The Magee Homestead luxury ranch resort in Wyoming hosts a weekend of fine foods and Western adventures.
Have you ever fallen in love with carrots to the sound of a coyote’s howl? I have, and I did so at the Magee Homestead, a luxury ranch resort between the Rocky Mountains’ Snowy Range and Sierra Madre Mountains in south-central Wyoming. It was there on the lodge’s back patio dining space that I found myself marveling not just at a rippled pasture giving way to sweeping mountain passes, but at an unexpected stunner: variations on carrots.
The dish — with a streak of balsamic vinegar reduction, a base of creamy carrot-infused risotto, on which a thin ribbon of raw orange carrot was propped alongside a foie gras medallion and a slender purple and yellow carrot, finished with a carrot dust — was the fourth course in a long dinner filled with playful eats. But it was while I was relishing the carrots that I heard the howl of a coyote. It was just after sunset. Ranch cattle had slowly plodded away from the graze land in view, chipmunks had scurried off, and I was in love.
The carrots, harvested from the property’s greenhouse, were the reason I was at Magee Homestead, and the chef behind the charming plate was Chris Scott, executive chef and co-owner of Butterfunk Kitchen, a soul food restaurant in Brooklyn. When he came by the table to introduce the next course — quail and cornmeal-porcini mushroom waffles ringed with gochujang barbecue sauce, “an homage to the Korean heritage of my wife” — I asked him if he loved carrots. “Yes,” he answered in a soft, low tone. “Well, I liked carrots before tonight,” I responded, “Now I love them. Thank you, Chef.”
Earlier in the meal, I was treated to a perfect salad served on a rectangular plate: mesclun greens (also pulled from the property’s greenhouse) dressed with lime juice and olive oil and capped with a mess of nutty, refreshing Gouda-style Cypress Grove Midnight Moon cheese from Carrie Baird, executive chef of the Denver Italian restaurant Bar Dough. “It’s my favorite cheese in the whole world,” Baird told me. She also served one of her signature fancy toasts. The one at the Magee Homestead dinner started with a thick slice of sourdough bread slathered with sherry jam and topped with raw spiraled zucchini concealing miniature edible flowers, which, when revealed, added a sense of surprise and wonder.
Baird and Scott, both contestants on Top Chef Colorado, were at the Magee Homestead for Chefs on the Prairie, a culinary weekend event where guests of the resort are served imaginative, approachable dishes from the featured chefs and Magee Homestead executive chef Anthony “A.J.” Buchanio. It was the latest in a series of events that have included chefs from resorts in the Dominican Republic and Grenada treating guests to a Caribbean feast in a nearby canyon, as well as weekends focused on a winery or two.
What Western lifestyle enthusiast wouldn’t be smitten with an experience that serves fine food alongside cushy amenities and outdoor adventure? That’s the Magee Homestead for you. The intimate resort on the 30,000-acre Brush Creek Ranch property accommodates 27 guests across nine cabins. The cabins, which sleep up to four guests, are named after the original ranches that make up parts of the resort and its sister properties, the Lodge & Spa at Brush Creek Ranch and the French Creek Sportsmen’s Club; after geological features on the ranch; and after individuals who worked or owned original parcels of land composing the contemporary property. The accommodations with designs inspired by the Rocky Mountains and the Southwest are rustic, but in no way are they of the roughing-it sort. Call it Mountain West chic with hair-on-hide, hand-carved wood, desert prints, plush seating, and unabashed comfort.
Resort guests can laze by the pool, get pampered in the spa, go for a trail ride, hike, join a cattle drive, try their marksmanship at the Founder’s Gun Range, ride ATVs up nearby granite-capped Medicine Bow Peak (elevation 12,014 feet), or any number of other activities for aficionados of all things Western in an elevated luxurious setting.
(Click on the image below for a slideshow gallery from the meal and more Magee Homestead.)
Chefs Baird and Scott and I spent a morning at the gun range, where the recoil from the semiautomatics left bruises on our upper arms. We idled along during a two-hour trail ride across hay meadows, rolling prairie, smooth rock-studded creeks, and sagebrush hillsides to a creek-side lunch of spicy pheasant burgers and rich beef burgers from the ranch’s Akaushi cattle, prized for high-quality marbling and flavor. The camping mug of elk stew — mellow game with mushrooms, corn, carrots, beans, jalapeños, and tomatillos — was a favorite of mine. There was a kick from the chile and a tart pat from the tomatillos, whose minute seeds studded the dish. While we lunched, we tried our hands at archery and ax throwing and peered into a refurbished chuck wagon stationed between lollygagging Brush Creek and a trailhead to the on-property multiuse Brush Creek Trail. It was during a short stroll along the trail that Baird, Scott, and I uneventfully crossed paths with a skunk.
What Western lifestyle enthusiast wouldn’t be smitten with an experience that serves fine food alongside cushy amenities and outdoor adventure?
Later that evening, sitting by the fire pit set a few feet from cottonwood-lined Elk Hollow Creek behind my log cabin, I gleefully munched on a small tomato that tasted of chocolate and fine soil. The fruit was pilfered from the resort’s nearly 7,000-square-foot greenhouse, the source of an abundance of produce, fruits, and vegetables used by Buchanio, his staff, and guest chefs. The carrots and greens used in their dinner courses were delivered from that greenhouse. I visited it twice. The first time, I received a tour, smelling miniature herbs and salad greens and following a bee through tomatillo vines. The tomato-resembling cousin of gooseberries hung in various stages of growth from trellises. Some of the fruit were little more than pockets of air wrapped in papery light green husks. Others were knuckle-size pods hinting at the husked, sleek pickings to come.
On the way to my second visit, Buchanio and I drove “the back way,” as the chef calls the old TZ Ranch Road, a gravel trail winding through the late-summer prairie and the occasional herd of pronghorn antelope, a common sight in the area. Once at the greenhouse, which he notes is a fun place to hang out, Buchanio and I chatted about how he works every service (“I try to be part of every service. I have a sous chef, and I have my pastry chef, who has kind of stepped in as the morning sous chef, and I let them own the meals they’re doing”); utilizing ingredients in fascinating ways (“I’m thinking about how to use the leaves from this tobacco plant; maybe steam them for tamales”); and his desire to use only produce grown on the property (“I enjoy the herbs we get: Squeeze a parsley stem and you can smell parsley everywhere. It’s like someone turned the knob to 10 or 11, when it’s usually at five”).
There is excitement about the completion of The Farm at Brush Creek, a complex that will hold a distillery, brewery, creamery, bakery, wine cellar, and an event pavilion adjacent to the greenhouse. It’s a construction site now, but The Farm is slated to open in the summer. “This is world-class,” he says, his voice raising a tad to reveal his emotion about the project. “There are not a lot of places where there are opportunities for partnership like this. It’s very unique.” Buchanio speaks excitedly about iceberg lettuce, too: “It’s just so fresh, with its watery crispness, and a little bit grassy.” Feet from us were the greens, more tomatoes, but, most important, there were the small, lithe carrots I fell in love with.
For more information on the Magee Homestead or to make reservations, visit the resort’s website.
Photography: © Tonya Merke Photography/Courtesy Voca Public Relations
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From the January 2019 issue.