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.
Glacier and Yellowstone: Come with us from Park-to-Park
By Jenna Cederberg
If you set out via vehicle to see both Yellowstone and Glacier national parks, you’ll find many routes on many roads that will take you from park to park.
Google the question and you’re presented with one 370-mile driving route through Montana in about six hours and 36 minutes.
For our Park-to-Park issue, we’re suggesting a broader loop around the state that runs close to 973 miles total.
Whether you want to go from Yellowstone to Glacier, or vice-a-versa, take a look at these routes that’ll take you through a good chunk of the Big Sky State. Whether you make the entire drive or not, don’t worry: Head east or head west, north or south, there are more than a few things to see along the way.
East Route: Roughly 530 miles
Start: Old Faithful, Yellowstone National Park
Finish: St. Mary/East entrance, Glacier National Park
Leave Old Faithful, head north on U.S. Highway 89 about 18 miles until the Madison Campground – where you’ll veer east and continue on Highway 89 on a portion of the Grand Loop Road – open only in the summer season – for about 164 miles, hopping off the Loop at Mammoth and driving along the Yellowstone River until you reach Livingston. Then, you’ll drive for 170 miles from Livingston to Great Falls. Next, you’ll take Interstate 15 north to Vaughn, connect with Highway 89 again, this time heading west past Freezout Lake, Choteau and north to Browning. Drive 175 miles from Great Falls through Browning and you’ll arrive at the St. Mary entrance to Glacier National Park. Then, you’re ready to head up Going-to-the-Sun Road.
– Gardiner – A “full service” town, according to the Gardiner Chamber of Commerce, this is a must stop to get gas and supplies before continuing through some long stretches of road without gas stations. You might also run into some bison, which are known to walk the town’s streets on occasion near the famous Roosevelt Arch.
– Livingston – By the time you reach this artsy town, you’ll most likely be ready for a bite to eat. Gil’s Goods on the main drag – Park Street – has menu items like sweet homemade sodas and sourdough French toast.
– White Sulphur Springs – Now home to one of the Montana’s most popular summer music festivals – the Red Ants Pants Music Festival – this town lives up to its name in the Spa Hot Springs Motel and Clinic, where there are gorgeous pools filled with natural hot mineral water. Each pool is drained every day, and no chemicals are ever used.
– Great Falls – Perhaps the most famous cowboy painter of all time made this city his home, and the museum named for Charlie Russell is a must-stop on this park-to-park route. The C.M. Russell Museum is home to more than 12,000 permanent collection objects – from Russell originals to his log home and studio.
– Freezout Lake – A wildlife management area on the Rocky Mountain Front, Freezout Lake is a prime stop along the route for anyone looking to spot birds. According to Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks, beyond the well-known spring migration that brings thousands of geese and swans to the area, the grasses and marshes of the area attract more than 227 species of birds each year.
West Route: Roughly 443 miles
Start: West Entrance, Glacier National Park
Finish: West Yellowstone
Head south on U.S. Route 2, leaving Glacier National Park on your way toward Flathead Lake. You’ll drive for 35 miles on Route 2, turning south again on Montana Highway 93 at Kalispell and down the west side of Flathead. You’ll approach Missoula after approximately 120 miles, merging onto Interstate 90 heading east at The Wye just west of Missoula. Head east on Interstate 90 for about 168 miles, until you’re just east of Whitehall, when you’ll turn south on Montana Highway 287. You’ll drive for about 120 miles on Highway 287, past Hebgen Lake, before heading south on Montana Highway 191 until you find West Yellowstone.
– Hungry Horse – Sometimes known as “Huck Town, USA,” Hungry Horse is just outside Glacier’s boundaries and is a must-stop for anyone who loves huckleberries. The Huckleberry Patch on Route 2 in the middle of town offers just about everything huckleberry – including one of the best huckleberry shakes in the area, complete with whole hucks at the bottom of each glass.
– Pablo – The People’s Center in Pablo, on the Flathead Indian Reservation, is the place to get to know the heritage of the Salish, Pend d’Orielle and Kootenai tribes. The museum includes 1,200 square feet of exhibits and a gift shop that sells local Native American artwork.
