Honest food and cooking can be found at the Farm to Table Dinners at Greycliff Mill. Inside the original 1760 timber frame barn, multicourse dinners with produce and meats sourced locally are being served up twice monthly. World cuisines from Thailand, Mexico, India, Korea and Brazil as well as meat focused meals with beef ribs, barbecue chicken and ribeye steak are being shared throughout the year with the 50 diners who secure reservations. This night’s theme, honored the day of lovers, Valentine’s Day.
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With roads clear, snow melted from the previous week’s storm, the drive to Greycliff Mill just outside of Big Timber was smooth. Sue Balter-Reitz whisked us the 70 miles from Billings to right under the gray tinted volcanic agglomerate cliffs for dinner tonight. Exiting at Bridger Creek Road, we ventured west three miles passing under Highway 90 emerging into an idyllic enclave.
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As smoke lifted from the grill readied to cook our steaks, we climbed the wood stairs to enter a building composed of structural timber frame beams held together with mortise and tenon joints projecting a sense of strength and grandness. A wall of floor to ceiling windows framed the patio out back with Adirondack chairs awaiting occupation and dominated by the presence of a water tower powering a functioning grist mill.
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The place was already abuzz with guests scattered about, some upstairs and others on the main floor. Half a dozen servers in white shirts milled about making sure the tables were set while the culinary team staged the first course in the area at the front counter normally reserved for coffee and pastry service.
We were seated at a table on the main floor, next to the grist mill where flour is grounded for the in-house bakery goods available for sale. A raspberry spritzer started the meal in keeping with the red theme of love. Next, an iceberg wedge salad came to our table with drizzled with raspberry vinaigrette and gorgonzola balsamic garnished with candied walnuts and sliced pear.
“The salad, that was pretty striking. We all thought it was dessert at first, but it turned out to be a beautiful salad,” Paul Reitz said.
Next our server Grace Holifield brought over a platter of fried stuffed mushrooms filled with four cheeses. The crispy batter on the outside encased a soft brown mushroom oozing with cheese, along with homemade ranch dressing for dipping.
Sue Balter-Reitz commented, “The service is very well coordinated,” as Holifield and several servers in concert arrived at our table with plates of ribeye steak, carrot souffle, and roasted asparagus with dinner rolls made with house-ground flour served with honey butter and dusted with cinnamon.
Chef Elisha Sherman said of creating the dinners, “I just sat down at the beginning of the year and made a list. I try to go with ethnic foods in the winter where it is easier to offer curries. Summertime, we can serve seasonal food.” Then he said of the joy he derived from sharing his cooking and working, “I love working with a team — my wife, sister, brother-in-law, working with that kind of crew brings me fulfillment.” Tonight, Sherman had the support of six servers and five people helping him in the kitchen, many from the Montana Heritage Christian Fellowship.
“I love this size dinner,” he continued. “I have more time with presentation than a 200 or 250 size dinner. I have time to put care into each detail.” Sherman and his crew prepared the meal in a larger kitchen down the road and finished the dishes in the smaller kitchen in the main Greycliff Mill building. By day, Sherman manages the retail operations at the coffee shop and store. Before coming to Montana, he worked with a catering company that served meals to President George W. Bush. Sherman first arrived in Big Timber in 2016 to manage the Big Timber Bakery.
Julia Leslie drove from Billings to have dinner with her friends Racquel Kaelberer, Susan Schloss and Courtney Fryiling to celebrate what they termed, “Galatine’s Day.” She said, “We are lucky to live in Montana to have these unique experiences. We just hop on the interstate and are transported to another world.”
“The night was a really magical experience. Friends are the sweetness of life and sharing good food only makes it all the better,” Leslie said of her time at Greycliff Mill.
Dinner concluded with a white chocolate raspberry swirl cheesecake that Chef Paul Reitz, the retired Day Chef from Bistro Enzo, also described again as “visually striking.”
Our server, Grace Holifield, said of the evening, “It’s so fun. I love telling people about local food. I love creating an experience for people to enjoy.”
Filled with honest food and enjoyment, Balter-Reitz returned us back to Billings.
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Stella Fong, author of ‘Historic Restaurants of Billings and Billings Food’ hosts ‘Flavors Under the Big Sky: Celebrating the Bounty of the Region’ for Yellowstone Public Radio.
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