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Picnic at Triple Creek

When the CEO of Intel needs to escape the techno-world, he grabs his fishing rod and heads to Montana's Triple Creek Ranch--after all, he owns the place. The menu here completes the Big Sky fantasy.

Twenty years ago, most of the people walking around Darby, Montana, looked like cowboys. Today, they still look like cowboys--except they're the dressed-down executives who head up companies on the Fortune 500 list. And most of them are on their way to Triple Creek Ranch. Located in the Bitterroot Valley in the state's southwestern Rocky Mountain region (nicknamed the Banana Belt because of its relatively tropical weather), the resort is bordered by miles of national forests. Among those who have fallen in love with Triple Creek are Intel's CEO and president, Craig Barrett, and his wife--in fact, they liked the place so much that they bought it in 1993. "The choice was whether to be responsible for a working ranch or to be treated like guests and order from a menu; the answer was obvious," Barrett says. While his wife spends her days riding, Barrett is a fanatical fisherman who has been known to give guests lessons in fly casting. Fish from the Bitterroot River must be released, but there's a well-stocked trout pond at the ranch for fresh-from-the-water fillets. "If there's a dinner request for trout and Craig's around, he'll go catch it. It's easy for him, except that by August the fish have gotten pretty smart," notes Wayne Kilpatrick, one of Triple Creek's general managers. Barrett isn't the only hotshot to get caught up in fly-fishing. "We've floated Bill Gates and a lot of Wall Street people," says Jon Foust, who, with his son, guides the ranch's fishing trips. "The thing about fly-fishing is that once you start looking at that fly, you can't think about anything else. And that's very relaxing."

If guests don't want to ride or fish, they can hike or white-water raft. But whatever they do, they can bring along a picnic made by Triple Creek's chef, Martha McGinnis, who developed her updated American cuisine while cooking on boats off the East Coast and Alaska. McGinnis's one rule for picnics: "You shouldn't have to fuss when you get there." Her ideal menu includes a tomatillo salsa and a Big Sky version of salad Niçoise made with local smoked trout, as well as juicy cherry turnovers and two kinds of delectable cookies. Barrett thinks her food is great: "Even though the Silicon Valley lifestyle makes me seem like a pizza-and-cola addict, I love a good meal."

Published August 1999
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