Saturday, October 29, 2011

Molt breakfast with a touch of Bailey's

Today's journey began a couple of years ago, after I first moved to Montana, when someone told me to "have breakfast in Molt." I have long forgotten who that was and anything else they told me, but I have been planning to eat breakfast in Molt ever since.

Friend Kathy did the driving, but I felt a bit tense, wondering what we would actually find in Molt. I didn't even know the name of the restaurant . . . would we find it? would there still be a breakfast served? But Kathy, who loves road trips that don't take you anywhere in particular, was cheerful about the adventure.

Molt was easy to find: drive north past Laurel for about half an hour. And we soon saw the restaurant was not only visible -- make a quick right on Wolfskill Road as soon as you hit town -- but very obviously in business as evidenced by the many cars (the only cars in town) parked around the building.

Molt is very small, and although there are a few buildings in current use, the nearest one to the cafe, besides the post office, was this house:

But the Prairie Winds Cafe was jumping.

The moment we entered, I knew this was a really, really cool place. Bluegrass music, tons of people, plates piled high with delicious-looking food, walls lined with full shelves from the building's days as the area mercantile. So many things to look at, listen to, savor.

We stood in line for a few minutes, then saw two empty places at a table nearby. Four other people at the table were already devouring pancakes and eggs. With permission, we sat with them. And that's a really nice feature of this place: you get to meet other diners.

In fact, things got so friendly that our table companions asked if we'd like some soy milk, which they were passing around in a green metal beverage container and pouring into their coffee. One of their party was lactose intolerant. When we learned there was Bailey's Irish Cream liqueur in the container, too, we suddenly realized we shouldn't be drinking so much milk and we accepted the offer. I'll have to say that Bailey's really livens up a cup of hot chocolate!

It really livens up conversation, too. In between laughing and sipping our "coffee," we were told the hash browns were made from fresh potatoes, and that you get tons of food, so don't order too much. Apparently, they have very tasty pie, too, but I ordered a cinnamon roll to take out. (Don't do this yourself; I don't know what it would have tasted like if I'd eaten it right there, but it was plenty dry by the time I got home. Next time I'll take home a piece of pie.)

We found out that a lot of people drive here or cycle from Billings, which is about an hour away, and as we were eating I saw a young woman from Japan walking around taking photos like any tourist. Or, perhaps, she has a blog, too. But it's obvious this cafe's reputation has traveled far and wide.

If you arrive when the cafe opens at 8:30 am, there will be a huge crowd, but at our arrival time of about 10 am, the crowd was thinning considerably.

Do not expect fast service. This is a leisurely experience that should be savored as much as the food. For when our food did arrive, I suddenly understood exactly why that long-ago unknown person told me to "have breakfast in Molt." The ambience is terrific and you should definitely go if only for that, but the food!! Delicious!

Of course the photo does not do justice to my meal, but it gives you an idea of how high the food is piled on. Although you can see the English muffins and a corner of my omelet, the plate was mostly covered with hash browns, and I can highly recommend them.

A repeat customer told us that if you go during the week, there might be one other person sharing the room with you, and there won't be any live music, but it would be a good time to taste lunch items.

Another repeat customer summed up the entire experience: "You always leave with a pep in your step," Although I must add the disclaimer here that she was the one who had brought the, er, soy milk.

I didn't get much practical information about the cafe, such as when it opened ("a few years ago," according to our table mates) or when it is open for business. But just keep in mind that on Saturday, you should arrive between 8:30 and 10:30 to sample the breakfast menu. I believe someone said the cafe closes at 3 pm on Saturday.

Call the cafe to get answers to your other questions: 406-669-3857.

But whether or not you remember to call ahead, do visit Molt on a Saturday morning. I'll share my table with you!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Lots of produce at Bozeman winter market

The Bozeman Winter Farmers Market began today in a big way. It is indoors, so photos are iffy with my simple camera, but I hope you, er, get the picture.

If you wanted tomatoes, there were lots!

In fact, fresh produce of all kinds was in abundance. I learned that area farmers use hoop houses and low tunnels (also known as row covers) to prolong the growing season. While this may have been the last market day to find so much fresh produce, there will be hearty vegetables -- like onions, potatoes, beets, carrots, and winter squash -- all season, and we'll see greens appearing early next spring.

I also learned that occasionally a vendor will resell grocery seconds, so be alert. One tip for assuring you get fresh locally grown produce at any farmers market: Look around at what most vendors are selling. If you see one with an out-of-season item or something that is only on their table, ask where they got it.

Laurie of Crazy View Farm near Wilsall explained to me that greens are in fact hardy even in Montana. They love cool weather and thus will bolt and die in August heat. But if you keep them watered and trimmed, you can have fresh greens into autumn.

You will always see piles of luscious greens at Laurie's table. She also makes beautiful chard bouquets!

Along with fresh vegetables, some processed foods were available. Zeynep of Z's Old World Foods was offering free samples of her menu items that she will be selling in her new shop, Z's Meza Market, which will open soon on S. 19th in Bozeman near Main.

I have long enjoyed Z's hummus, which you can buy at area supermarkets, but I was overwhelmed by the tastes of Turkish-style tabouli, dill and garlic labne (similar to Greek tzatziki), red lentil soup, stuffed grape leaves (dolmi), Turkish eggplant . . . and more.

I sat at a table with six other tasters, and judging by the murmur of comments in between bites, Z is already successful: "Really good." -- "Yeah, really good." -- "Wow!" -- "The grape leaves are to die for!" -- "Every single one of them is fabulous." -- "It's definitely a restaurant I'll be visiting."

In the photo, Elizabeth and Matt, newcomers to Bozeman, are savoring a shared plate. They didn't say much; they were too busy eating!

