Dining at a Dude Ranch

Explore the culinary side of a dude ranch with gourmet dining, cooking classes, and more
At Echo Valley Ranch & Spa, the restaurant's "Master Chef" provides guests with cooking demonstrations, tips, and techniques.

Food might not be one of the first things that comes to mind when thinking about ranches. Yet, a stay at a dude ranch, also called a guest ranch, might actually be a great culinary experience. The Dude Ranchers' Association, which runs more than 100 dude ranches across the U.S., has come up with a list of five things to prove that besides horseback riding and experiencing living "like a cowboy," dude ranches are great places for eating, too.

A dude ranch is a working farm (often a cattle farm) that also takes visitors, who can enjoy a vacation in ranch environment. Though staying at a ranch certainly is much about experiencing the wildlife environment and horseback riding, the Dude Ranchers' Association picked out the "Top Five Culinary Facts You Wouldn’t Expect at a Dude Ranch" to bring awareness to the great foods that also are offered at many ranches.

The list of "top culinary facts" stressed that despite the stereotype of canned beans and soup over a campfire being typical ranch food, many dude ranches actually are home to award-winning and experienced chefs, such as chef Mike Rosenberg at Zapata Ranch, who has been a personal chef to the Carnegie family and even catered JFK Jr.'s wedding. Many ranches also embrace farm-to-table dining, as they grow, raise, and serve their own produce and meats, and highlight locally sourced ingredients. High Lonesome Ranch is one ranch that raises its meat — the signature Black Angus beef — right on the property, as well as uses eggs fresh from their chickens. High Lonesome Ranch also is home to big gardens and orchards, growing fruits such as apricots, apples, and plums, as well as an abundance of vegetables.

To complete the dinner experiences, dude ranches also offer a great selection of wines, and Smith Fork Ranch has won the Wine Spectator’s Award for Excellence two years in a row, with wines ranging from regions of France, Italy, and Australia to America's West Coast.

Besides dining, several ranches also host cooking classes and culinary workshops for visitors with a passion for food. At Echo Valley Ranch & Spa, the restaurant's "Master Chef" provides guests with cooking demonstrations, tips, and techniques. A special program at this ranch focuses on "eating right for your blood type," giving healthy eating tips.

If you're looking for a culinary vacation and the chance to experience life at a ranch, The Dude Ranch Association offer a list of more than 100 different dude ranches open for visitors.

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