Archive for August, 2010

The Smith Fork Valley in the Fall.

As the days grow shorter and the nights a touch cooler, we turn our attention to Autumn – the most magical time of the year out here on the Western Slope. Riding over McClure Pass (coming from Aspen or Glenwood Springs) the great Rocky Mountains give way to the surrounding river valleys and steep canyons, and a meandering rural road south east leads you to us.  They say people come to Colorado for the winter but stay for the summer, however it’s well known between locals that the true spell is cast in the fall.  Coloradoans love the Autumn – blazing bright golden Aspens are everywhere and the various species colors streak across the hills and mountains, locals are picking, canning and eating, celebrating and exploring – there is so much to do and see and such an ideal climate to do it in!

A visitor to Smith Fork Ranch arrives in this unique region to find an epic landscape of green pastures, rows upon rows of orchards and vineyards, great desert-like mesas, vast deep canyons, and the awe inspiring peaks of the Raggeds and the West Elk Range. We are nestled in the Smith Fork Valley (hence the name) and enjoy a bounty of natural wonders including Needle Rock to the west, Mendicant Ridge to the east, and the aptly named Saddle Mountain and Sleeping Indian to the south and north.

Tipi at sunset with the River Cabin and Mendicant Ridge beyond (and Ranch pup Liberty).

It is easy to see why so many fall in love with this special place or even at this special place!  Romances, engagements, and weddings, among other things, have taken place here and it’s no wonder.  There are many opportunities for private moments and special occasions with the ones you love.  And virtually endless open space!  Hundreds of thousands of acres of the West Elk Wilderness and Gunnison National Forest surround us – you will love just to be here and gaze out to the peaks beyond and the great mesa.  The Ute Indians once called this area home and they have a prayer that includes the saying “Earth teach me freedom, as the eagle that soars in the sky” –  at Smith Fork there is no shortage of opportunities to learn freedom and witness the great birds at flight.   And the Fall is a fabulous time to do so.

Many creatures frequent the grounds of Smith Fork Ranch including deer, as seen here checking out the garden (and photographer).

Preparations for the fall truly begin in summer – with a wealth of local produce from the many outdoor markets and farm stands gathered up for preserving and canning.  Jarring up the local goodness for the winter is a real local ritual – pickled spring asparagus, palisade peach jam, service berry jelly, pickled cauliflower, mushrooms, spiced apples – the options are endless!   Local writer and foodie extraordinaire Eugenia Bone shares her North Fork Valley culinary experiences and recipes on her blog – Well Preserved.  A truly delicious read!  The North Fork and Smith Fork valleys really are love at first bite.  And you know what they say – the quickest way to the heart is through the stomach!

Our Organic Farmstead Garden will be exploding with goodness this Fall

And the quickest way to a fantastic fresh harvest meal is from our own garden.  Autumn is the time for harvesting the majority of crops in our area – with a series of events occurring around the community and several wonderful opportunities to learn more about growing your own food as well as the Slow Food Movement of the Western Slope – a non-profit educational organization dedicated to celebrating and supporting the food traditions of North America.   They host and partner on a variety of events.

And there is always the vineyards!  A favorite activity of locals and visitors alike is touring the grounds and chatting it up with the vintners while tasting a beautiful variety of Colorado wines.  You will love the relaxed atmosphere and inviting hospitality of our area vineyards and cellars.  And you will love enjoying the local wines we offer at our bar – along with fantastic local spirits!

In addition to eating and drinking the local good stuff, there are so many other activities Smith Fork Ranch has to offer this Autumn – excellent upland bird hunting, horseback riding the many marked trails of our property and surrounding wilderness, fly fishing the ponds, creeks, and rivers, hiking into the forests, biking, yoga, massage, even glass blowing!

A ride through the beautiful Aspen forest.

And, our most popular vacation activity – doing nothing at all!  There is an abundance of nothing to do here – be it falling asleep in a hammock cloaked in the fall foliage or having a quiet read in the lodge by the fire – a blanket and a hot tea or coffee always at the ready.  Or simply just enjoy the delicious feeling of sleeping in!  Cozy up under a big fluffy duvet and quilt on one of our pillow top deluxe mattresses and hibernate for awhile – our guests love our beds and relaxation is our specialty.

