Mission Bistro is an Epicurean delight in the Bitterroot Valley

A recent move to the Bitterroot Valley in Montana, just 25 minutes of south of Missoula, led me to the Mission Bistro in Stevensville. I’ve visited this little spot three times since New Year’s Eve and I just can’t get enough! Located at 101 Church Street – just a mile from Highway 93 just off of the Eastside Highway – you’ll find this brother and sister-run restaurant. Angie and Eric Loessberg, both from Stevensville, operate Mission Bistro. Eric is a professionally-trained chef and Angie has spent years honing her skills in front of the house operations. But, I must tell you about the food. Described as “Northwest cuisine with a touch a french inspiration…” there is something for every palate.

With each visit, I’ve tried something new on the menu. First, it was a New Year’s Eve special. My husband and I decided to celebrate the New Year with a bottle of Balletto Russian River Pinot Noir (2012) and an inspired cheese plate served with local honeycomb, toasted Marcona almonds, and toasted slices of Le Petit baguette. Our entrees, filet mignon and lobster (holiday specials, not on the regular menu), were cooked and seasoned perfectly. Though we had little room for dessert, we indulged in a slice of homemade key lime pie.

The second and third visits were for Sunday brunch, offered from 9 am to 3 pm. Mission Bistro’s brunch menu is both sweet and savory. In addition to what’s on the menu, they offer two quiches – one packed with seasonal veggies and cheese, the other with Kalispell-based Redneck sausage, bacon, and Lifeline Farm cheddar. Both excellent! Since we had ordered one of each quiche during our first brunch visit, my husband was eager to order off the menu. He tried the Stuffed Rosti Potato (pictured) and loved it – simple flavors, combined with great presentation.

Mission Bistro also offers an assortment of homemade muffins and pastries. We tasted the apple turnover, banana chocolate chip muffin, and huckleberry orange muffin over the course of our two visits. All delightfully satisfying.

Reservations are recommended, but not required (call 406-777-6945). There are three seating areas that fill up quickly, so I’d advise reservations unless you don’t mind waiting. Large parties can be accommodated.

Mission Bistro is open Wednesday through Saturday from 5 pm to 10 pm for dinner and Sunday from 9 am to 3 pm for brunch.

Please note that the restaurant is closed from January 26th – February 10th for a refresher after the holidays.

Stuffed Rosti Potato With Sun-Dried Tomatoes, Basil and Mozzarella, Topped With Two Eggs, Served With A Side of Salsa

Stuffed Rosti Potato With Sun-Dried Tomatoes, Basil and Mozzarella, Topped With Two Eggs, Served With A Side of Salsa

Sunday Quiche

Sunday Quiche

New Smitten Kitchen Cookbook

Oooo… one of my favorite food bloggers, Deb Perelman of Smitten Kitchen, has released a new cookbook and I can’t wait to begin devouring every delicious recipe!

According to Amazon’s book description, Deb founded her award-winning blog, Smitten Kitchen, on the premise that cooking should be a pleasure, and that the results of your labor can—and should—be delicious every time and she has dedicated herself to creating and finding the best of the best and adapting the recipes for the everyday cook. There are 105 recipes and over 300 photos in the book, lots of stories and according to today’s Smitten Kitchen post, a cookbook that stays open on your kitchen counter when you want it to!

Book tour details are below if you want to pick up your own signed copy!

Los Angeles : FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 2nd, 1:00 p.m.

Williams-Sonoma, Beverly Hills
339 North Beverly Drive
Beverly Hills, CA [Map]
Cooking demo + book signing. Please note: To have a book signed, a purchase of at least one book will be required in-store.

Napa Valley: SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 3rd, 1:00 p.m.

Copperfield’s Cooks
The Culinary Center at Whole Foods
3682 Bel Aire Plaza
Napa, CA [Map]
Cooking demo + book signing. Please note: Cooperfield’s would love if you’d consider buying a book for signing in their wonderful store, but it is not a requirement.

San Francisco: SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 4th, 2:00 p.m. [NEW TIME]

Omnivore Books
3885 Cesar Chavez Street
San Francisco, CA [Map]
Special presentation + book signing. Please note: Omnivore would prefer that you buy any books you’d like signed in their wonderful store. Please note time change; it will be one hour earlier to make sure I have as much time as possible to hang out before heading to Santa Cruz!

