By Michael Somerby EBS Digital Editor
BIG SKY – Tucked away among stands of Douglas fir and lodgepole pine on the gentle slopes of Lone Mountain Ranch sits the humble North Fork cabin. The unassuming log structure, oil-lamp lit and warmed by a roughly 100-year-old railroad cook stove, conjures images of an old West, a brief epoch ushered in by the westward expansion that defined 19th-century America.
Patrons of the ranch don’t venture up the pass to the cabin by foot—nay, they ride there atop wooden sleighs with seats for up to 16 adult passengers, pulled by comparably massive draft horses. As the snow falls, guests ride with wool blankets across their laps, discussing what patiently awaits their arrival: an epic feast.
It’s a tradition spanning 35 years since the cabin’s construction concluded in 1983.
The culinary traditions of that storied era, those of a nascent Montana, are honored within the walls of the North Fork cabin where lucky diners enjoy a meal cooked by executive chef Eric Gruber.
Gruber, who has worked in this role with LMR for three years, and his team serve a mouth-watering menu: freshly-baked herbed popovers, potato leek soup with smoked garlic oil and chives, and cast iron turkey pot pie open for the main act featuring a succulent prime rib roast with mashed potatoes and a roasted vegetable medley sides.
“Our team makes this traditional prime rib and we work to always source excellent, local beef,” said Michael Jacquard, manager at the Horn and Cantle, Lone Mountain Ranch’s primary restaurant that acts as a home-base kitchen for the cabin. “The cook stove in the cabin finishes the dishes for serving.”
An apple and huckleberry cobbler à la mode accompanied by “cowboy coffee,” a rich brew made from direct contact of equal parts water and grinds cooked for several hours over open flame, takes home the four-course menu.
As food is served family style, a vibrant shuffle of arms plating and passing food characterizes each of the six tables, inspiring a sense of diner camaraderie rarely found in out-of-home eateries. Such was the case at my table at the North Fork cabin the other night; it was all smiles.
Complementing the food, Helena native Bruce Anfinson played original numbers such as, “Homegrown Tomatoes,” and, “The Ballad of Minnie and Pearl,” on a guitar worn with time and use. The latter, named after two of Bruce’s favorite draft horses, underscores his cowboy roots—another supporting piece of the old school, western aura found at the North Fork.
“It was a sleigh ride in a snow globe, to a beautifully crafted cabin, where I was then delighted with scrumptious food and live entertainment,” said Big Sky resident Natalie Osborne. “[It was] straight out of a Hallmark movie; truly memorable.”
Climbing back into the sleigh at the close of the meal, I dusted a light snowfall from my wool blanket. Filled with delicious food and nostalgic spirit, I looked back and watched as the cabin slowly disappeared from view, hidden from 2019 by the sentinel fir and pine. I knew my comrades were equally struck, as they laughed and sang broken lyrics from Anfinson’s songs to the rhythm of the swaying sleigh. Some stared upward, in silence, at the evolving canopy lines.
With a trained steadiness of pace, the horses guided our sleigh down those slopes delivering us back into our world, one very distant from that of the North Fork.
Visit lonemountainranch.com for booking details and more information about LMR’s sleigh-ride dinner.