Saturday, June 5, 2010

Twin Bridges and Ennis markets

It was a beautiful day to drive through the Madison Valley to visit the Ennis farmers market and then through the Ruby Valley to see what was happening at the Twin Bridges market.

I visited each market last year (see Ennis and Twin Bridges), and it was exciting to see what was the same and what had changed.

At the Ennis market, I couldn't find my favorite polka dot cupcakes, but the same baker had loaves of artisan breads, cookies, and Basque cake. My travelling companion, Christine, bought a slice and shared it with me, and if you think I paused long enough to take a photo of it, you're wrong. We wolfed it down with deep sighs of contentment, and Christine vowed to find the recipe. I'm waiting for Christine to fulfill her vow, because I've been online myself to search for a recipe and so far I don't see anything that looks like what we ate.

Another baker, new this year (she arrived in Ennis during the winter), is Lexi. She is so cheerful that it is worth a stop at her booth just to chat with her. Do stop long enough to buy a piece of pie or a cookie. Lexi is a talented baker as well as clever at arranging her goods. This was the first time I have seen a pie in a suitcase.

A third baker was proudly displaying her "pie in a jar." She makes a miniature pie in a small jar and tells the customer to freeze it. When you want a bit of pie, take the jar out and bake it as is. Now that's a clever idea, and if you want to order one or several, come to the market and look for Molly.

You might easily think there was no one but bakers at the Ennis market this week, but in fact you could also buy meats and eggs from Sabo Ranch, wooden items from Marc, plant starts, wool, heirloom seeds, handspun yarn, soap, and tie-dyed clothing.

The road to Twin Bridges goes through Virginia City and Nevada City, two towns preserved pretty much as they were when founded in the late 1800s. So much so that there are rumors of ghosts heard enjoy the quiet moments when tourists have gone elsewhere. We didn't stop in either town, but someday I will take time to leisurely examine each building.

In Twin Bridges, we caught the tail end of the market near noon.

About 10 vendors were lined up along the street selling, well, yes, you guessed it, lots of baked goods: cookies, bars, pies, and breads. I was told that last week the vendors braved 32-degree weather, and so you can't really expect many vegetables here yet. The Hutterites had some produce, but for lush greens, you had to buy plant starts, which offered hope that in a month or so there would be more variety.

A few craft people displayed a variety of interesting items. I meant to look more closely at them, but I got distracted by Linda Redfield, who had a pile of cupcakes and attractive loaves of bread and displayed a poster of types of grains that are sold by Wheat Montana.

Linda explained that she wants people to see the types of grains that go into her whole-grain loaves of bread. She also enthusiastically described how she bakes her bread and how she developed the recipe through the years since she began baking when she was 16 years old. She now feeds and homeschools four children and wants them -- and her customers -- to have the very best. I bought a loaf of spelt bread and can testify that Linda has an excellent product.

Christine and I enjoyed lunch at the nearby Old Hotel, after first checking out the window overlooking the market, where chef Paula had been supplying coffee, churros, and coffeecake to hungry shoppers.

Now, yes, I do wax enthusiastic about a lot of the food I taste along my journey (justifiably so, I believe), and after enjoying a lunch prepared by Paula, I have to say that if you haven't eaten at the Old Hotel, you really haven't tasted all the best that Montana has to offer. Paula uses as much local food as possible, and her imaginative dishes, with splashes of Hawaiian, Polynesian, French, and good old Montanan, are easy to like.

Christine enjoyed the day's special, a BBQ salami sandwich, and I had a BLT with avocado. But these were not ordinary sandwiches. Along with her special sauces and breads, Paula used pork from Montana's Best Meats just up the road near Whitehall. If you eat pork and you plan to pass that way, be sure to carry a cooler with dry ice to cart home your meat purchase. They make really good bacon and salami. 'Nuff said. (Or maybe not enough.)

Lone Elk Mall, Main Street
May 22 - September 25
Saturday, 9 am - noon

Twin Bridges Farmers Market
Main Street Park
May 22 - September 25
Saturday, 9 am - noon

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