Words & Photos By Jen Pollack Bianco
If you’re looking for a romantic foodie getaway that mixes the great outdoors and cuisine from Top Chefs, pack your cowboy boots and head to Montana. The Resort at Paws Up (pawsup.com) is located 45 minutes from the Missoula International Airport.
From May through October, it’s all about glamping in one of the luxury safari-style tents. You’ll be not-so-roughing it surrounded by western chic décor, wifi, ensuite bathrooms, and comfy beds. There are heated blankets to keep you toasty warm on cool Montana mornings. Each camp has a butler on hand to provide personal service… and help you up your S’mores making game.
Top Chef Grits
Top Chef alumus Dale Levitski (of Chicago’s Sprout and Frog N Snail restaurants) is currently the resort’s Resident Guest Chef. He serves refined yet rustic cuisine at Pomp Restaurant, showcasing local flavors like elk, trout and quail.
During my visit, chef Dale Levitski held a Secret Dining Society farm-to-table dinner celebrating the best fruits, vegetables, and flowers from the local Farmers Market. All the produce was grown within 50 miles of Missoula.
Culinary highlights of the evening included Big Sky Pie made with leek, cheddar and truffle served with cauliflower crème fraiche and Montana mystery pear. The Dry Aged Picnic — rib eye served with huckleberry barbeque sauce and rainbow chard -— paired exceptionally well with the bold 2005 Joseph Phelps Insignia Cabernet Sauvignon.
Paws Up features several foodie events throughout the year. This Columbus Day weekend, there’s a sophisticated pie camp called Upper Crust. Next May brings Master Grillers, a weekend dedicated to deliciousness cooked on a open flame. In June and July, the Montana Long Table event celebrates the finest regional flavors. Master Chefs, a food and wine festival featuring several former Top Chef contestants, happens in September.
Rustle Up An Appetite
There are a lot of activities to choose from at Paws Up, but the Cattle Drive should not be missed. It is so much fun exploring the resort’s 37,000 acres on horseback and learning how to move a herd of Corriente cows. The expert wranglers had me rocking cowgirl know-how by the time I headed ‘em into the sorting pen. If you prefer horsepower to horses, take an ATV tour to nearby Garnet Ghost Town.
Cowboy Poetry Slam at
the Chuck Wagon
Draft horses Pete and RePete pull a wagon full of guests to the banks of the Blackfoot River, where the Chuck Wagon Dinner takes place. I dined on western staples like tri-tip, grilled corn, and huckleberry cobbler and washed it down with Moose Drool Brown Ale. Cowboy poets provide the evening’s entertainment under Montana’s Big Sky.