Santa Cruz: SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 4th, 7:00 p.m.

Bookshop Santa Cruz
1520 Pacific Ave
Santa Cruz, CA 95060 [Map]
Short talk + Q&A + book signing. Please note: Everyone will be able to get their books signed but those that buy them at the store will have priority order during the signing portion.

 Portland: MONDAY, NOVEMBER 5th, 7:30 p.m.

1005 W. Burnside
Portland, OR [Map]
Short talk + Q&A + book signing. Please note: Powell’s does not mind if books purchased outside the store are signed during the event, however, those with outside books will be asked to stop at the info booth on their way in for a pass, so as not to raise security concerns.

A Box of Fun for Everyone!

You may not have noticed, but there’s a new trend in town: subscription product boxes. Blissmobox, Julibox, Knoshbox, Birchbox, Glossybox™, and Bulubox are some of the subscription services that have popped up in recent months.

Each month, a new box is delivered to your door containing sample products and some full-sized products, depending on the subscription service. I’ve subscribed to all of the services above, to see what each has to offer. Most offer a low subscription fee – between $10 and $40 per month, depending on the company and free or nominal shipping.

Blissmo’s basic subscription is $19.95 per month plus $4.95 for shipping. I’ve received several months’ worth of boxes from Blissmo and love this service. Each month, subscribers have the option to choose from one of three themes: food, personal/beauty, or seasonal (some months even include an option for doggie products, mens’ boxes, or cleaning products). Subscribers receive a curated box of organic, non-toxic and eco products. Blissmo also offers some fantastic Office Break boxes. Blissmo packs each box with $20-$40 worth of products.

My October Knoshbox contained some fabulous finds including Skillet Pumpkin Sauce from Skillet Street Food in Seattle – a product I might not have otherwise sought out. Other goodies included Nate’s Happy Jack Pumpkin Granola from New Haven, Connecticut and Redhead Bacon Peanut Brittles, created by chef Meg Grace Larcom, co-owner of the redhead® restaurant in the East Village of Manhattan in New York City. A Knoshbox subscription runs $30 per month and shipping is free.

Skillet Foods Pumpkin Sauce






The November “Bourbon Box” is available to order through October 31st and features the following:

  • Fat Toad Farm Farmstead Goat’s Milk Caramel limited edition Salted Bourbon from Brookfield, Vermont
  • Hand-made artisan marshmallows coated in Bourbon barrel-aged demerara sugar by 240 Sweet™ of Columbus, Indiana
  • Bourbon Salted Pecan pancake mix by Southern Culture Foods of Decatur, Georgia (Non-GMO project certified)
  • Decadent Bourbon Pecan Brownies hand-crafted by Cacao Sweets & Treats of Grayslake, Illinois

Birchbox features well-known brands such as Kiehl’s®, Stila, and Smashbox® and offers free shipping on orders over $50. A monthly subscription costs $10.

Bulu Box is a monthly subscription sample box containing four to five premium vitamin and supplement nutrition samples, also for $10 per month, delivered to your door. Each Bulu Box contains a mix of products for both men and women, including vitamins, supplements, sports nutrition, meal replacement, diet, energy, protein, detox, digestion, sexual health, herbs, natural remedies, endurance and more.

Julibox was recently featured on the Today Show and I can hardly wait for my November box to arrive to try them out! Each month, subscribers are introduced to two great cocktails, curated by Julibox mixologists and designed for easy home preparation. Julibox provides the recipes and ingredients to make two of each cocktail – four cocktails total, complete with spirits and mixers. I can’t think of a better way to build a collection of spirits and recipes at home, not to mention an excellent reason to invite friends over to join in the fun. They’ll even email you in advance of your shipment to let you know if you need to grab any fresh items to embellish your cocktails (lemons, limes, etc.). A Julibox subscription costs between $36 and $40 per month, depending upon the type of subscription selected.

A Glossybox subscription runs $21 per month (with discounts offered for longer-term subscriptions) and delivers a box of five luxury travel-sized beauty products for subscribers to lather, blend, soak, spray, buff, and groom. Products from October’s SpaLuxe box included Carol’s Daughter Shea Soufflé, Nastassja Skin & Wellness Enzyme Facial Peel, Heartland Fragrance Co. Loofa Soap, basq skin care Calm Resilient Body Oil, ModelCo LIP DUO Lipstick & Ultra Shine Lip Gloss, and Alterna Professional Haircare BAMBOO Luminous Shine Mist.