– Ninepipe National Wildlife Refuge – If at all possible, plan to stop at the Ninepipe National Wildlife Refuge just as the sun is setting. Not only is it home to a spectacular spread of wetlands, to the east is an unbeatable view of the Mission Mountains.
– Missoula – Next to the Clark Fork River and host of outdoor events throughout the year, Caras Park in downtown Missoula is a perfect stopover spot on your way from park to park. There’s Out to Lunch each Wednesday in the summers, and Downtown ToNight each Thursday. Both feature live music and food from local food trucks.
– Ennis – Officially listed on the “Backroad to Yellowstone” tour that runs through the Madison Valley, this town might be best known for its fly fishing features. But there are a lot of other sites to see, including an outdoor art walk featuring the largest hand-tied fly ever made.
Gesyer Gazers keep track of Yellowstone’s erupting thermal features
By Kelsey Dayton
“Go. Come on,” Mara Reed, 18, whispered staring at the bubbling, steaming thermal feature in front of her.
“Come on,” she said with more urgency staring at Big Cub and Little Cub, two geysers in the Upper Geyser Basin of Yellowstone National Park.
Ryan Maurer, 19, stood next to her, frantically scribbling notes on each puff of steam and gurgle of water, calling in updates on his radio. His eyes darting across the geyser basin, head cocked so he could listen for sounds of other thermal features in the area.
Yellowstone is home to the world’s largest concentration of geysers. Visitors travel from all over to witness eruptions, but a dedicated few – like Reed and Maurer – spends weeks or even months in the park, waiting, watching and logging data.
These are geyser gazers.
“Geyser gazers are crazier than wolf watchers, but not as crazy as cave divers,” Maurer said.
- To learn more about the current activity of geysers inside Yellowstone National Park, click here.
The term “geyser gazer” refers to someone dedicated to recording data on eruptions, spending weeks each year in the park taking notes and fastidiously watching and waiting – sometimes for hours or days – for their favorite thermal features to shoot water skyward.
Most gazers are members of the Geyser Observation and Study Association, which logs data online.
To read the entire Geyser Gazer story, subscribe today.
Glacier’s Goat Haunt is an unlikely passport portal
By Becky Lomax
No roads reach Goat Haunt. The secluded Glacier National Park outpost is tucked three miles south of the Canadian border at the nexus of a few hiking trails. Despite its remoteness in Montana, anyone can get to this far-flung place.
For most visitors, the route is via Canada.
Isolated on the south tip of Waterton Lake, Goat Haunt is one of the least visited places in Glacier National Park. While Logan Pass clogs with cars each summer, Goat Haunt sees some day hikers arrive on foot, a few backpackers and boat tour sightseers every couple hours.
- To explore Goat Haunt through a Glacier National Park web cam, click here.
Beyond that, a motorboat or two stops by. Of the record-breaking 2.3 million visitors to Glacier in 2014, only 34,000 visited Goat Haunt.
“You’re so secluded in Goat Haunt,” said Denny Gignoux, co-owner of Glacier Guides that takes about 20 trips of backpackers in, out or through Goat Haunt every summer. “But it’s very easy to get into the backcountry. Trails get you into fabulous alpine country, and it’s a great destination for day hikers to enjoy and then return to the amenities in Waterton.”
Goat Haunt is part front country, part backcountry.
To read the entire story on Goat Haunt, subscribe today.
Helena resident has become the ultimate minor league baseball fan
By Gabriel Furshong
Tickets were just a couple dollars when Mary Gunstone began attending Helena Brewers baseball games in 1985, but she got into her first game for free.
It was Buttrey’s Food and Drug night at the ballpark and employees were given complimentary tickets. Gunstone was a baker at the store and also served as the staff photographer.
She took her camera to that first game, started snapping photos of the players – and never stopped.
In the three decades since, Gunstone has only missed two games: the first for her father’s funeral and the second for her 50th class reunion.
“I told them they should have it at the ballpark, but they didn’t do that for me,” she said, with a touch of regret.
