I just returned from a fabulous ladies trip at the Ranches at Belt Creek in Belt Montana. My friends had bid on a four night stay at a wine auction last year, so we headed off to the great outdoors to experience Montana. Upon arrival into Great Falls, we were met by our ranch manager, Glenn York, who presented us with roses at the airport. We followed behind him from Great Falls to Belt which was a 20 minute ride to Ranches at Belt Creek.
The ranch has hundreds of acres of vast rural land with a lodge for dining and various options for lodging. We were lucky enough to have booked the Sweet Grass Ranch which had four bedrooms and bathrooms, a large kitchen for cooking and huge living and dining area for entertainment.
We had signed up for several excursions including ATV’s, horseback riding, spelunking, skeet shooting and river rafting. On the first day after unpacking, we headed to the stables for a little horseback riding. We each were assigned a horse and trotted around the property to get familiar with the ranch.
After a quick shower and change of clothes, we headed to the lodge for dinner. The chef at the lodge — Chef Sara comes from Blue Duck Tavern in Washington D.C. and you can really taste her credentials in her cuisine.
We began our meal with the most delicious salad I have had in a while which was Mixed Greens with Roasted Heirloom Carrots, Bleu Cheese and a Carrot Puree which was pleasantly spread along the bottom of the plate. The textures and flavors were crunchy and delicate and I loved the sweet carrot surprise.
For our entree, we had Roast Pork Tenderloin with Apples in a Riesling Sauce with a Curry Marinated Cauliflower Salad. The pork was cooked perfectly and the sauce was slightly sweet to contrast the meatiness of the dish. The apples were a nice touch too and the presentation fit our location perfectly.
The curry used in the Marinated Cauliflower Salad was Vadouvan Curry which is believed to come from French influences in India. The spice was warm and earthy delicately tossed in the roasted vegetables.
For dessert, we had a Rustic Plum Tart with Fresh Whipping Cream. The plums were sweet and tangy and the crust — buttery with a nice crumb.
The following day we headed off to go ATV riding along with Mark Hawn, one of the owners of Ranches at Belt Creek. The four-hour ride took us through rolling hills and valleys inside the property. We viewed the most lovely landscape from mountain top looking down at the Missouri River through Sluice Box Park. The whole day was wonderful and we give a big thanks to Mark and Caroline for riding us through it.
That evening I had the opportunity to cook for the group with fresh Trout that was caught locally. I decided to make Cornmeal Crusted Trout over a Corn and Mushroom Confit.
Cornmeal Crusted Trout with Corn & Mushroom Confit
4-6 trout fillets
1/4 cup cornmeal
1/4 cup flour
4 ears fresh corn, husked and cut-off cob
2 cups assorted wild mushrooms
1 onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
fresh thyme, parsley
1. In a small bowl, combine cornmeal, flour, 1 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon of black pepper. Lightly dust the fish fillets in the flour mixture and set aside.
2. In a large pan over medium-high heat, add 3 tablespoons olive oil, onion and mushrooms. Saute for 7 minutes and add a pinch of salt and pepper.
3. In another pan add 3 tablespoons of olive oil and heat on medium for 3 minutes. Add the trout fillets and cook flesh side down for 2 minutes until lightly golden brown.
4. Add the corn to the mushroom mixture and cook for 4 minutes, stirring frequently.
5. Flip the trout fillets over to skin side down and cook 3 minutes more until slightly crunchy. Turn off the heat and set aside.
6. Add the fresh thyme to the corn mixture and salt and pepper to taste.
7. Spoon a large portion of confit onto a plate and serve the trout on top. Squeeze fresh lemon juice and a sprinkling of parsley over the top. Enjoy!
We had fresh Apple Crisp with whipped cream for dessert. Mark and Glenn both dined with us at Sweet Grass Ranch that night, we enjoyed all the laughs and interesting conversations.
The next day the ladies separated into two groups– Tthe Spelunkers” and “The Skeet Shooters.” The day was filled with outdoor adventure and by the looks of the spelunkers — they totally out did themselves! Shooting was a great experience for me because I had never loaded a gun or shot one for that matter. Caroline was a real natural and I appreciated all her help, she made it seem easy.
That evening we cooked another dinner at Sweet Grass and enjoyed talking and laughing about our adventures. In the morning we headed to Great Falls to Montana River Outfitters for an offsite river adventure. The Missouri River was running high due to the rapid snow melt, so we only had the chance to raft the lower area of the river which was quite calm. The adventure ended up a little long in my opinion, but our guide was very knowledgeable about the animal life and Lewis and Clark history.
It was our last night in Montana and we wanted to explore the local bar scene. Glen, Mark and Caroline all offered to take us out for “The Best of Great Falls” tour. We started our evening at The Front, a local craft brewery restaurant that also made specialty cocktails.
The drinks were amazing and as you can assume — kicked off the evening in the right direction. We also dined on the Charcuterie and Cheese Board as well as Chicken & Avocado Sliders and Asian Salmon Sliders.
Our second stop was just across the parking lot to the Western Bar next door. The place was packed with locals and a bachelorette party. The Karaoke music moved me and of course, I started to dance. We sung, if you want to call it that, one of Princes hits “You Sexy __.” Our next stop was Sip N Dip to view the live Mermaid in the tank! Really??
Just a little creepy, you think? We missed the 90 year old playing the organ that evening because she didn’t feel well, but the Blue Hawaiian cocktail brought back memories.
Flamingo Lounge was our next bar to dance and ride the mechanical bull. The place was not very full, but we seemed to still have our share of fun video taping bull rides and dancing until we dropped. It was also Mark’s Birthday and we loaded him up on his share of Fireballs! Yikes! Happy Birthday Mark! Did I mention the $3.25 drinks, unbelievable!
We made a quick stop back in Belt at the Belt Creek Brew Pub, but the place was closing and so they poured our drinks in plastic cups and hit the lights. Oh well….
Our adventures at the Ranches at Belt Creek were more than we had expected and us ladies just want to thank all the staff for making our stay so eventful. Ranches at Belt Creek are not just a ranch/lodge, they sell plots of land to build your dream ranch, so if you are interested, contact them directly through their website.