White Buffalo Club

Published in Chef Notes, Jackson Hole News & Guide, January 25, 2012
Chef Will Gahagen
White Buffalo Club / 160 West Gill Avenue / 307-734-4900


Spicy Mussels
Serves 2-4 as an appetizer

¼ c olive oil

1/3 c medium diced pancetta

2 medium sized shallots, small dice

2 cloves garlic, sliced or minced

1-2 small Serrano chiles, depending on spice preference

2 lbs PEI Mussels, cleaned and rinsed

1-2 T unsalted butter

Salt and pepper to taste

1 T parsley and chives, chopped

Thick slices of baguette, for moppage…

In a thick-bottomed saucepan, crisp pancetta on low-medium heat until rendered and crispy.  Discard most of the fat and reserve crispy pancetta. Saute shallots, garlic, Serranos, and pancetta for about a minute until shallots just begin to brown. Add Mussels and stir vigorously. Pour in white wine, and cook on medium-high heat until mussels begin to open fully.  Stir in butter, season with salt and pepper. Add parsley and chives at the very end, after the broth has reduced to about half of the original volume. Once all of the mussels have opened, taste broth for seasoning and adjust. Discard any mussels that have not opened.

While finishing the broth, toast the baguette slices. Serve in a warm bowl, topped with toasted baguette (for mopping up the broth). Enjoy – tweak spices and seasoning as preferred.

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I became curious about the White Buffalo Club this summer. It seemed that every time there was a community charity event, Taste of the Tetons, Palates &Palletes, Relay for Life, the 49er Ball, for Teton Literacy Program and the Red Cross, they were listed as a contributor. Plus they offered a fitness membership 99 days for $99. That sounded intriguing but it was luscious light summer so who needed it?

When I dropped by to inquire, much to my surprise, I found that Will Gahagen is the executive chef. We had met several years ago when I wrote a column about Kevin Humphreys at Gamefish. Gahagen held the fort after the mass exodus to Teton Mountain Lodge. The good news for us is there is plenty of room for all the wonderful chefs as they shift around our culinary chess board.

Chef Will Gahagen is cheerful and upbeat, of pleasant countenence and sparkling eyes. He is as pleasant and welcoming as the White Buffalo Club staff. Perhaps he sets the tone. The facility opened in August of 2008, modeled after a Chicago steakhouse. The quality is prime and the atmosphere is casual and light.

Gahagen was born in my favorite hot bed of liberalism, Berkeley, California. It’s a fabulous place for a foodie. Gahagen didn’t know he was one, it was just part of his life. His mom was a huge influence. She was a partner in the Juice Bar Collective right around the corner from Chez Panisse.  “I remember standing in the kitchen with my mom on a tall stool at this huge machine juicing carrots that came from an enormous walk-in,” Gahagen shared. “When I returned there much later it was this tiny little place.” Such is the impact of our stellar experiences of youth. Gahagen’s dad was also a formative influence. He baked breads and made homemade pizzas and fresh pasta theydried on a wooden clothes rack. The family moved to Missoula, Montana in 1991 for his dad to pursue an education degree.

Gahagen spent much time with his mom who became the head chef at the Pine Butte Guest Ranch in Choteau. Her cooking mode adapted to accommodate an entirely different clientele during the next three years. The pair spent time together exploring farms and ranches seeking purveyors for the guest ranch kitchen.

The youthful years in Montana were our chef’s introduction to the great outdoors of the Rocky Mountain West, a lifestyle he relishes to this day. Gahagen’s high school years were tempered by his mom’s battle against breast cancer. Still not knowing it was his career, Gahagen chose “Breakfast Cooking” as his high school senior project. He created weekly feasts for friends and family and documented them as his thesis.

With no clear direction after graduation he was visiting the Bay area and a friend, Sharon Smith, who was also a food writer. She suggested a tour of the California Culinary Institute. He enrolled immediately after and spent the next year completing the le Cordon Bleu style instruction.

For his 3 month externship after graduating, he interviewed with chef Kevin Humphreys at the Snake River Lodge and Spa. Gahagen was itching to get out of the city and back to the mountains.

For the next three and a half years Humphreys served as his mentor. “I love him. He taught me so much, not of the school type of learning but what was practical in my work situation. I had a whole lot of fun and learned at the same time.” The North Grille and Rich Billingham drew Gahagen the next summer. The White Buffalo Club’s previous chef brought him on as sous chef that November. Gahagen has been at the helm since the autumn of 2009.

It is a wonderful dining experience or a place for a cocktail and small plates. It’s a small hotel with an established membership. It’s intimate and casual. Last June they opened the doors for the public to experience the scene.

Our evening started with a viewing of an impressive wine list and the selection of a modest, yet delicious house wine. The seared scallops were perfection, served atop a crispy grit cake with arugula, grape tomatoes, bacon and a citrus beurre blanc as counterpoint. The savory mussels were our next delight. This is the recipe shared for everyone’s enjoyment, and believe me, you will. The serrano pepper kick is the perfect manner to augment the flavors. Ahi tacos are a delightful first course offering. I envisioned stopping by for a refreshing beveerage and the Yuzu marinated tuna in crispy shells with Napa slaw, guacamole and mango chutney at some or many future dates.

