Ranch Redux

Colorado’s Western Slope is home to hundreds of farmers, growers and food purveyors. Here is a sampling of Chef Isaacson’s producers (call first to arrange a visit):

Mendicant Ridge Elk Ranch
3131 Clear Fork Rd. Crawford, CO 81415 (970) 921-5641; mrelk.com
The elk graze on pasture grasses, willows, oak brush and service berries at this high country ranch owned by Ed and Pam Bliss near the small town of Maher, Colorado.

Living Springs Organic Farm
P.O. Box 1285 39645 Panorama Rd. Paonia, CO 81428 (970) 527-3694
The Sikora family grows USDA Certified Organic varieties of hundreds of fruits and vegetables, including numerous heirloom varieties.

Zephyros Farm and Garden
11466 3725 Rd. Paonia, CO 81428
(970) 527-3636
A certified organic farm that grows a wide variety of open-pollinated produce; the on-site nursery offers potted vegetables, herbs and flowers.It is almost startling to see a flock of children running through a wildflower meadow to explore a pair of authentic canvas tepees at Smith Fork Ranch. The children are carefree, curious and happily engaged—clearly captivated by the many delights of the ranch. The good vibes float through the property like the downy tufts of cotton drifting from the ranch’s towering old cottonwood trees.

Owners Marley and Linda Hodgson and their grown children, Marley III and Lindsay, have created a luxurious ranch resort that is at times buzzing with energy and at times positively idyllic, on a stunning property near Crawford. After an extensive restoration of the historic guesthouse, cabins and outbuildings, the ranch opened in 2002 to wide acclaim.

Fly fishing, horseback riding, shooting sports, archery, guided hikes, overnight camping trips, river rafting and balloon rides are just a few of the activities available to guests.

The combination of exercise and pine-scented mountain air brings on a fierce appetite, and guests anticipate the ranch’s decadent meals. Executive Chef Bob Isaacson draws his inspiration from the area’s abundant produce, hand-selecting whatever is in season from local farms and purveyors. Hearty breakfasts are served in the rustic Dinner Bell Cook House, where guests feast on strawberry-topped cornmeal flapjacks, made-to-order omelets and breakfast quesadillas. Instead of a sit-down lunch, the ranch provides picnic baskets packed with substantial sandwiches, homemade salads and freshly-baked cookies.

Dinner begins with cocktail hour on the deck overlooking the river. Chef Isaacson keeps the hors d’oeuvres light knowing a five-course dinner awaits. One evening he served canapes with a delicate slice of English cucumber, a square of smoked sturgeon, a dollop of lemon cream cheese and fresh tomato. On any given night, his dinner offerings include naturally raised lamb, elk or beef, or locally caught trout, but the consistent factor is that the ingredients are the best available and usually locally grown or produced.

After dinner there is often a campfire where guests gather. Children learn to make “s’mores,” quickly deciding whether they like their marshmallows lightly toasted or blackened. These are important things to know in this day and age, and a stay at Smith Fork Ranch brings into focus the soul-soothing pleasure of nature’s perfection, the luxury of unhurried time and the delight of being surrounded by people who care.

Smith Fork Ranch
45362 Needle Rock Rd., Crawford, CO 81415
(970) 921-3454, smithforkranch.com

Categories: Colorado Destinations