It was a trip that will last a lifetime for Hubs and myself. Our winter holiday to Brush Creek Ranch in Saratoga, WY was the perfect mix of foodie and outdoorsman love. The foodie of course, being myself and the outdoorsman, well, that is Hubs to a tee.
Hubs was enamoured with all things Brush Creek. He spent his mornings snowshoeing and cross-country skiing. He enjoyed crisp afternoons in the gun range, snowmobiling and hiking. Each outdoor adventure brought back a Hubs happier than I’d seen in a while. There is no doubt in my mind Hubs is part-Cowboy at heart.
It will be no surprise to those of you who know me personally that Hubs and I have varying tastes on what we consider to be “fun”. So while he bonded with nature, I spent my mornings reading next to the large hearth and my afternoons at the spa. I even got a behind-the-scenes’ peak at the Ranch kitchen where Pastry Chef Marie Tran (you may have seen her on the Food Network’s Cupcake Wars) showed me how to make a perfect poached egg (another blog indeed).
Let’s not sugar-coat the situation. I spent most my days eating. Sure there were some spa treatments and reading by the fire and even one chilly trek on the back of Hubs’ snowmobile. But really all I did was eat. It was brilliant. The chef staff at the Ranch is fantastic. Each day they managed to outdo themselves. It’s no wonder I was the first of our party of six to show up seated and ready to eat at every meal.
Then there was the wine cellar. I don’t mean a pretty wine cellar where you walk by and wonder what it would be like to walk in and grab a bottle and just sit down by the fire and drink. I mean a wine cellar where you do exactly that. No asking for permission, no waiting for someone to help you. You literally just walk inside and take whatever bottle you want. Then you say a little thank you to God that you found the most magical place on Earth.
As you know from my blog, I don’t bake very often. I say that I don’t like to bake and that is true. However, the extended truth is I cannot help myself around baked goods. I don’t bake because if I did, I’d be 350lbs in two short months. During my stay, Marie and her wily baking ways easily put 10 lbs around my middle. Easy. But it’s not her fault, I could have been working all those calories off being outdoorsy, but who wants to leave a toasty warm fire with a drink-your-fill wine cellar steps away? Not me.
Every afternoon around 4pm the “Saloon” would open. This would be my “outdoors” adventure for the day, as I finally had to peel off the complimentary Sorel slippers provided by the Ranch and don real boots to schlep myself out in the cold and snow for live entertainment, cocktails and of course, fabulous appetizers like Salmon Tartare on Salt Blocks and Venison Wellington’s with pomegranate white chocolate glaze.
Dinner was always fabulous and we’d end with one of Marie’s incredible desserts. I rarely see Hubs eat dessert. One night he ate two helpings of her Carrot Cake. Our friends are still talking about it.
And after a few post-dinner cocktails, rounds of shuffleboard and even a few late nights of karaoke, the Ranch would end our night with two very large chocolate mints on our bed. I don’t mean those little Andes things but rather something the size of a golf ball. The kind of mint you’d probably have a hard time falling asleep on top of without realizing.
Although, if you had been partaking in the saloon festivities it would be possible, I suppose. I imagine you’d wake up in the wee hours of the night wondering- “What on Earth am I covered in?” Would there be chocolate handprints on the walls as you searched for a light? Possibly. Then of course, there would be the shame of having to tell the housekeeping staff the next morning, heaven forbid they think it’s something other than chocolate smeared all over the sheets.
On a scale of 1-10 the Ranch rated a perfect 10 in mine and Hubs minds. Perfect food and perfect activities for our diverse needs. It was absolutely the perfect vacation. If there was any suggestions I would leave, it would only be this-
Dear Brush Creek Ranch,
Please put the chocolates on the nightstand.
My Sincerest Apologies,
The Farmers Market Foodie
Marie Tran’s Chocolate Beet Cake
While Marie uses canned beets, I microwaved fresh peeled and quartered beets in water until tender
1-3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1-1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 can (15 oz.) whole or quartered beets (not pickled)
1-1/4 cups granulated sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup milk
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/3 cup cocoa powder
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9”x13” cake pan or 2-8” cake pans.
In a medium bowl, sift flour, baking soda, salt, and cocoa powder. Set aside.
Puree drained beets in a food processor or heavy-duty blender. Scrape into a large bowl. Add sugar, vegetable oil, and 1/2 cup milk to the pureed beets and mix on medium speed until combined. Add eggs and vanilla extract blending until completely incorporated.
Add flour mixture to the beet mixture. Using medium speed, mix until combined, at least two minutes, scraping down sides often.
Pour into baking pan. Distribute chocolate chips evenly over the top of the batter. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes or until toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Do not over-bake or it will become dry.