Glossybox October Selection “Spa Luxe”

I live in an area of the country where shopping is limited to a couple of local department stores, Target, and a handful of locally-owned boutiques, which is nice in some ways, but also limits my sense of experimentation with new products. Now, for things like spirits and food, we do have some pretty fantastic options, but I appreciate a service like Julibox, which does some of the homework for me. Many of us pack a lot into a week with work, kids, family, and other obligations, so it’s nice to “try on” products that we may not have the time to seek out – or otherwise have access to.

Mrs. Bridges Ginger Preserve with Malt Whisky: Product Review

Mrs. Bridges Ginger Preserve with Malt Whisky is a sweet and spicy palate-tickler.

Open the jar and breathe deeply for a heady ginger scent. You could simply enjoy it on your favorite slice of sourdough toast, but it is brilliant served as a condiment with duck, pork, turkey, or any white meat. Here are a few more suggestions for savoring this little delight:

Spoon a cup into a saucepan with a couple of tablespoons whisky, cider, or water, and a few tablespoons of brown sugar; stir until heated through, then use it as a glaze to add a little zing to a dish.

For a unique holiday appetizer, serve this thick, but spreadable preserve with a silky paté and a savory cracker.

Try a dollop on a cheese plate with marcona almonds, candied ginger, and a selection of artisanal cheese.

Swirl a half cup into your favorite scone recipe with a handful of white chocolate chips for a fragrant, chewy treat.

Mrs. Bridges uses a traditional approach to making marmalades and preserves: without additives, and slowly boiled in open, copper-bottomed pans. This family run company is based in Arbroath on the east coast of Scotland.

Lovin’ Las Vegas

Vegas nudges me, almost daily, to return to it. Maybe it’s the fact that I am hopelessly on my way to succumbing to at least four of the seven deadly sins – all within the first hour of arriving. Lust. Greed. Gluttony. Sloth. Check. Check. Check, and check. It’s a chance to leave behind 60 hour work-weeks and routine obligations to re-energize, eat a little too much, sleep in a little bit too late, and laugh a little more than usual.

Las Vegas evokes the fountain of youth in all of us. What is it exactly? It’s fun. And, it’s the unapologetic pursuit of instant gratification. Las Vegas days and nights elevate each and every one of us to celebrity status in our own life story, if only for an evening, or a weekend.

It’s been nearly eight months since I last donned my stilettos to navigate the highly polished marble floors of The Palazzo, Las Vegas. This all-suite hotel boasts more than 3,000 spacious suites, with high-end accommodations ranging from a Luxury Suite at an unprecedented 720 square feet to the 8,000-square-foot Chairman suite with private terraces and plunge pools. I stayed in a comfortable, well-appointed Luxury Suite. The Palazzo offers at least nine different packages to suit just about any occasion. The hard part is choosing one.

The Palazzo Luxury Suite

The Palazzo also offers a variety of cuisines from a collection of award-winning chefs such as Carnevino by Mario Batali, CUT by Wolfgang Puck and Table 10 by Emeril Lagasse. Carnevino is an award-winning steakhouse created by chef Mario Batali and winemaker Joe Bastianich – the third restaurant launched in Las Vegas by the partners. It lives up to its name by offering mouth-watering, house-aged beef rubbed with a satisfying combination of sea salt, black pepper, and fresh rosemary and a robust international wine list, featuring hundreds of exciting wines (including Super Tuscans, Amarone, and a great selection of Barbaresco). Carnevino also offers a Special Beef Tasting Menu that will tempt any palate.

From the time I arrived until the time I departed – four days, I left The Palazzo and The Venetian properties exactly once, to see a show at another property. It’s a city within a city, and leaves you wanting for nothing. Shopping, gaming, dining, relaxing – it’s all here.

The Palazzo Las Vegas

The current lineup of fall and winter entertainment is stellar – the Faith Hill and Tim McGraw ‘Soul2Soul’ engagement from December to April in the Venetian Theatre; the Rock of Ages show (tickets are on sale now for December performances); and, comedians David Spade, Tim Allen, and Rita Rudner all have limited engagement shows coming up.

