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"The Western Kitchen: Seasonal Recipes from Montana’s Chico Hot Springs Resort" by Seabring Davis

This book satisfies our nostalgic yearnings. This beautifully photographed book recalls the spirit of the West exemplified by an iconic resort. The recipe collection, storybook and photo album embrace the heart of this place located in the Paradise Valley nestled under Emigrant Peak. Through Davis’ narratives, black and white photographs from yesteryear, and colorful modern-day images captured by Lynn Donaldson Vermillion, the soul of the 120-year-old hotel is brought to life.

The book begins with brunch, featuring Cinnamon Bread Pudding with Vanilla Bourbon Sauce as the first recipe. This dish, a restaurant favorite, sets the mood of comfortable familiarity. Typically offered between breakfast and lunch, guests are served in the historic wood paneled dining room. The chapter also features other popular dishes such as Montana Snowball Cookies and Citrus Salmon.

Recipes highlight the organic produce harvested from the two onsite geothermal heated greenhouses, and a garden with soil warmed by hot springs. The Classic Spinach Salad served at the restaurant uses fresh spinach while the White Bean and Kale Soup with Pistou showcases homegrown kale varieties and basil.

The book interweaves old and new. The clapboard siding backdrop image on every page denotes timelessness. The Chico Hot Springs wagon wheel logo designates the “Classics” from newer dishes. The reader can reproduce long time favorites such as Flaming Orange and Fennel Breadsticks, created in the 1970s by Chef Larry Edwards, and the signature Beef Wellington carved and served tableside. Modern inspirations from Executive Chef Dave Wells include Quail Eggs with Roasted Asparagus and Nudja with Spanish influences, while Chilled Beet, Ginger and Coconut Milk Soup showcase items such as Montana beets and Asian ingredients.

Some recipes include a “Chef's tip” providing helpful information on substitutions, alternative preparation techniques and storage. The chapter entitled “In the kitchen" lists the needed pantry items for meal creation. Hay Butter infused with hay, Moose Drool BBQ Sauce, and Chipotle Remoulade are interesting basic pantry elements.

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“The best meals come with a story,” Davis begins the book. She writes of her favorite story from Christmas Eve dinner in 1995 when Colin, her husband, was general manager, and she was a waitress. A snow storm trapped guests and staff in for the night, and what was inopportune and inconvenient turned into an auspicious gift for all. The book also provides a brief history of the resort’s development, beginning with its opening by William and Percie Knowles.

The book retraces the seasons through chapters capturing a summer garden gathering, poolside in spring and winter wagon ride and barn party. We see photographs of kids playing patty cake, a mother lifting her child in the hot springs pool and guests in a sleigh breaking through a veil of snowflakes.

"The Western Kitchen" entices the reader to explore unique, but approachable recipes in a beautifully presented and photographed book, made all the more enjoyable by its origin in a place familiar and beloved.

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Stella Fong, author of "Historic Restaurants of Billings" and "Billings Food," hosts "Flavors Under the Big Sky: Celebrating the Bounty of the Region" for Yellowstone Public Radio.
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