This summer has been one continuous trip. For a couple of weeks, we made the “Grand Tour” of the Rocky Mountain West. I have lived in the west nearly all my life, and we have spent many happy times in Yellowstone, the Grand Tetons, Rocky Mountain National Park, Zion, and the other Utah parks, but I have never been to Glacier, so we planned this trip with a lot of excitement.
One of the reasons I have not visited Glacier is that it is a long way from just about any place. We spent three full days (twelve hours a day) driving with not many stops in between.
All that said, the visit was definitely worth the effort. We stayed in the pleasant but not elegant Village Inn at Apgar at the south end of the lake. Our room was right at the lake’s edge, and we had a breath-taking view of the major peaks of the park. No matter the weather or the time of day, we never tired of the view.
The scenery and the wildlife were both spectacular. Even though it was rainy for part of our visit, the clouds and mists added to the beauty. The Going-to-the-Sun Road turned out to be a not-to-be-missed experience. The road is built on a narrow shelf of the cliffs, rising from the valley floor to the summit dividing the eastern and western halves of the park. There are waterfalls everywhere, glaciers and snow all around, water pouring out of the sheer rock faces of the mountain, and steep-walled overlooks. We were in luck because the road had opened only the day before our arrival. An additional bonus of that timing was that there were not many other visitors. Mountain sheep grazed unfazed alongside the road. Deer and elk could be seen in the forests beside the road.
Lilacs were in bloom at our lodging, and butterflies covered the fragrant blossoms. A short walk nearby took much longer than we anticipated because we kept pausing to admire wild strawberries, beautiful flowers, and the trademark Glacier bear grass.
Not unexpectedly, the most disappointing part of the visit was the food. The first evening we ate at a family restaurant just a short walk from our room. The menu did not look very exciting and I made the very unwise choice of fish and chips. Huckleberries are one of the iconic delicacies of the region, so we shared a huckleberry cobbler topped with ice cream. The huckleberries must have been in short supply because the dish was augmented with blackberries.
The next evening we ate in the dining room of the historic Lake McDonald Lodge. The setting was beautiful and historic. The food was ok. Perhaps the highlight was the huckleberry cream soda from a bottle labeled with an image of one of Glacier’s famous red buses. The food choices included several made with local game. The salad actually turned out to be quite tasty.
After all of this, I tried to think of a recipe that would capture our Glacier NAtional Park experience. Huckleberries immediately came to mind, but my search in various local grocery stores came to naught. Frozen wild blueberries wound up being the closest alternative I could find. Panna cotta seemed easier and more refreshing than a cobbler, So that’s what ended up being the recipe for this post.
Chamomile and ginger panna cotta
- 2 cups heavy cream
- ginger root, peeled and cut into five little-finger sized pieces
- 2 regular tea bags, chamomile tea
- ½cup sugar
- ½ cup cold water
- 1 envelope unflavored gelatine
- 1½ cups buttermilk
- Combine the cream, ginger root pieces, chamomile tea bags and sugar in a medium, heavy-bottomed pot. Stir to dissolve the sugar. Bring just to the simmer over medium-low heat.
- Lower the heat and steep for about 30 minutes. Remove the ginger pieces and tea bags. If there are little pieces of ginger floating in the mixture, strain. Return to the heat.
- Meanwhile, place the water in a small dish, sprinkle the gelatine over the surface of the water, and allow to soften for about 5 minutes.
- Add the softened gelatine to the warm cream and stir until the gelatine is completely dissolved, about 2-3 minutes.
- Remove from the heat. Stir in the buttermilk, and ladle into 6 6-ounce ramekins. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or until the panna cottas are set.
Wild Blueberry Sauce
- 10 ounces frozen wild blueberries, thawed
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1 tablespoon corn starch
- ½ cup water
- Place the thawed blueberries in a small pan over low heat
- Dissolve the sugar and cornstarch in the water and then pour into the blueberries
- Stir the mixture over low heat until the sauce has become translucent and thickened.
- Run a small sharp knife around the edge of each ramekin of panna cotta.
- Invert the loosened panna cotta over the serving plate and unmold
- Top with wild blueberry sauce
- Add a spoonful of crème fraîche (optional)
- Sprinkle with turbinado sugar (optional)