From the moment I step in the snowcat, I know the meal I am about to have will be special. How many dinners start with a twilight ride up the face of a mountain?
As I ascend, the view of the surrounding wilderness keeps getting better.
Eventually we reach the Bear’s Den, an octagonal d-log lodge perched on the side of the mountain at Brundage Mountain Resort. I settle in to the candle-lit dining area with a couple dozen soon-to-be friends and am quickly offered a mug of mulled wine topped with cardamom whipped cream. It feels especially appropriate as the wind whips around the mountain.
Next to me, a couple who lives in Virginia shares that they are enamoured with McCall, so much so that they bought a place and make frequent visits with their two-year-old daughter. On the other side of me is a local firefighter celebrating his birthday. His girlfriend has a broken ankle, and booked this experience knowing it was an accessible (and delicious) way to experience the outdoors.
“To think that you are basically on top of a mountain enjoying a meal like this is pretty incredible,” said Traci Foster, Brundage’s Food and Beverage Director. Among her responsibilities is to make sure the glasses of complimentary beer and wine don’t go dry… and she nails it.
This is the first season of the Bear’s Den Dinner After Dark, a four-course, carefully-curated prix fixe dinner perched on the side of the mountain nestled between the pistes and pines. There is something especially delicious about gourmet dining in a setting so close to nature and so far away from the typical trappings of human civilization.
As the meal begins, Executive Chef Devin Greenman explains how the evening’s selections are inspired by the memories of his northwest upbringing – picking huckleberries with his grandma and sneaking fruit from a neighborhood apple orchard, among them.
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The first course consists of pan-seared scallops wrapped in kurobuta bacon from Idaho’s Snake River Farms. The crunchy exterior of the bacon contrasts wonderfully with the melt-in-your-mouth scallop in the center. Cara cara orange slices finish the plate.
Chef Devin takes time between each course to carefully explain the food, and the thought process behind it. The textures and flavors seem even more pronounced once I understand the careful consideration that went into their selection and preparation.
Next up is an arugula salad with heirloom cherry tomatoes and something I had never experienced on a salad before: balls of chevre cheese rolled in macadamia nuts and flash fried. The crunchy exterior and soft interior theme continues – and once again it is absolutely delicious. The dressing is a black garlic rice wine vinaigrette.
The main course is no less creative or savory: sliced duck breast with a coffee and dutch cocoa rub drizzled in a blackberry sauce, asparagus wrapped in prosciutto, and a crimini mushroom risotto.
For dessert, Devin and his three-chef preparation team put together a fuji apple grilled with brown sugar and cinnamon under a huckleberry compote, an anjou pear poached in port wine and drizzled with a port wine reduction with hazelnut crisp set in marzipan whipped cream.
By this time, the inside of the lodge resembles a large family dinner, filled with laughter and stories and conversation — not to mention satiated appetites and empty bottles of wine.
When the call came out to load up the first snowcat, there aren’t many volunteers to go first.
The trip back down the mountain has the feeling of slowly descending from the clouds to reality after experiencing culinary heaven. The good news? I can go back again.