Summer must be over — it’s “Taste of the Gunflint Trail” time

A sign of how fast the summer of 2011 flew by: Our most recent blog post forewarned guests about buying fishing licenses before the July 1st state shutdown. And now, after what feels like a very short interval, we’re about to post the yearly picture of Andy holding a cookbook for the fall “Taste of the Gunflint Trail.”

In between we should have blogged about our fantastic summer staff or about celebrating the anniversary of buying Bearskin. We certainly should have written about the Gunflint Canoe races, the mid-July flooding, or the 97-year-old kayaker. Didn’t happen. The down side of  having an extraordinarily full resort all summer is that it’s very time-consuming.  Busy is a good thing.

The one blog we didn’t need to write this summer was the annual post usually entitled something like “Help, we need a recipe idea for the Taste of the Gunflint event.” Luckily for us, one of our longtime guests, Sarah Dale, did the thinking for Bearskin and came up with an inspired idea. The original concept was for resorts to serve a recipe featured in the Gunflint Trail cookbook, A Taste of the Gunflint Trail, such as the recipes for Sally’s Acorn Squash Soup and Sally’s Herb Bubble Bread. But we’ve already used all the doable Bearskin recipes that were included in the book.

Sarah Dale has been visiting Bearskin for years, and has fond memories of cooking school with Bearskin’s almost legendary former Chef Sally Bresnahan. Sarah even saved this stylish birchbark cookbook from 1994. (It’s desperately trying to return to tree trunk form, but with effort you can flatten it out enough to read the recipe pages.)

Sarah collected many of Chef Sally’s recipes over the years and suggested that we try Sally’s Fresh Mushroom Soup. I think of mushroom soup as a goopy, beige substance dumped out of a red and white Campbell’s can into a casserole dish. We use it, but we sure don’t eat it.

So we had our doubts about this recipe. Then we tried it. No wonder people love it – this is mushroom soup of a very different kind.

We’ll be serving Sally’s Fresh Mushroom Soup during the Taste of the Gunflint Trail event this Sunday, September 4th, from 11-5. The event is a fundraiser for the very successful Chik-Wauk Museum and Nature Center.

You can work your way up the trail Sunday afternoon tasting Gunflint Trail treats, then finish up with a piece of homemade pie and ice cream on the front porch of Chik-Wauk. There’s a $5 suggested donation and coffee and lemonade will also be served. After you’ve eaten your fill, venture inside the museum to enjoy the interpretative and interactive exhibits on Gunflint Trail history. Local authors John Hendricksson, Betty Hemstad and Beryl Singleton Bissell will also be hanging out inside, ready to sign books.

If you’ll be in the area over Labor Day weekend, join us for a Taste of the Gunflint and pick up a copy of Sally’s recipe.

Summer Restaurant Plans — Feedback Wanted

Fine dining at Bearskin Lodge
Fine dining at Bearskin Lodge

We’re discussing summer restaurant plans with Chez Jude, the fine dining establishment that prepared such amazing meals for Bearskin guests this winter.  We’ve tossed around lots of ideas and haven’t settled on anything yet for certain, so we’d like some input from you.

Easing back into the restaurant business is a slow process; we’re not able to offer dining every night yet.  We also know that our summer guests would appreciate options, but our dining space is not large enough to offer a variety of dining alternatives all at once.

One idea we’re considering is to have two very different dining nights at Bearskin.  One night would be fine dining night, presenting 3 – 4 course gourmet dinners like Chez Jude prepared during the winter. Another night could be family dining night, offering more casual food. What do you think of this idea?  Which type of meals would you be more likely to enjoy at Bearskin Lodge?  For casual dining nights, what types of foods would you prefer?  We’re thinking Bearskin is not well suited to be a hamburger joint.  What about pasta?  Salads? Pizza? Spaghetti or lasagna night?

Our other question is when to have dining at Bearskin – which nights would work out best for our guests who are on vacation for a week?  We’re contemplating Friday as a fine dining night.  (Saturday is not a good option for Chez Jude and because most of our guests check in and check out on the weekend, Saturday may not be ideal for them either.)   We plan to have the Bearskin picnic gathering again on Monday evening, but all other nights are feasible for dining.  After you’ve been at Bearskin for awhile, when do you get the urge to eat out?

We’d very much appreciate your thoughts on this.  Feel free to comment below, or if you’re more comfortable sharing ideas privately, e-mail stay@bearskin.com 

 

Weekend update for January 23-25

The forecast for the upcoming weekend includes some colder temperatures, but with the potential for sunny days. The snow continues to be wonderful. Guests repeatedly tell us that the snow is the best it’s been in a decade and that the quality of the grooming has been excellent.

As I type this, I’m watching a group of women skiers from Cabin 3 glide by on the lake path. Frost is making the trees along the lake’s bank look like white cotton candy today, so right now the skiers appear to be posing for an idyllic Christmas card photo. (Where’s the camera, where’s the camera?  Never nearby when we need it!) To keep up on current trail conditions, check out our trail reports at http://bearskintrailreports.wordpress.com/

 

menupicture
Menu for January 23

Chez Jude will be here again this weekend and the menu looks fabulous. See http://www.bearskin.com/ChezJude/bearskin_lodge_menu1.23.pdf   for details. Reservations are available for both Friday and Saturday nights. There are favorable changes in the menu pricing. Also, the kids’ menu is now available online. (http://www.bearskin.com/ChezJude/kidsmenu.html )  Chef Judi Barsness is willing to make accommodations for guest’s special dining needs, as well as for children’s dietary idiosyncrasies. Just let us know ahead of time.

