Very Tasty Times Part 2

Refreshing food revolution with a bright future
Alastair Baker
News Editor
Thursday, November 1, 2018
Article Image Alt Text

Photos by Carmen Levick

Prerogative Kitchen produced several sample meals that included  a Montana spaghetti squash, from Laurel Farmer’s Market, marinara sauce, mozzarella, and Basil from Yellowstone Valley Farms with a pan seared Montana trout from Flathead Lake.

Article Image Alt Text

At Café Regis the Dept. of Commerce representatives were served up homegrown fresh carrot cake, raspberry French toast, apple pecan, homemade dill pickles, salad caprese, cherry tomatoes, fresh basil with a garden vegetable soup, chokecherry lemonade and edible flowers like mini marigolds.

Article Image Alt Text
Article Image Alt Text

At Red Lodge Ales Dept. of Commerce representative Kate Siberell (left) tries the first of three samples of beer and cider with marketing manager Andy Simpson.
The samples; Boom Chocaloca is an imperial stout sourced from King’s Cupboard Chocolate in Red Lodge. The second sample Bent Nail, is a two-row malted barley from Great Falls and the third is a Flathead Cherry Cider, whose ingredients is sourced from Flathead Valley.

Article Image Alt Text
Article Image Alt Text

“We’re a small town with a lot of restaurants. You do not get the same thing in each, they have their own specialty, and others will change the menu on a weekly basis. I’m really impressed with the class of food we do have. It’s fantastic, very healthy,” so said Red Lodge Mayor Bill Larson recently about the growing food revolution in the town.

Larson’s comments came hot on the heels of a visit by representatives from the Montana Departments of Commerce and Agriculture who came to Red Lodge to launch Taste our Place, a new farm-to-table initiative.

The group visited eight venues over a two-day period: Regis Café, Carbon Fork, Carbon County Steakhouse, Red Lodge Ales, The Wild Table, Honeys Café, Prerogative Kitchen and Pom Italian Eatery to sample a cornucopia of delights.

Jan Stoddard, Bureau Chief, Industry Services & Outreach, with the Dept. of Commerce, was impressed by the quality and variety of food on offer and the camaraderie.

“Nothing we’ve tasted in Red Lodge is bad. I love these businesses. They are so passionate about what they do and invested in the community. They know they compete but they also help each other, if someone runs out of straws another restaurant will happily lend some to you. This will raise the culinary tourism in this town,” she said.  “It’s a great opportunity they have, that mix between regulars and tourists.” 

It’s been a long road for Red Lodge to get to this point, hard work that is recognized by Sherry Weamer, Executive Director of Carbon County Chamber. “The biggest takeaway is Red Lodge is truly becoming a culinary destination and I knew we had some great restaurants and they are doing the farm to table but I didn’t realize how much work they put into it and how it is growing. It is what visitors are looking for and it’s becoming a bigger need,” she said. 

“It is really nice the State is working on this initiative realizing that tourists and locals want local food,” said Chris Lockhart, who co-owns Prerogative Kitchen with wife Gena Burghoff.

“It is funny going from the Local Yokel 8 years ago, a lot of people didn’t want organic and local food and now people look for it.  And I don’t think people mind paying for it,” he said. 

“It is great to see the transition, of the town, of the farmers market growing and restaurants sourcing locally. Local farms are now distributing to restaurants. I think people just like to know where the food comes from,” he said.

Lockhart builds up his menu from a range of local producers such as Red Barn Veggies in Laurel; Quality Foods Distributing Bozeman; BoJa Farms Bridger; Lloyd Craft Farms Wyo.; Strike Farms in Bozeman: and Montana Wagyu Cattle Company of Belgrade.

“It’s fun in Red Lodge and what we’ve always wanted; a really vibrant food culture and it’s such good variety. We are all working together and it is better for the town,” said Lockhart. “If we become a food destination, we will see more people. They come from Bozeman now. The hotels will do better and the shops. The Chamber is doing a great job.”

Commenting on the range of experiences for locals and visitors Stoddard explained, “Some of the non-resident visitors that we met during the ‘Taste our Place’ event were already there because of the great food and brews they heard they could find in Red Lodge. They were excited to hear about other restaurants where they could experience a taste of Montana.”

Red Lodge Ales was one such place the Dept. of Commerce visited to sample local brews and ciders.   

The company’s marketing manager Andy Simpson was impressed by the visit. 

“It’s great publicity and good for the town,” said Simpson. 

Red Lodge Ales culls its raw materials from as many local areas as possible 

“We make one cider called Full Montana with all Montana apples,” he said. 

They also use local honey from Columbus for some of their beers, and another called Harvest Beer that is built from hops from around the area.  

“The biggest is the two-row barley that goes into most of our beers, and that is from the Golden Triangle in Great Falls,” said Simpson. 

At Regis Café, owned and run by Judy and Jodie Christensen, (see photo right) the visit was “fantastic.”

“I loved it and I was so proud to show them our produce,” said Judy. “They ate almost everything I handed them and they had breakfast beforehand.”  

Almost every vegetable on the menu at Café Regis is grown in the business’s ample back garden complete with a giant greenhouse. 

“I knew we had everything from our garden but didn’t realize so much,” said Judy. 

“I feel optimistic about what this visit will do for the town and am so pleased with the products we could offer. We can show them this and this,” she said. “It is unique for such a small town. I don’t think it is a fad.” 

Taste our Place is a new program under the Made in Montana brand and seeks to connect ag producers with restaurants and promote establishments serving food made from locally sourced ingredients. 

Next week: More farm to food delights from local restaurants.