The Palazzo’s other unique offerings include the dining and nightlife hotspot, LAVO; the luxurious (and world’s largest) Canyon Ranch SpaClub®; the ultimate sports bar, sportsbook and restaurant on the Strip, Lagasse’s Stadium; and Prestige at The Palazzo – designed to offer the sophisticated traveler an elevated level of services and amenities including private champagne check in, packing and unpacking services, exclusive bath and pillow menus, complimentary cocktail reception and more. What’s not to love?

Oh, and the shopping… The Shoppes at The Palazzo® feature more than 60 luxury boutiques, including 20 stores and couture brands making their Las Vegas debuts at The Palazzo including Chloé, Tory Burch, Christian Louboutin, Diane von Furstenberg, and Van Cleef & Arpels. There truly is something for everyone. Just walking into the Salvatore Ferragamo boutique makes me feel a bit more glamorous.

For additional information, visit The Palazzo website at palazzolasvegas.com, follow on Twitter @palazzolasvegas and interact on Facebook at facebook.com/palazzolasvegas.

I’m off to plan my next visit!

The Kind Swine

It’s new, it’s melt-in-your-mouth good, and it’s time you find your way up Highway 200 to The Kind Swine, which celebrated their Grand Opening on Memorial Day weekend. The Kind Swine Resort opened in March and proudly serves up some serious Kansas City-style barbecue. The menu is written on a chalkboard – one outside, one inside – and the building itself is lodgey and unassuming.

I had the pleasure of sampling their brisket sandwich, and ordered some thick-cut, home-smoked bacon, and a rack of ribs (which easily feeds three to four hungry people) to take with me. The ribs are INSANEly delicious – spicy-sweet and fall-off-the-bone tender.

The Kind Swine Resort offers up a bit of everything – rental cottages, 18-hole folf course, restaurant, and catering service, even live music at their outdoor amphitheatre from time to time. Drive up HWY 200 east of Missoula to mile post 11 towards Potomac along the Blackfoot River. There wasn’t a sign outside the day I visited, so it’s easy to miss if you’re not looking. If you get to Johnsrud, you’ve gone just a bit too far.

Jay’s Bistro and Jazz Lounge – A Culinary Treasure in Fort Collins

Exotic Mixed Grill

Exotic Mixed Grill

A recent birthday begged for a weekend adventure.  That adventure began in Fort Collins, Colorado – at Jay’s Bistro and Jazz Lounge – with my mother and four fellow travel writing women from around the country.  We quickly settled in to toast the occasion with Jay’s “Sex in the City” Cosmopolitans and a round of appetizers including a decadent Macaroni & Cheese with Maine Lobster, Salmon Cheesecake, and delicate Bison Carpaccio.  The flowers, music, and artwork throughout the dining room evoke a chic and sophisticated sensibility without feeling pretentious.

It only gets better!  Dinner is comprised of a tantalizing exotic mixed grill of New Zealand Red Deer Loin served with a Blackberry Chocolate Demi Sauce, Colorado Ostrich Filet atop Pomegranate Black Pepper Sauce and a Colorado Lamb Rib Chop dusted with Moroccan Garam Masala on Red Wine Jus with a Potato Croquette.  The beginning of my weekend adventure had surpassed my expectations.  Before we can even whisper “dessert,” a platter of chocolate-filled raviolis swimming in a pool of chocolate ganache is delivered to our table.

Chocolate Raviolis with Chocolate Ganache

Chocolate Raviolis with Chocolate Ganache

Chef Jay Witlen and his wife, Jacki, started Jay’s Bistro and Jazz Lounge in 1980 and have perfected the art of fine cuisine and an award-winning wine list – not to mention their famous martinis! – to create a true dining experience.

For more information, contact owners Jay and Jacki Witlen at (970) 482-1876. Jay’s Bistro and Jazz Lounge is located in historic, old town Fort Collins at 135 West Oak Street. www.jaysbistro.net

The Gallatin River Lodge: Simple Luxury in the Big Sky

Rustic and Elegant

Rustic and Elegant

Eager to escape the week’s workload and to celebrate our wedding anniversary, my husband, Mark, and I pull into the long driveway that delivers us to the doorstep of Steve Gamble’s Gallatin River Lodge. A rustic fishing and hunting lodge from the outside, complete with pond, mountain views, and deer foraging in the meadow (did I hear someone yell “cue the deer?”), the Gallatin River Lodge is anything but rustic on the inside. This little luxury inn sits on 350 acres just 15 minutes from downtown Bozeman.

