recipe for a good holiday party. It’s certainly how we like to celebrate the season. In anticipation of hosting and sponsoring the Granite County Festival of Trees in just a few weeks’ time, our culinary team has shared some winter comfort food recipes. They believe that the key to a memorable celebration is putting a lot of care into what you serve and then taking the time to savor it.

If you can’t join us at The Ranch for Christmas or New Year’s, we hope you’ll enjoy these delicious recipes and use them to channel a country Christmas wherever you celebrate this year. Happy Holidays!

Read more…