Edible Bozeman

A Singular Experience in Luxury at the Green O

Where culinary excellence meets Montana beauty

We were settled into a deep, comfortable leather booth, nursing our signature cocktails fireside at Social Haus, the gleaming community centerpiece of the Green O. As the newest addition to the 37,000-acre Paws Up Ranch, the Green O is an ultimate luxury resort located just off Highway 200 in the mountainous wilderness that winds its way alongside the Blackfoot River east of Missoula. The sun had set and through the towering glass windows and doors framing our views, the sky was a darkening violet set against the forest that envelops Social Haus. Fellow guests quietly gazed into the central fire, grinning contentedly in the lap of such luxury. Our server swooshed to our table, alerting us of our pending dinner course, one of seven for the evening.

From the central open kitchen our server brought forth a tray on which stood two terra-cotta pots, shoots of baby greens jutting out from a dark brown soil. What in the world? Our first course was simply titled “crudité” on this evening’s menu. Our server informed us that the entire dish was edible—save the terra cotta, of course. Yes, we could even eat the “soil” in which our baby greens sat.

I pulled at one of the leafy green tufts and out came a beautiful baby radish covered in a tangy, rich, vegan green goddess dressing; the dark brown soil was a combination of crushed hazelnuts, chicory, and ash of roasted onion. The simple and playful dish was loaded with umami—deeply savory flavors— against a backdrop of sweet, earthy, forest-floor flavors of the soil. This ne plus ultra resort stay of ours had just taken a sudden left-hand turn and let us in on a little secret: The cuisine is arguably the draw to the Green O.

The name Green O is a nod to rancher Paul Greenough, who established his ranch in the area in 1915. Greenough was known for his humor; he painted his sheep with a large, bright green “O” in order to identify his herd. Or perhaps it was to ensure the correct pronunciation of his last name, which would later become the name of the town in his memory.

The Green O resort is like none other. Guests stay in a choice of minimalist-meets-woodsy cabins or in tree houses set high off the ground among the tall conifers that dominate the landscape. The accommodations are complete with glorious home fixtures, warm and inviting fabrics, exceedingly comfortable four-post bedding, as well as a fireplace, hot tub, whimsical art, a drawing room, and cozy nooks that invite you to sneak away to read or contemplate beneath heavy warm blankets should a nasty storm come through.

Everything is included at the Green O: meals, activities, and adventures. Daily itineraries are customized for each guest and during our stay we enjoyed sporting clays, a guided horseback trail ride along the sage-lined banks of the Blackfoot River, spa services at the on-site wellness center, and a guided nature trail hike. We were even handed the keys to a new Lexus hybrid SUV for use whenever we should want transportation to and fro.

Each morning we rose to hot coffee and warm breakfast pastries exquisitely crafted by Krystle Swenson, a 2022 James Beard Awards semifinalist for Outstanding Pastry Chef. We followed our carefully crafted itinerary for the day, explored miles of hiking and biking trails through the forest, and eventually, slowly made our way from our cabin, along the pine-needle- covered footpaths, to the warm glow of Social Haus for sustenance. There, we inevitably ran into other guests whom we had shared adventures with or had met along the trails. Social Haus took on the feeling of a community center where we could all gather and share stories from our days. The Green O accommodates 24 guests at a time, so the opportunity to socialize as much, or as little, as you’d like is up to you.

If dining in your cabin under a starry—or stormy— night sky is your choice, then the kitchen’s selection of specialty wood-fired pizzas is an excellent option. We were happy to find a couple of our favorites among the extensive wine and beer menu: a bottle of crisp French Chardonnay from Burgundy and a just-slightly hoppy Pilsener from Missoula’s own Bayern Brewery. These beverages proved just the right pairing with The Greenough, a white-sauce pizza featuring earthy and juicy-sweet caramelized mushrooms, winter squash, roasted garlic, and sheep cheese, and a second, spicy pepperoni pizza that sang out in harmony with my crisp Bavarian-style lager.

The intimate number of guests allows Green O Executive Chef Brandon Cunningham to plan every detail of his daily menu well in advance. Each night, guests are welcomed to a different seven-course tasting menu. Some of the dishes have become signatures, such as the Hot Rock. For this menu item, smoking- hot black river rocks arrive at the table. Heavily marbled Japanese Wagyu is seared briefly on the rocks then is combined with side ingredients and Swenson’s warm-from-the-oven bread for a one-of-a-kind sandwich. Although ishiyaki hot rock cooking is a well-known Japanese culinary style, this is a far cry from your everyday roast beef sandwich. Other menu items include miso cod accentuated by the deep, rich umami of house-made dashi, a salty-briny mix of seaweed and dried fish; a root vegetable Reuben sandwich featuring Comte cheese melted beneath smoked onion remoulade and carraway sauerkraut that made me forget all about pastrami; crab meat breakfast frittata with microgreens or the best egg sandwich anywhere, made so by its paper-thin sliced country ham. On top of that, guests can enjoy Swenson’s pastries and desserts, which dazzle and delight, such as the Chocolate and Spruce, a dense, dark brown tarte and conifer green gelato ice cream that looks and tastes like it came straight from the deep forests surrounding Social Haus.

Cunningham’s influences are clear: He loves the simplicity of Japanese cooking and the complexity of using umami to contrast sweet, salty, and savory flavors. But he’s also quite whimsical and playful in how he constructs many of his dishes. Look no further than our baby greens crudité. Cunningham shares a passion for fresh, local foods and he procures what he can as best he can, which can be difficult out of season. Fortunately, specialty food distributors abound throughout the West and Cunningham is familiar with most of them.

Cunningham is no stranger to Montana. His wife hails from Hamilton and in January 2019, after Cunningham spent several years honing his culinary skills in Portland while working at some of the area’s most acclaimed restaurants, the couple returned to Montana with their young son so Cunningham could join the Paws Up kitchen.

Currently, Cunningham is working to free the menu of food-sourcing limitations by establishing a direct relationship with growers and ranchers who can partner with his vision to deliver better, fresher, homegrown ingredients.

“I don’t think the food is as big a draw to the Green O property—yet. And I like it that way,” Cunningham says. He pauses, grins, and continues. “I love when guests arrive with no idea of what to expect and are pleasantly surprised. I’m very honored.”

You’ll come to Green O for the stunning beauty and access to the great outdoors. But with the recent public accolades for the dining experience at Social Haus and Swenson’s genius as pastry chef, you’ll certainly stay for the food. Sorry, Chef, the cat is out of the bag. Err, wait. The Green O sheep are out of the barn.

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