The Last Best Plates explores pie in the Big Sky
This is the third piece in a six-part The Last Best Plates series about food and eating in Montana featuring the photography of Lynn Donaldson and writing of Corinne Garcia. For more, visit thelastbestplates.com.
By Corinne Garcia
Photos by Lynn Donaldson
Wisdom, Montana: population 80, and home to some of the best pie under the Big Sky…
One of about three active businesses in town, the Crossing Bar, is where owner Diane Havig spends most of her days. Here, she greets those who walk through the door; it may be the locals (some of her most loyal pie connoisseurs), the fishermen fresh off the Big Hole River that runs through town, the bikers (both the motorized and the peddlers) who are taking the scenic Bitterroot loop, and those who travel the distance just for an authentic home cooked meal and a slice, or two, of Havig’s famous pie.
- Scroll down to view a rhubarb pie recipe from Diane Havig
Aside from chatting with the customers, Havig’s the self-proclaimed “do-it-all girl,” waiting tables, washing dishes, whipping up a chicken fried steak from scratch (grilled, not fried), making homemade bread and salad dressing, and putting the magic touches on her pie crusts and fillings.
Depending on the day, Havig is whipping up buttermilk custard, a chocolate bottom peanut butter pie, a rhubarb cream pie, or her famous Fruit of the Forest with rhubarb, apple, strawberries, blackberries and cherries.
Some pies call for flakey crust coverings, and others for lattice tops to release some moisture.
Davig’s secret ingredient is orange juice, but that’s about all I can divulge.
“We’re at 6,000 feet, and at higher altitudes you need more moisture in the crust, so you can roll it and flip it without it being too delicate,” Havig said. “I also like making a thin crust so you get more of the flavor of the fruit or filling.”
Wisdom is located along the Big Hole Valley scenic drive, an unforgettable 82-mile loop with views of the Bitterroot and Pioneer mountains, the Big Hole River, and great stopping points like the Crossing Bar.
Stop in, say “hi” to Havig, and don’t forget to leave room for pie.
Other mouth-watering pies under the Big Sky:
On the fly
Utica Day Fair – Annual Utica Women’s Club Pie Sale: Held the Sunday after Labor Day weekend, in conjunction with “What the Hay” festival in the small town of Utica. Stop by the historic cabin that serves as the Utica Women’s Club, and score homemade pies to die for.
Gateway Orchard Fruit Stand on Montana Highway 35 just north of Polson: Stop by for huckleberry pie and other seasonal filler flavors, along with canned Flathead cherries, jams and jellies.
Stop into these epic, small town cafes for delicious pie year round:
Yesterday’s Calf-A, Dell
Park Café, St. Mary
Stray Bullet Café, Ovando
Avon Family Café, Avon
Corinne Garcia and Lynn Donaldson are frequent contributors to Montana Magazine. Garcia writes from Bozeman. Donaldson is based in Livingston.
Rhubarb Cream Pie from the Crossing Bar and Grill at Fetty’s
“This is a recipe that I’ve used for 18 years. It was in the recipe file from my previous restaurant, The Big Hole Crossing. I did make one adjustment four years ago when a customer suggested I use vanilla extract instead of nutmeg for the spice. The vanilla brings out the flavor of the rhubarb more.”
–Courtesy of Diane Havig, The Crossing Bar, Wisdom
1 1/2 cups flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup Crisco
1/3 cup orange juice
In a food processor, blend flour and salt. Add Crisco, pulsing until it’s fully blended. Place in a large, shallow bowl. Add orange juice, half at a time, gently tossing after each addition. Compress into two balls.
4-5 cups chopped rhubarb, fresh or thaw frozen and partially drained
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/4 cup flour
1 teaspoon vanilla
Mix filling ingredients together and place on top of the uncooked bottom crust in a 9-inch glass pie plate. Make the top crust into a lattice, allowing steam to escape for a better set. Put an egg wash on the top, and cover the edges with foil. Place pie in a 375-degree oven for approximately one hour. The pie will be brown on the top and bottom, and puff up slightly in the middle.
Grizzly Guardian finds wild calling
By Corinne Garcia, Photos by Erik Petersen
Not just anyone would opt for a bear as a pet in lieu of something a lot less intimidating. But for Casey Anderson, an animal lover and naturalist who has made a career out of working with and exploring some of the world’s most feared animals, somehow it doesn’t seem so strange. Host of the National Geographic Channel series “America the Wild,” the fifth generation Montanan has paved his own way through the animal kingdom, going from hobby tracker to wildlife expert and spokesperson.
In 2002, Anderson met Brutus, a grizzly cub who was just the size of a squirrel. Through this quirky bear, and other wild animals he has come to know and understand, he has been able to dispel many myths about predators. But first, Anderson had to learn about them himself.
What is Brutus like today? He’s a one-of-a-kind bear living at Anderson’s Montana Grizzly Encounter outside Bozeman.
To view videos of Brutus, as well as other bears at the sanctuary, visit the santurary’s bearcam page.
To read the entire feature on Casey Andereson, find this issue on newsstands now. To read more about Montana all year, subscribe now.
Montana’s New Nashville
On a warm Monday evening last August — a weekday night that typically has little going on in the way of live entertainment — music was pouring out of Peach Street Studios located in an historic red brick building on Bozeman’s northside.
The crisp sounds of acoustic guitar were accompanied by the solid, soulful voices and haunting harmonies of a Washington, D.C.-based band called Vandaveer. The next night, it was The Farewell Drifters, a hipster-esque folk band out of Nashville, the night after it was Texas country singer Dale Watson, and on other evenings Montana’s own singer-songwriters took the stage.
With 24 shows in July and August, it was almost as if, to quote the Grateful Dead, “the music never stopped.”
If there ever was a music hub for singer-songwriters in the Rockies, a mini-Nashville of sorts, this is it. Peach Street Studios is the headquarters of “Live from the Divide,” a weekly radio show that is a “Celebration of the American Songwriter.”
To read the rest of Garcia’s story on Live from the Divide, find this issue on newsstands now. To read more Montana all year, subscribe now.