So go ahead, FALL for us this Autumn – we promise not to break your heart.

Smith Fork Ranch will be open through the end of November 2010.  Join us for an incredible fall season.


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The culinary experience at Smith Fork Ranch is more than a necessity that happens three times a day, at SFR dining is an event.  Our talented kitchen staff creates inspiring dishes using local and seasonal ingredients including an abundance of produce from our own organic farmstead garden, and our dining team sets the tone with one of a kind locations, a bar not to be beat, stellar ambiance, and tremendous service.

Terror Creek Winery – one of many lovely area vineyards

At SFR we have the good fortune to reside in the ‘bread basket’ of our great state, and are surrounded by a variety of orchards, organic vegetable farms, cattle, buffalo, and elk farms, vineyards, and even a goat farm from which we purchase the most fabulous cheese!  The viticulture of Colorado is arguably at it’s best within our region – wonderful pinots, merlots, cabernet sauvignon, syrahs, and blends as well as chardonnay, pinot gris, sauvignon blanc, and gewurztraminer are grown, harvested, and bottled here. The Slow Food Movement is in full effect in this lush and diverse valley and we actively participate and support it, both within our farm-to-table approach via our own organic garden as well as purchasing local meats and produce.

The Farmstead with Saddle Mountain in the Distance

Chef Matthew Dusharme and Chef Kaylon Wall lead the team with exquisite dishes such as organic soft polenta, tender spring asparagus, poached local farm egg with granna padano bottarga and truffle oil first course or SFR lettuces with local cheese fonduta fresh Paonia cherries and sweet bing dressing followed by local Homestead Beef ragout with home made tagliatelle pasta and a glass of Chianti or porcini rubbed rack of Colorado Lamb with organic smoked tomato farro and a fabulous bottle of vintage Rioja.

And transportation is part of the experience as well – take a draught horse drawn wagon to cocktail hour at Hill House – the owners cabin – and watch the sun set over Needle Rock with a crisp glass of Sauvignon Blanc.

And we regularly offer an evening of live Spanish guitar and an offering of authentic Spanish Tapas from Chef Kaylon – who studied in Spain – including Gazpacho shooters, Andalusian olives and almonds, tortilla Española with chorizo and jamon, skewered gambas (shrimp), fried artichokes and classic Paella with first-harvest Arbequina olive oil.  And all complimented with a delicious glass of homemade sangria and finished off with a glass of the famous sherry from Jerez de la Frontera.  And then of course dessert – the delightful, crispy dough sprinkled with sweet sugar goodness and complimented with a rich chocolate wonder – churros with chocolate ganache!

A table of tapas at cocktail hour

And oh the sweets and baked goods!  The Smith Fork Ranch has been blessed to have the wondrous talents of bread maker and pastry chef in training Ashley Robinson as well as the balance of the staff all classically trained in the art of le pain.  Brioche, flat breads, croissants, sweet rolls, baguette, sourdough, rye, challah, whole wheat, a country boule…ah such simple ingredients can yield such wondrous food!

Someone once said “A wonderful, steaming hot, fresh piece of bread is more than just one of life’s simple pleasures. It’s the opening act of an inspired meal”, and at Smith Fork Ranch that is certainly true – every day the kitchen bakes up this pain ordinaire and many other treats for the day ahead.  And every evening they turn their talents to dessert!  Local fresh raw milk panna cotta, molten chocolate cake, homemade Paonia cherry and peach pies, classic créme brülée with garden fresh berries, SFR chocolate chip cookies, double chocolate brownies, fresh lemon custard bars – and so on and so on!

SFR cowboys cracking open a bottle of pinot for mountain top drinks and hors d’oeuvres

And have no fear, there are many ways to burn off those calories – from horseback riding, hiking, fly fishing, and running, to biking and yoga – let alone our fully equipped fitness center and swimming pond, if you are so bold, there is no shortage of work out options for the actively inclined.

The table set for a recent wine dinner

As James Beard once said “Food is our common ground, a universal experience.”  So come, experience and enjoy the pleasures of the plate and the vine at Smith Fork Ranch this Autumn – eat, drink, and be merry!

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