- Learn more about the Helena Brewers’ Kindrick Legion field here
Across the country, there are more than 200 minor league teams associated with Major League Baseball, from Los Angeles, California, to Danville, Virginia, and as the list of cities descends from large to small, there is a reverse correlation between the celebrity of the game and the intimacy of the experience.
Helena lies at the bottom of that list, among the Top 10 smallest markets in all of professional baseball.
To read the full story about Mary Gunstone, subscribe today.
Stage Road Inn is the ulitmate backroad B&B
Story and photo by Jack McNeel
The bedroom windows were open to let in the fresh meadow breezes as I turned in for the night. Moments later the yips and yodeling of coyotes permeated the room, a grand way to drift off to sleep. After I awakened during the night, the song dogs again started singing, perhaps to lull me back to sleep.
Not everyone enjoys coyotes, but I love their music and on this particular night, it reflected the nature of the Stage Road Inn Bed and Breakfast – a charming stop off Montana Highway 204 outside Dodson – where neighbors and places for visitors to stay are few and far between.
Morning light provided a similar relaxing tone with a low bank of mist hanging over the nearby meadows.
The Stage Road Inn is on the outskirts of Dodson just east of the Fort Belknap Indian Reservation. That’s one reason for the strong Native American décor owner Sandy Calk has used inside the converted farm house.
Stage Road Inn Bed and Breakfast
The Stage Road Inn was built in the early 1900s and is run by owner Sandy Calk, who turned it into a bed and breakfast more than 20 years ago.
To read the entire story on the Stage Road Inn, subscribe today!
Portfolio: Glacier’s glaciers, before they’re gone
Photography of Seth Eagleton
The Glacier National Park Seth Eagleton’s kids see today won’t be the park they see when they’re grown.
Whether the 25 glaciers remaining inside Glacier are gone in 5 years or 20, their retreat is changing the face of the Crown of the Continent.
“When I was hiking around in high school there was 35 (glaciers),” Eagleton said. “At the turn of last century, there were 150, they’re fading fast.”
As the Columbia Falls native scrambles and climbs through the wild backcountry in the park he considers his backyard, he knows there’s nothing he can do to stop the glaciers from melting.
Instead, Eagleton has created the Glacier Preservation Project, and is on a mission to carefully and artfully photograph each of the park’s remaining glaciers.
Glacier Preservation Project
To learn more about Seth Eagleton’s Glacier Preservation Project, and for a link to the Kickstarter campaign to help fund a coffee table book about the project, visit glacierpreservationproject.com.
To view the entire Glacier Preservation Project Portfolio, subscribe today.
Fort Peck Summer Theatre draws crowds from across state, world
By Richard Peterson
Photos by Erik Petersen
Home to one of Montana’s oldest theaters, Fort Peck is one of those tiny prairie towns where the birds often compete with the wind to generate the loudest noise.
During summertime weekends, however, there is stiffer competition.
“It’s shocking to be here at 6 p.m. and there are no cars on the street. One hour later there’s a thousand people in the audience,” said Andy Meyers, artistic director for the Fort Peck Summer Theatre. “It’s a magical place.”
Tucked away in the northeastern corner of Montana, the 1,200-seat theater has been entertaining audiences for 45 years. But lately it’s attracting more and more people to the area hailing from neighboring states and, more frequently, foreign countries.
Originally built to entertain the Fort Peck Dam construction workers, the 80-year-old theater’s popularity has grown along with the size and quality of its shows, attracting Broadway-quality talent that stage five shows each season.
Those are a few of the reasons people will spend hours behind the wheel to see a production.
“It takes us two and a half hours from our farm,” said Maryann Yorga, of Rock Glenn, located 22 miles north of Jordan.
2015 Fort Peck Summer Theatre Season
May 29 – June 7: Always…Patsy Cline
June 12 – 28: One Man. Two Guvnors
July 10 – July 26: The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas
July 31 – Aug. 16: Tarzan
Aug. 21 – Sept. 6: Steel Magnolias
To read the entire story on the Fort Peck Theatre, subscribe today.