A daily soup of Thai style coconut milk with seafood, onions, peppers and chiles featured a delightfully flavorful light broth. We refreshed our palates enjoying the salad of golden beet, arugula, julienned crisp apples, toasted walnuts and Amaltheia goat cheese before we dived into a gorgeously tender and rare ribeye steak. Sometimes in the winter my body craves protein. It hit the spot. Accents such as grilled asparagus, wiltd spinach, boursin whipped potatoes, mac and cheese are served family style.

We strolled out into the winter tempest marvelously satisfied.


Spoons Bistro

Published in Chef Notes, Jackson Hole News & Guide, July 13, 2011
Shared by Chef /Owner Travis Brittingham
Spoons Bistro


Spaghetti of Zucchini

One Serving

12 oz         zucchini

2 cloves garlic

1 T sun-dried tomato oil

¼ oz fresh basil

2 oz         parmesan

2 garlic toasts (1/8 baguette, 1 T garlic oil)

Trim the zucchini on both ends, cut where the stem stops and shave the blossom end. Julienne the zucchini on a mandolin or cut by hand. Slice the garlic paper thin, starting from the tip and discarding the root. Core the tomatoes, remove the seeds and chop roughly. Julienne the basil.

Heat the oil in a saute pan over medium heat, add tomatoes and cook until they begin to break down. Add the garlic and sweat for 30 seconds. Add the zucchini and cook until al dente. Add the basil and toss to incorporate. Season with salt and pepper.

Serve in a warmed bowl topped with shaved parmesan and garlic toasts on the side.

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The lush Austrian Copper rose bush blooming adjacent to our parking place put me in a festive mood even before I stepped inside the door of Spoons Bistro in Victor. It’s a welcoming dining room, and yet on a perfect summer night we chose the front deck for our seating. The wafting aroma of Three Little Pigs from the smoker nearby certainly hypnotized us. Too bad those piggies wouldn’t be ready until the next day.

Chef Travis Brittingham’s note on the menu states, “I’m sorry to say that the pigs have gone to a design conference and will be returning soon.” That shows just a little bit about his level of spunk. This ambitious young chef is driven toward perfection. He’s going to work hard and have fun inventing both himself and some delicious food every step of the way. The pigs, as described on the menu could make anyone’s mouth water: Confit pork belly, pulled pork, SofaKingGood BBQ Sauce™ & house coleslaw with 460° bacon bread.

Brittingham prides himself on being self-taught. A stint in the army that took him from his Delaware roots to Arlington, Virginia proved influential. As he told me, “I wouldn’t have passed up that opportunity. It gave me my attention to detail. Maybe 99% of the people won’t notice. It’s that one person that counts. I’m going to put in the effort because someone will notice.” (more…)

The Garage

Published in Chef Notes, Jackson Hole News & Guide, June 29, 2011
Shared by Chef /Owner Michael Burke
The Garage


White Chocolate Bread Pudding

8 oz          bread pieces

3 c         whipping cream

1 c         whole milk

1 c         white chocolate

7         egg yolks

2         eggs

½ c         sugar

melted butter

Mix the whipping cream, milk and sugar in a large stainless steel pot over medium heat. Add the chocolate to the mix and stir until melted and smooth. In a stainless bowl whisk the eggs and egg yolks then add them slowly into the chocolate mix.

The bread pieces need to be placed in a baking pan with sides such as a loaf cake pan, brushed with butter and baked at 250° until golden and crispy. This may be done ahead of time. Pour half the chocolate mix over the brad pieces. Press the bread down into the liquid mix. Add the remainder and let rest for 15 minutes before baking at 350° for 45 minutes covered with foil. Pull the foil and bake until golden, about 10 minutes more. Refrigerate after cooling.

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The Garage was the original Chevy dealership owned by mayor Harold Livingston decades ago. It occupied the curved front building at the corner of Pearl and Glenwood. It had been through several incarnations as a restaurant since the 1970’s before Michael and Laura Burke completed a remodel that honored the edifice, opening Burke’s Chop House in 2004.

Now is the right time for a bit of a change and The Garage is that change. The new environment is not very different. It’s just a bit more relaxed and as appealing as ever. The look incorporates some of the auto memorabilia they found inside the walls during their initial remodel into their design theme. It’s fun to see old car doors, hub caps and license plates.

It has a younger look and attitude, and new menu offerings for more casual dining. I may miss the succulent beef Wellington they did so well, the nice thick chops and yet we really didn’t go for the high end meal all that often. I may be stopping in there more. There certainly are many delicious reasons.

My favorite spicy rolls with peanut sauce remain as a starter, as do the colossal onion rings with chipotle dip, and French onion soup. Three cheese and a nightly pizza special have been added. Stuffed BBQ potato skins and sliders of buffalo, beef and crab sound tempting. Starting this week there will be happy hour drink specials and additional daily appetizers from 5 to 7. (more…)