I was initially inspired to write this piece by my love of lululemon stretch pants under cowgirl boots, a good Colorado Kolsch, and lamb done better than my own Jewish mother could prepare. Pork and beans aside, there is still plenty of authentic dude ranch cuisine available on today’s menu, however, look for a more sophisticated and exciting approach to the grill over the campfires and brews being tapped! Fork’s up and the brew is tasting good going down.
The Last Supper
In June 2016, one of the most popular international “athleisure” brands booked a corporate retreat for 22 brand ambassadors at remote Rawah Ranch nestled in the Big Laramie River Valley. In planning their schedule, the Chicago-based organizer inquired if they could ask attendees about what their dream last meal would be. Then, the ranch’s chef would prepare each meal to specification, served with intricate explanation.
“That’s the thing at Rawah, there’s no limitations on requests from fried peanut butter and jelly sandwiches to seasoned Cornish hen for BBQ night. We set up the three tables as in ‘The Last Supper,’ but in a horseshoe shape. Then we delivered each meal, one by one, per the guest’s request using locally sourced meat, poultry, fish and produce whenever possible,” explains chef Ford Martin. “I had one guest who wanted breakfast, so I prepared a frittata, pancakes, hash browns, sausages, bacons, fruit parfait, etc. Another final meal was a buffalo rib eye steak, another one wanted a buffalo burger, and there was an elk loin request, snow crab, sushi, and everything in between.”
These exceptionally personalized meals became the centerpiece of the evening with attendees explaining why they choose it and how they felt eating his or her particular food. Chef Ford chuckles, “I actually only had to prepare 21 meals; two people ordered lasagna for ‘The Last Supper!’”
I was fortunate to take my three little ones, husband, and mother-in-law to Home Ranch for the 4th of July 2017. Bubbie (Yiddish for grandma, and a word that can strike fear in many a son-in-law or daughter-in-law) stated this was the greatest food of her life. This is a well-traveled woman and even a distinction such as Relais & Chateaux doesn’t mean cow manure if Bubbie isn’t happy.
From every variety of white fish paired perfectly with ranch-grown vegetables and Champaign nightly, she reigned over the staff and her grandchildren in complete pleasure. For Bubbie, a very personal 4th of July celebration with the staff and ranch friends was one of the greatest meals and moments of her life. That’s a mighty secret—some of the best meals, even at the most luxurious of ranches—are always with
the staff in their element and for good celebration. Home Ranch could even impress my mother-in-law. I can’t ever bare enough children to outdo their ranking (nor do I want to try)!
Exquisite Expectancy Executed
However, if someone could go even more outrageously over-the-top for cowboy cuisine, than it’s one of the CDRA’s newest members, Emerald Valley. And, would you know it, I was their first pregnant guest on ranch property. To be truthful, that weekend in early June 2015, my husband and I were the ONLY guests at Emerald Valley after historic rains. By weekend’s end, my husband was sporting a bigger belly than my second trimester-self, and I had learned about cowboy coffee and a good morning fire.
“Simplicity is key,” states Broadmoor Wilderness Chef Jonathan Frakes. “The more flavor you get out of a raw product, the better.” The majority of Frakes’ ingredients are all-natural products that can be found seasonally throughout Colorado. Both at home and in his professional life, Chef Frakes loves to experiment with the flavors of fresh meats and vegetables.
This summer, he’s excited to serve dishes like Emerald Valley Ranch Salad with
with Kentucky Limestone Bibb lettuce, summer garden vegetables, and smoked tomato vinaigrette for a starter, only to be followed by more produce perfection such as a Yukon gold gnocchi with Colorado’s Arkansas Valley cherry tomatoes, baby squash, arugula, brown butter and Parmesan. And, for the fish lovers, there is Cher Frakes’ Rocky Mountain Red Trout with pearl onions, mushrooms and smoked bacon done at the ranch.
I have dinned on Chef Randy’s family cuisine, and most importantly, son Spencer’s contributions, numerous times. First he warmed my infant, toddler’s, husband’s and I’s bellies one very cold, snowy, New Year’s Eve 2012. The food was memorable, but the dessert, noteworthy. Upon a return visit late last summer, Randy’s crew furthered my recollection of time-honored classics, with modern touches and the largest slice of the pie—Spencer’s continued work on his post-dinner passion. His wife explains.
“His desserts—they’ve become the stuff of legend in the last five years. First up: Coffee crème caramel with shortbread cookie. Eating it feels like consuming a Renaissance painting – decadence, refinement, and artistry all singing in perfect harmony. Second: Crème Brûlée with a yeast doughnut, a Vanilla-bourbon crème brûlée, served in a martini-chiller over shards of caramelized sugar, with a fresh, warm, house-made, yeast doughnut drizzled in Spencer’s own salted caramel sauce. Third: Pots de crème wedge, milk chocolate mousse in a sugar sphere and Fourth: Dark chocolate soufflé in a cauldron with raspberry cinnamon gelato. This one has had to make a return in several iterations due to popular demand. World-traveled guests have raved over its perfection.”
Hannah adds, “Latigo is service. Our food is artistry. And the taste is out of this world.”