Special of the day: Dinner at Pompey’s worth the drive

30 Nov Special of the day: Dinner at Pompey’s worth the drive

Fall and football go hand in hand, and there’s nothing like the annual Bobcat-Grizzly football game for many Montanans, anxious to cheer their team on to victory each year.

This year, Mike and I were fortunate enough to be included in a Cat-Griz weekend away package at the Sacajawea Hotel in Three Forks, Montana. A nicely appointed room in the newly renovated historic hotel, dinner at Pompey’s Grill and a ride to and from the game in a 1969 checker “limo” made for a wonderful way to experience Cat-Griz.

A platter of Thai Chicken Lollipops kicked off dinner in Pompey’s Grill Friday evening.  These fresh vibrant appetizers made with chicken thigh meat, red curry paste and ginger were set on sticks and placed upside down atop a bed of wakame seaweed salad. Clever and delicious, the Thai Chicken Lollipops alone would have made stopping at Pompey’s Grill worth the trip for me.

Chef Matt Israel describes the menu at Pompey’s Grill as a combination of good hearty steaks (Angus Certified Beef Steaks which he hand cuts himself) and creative accompaniments, not too far away from a steak house and not too progressive. Some of his favorite entrees include the New York stripline steak, the Anaheim chiles stuffed with shrimp, and of course the Prime Rib. “People come back just for that,” Israel said, telling me he has carried the recipe for his Prime Rib around with him for five years.

In addition to the beef on the menu, the Pistachio-Crusted Jumbo Scallops are delightful, and the luscious Halibut Cheeks, a unique and different offering, have proven to be a popular choice with customers.  The calamari appetizer is a favorite, too. For dessert, a Pompey’s Chocolate Sundae is something you can’t get anywhere else, Israel said.

Pompey’s Grill boasts an extensive wine list and the Sacajawea Bar downstairs offers live music and dancing most weekends.

Israel is quick to tell you the food at Pompey’s is better than any place in Bozeman, and the charm of Three Forks and the Sacajawea Hotel make it just that much more special.

“The nice thing about the Sacajawea Hotel is that you can stay in a really nice room, have a fine dining experience in the dining room and then head downstairs for great entertainment and fun in the bar. It’s a one-stop shop in charming Three Forks, Montana,” Chef Matt Israel told me on Sunday before we checked out of the hotel, and I just had to smile.

He couldn’t have described our weekend at the Sacajawea Hotel any better.

If your travel planner includes a trip to the Bozeman area in the near future, a stay at the Sacajawea Hotel makes for a lovely weekend away.  If not, no worries. You can enjoy a taste of Pompey’s Grill at home. Chef Matt Israel has graciously shared his Halibut Cheeks recipe with us. This week’s Special of the day: Weekend Away at the Sacajawea Hotel: A One-Stop Shop for Fine Food and Fun. Enjoy!

If you go:

Sacajawea Hotel, 5 North Main, Three Forks, Montana.



Photo credit: Halibut Cheeks photo by Jeremy Wheaton, courtesy of The Sacajawea Hotel.

Sourcing halibut cheeks:

Chef Matt Israel gets his halibut cheeks from Ocean Beauty in Helena.

He said Rosaurs carries Pacific Seafood and could get halibut cheeks.

You may be able to order them through 2Js, though when I called, they said they come in a big box and you’d have to buy the whole box.

Halibut Cheeks photo by Jeremy Wheaton

Alaskan Halibut Cheeks with Warm Red Skin Potato-Scallion Pesto Salad and Whole Grain Mustard-Caper Butter Sauce

Matt Israel


For the cheeks…

  • ·         1 pound Fresh Alaskan Halibut Cheeks
  • ·         ¼ cup flour
  • ·         6 cups baby spinach loosely packed, stems removed
  • ·         4-6 red potatoes par cooked and cubed 
  • ·         ¼ cup Olive oil
  • ·         2 tablespoons unsalted butter plus a ½ pound of small cubed for the sauce
  • ·         3 tablespoons of whole grain mustard
  • ·         ½ cup of Dry White Wine
  • ·         ¼ cup heavy cream
  • ·         Juice of 1 Lemon, zest reserved for the Pesto
  • ·         2 tablespoons capers
  • ·         1 teaspoon sel gris (course grey salt)
  • ·         8 whole black peppercorns
  • ·         1 teaspoon dried minced garlic
  • ·         ½ teaspoon smoked paprika
  • ·         1 teaspoon dried minced onion

For the Pesto…

  • ·         1oz Italian flat leaf parsley, stems removed
  • ·         ½ oz fresh basil, stems removed
  • ·         2 oz spring onion, rough chopped
  • ·         3 cloves garlic
  • ·         1-1 ¼ cups extra virgin olive oil
  • ·         ¼ cup toasted pine nuts
  • ·         ½ teaspoon lemon zest
  • ·         Salt and pepper to taste

In a food processer, combine everything but the olive oil and pulse to break it down a bit.  With the processor running, slowly add in the olive oil until you have reached the desired consistency…not too thick, not too thin.


To finish…


With a mortar and pestle, grind up the salt, peppercorns, garlic, smoked paprika and onion.  Trim any membrane or silver skin off the cheeks.  Evenly season both sides of the Halibut Cheeks and dredge them in the flour, make sure to knock off any excess. 

In a small sauce pot, add the lemon juice and white wine.  Cook over a medium flame until the liquid has reduced down to a quarter of the initial volume.  Add the heavy cream and simmer the sauce base until it has reduced down by three quarters.   Turn the heat down and slowly emulsify the butter into the sauce one or two cubes at a time until gone.  Whisk in the mustard and capers.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Note:  If the sauce boils or gets to hot it will break

Place a large cast iron skillet or heavy bottomed sauté pan over a medium flame; add the olive oil and butter.   When the butter has melted and is starting to lightly brown, add the halibut cheeks.  Depending on the thickness of the cheeks, they need to sear for about 2-3 minutes on each side.  Transfer to a warm plate.

Using the pan the cheeks were cooked in, sauté the potatoes with the desired amount of pesto.  When the salad is warmed through, toss in the spinach and cook until just wilted.  Finish season with salt and pepper.

Sydne George is a food journalist specializing in recipe development, food writing and food photography. She can be reached at  sydnegeorge@hotmail.com. Sydne’s “Special of the day” columns and recipes are archived at: http://sydnegeorge.com/blog.

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