We are greeted by several staff members and promptly shown to our room – one of six at the lodge. The rooms are welcoming and comfortable, featuring fireplaces, Jacuzzi tubs, and plenty of room to relax. The rooms are well-appointed with BeeKind® products by Gilchrist & Soames, Starbuck’s in-room coffee, assorted teas, plush bathrobes, and beds that make you want to skip the fishing and catch up on your sleep instead!

Once settled in, dinner awaits us in one of three dining rooms. Everything on the menu sounds good, but we start with the drink special du jour – a frosty gimlet – and a jumbo shrimp cocktail served with two sauces: vanilla and a spicy bloody mary sauce. Excellent!

The Gallatin River Grill has been recognized with a Wine Spectator Award of Excellence for its impressive wine list at more than 120 selections representing multiple regions.

Executive Chef, Craig Seguin, who trained at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, NY, shares a Midwestern upbringing and the influence of his French heritage in his menu selections. I decide on the lamb chop entrée and Mark orders the beef tenderloin special. Both are sumptuous and prepared to perfection.

Pastry chef Katharine Bost prepares delights such as the Lodge’s signature, silky Crème Brulee, and a flourless Chocolate Torte. I’ve almost forgotten we’re here to FISH!

Following a hearty breakfast Saturday morning, we grab our fishing gear. Gamble, our guide for a full day on the Lower Madison river, swiftly ties on tippets, stone flies, and San Juan worms and explains proper fly-fishing terminology: “strike indicators” (not bobbers) and “descent accelerators” (not split-shot). He provides us with some welcome casting instruction. I wonder how many guests show up with shiny equipment and little knowledge of how to use it! Our previous fly-fishing experience was limited to small streams, copious amounts of bubbly beverages, and far too many willows. I’m not sure our flies ever stayed on the line long enough to cast the slightest shadow on the water.

The river is fast but even midday, the trout are snacking. Mark catches a meaty rainbow trout – his first from a drift boat, and on big water. The day is shaping up close to perfection. We pull to shore for a picnic lunch, prepared fresh for us that morning – Caesar salad with steak, curry couscous, and fresh fruit with mint. Shortly after lunch, Mark reels in a beautiful brown trout. As the afternoon wears on, Gamble graciously guides us to expectant pools, disentangles our lines and replaces flies.

Several experienced guides are available to provide instruction, floating, and wading on the area’s three nearby rivers: the Gallatin, Madison, and Yellowstone.

We head back to the lodge and mingle with a few others over a beer at the Grill’s massive, antique bar until it’s time for our scheduled in-room massages. Could it get any better? I replay some of the day’s conversations while my massage therapist locates tense muscles with her elbows (ow!).

Slightly sleepy, but quite hungry, we take our table in the corner and order bison meatloaf and the chef’s special. A little surprise is delivered to our table. Morel mushrooms had been harvested on the property that day. The little fungi are stuffed with chevre, sage, and roasted garlic – they are savory and incredibly satisfying. Our entrees were equally so, and we topped off our evening with some of Katharine’s Huckleberry Panna Cotta.

Earlier in the day, Gamble talked a bit about the history of the lodge, some of its esteemed guests, and his plans for the near future. Now celebrating its tenth year in business, the Lodge is not only a popular destination for hunters and anglers, it is also a popular (and romantic) choice for weddings. He has plans to build a gazebo near the pond this summer to double as an altar and a place for other gatherings.

The Gallatin River Lodge – the only Montana lodge admitted to the Select Registry – is as much a romantic getaway or weekend retreat as it is a hunting and fishing lodge. It’s comfortable, yet indulgent and provides an overall experience that encompasses great service, delicious food, friendly and professional staff.

Dinner is served at The Grill beginning at 5:00 p.m. nightly, with a final seating at 9:00 p.m. The bar is open beginning mid-afternoon.

Rate information is available at http://www.grlodge.com.