THE PEA-GREEN CUSTARD came to the table in a small glass terrarium from which rose an aromatic plume of applewood smoke. It looked like something out of a fairy tale. The custard — bright green, impossibly green —made from celery root and scallion puree, was meant to resemble a tiny patch of grass, and situated within it were petite vegetables: a diminutive carrot and a radish, “growing” merrily up from the surface. The temperature outside was frigid. By candlelight at our table I tucked into this miniature garden and thought, It’s rather uncanny, taking a bite of pure spring in the middle of winter.
Equally surprising is dining in a Michelin star–worthy restaurant set among tree houses under Montana’s Big Sky. But the Green O, the restaurant at the new all-inclusive adults-only luxury resort by the same name in Greenough, Montana, is unique. Situated within the sweeping 37,000-acre Resort at Paws Up, the Green O is a collection of 12 distinct luxury villas nestled into a sylvan hillside. Many are flat roofed, with skylights over the beds for stargazing, along with other amenities like hot tubs. These semi-hidden architectural marvels sit among the forest, but their interiors are brightly lit, decorated in a modern, elevated palette of inviting neutrals, with sustainability-minded touches throughout. Four of them stand on tall stilts and feature spiral staircases and floor-to-ceiling windows that promise panoramic views — like forts fit for a king. Taking in the landscape, the feeling is one of perfect serenity, and a kind of communal privacy, though that may sound like a contradiction in terms. From inside, each of the 12 structures feels secluded, but from their windows you can make out slivers of the warm light emanating from the surrounding villas.
The restaurant is located in the Social Haus, a central gathering place visible from each of the homes on the property. If they like, guests at the Green O can eat all of their meals here. The breakfast and lunch offerings change seasonally, but the dinner menu changes every night. The restaurant’s seven chefs each prepare their own dish and executive chef Brandon Cunningham tastes each one before service to approve (or improve upon) it.
One unique and delightful aspect of a meal at the Green O is that each chef serves their own dish and describes it to diners — not only its ingredients, but the whim or the philosophy behind it. On the night I was there, one chef narrated his path to the Poached Black Cod & Alliums as he set the plates down in front of us. It was an attempt, he said, to get as much oniony flavor as humanly possible into one dish. Mission accomplished: Beneath a buttery filet of cod, slow-roasted sweet onion was combined with charred leeks, onion ash, and onion jus for a revelatory smoky-sweet-creamy bite that challenged what my taste buds thought they knew about the piquancy of this everyday ingredient.
In spite of the modern, Scandinavian-inspired decor — the lighting is designed by Seattle-based Mutuus studio — and fine-dining offerings, there’s a warmth and a lightness to the atmosphere at the Green O. Maybe it’s the changing menu that keeps the energy in the space fresh. The decor is sedate, but the place buzzes with the cheerful energy of chefs who have been given the freedom to explore their creative impulses. When I asked for a nonalcoholic drink, the server asked a few questions: Citrus or berries? Sweeter or drier? He then returned with a refreshing yuzu-rosemary Collins with cranberry. Is it strange to say that it tasted like the person who made it was having fun?
Since opening in June 2021, the Green O has mostly been booked solid. Still, only 24 adults — two in each villa — are on the property when it is full. They have access to the full complement of activities, restaurants, and spa services at the larger Paws Up resort, although many come to the Green O for quiet seclusion and never feel the need to leave.
It’s easy to imagine falling into this latter category — reveling in the stillness, breathing the fresh mountain air, and enjoying nightly meals, different every time, at the restaurant. The pièce de résistance the night I was there was the dessert. It was inspired by an Orange Dream bar, the creamsicle of my youth, but here it took the form of a vanilla semifreddo with mandarin ice and angel food cake croutons. The taste was memorably spectacular: like the best food experiences, it was at once nostalgic and entirely new. I was not at all surprised, a month after I visited, to learn that pastry chef Krystle Swenson was a semifinalist for a James Beard Award. Creativity reigns supreme in many kitchens, but at the Green O, far from the bustle and artifice of an urban dining scene, it feels like it’s been turned up a notch, and the result is thrilling.
Nina Renata Aron Writer
Nina Renata Aron is a senior editor of Departures based in Oakland, California. She is the author of "Good Morning, Destroyer of Men's Souls." Her work has appeared in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, the Guardian, the New Republic, Elle, Eater, and Jezebel.
Stuart Thurlkill Photographer
Award-winning photographer and filmmaker Stuart Thurlkill excels at providing a visual window into the hearts and minds of his subjects while creating a sense of place. Recognized for his exceptional documentary photographs, he has also established a reputation for advertising, commercial, and wedding photography and filmmaking.