Beyond the Bear Necessities
Bear Mountain Lodge's Café Oso Azul serves kicked-up comfort food.
By Peggy Platonos
Bear Mountain Lodge blends food, art and natural beauty into a memorable experience that pleases all the senses. Nestled at the heart of 180 scenic acres a stone's throw from the center of Silver City, it has the easy, unpretentious refinement that an old country lodge should have, and the quirky works of art scattered through the lodge and grounds add just the right touch of eccentricity.
Linda Brewer at work in the dining room of Bear Mountain Lodge.
For more than half a century, Bear Mountain Lodge has operated as a bed and breakfast, and under new ownership the tradition continues (see "Out of Hibernation," October 2010). But the lodge's Café Oso Azul is now open to the public for mid-day meals, as well. Weekdays, reservations must be made at least a day in advance. On Saturdays and Sundays, reservations are requested but not strictly required.
The menu changes daily, with entrées that are always imaginative and tasty.
"The style of food we're doing is kind of rustic," says Linda Brewer, who is part owner, most-of-the-time manager and once-in-a-while cook at the lodge. "We didn't want it to be too fussy. And we offer a lot of comfort food."
Well, yes, but it's comfort food in a form that most of our mothers would never have thought of producing. The Bear Mountain Lodge version of a grilled cheese sandwich, for instance, can be brie cheese with sundried tomato olio, served in a homemade roll. Other "comfort food" items have a similarly imaginative twist to them.
"One of the favorites is Bear Mountain Pot Roast," Brewer says. "It's made with roasted vegetables and has a touch of New Mexico green chile in it."
The turkey entrée on the Bear Mountain Lodge Thanksgiving Day menu last fall was not your average roast turkey, either. The menu described it as "herb encrusted roast Thanksgiving turkey with apple, pepper, bacon and sage dressing with apple cider pan gravy."
I wish I had known!
Desserts are all homemade, including the ice cream. The black raspberry ice cream is definitely worth a mention.
Meals generally range in price from $14 to $22, with holiday dinners sometimes more expensive.
Brewer, who owned and operated the Blue Dome Gallery in Silver City for 11 years, is the guiding spirit behind the partnership that purchased the lodge and property in August 2010. The partners, in addition to Brewer, are John Rohovec, Tommy and Sharon Dukes, Diana Fischer, Jeff Brown and John McNulty.
Brewer is an artist herself, whose specialty is the production of what she calls "funky animal sculptures" like the whimsical lion who resides under the staircase in the great room of the lodge. The Blue Dome Gallery has now moved from its downtown Silver City location to Bear Mountain Lodge, where Brewer continues to showcase the work of local artists — something she had already done at the lodge for four or five years while it was still owned by the Nature Conservancy.
"Myra McCormick had operated Bear Mountain Lodge as a birding bed and breakfast for 41 years, and she donated it to the Nature Conservancy with the stipulation that it be run as a birding bed and breakfast for at least 10 years," Brewer says, explaining the lodge's history. The Nature Conservancy lived up to its part of the bargain, then put the property up for sale, and Linda Brewer and her partners are keeping McCormick's dream alive — and expanding it.
"It's still a birder's paradise, but we aim to be a bit more inclusive," Brewer says. "We want to share the legacy of Bear Mountain Lodge with local residents as well as visitors. We want to be open to the public. We want to host special events. We want the lodge to be available to a wide array of people."
Future plans include Mardi Gras brunch (March 5-6 and 12-13) and a St. Patrick's Day dinner (March 17, 5-8 p.m.). And I seriously doubt that the Bear Mountain version of corned beef and cabbage will resemble the meal my mother used to serve.
The team responsible for the creativity issuing from the Bear Mountain Lodge kitchen includes two cooks in addition to Brewer: Judy Kenneally, who owned the Corner Café in Silver City for many years, and Lynn Featherlingill, who worked at Harry's Road House in Santa Fe before cooking at the lodge for the Nature Conservancy.
"We may do the Farmers' Market in Silver City this year, selling the kinds of crackers and granola we make for our guests here. We haven't really decided what else we'll sell," Brewer says. She doesn't need to add that whatever they sell will be unusual and good.
Meals are available at Bear Mountain Lodge seven days a week from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., with, as mentioned, reservations required a day in advance Monday through Friday, and requested for Saturday and Sunday. And private parties are welcome at the lodge, with menus custom designed for the group.
The lodge is located on Bear Mountain Ranch Road, which runs off Cottage San Road in Silver City. For more information and to make reservations, call (575) 538-2538. Also, visit the website at www.bearmountainlodge.com for updates on menus and events.
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