I'll be writing more about Z and her culinary adventures, so stay tuned!

Meanwhile, back at the market . . . there was so much to see and buy I couldn't get a photo of everything.

One thing I especially enjoyed about today's market was the number of vendors promoting other area food producers.

I bought some lovely and delicious tiny cakes from Rendezvous catering, a company that proudly uses Montana products.

Their tower of goodies was spectacular. You can see why I couldn't resist one of each to take home.

The Cutest Business Logo award unofficially goes to One More Bite.

This business sells tasty chicken nuggets and veggie burgers, the latter made from grown-in-Montana lentils.

While I'm handing out awards, I have to say that Melissa, who was selling onions and eggs, was definitely the happiest vendor today. What a smile!

And Amaltheia Organic Dairy might have the state's best goat cheese. Now I haven't tried *all* the goat cheese in Montana, but I think the rest of the producers are going to have to try extra hard to impress me now that I'm enjoying Amaltheia. Be sure to look at their website for photos of darling goats.

Hyalite Farm was offering some tasty fudge made from goats' milk. Fudge is so rich and chocolatey anyway that I couldn't really tell it was any different, but it's a fun treat. They also were selling their Humble Bee Honey and goat's milk soap.

All in all, it was a very enjoyable morning. Be sure to visit this winter when you are in Bozeman. Hey, why not go out of your way to get there?

Emerson Ballroom, 111 South Grand Ave.
October 22, 2011 - April 28, 2012 (see website for exact dates)
every other Saturday, 9 am - noon

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Emigrant People's Market

Midway between Livingston and Yellowstone National Park, along Highway 89, watch for the sign to Emigrant and then turn west at the blinking light. You'll also see signs pointing toward the People's Market and that's exactly where you want to go.

In its second year, this is a small market, with an average of about ten vendors, but you'll find a wide variety of items to look at. And because it is small, vendors are happy to describe their products and make sure you get exactly what you want and need.

I found pottery . . .

healing oils (this was the first time I saw Black Pepper oil, which is useful for many ailments, including arthritis and digestive upsets) . . .

and Bo's Blankets, which I wrote about last week.

There was even a table with lots of stuff . . . fun stuff!

Jo had quite a collection, including her own photographs. In the spirit of recycling, she cuts up photographs that don't quite print right, puts a label with her contact info on the back, and hands them out as a kind of business card -- she also has traditionally printed cards, but I will treasure my oddly shaped photo of a charming rustic porch.

I throughly enjoyed talking to Bev of Healing Earth LLC, who explained the uses of various herbal tea blends.

Bev buys many organic herbs, but said that she gathers echinacea (a prairie variety), St. John's wort, and arnica in Montana. A deeply purple mixture of elderberry and honey looked good enough to scoop out right there with a spoon, but she explained this is actually an immune booster, to be taken as you develop a cold.

Later I visited the Healing Earth store in Pine Creek -- if you're returning to Livingston, take the side Highway 540 and you'll pass right by this charming (and good smelling!) shop.

Mike Smith, the beekeeper of the business, was tending the store when I arrived. I zeroed right in on the jars filled with honeycomb and had to take one with me. Mike has been keeping bees near Livingston for three years, and he couldn't stop talking about how fascinating they are. I learned that there are 55,000 miles of bee activity in each pound and a half (approximately 1 pint) of honey. Mike pointed out that a few bees are inevitably killed when combs are removed from the hive -- after all, they are protecting their work, home, and factory -- but that is far fewer than are killed when you put pesticides on your home garden. And, he added, the bees don't really miss the honey -- they just make more. That's what they do.

But back at the market, I also chatted with Yankee Bob, who loves to bake cookies, breads, and cakes with healthy ingredients. I tasted his applesauce cake and almost swooned.

Bob sells some baked goods in a tea shop in Livingston, but he makes a steady profit at community events around Emigrant. He almost always sells out. Bob learned to cook from his mother, but it wasn't until the 1980s that he began in earnest when he was asked to donate goodies to a church bake sale. He concocted a fruit cake from a Betty Crocker date bar mix, which turned out to be so popular that he went on to perfect his recipe. When the mix was discontinued, Bob cobbled together another winner from six different recipes he saw one day in the Los Angeles Times.

Imagination took off, and he now makes a variety of oatmeal-based cookies along with his applesauce cake and banana strawberry bread, to name a few.

If you can't make it to market, Bob can supply you by mail, just send him an e-mail: rtelljohn at

Joyce Johnson is the manager of this market, which she calls an "eccentric, eclectic group. There's a little bit of everything here." During the market's first year she saw that there would not be much produce appearing and changed the name from "farmers" to "people's" market to better describe the collection of goods available.

Other community events take place on the wide lawn behind the vendors, which is adjacent to St. John's Episcopal Church, the sponsor of the market: perhaps a dog training demo (bring your own dog for some personalized tips) or fiddlers.

Emigrant is a small village, but the population is spread throughout Paradise Valley. There are several organic farmers in the area, but they prefer to sell at the bigger venues in Livingston and Bozeman. Carting fresh produce to market is a big chore, and the sooner a farmer sells out the better.

But Joyce is optimistic that with more word of mouth and direct advertising, the Emigrant market will continue to flourish. There is a huge amount of seasonal traffic to and from Yellowstone Park, and Chico Hot Springs is only 10 miles away. Local residents also add to the flow of repeat customers.

Although, of course, vendors hope to sell their products, money isn't everything, Joyce explained. "Sometimes encounters [with people] here are more fun than the money we make."

"We're a scrappy little market," Joyce said.

Emigrant People's Market
Lawn of St. John's Episcopal Church, Emigrant
Saturday, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.
June until the weather changes