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.
Wild Ride: Wolf Point’s Wild Horse Stampede keeps rodeo traditions alive
By Rich Peterson, Photos by Lynn Donaldson
Wolf Point’s Wild Horse Stampede is approaching its 91st birthday but Montana’s oldest professional rodeo shows no signs of aging or wrinkles.
Thousands of rodeo fans converge on this Hi-Line town of nearly 3,000 residents each year for three days during the second week in July.
It’s a time of class and family reunions, parades, a carnival, “Catholic burgers,” street dances and, of course, the main event: The oldest Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association event in the state that is known as the “granddaddy of Montana rodeos.”
“For a lot of people who come here every summer for the Stampede, it feels like home,” said Clint Long, who’s been the chairman of the event since 1984 and has attended the rodeo since childhood. “Everyone remembers coming to the Stampede when they were kids. It’s an amazing phenomenon. People want to connect with their roots again. So much is going on in a world that’s moving too fast. Roots are shallow anymore.”
To read the entire feature on the Wild Horse Stampede, find this issue on newsstands now. To read more about Montana all year, subscribe now.