A cold Saturday morning in February. Mr.D built a cozy fire, I found my favorite knitted slippers and we sat drinking hot campfire tea — our name for lapsang souchong. The weather report called for a cold front to roll in around 1:30. Absolutely no reason to leave the house. A day made for heating up leftover tamales, watching Rivers & Tides, and a good long nap. No reason at all to leave the house but for a craving that could only be fulfilled during the winter months on a Saturday. The James Ranch Signature Burger.
The 400 acre James Ranch is a scenic ten-minute drive north of downtown Durango. This place is a Colorado treasure. I sought out their Harvest Grill and Greens to have lunch on my first visit to this Wild West Southwest town. An excellent choice.
A family owned ranch, they have a philosophy of mindful growing practices, organic gardens, grass fed beef, artisan cheese making, cage free eggs, and an impressive produce market. The grill is owned by Cynthia James Stewart and her husband Robert, and everything served from their little cart is fresh, organic from the ranch, with locally baked breads.
This is the tent that was once used when they took the cattle to far off grazing pastures. I love that they set this up to share with everyone, those of us who want to keep toasty warm while waiting for our burgers. And it’s as close to camping as I get.
The view. Mountains surrounding the ranch, through the Animas Valley. With cottonwood trees flanking the winding Animas River. Cynthia’s sister Julie James Ott owns a darling vacation rental called A Place at James Ranch. There’s a photo on her rental site with a stunning summertime view of these mountains. I’ve been to A Place. It’s romantic, private, well appointed and guests can pre-order fresh ranch grown goodies to be stocked in the refrigerator upon arrival.
I took these photos last summer. The tomatoes were organic heirloom. Earthy sweet and juicy. See the big one on the left middle? We ate it plain with no dressing. It tasted exactly like a tomato should, sunshine in each bite, marvelous. Decadent.
During the summer people come to the grill and spread blankets out on the grassy green terrace. Or sit at picnic tables.
I took this photo one day while sitting under a pine tree on the terrace, at the very moment it occurred to me that this is one of the most beautiful restaurants I’ve ever known, decor designed by Mother Nature.
On our cold Saturday visit I looked at the garden and smiled at the thought that in only a few months their market will be full of delicious vegetables again. And their gates will open Monday thru Saturday, expanding Signature Burger opportunities to weekdays.
Three picnic tables, and lights strung about. There is something about the casual charm and nostalgia of fair lights that brighten an icy grey day. Or any day, really. Cynthia called to us that our order was ready and we leapt through that tent flap, vaulted over the steps and claimed our feast. Or maybe we briskly walked, but the anticipation of getting my hands on that burger seemed like fast-motion activity to me.
There it is. The James Ranch Signature Burger. Those of you who know it, who have taken that first bite, are you nodding that yes you too would forego your warm knit booties and make that drive a ways up the mountain on a freezing cold day for it? I know…..I know. That pungent Belford artisan cheese, caramelized onions, lettuce and rosemary garlic mayonnaise on a gourmet locally baked bun. Lucked out, they had roasted organic plum tomatoes to add-on. Try as I might to take small bites and make it last…..not a chance. Devoured. Craving satisfied. I’d order that again.
With purple potato chips and a warm-your-body-and-soul organic creamy carrot soup with hint of coconut milk.
Made from the finest products sustainable agriculture can offer. From a zero waste grill where all food waste and paper are composted. This is one of those special places you take friends when they come to visit. And makes you feel lucky to live close by.
A few notes: Gluten Free and Vegetarian options available.
Seasonal Soups — I also recommend the Chicken & Rice with Vegetables, and the Chipotle Posole, when available
Winter hours: Saturday 11 – 5.
Summer hours: Mon. – Sat. 11 – 7.
Look for forthcoming posts about Julie & John’s cage free eggs, and Becca and Dan’s artisan cheeses.