Cigar Aficionado

Pomp The Resort at Paws Up, Montana

Smoking in the footsteps of Lewis and Clark in the west.

The name Pomp is practically synonymous with the Lewis and Clark expedition, for it was two-month-old Jean Baptiste Charbonneau, the youngest member of the tour, who was given that moniker after becoming a favorite of William Clark in the early 1800s as the group traveled through what is now Montana and other western states. Clark even became the child's legal guardian after the death of the boy's mother, the legendary Native American Sacagawea. In time Pomp began his own life of adventure and traveled to Germany to serve Prince Paul Wilhelm, later becoming a guide, interpreter, miner and adventurer alongside famous mountain men such as James Bridger, Kit Carson and James Beckwourth. Pomp died in 1866 at the age of 61 after contracting pneumonia on yet another adventure, but his name lives on. Not only is he pictured as an infant on the U.S. Sacagawea dollar coin with his mother, but in Greenough, Montana, The Resort at Paws Up named its fine dining restaurant Pomp in his honor.

Pomp's A-frame room with a slate floor is nearly as beautiful as the great outdoors that encircles it. Humongous exposed beams of Montana wood with oversized rivets hang high above. Two large frosted glass windows with etchings of horses and cattle flank a giant stone fireplace, where two stuffed mountain lions and a porcupine sit above the mantle. White tablecloths and candles decorate the tables, which are surrounded by high-back, comfy leather chairs with huge studs. Soft track lighting and candles in long candelabras add a touch of romance while photographs of the Montana landscape provide a local feel. Double doors and windows offer views of the great outdoors, where diners retire to enjoy their after-dinner drinks and cigars.

Although the rustic elegant resort, voted as the best dude/guest ranch by Cigar Aficionado in its December 2006 issue only opened in June 2005, the building dates back to 1998 and was formerly called the "Cook Shack" when it served as the employee cafeteria for the ranchers tending to the 2,000 head of cattle that occupied the property. Back in 1965, brothers John and Land Lindbergh, sons of the celebrated aviator, bought the ranch and raised Herefords for 21 years. Just 400 cattle remain as today's business is pampering guests on this 37,000-acre spread that offers luxury camping at its finest with 25 private cabin homes. One doesn't have to bunk at Paws Up to dine at Pomp, which offers continental cuisine with a western flair. The menu of chef Eric Stenberg focuses on locally raised organic produce and Montana-raised meats and fish such as bison, pheasant, quail, elk, buffalo, trout and rattlesnake.

Being that I visited in June, prime time for soft shell crab, I opted for that dish as an appetizer. Seasoned with sweet smoked paprika, salt and pepper and dipped in rice flour and garbanzo flour, the crab was not only delicious, but it almost melted in my mouth. The three drizzles of spring garlic puree, New Mexico chili sauce and aioli weren't necessary, and I presume were there more to decorate the plate rather than my palette.

Although the sea scallops sounded healthy, this was my final night and time to indulge to my heart's delight. Considering my locale, I chose the $46 14-ounce bison rib eye, which arrived at the perfect temperature with a warm pink center. Two tasty onion rings sat atop the brontosaurus-size steak and a cup of French fries drizzled with truffle oil provided the perfect complement, as did the bottle of 2002 Silver Oak Cabernet Sauvignon from California's Alexander Valley. The majority of the wine list features bottles from the Pacific Northwest, but Argentina, Austria, France, Germany, Italy, Australia, Chile, Italy and Canada are also represented. After dessert I sipped my Graham's 1983 Vintage Port and checked out the portable humidor, featuring Diamond Crown Maximus Churchill No. 2 ($26), Fuente Fuente OpusX Petit Lancero ($21), Romeo y Julieta Belicosos ($15), Arturo Fuente Hemingway Short Story ($11) and La Gloria Cubana Wavell ($9).

Because Montana prohibits smoking anywhere food is served, including bars, cigar indulgers have to carry their Port or Cognac onto the deck of the adjoining Tank & Trough bar to enjoy their smoke in the fresh air. From the dimly lit deck full of Montana stone pillars, cushioned wrought-iron chairs and ottomans, one sees owners Dave and Nadine Lipson's circa 1915 farmhouse to the left and a majestic mountain range in the distance. Some smokers opt to circle the bonfire on the grassy area below, where undoubtedly they tell tale tales about the fish that was THIS big but got away. Often being booted outside to smoke is a hassle, but at Paws Up, it's a pleasure.

The Resort at Paws Up
40060 Paws Up Road
Greenough, MT 59823
Tel: 406-244-5200
Hours: 5:30 to 9:30 p.m. daily