Dog sled trip heading towards Aspen Lake
Dog sled trip heading towards Aspen Lake

Erik Simula will be here this weekend for dog sled trips. While many spots are already full, there are still a few times available. Call our front desk for reservations. Watching Erik go down the lake this week has been breathtakingly beautiful. The snow is so sparkly that it almost looks as if he is mushing through glitter. The dogs seem to be moving quite fast and easily through the deep snow, much more so than they were earlier in the winter when the snow was wetter and less fluffy. It looks staged, it is so perfect.  More mushing info at  http://www.bearskin.com/mushing.html

Learning how to put on a ski -- ski lessons
Learning how to put on a ski -- ski lessons

Quinn has some openings next week for ski lessons. Today he had a first time lesson with an 8 year old who was new to skiing. Quinn started on skis when he was 3 years old, so he doesn’t have much recollection of those “first times.”  He made a plan for a step by step lesson that would teach how to use the skis and the poles individually, and then put both new skills together afterwards. A few minutes into the lesson, his young student was already skiing. It’s amazing how quickly children pick up this skill.

Our massage therapist will also be available on Saturday, as well as next Wednesday. To make reservations for any of Bearskin’s activities, give our front desk a call at 1(800)338 4170.

Acorn Squash Soup recipe from “Taste of the Gunflint Trail”

Last week’s “Taste of the Gunflint Trail” event, a fund raiser for the future Chik-Wauk museum and nature center, was a big success.  It was a perfect day to drive up and down the Gunflint tasting specialty items at the many resorts and outfitters along the trail.

Andy with "Taste of the Gunflint Trail" cookbook on Saturday 9.13
Andy with Taste of the Gunflint Trail cookbook and our Acorn Squash soup before the Taste of the Gunflint event.

 

If you’ve never seen the “Taste of the Gunflint Trail” cookbook, we highly recommend it even if you aren’t the type who would read a cookbook for fun.  The book retells the history and lore of all the old businesses along the trail, and then provides a few recipes associated with each of the places.  It’s entertaining reading even if you skip the recipes.  Profits from the cookbooks normally support the Gunflint Trail fire department (on Saturday profits also went to Chik-Wauk) so buying the book contributes to a very worthwhile cause.

 

Bearskin’s recipes in “Taste of the Gunflint Trail” were all provided by Sally Bresnahan, better known as the legendary “Chef Sally,” who cooked at Bearskin until she retired to move to Nebraska in 2003.  We decided to attempt making Sally’s “Acorn Squash Soup” recipe from the book, knowing full well that we might not be able successfully duplicate Chef Sally’s culinary skills. 

 

It took the efforts of four of us to somehow make enough soup for the “Taste” event.  As a first attempt, it turned out pretty darn good.  We served 72 small cups of the soup on Saturday and received many compliments on its tasty flavor.

 

Since that time we’ve had numerous requests for the recipe.  The “Taste of the Gunflint Trail” cookbook is readily available in Minnesota bookstores and public libraries, but for those of you who can’t easily find the book here is Chef Sally’s delicious acorn squash soup recipe:

 

                    Acorn Squash Soup

 

                    4  acorn squash

                    3  carrots, sliced

                    1  onion, sliced

                    ½ cup  sherry

                    1/3 cup water

                    1  tbl. butter

                    1  tbl. flour

                    1  tsp. salt

                    dash  red pepper

                    1 can chicken broth

                    1/2 tsp.  ground nutmeg

                    1/8 tsp. paprika

                    1/2 – 1  tsp. pepper paprika

                    dash  ground allspice

                    dash red pepper

                    1 cup  half-and-half

                    1  1/2  tbl.  sherry

                    Kale leaves (optional if serving soup in squash shells)

  

    

 

Cut squash in half lengthwise, and remove seeds.  Place squash, cut side down, in a broiler pan.  Add hot water to pan to a depth of ½ – 1  inch. Bake at 350 F for 30 minutes.  Spoon pulp from squash and save.   Squash shells can be used to create a serving bowl for this soup.

  

Place carrots, onion and ½ cup sherry in a saucepan; cover with water.  Bring to a boil; cover, reduce heat, and simmer for 15 minutes or until vegetables are tender.  Drain; combine vegetables with reserved pulp and 1/3 cup water in container of an electric blender or food processor.  Process until mixture is smooth (we had some trouble with this part as it is quite a large amount and ended up using a KitchenAid mixer instead.)  Set aside.

 

Melt butter in a large Dutch oven over low heat.  Add flour, salt and red pepper, stirring until smooth.  Cook for 1 minute, stirring constantly.  Gradually add pureed vegetables, chicken broth, nutmeg, paprika, allspice and the pepper paprika. Bring to a boil.  Cover, reduce heat, and simmer for 1 hour, stirring occasionally.  Stir in half-and-half and an additional 1 – 1/2  tbsp sherry.  Cook until heated.  If desired, serve in squash shells on a bed of kale.  Garnish with paprika just before serving.

  

Yield:  8 servings