[ Coteau des Prairies Lodge ]
Story by Tracy Nicholson
Photography by Micah J. Zimmerman, Amdak Productions
Marking the perfect entrance to Autumn, our team hit the wide open road and ventured south to Havana, North Dakota. Just beyond the Tewaukon National Wildlife Refuge, is where we found the breathtaking hilltop of Coteau des Prairies Lodge and their 3rd Annual Farm to Table dinner, sponsored by Agweek. Between four courses, locally sourced and curated by Chef Steven Schulz, we met the Breker family; passionate, fifth generation farmers who spent two years building the lodge, so others could experience the 360-degree view of the landscape they'd come to love.
Although their Farm to Table dinner easily inspires guests with perfect pastures and spectacular cuisine, for the Brekers, it's an ideal time to bring new concepts to the table and celebrate local agriculture. Joe and Patty Breker's livelihood is firmly rooted in our land, so the idea to curate a dinner with locally grown offerings, is the perfect reminder of the blessings that come with living in "America's Breadbasket".
Fresh from the Farm
Since opening six years ago, Coteau des Prairies Lodge (pronounced Ka-Toe) has been busy hosting weddings, family reunions, corporate retreats and about six or seven specialized dinners a year. For the dinner, they brought in Russ Gesch, the lead agricultural research scientist working on Camelina, a newer oil seed crop that was incorporated into our hors d'oeuvre course. Outside, their daughter, Maria Zacharias, a soil health specialist and farmer, presented a soil demonstration. While the beef and grains for the bread came directly from the Breker farm, most of the fresh produce came from local farmer, Jesse Frolek who owns the CSA, Uncle Jesse's Produce in Lidgerwood, N.D. On this menu, each course is paired with a locally distilled spirit, or locally brewed IPA, pilsner or cider from Wild Terra, Drekker Brewing Co., Junkyard Brewing Co. and Proof Artisan Distillers.
Responsible for creating the lodge's farm to table cuisine, was executive chef Steven Schulz from The Toasted Frog in Fargo. To help complete a four course dining experience for 80 people, Schulz relied on his experienced team, James Hein and Mark Schmidt. "I really like working with the Breker family - it's fun, but it's also about supporting the local farmers and showing what they do," said Schulz. "We're all about cooking with a great product and showing it off in a creative way."
Sampling the homegrown menu, sponsored by Agweek, our taste buds were delighted with their house-made ricotta, fried mortadella, 28-Day dry-aged beef, blistered tomato coulis and roasted sunflower chutney. As a finale, guests were served a sour cream and apple cake with camelina mousse and toasted wheat caramel, paired with a Crooked Furrow Bourbon from Fargo’s Proof Distillery.
Experience the Farm
"More than anything, we love to have agricultural conversations with guests - questions about the food and how it's grown, or why we do things the way we do," said lodge owner and farmer, Joe Breker. "We also give farm tours, it's something that we feel passionate about, to allow people an opportunity to experience a working farm.”
"Giving people an opportunity to sit down and talk to a local farmer who is producing something they're proud of and is part of their family's livelihood - it can do a lot to completely change the way people think about food," said Phillip Breker. "That's really the main reason why we love what we do."
Finding Purpose in the Pasture
Construction of the lodge took the Breker family two years, along with friends and family, and over 1,000 native pine logs. These logs hail from the only forest that is logged in the state, located in the Badlands, south of Medora. Joe Breker's friend, John Hanson lives on a ranch in this forest and helped inspire the idea to open the lodge with his own hospitality business, Log & Camp Ranch. One cold, Christmas morning, they decided to take Hanson's advice and their dream of finding a bigger purpose for the pasture, was born.
“There was a vision to use this hilltop for some purpose, long before I was born," said Phillip Breker. "My grandpa, Clarence, has always been a master of hospitality, entertaining friends and family on the pasture and at the farm. This pasture has been in our family for generations and it's always been a favorite place to sit on the hill and enjoy the view - watch the cattle graze through the pasture and the clouds move through the sky. It's just a beautiful place."
According to the Breker family, the lodge's name has quite a storied origin. Thomas Jefferson had commissioned French-born, American explorer Joseph Nicollett to visit the area, and he aptly named the elevation, Coteau des Prairies, French for 'slope, or hill on the prairie'. "Look to the south, and you will see the hills that rise into South Dakota. The Coteau des Prairies begins right here and it forms an arrowhead or a flat iron - we're on the very tip, and it goes south from here across eastern South Dakota and wings into western Minnesota," explained Phillip Breker.
On the eve of August 15th, 1839, making camp on the shores of Sprague Lake, three miles southwest of present-day Rutland, Nicollet wrote:
"The head of the Coteau is very near us. It presents an imposing mass, beautiful to eyes which have seen nothing but plains and rolling plateaus. It is the Alps of this area.”
A New Generation of Exploration
Attend their October Event!
October 9 is their next beer pairing dinner with Bent Paddle Brewing Co. from Duluth, Minn. The owner and brewer will be in attendance, along with famed Minneapolis chef, Jeff Anderson.
Check the site and social media for updates on a November wine event that will soon be announced!
PhotoRx Getaway & Workshop
On October 4-6, instructor, Phillip Breker, of PhotoRx Media, will be hosting a photography workshop geared towards beginners and amateurs. Guests will receive both ‘classroom’ and ‘field’ instruction, gaining knowledge and putting it to use capturing the hilltop, spectacular skylines and pastures below.
For more information, contact:
Coteau des Prairies Lodge
Find monthly events on cdplodge.com
Follow the lodge on Facebook, or @cdplodge on Instagram and Twitter
Midwest Nest Magazine is a monthly print and digital publication that focuses on culture around the upper midwest.