Very Tasty Times Part 3

Food for thought as Red Lodge soars
Alastair Baker
News Editor
Thursday, November 8, 2018
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Photos by Carmen Levick
The Carbon County Steakhouse served a Cowboy Coffee Rib Eye, a 14oz. cut seasoned with a touch of coffee rub then finished with a coffee and rum demi glace.

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Wild Table served up its in-house smoked trout ("Montana lox") and roasted baby squash with blossoms, feta cheese, zataar vinaigrette. The restaurant’s suppliers include Shoshone River Farm, Jacqueline at the old flower farm, and Montana suppliers.

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‘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. Just recently the Department of Commerce came through Red Lodge to promote the program and to sample and experience the Foodie Revolution taking place. Here are the final two restaurants they visited, The Wild Table and Carbon County Steakhouse. 

As the food tour of Red Lodge wound down Jan Stoddard, Bureau Chief, Industry Services & Outreach, with the Dept. of Commerce, commented on how “Wonderful it is to see people talk about their passions.”

Stoddard was referring to the restaurant owners visited and “the stories from them and managers, and even chefs, of how they leveraged their vision for incorporating healthy Montana ingredients into a successful business.”

“Their determination is so admirable,” said Stoddard.

At Carbon County Steakhouse Stoddard was impressed by “an incredible coffee rubbed steak” that is the restaurant’s signature dish since its inception nearly 20 years ago. 

Bonnie Ples, General Manager of Carbon County Steakhouse, said, “That’s our Cowboy Coffee Rib Eye, a 14oz. cut seasoned with a touch of coffee rub then finished with a coffee and rum demi glace.”  

Ples talked of the owner Tom Kuntz being aware of local produce almost 20 years  before the present interest when he’d get his steaks from the Lazy EL Ranch.

Now the restaurant carries beef and pork from Gallagher Natural Beef of Clark, Wyoming and Shoshone River Farm in Cody, Wyoming.  The business also gets a lot of herbs from Sysco via a farm in Laurel.

“Even as larger distribution goes, we are able to get produce locally and fresh,” said Ples who thought the visit was “excellent.”

“Sherry Weamer (Exec Dir. of the Red Lodge Chamber of Commerce) did a great job getting us to be a part of this,” said Ples. 

Sheena Ernst, owner of Wild Table, was equally buoyed up by the visit.  

“This was an excellent visit planned by the Chamber. I think it is good for my business, for the local producers and for Montana by bringing awareness to what individuals are trying to do by sourcing locally, keeping business within the state and taking advantage of the wonderful products we have here,” said Ernst.

“I hope it continues to grow and blossom,” said Ples of the foodie wave. “I’m excited about the enthusiasm, and excited to see the community on board and it does take more than one restaurant to push that out there, you need a unified force pushing for Red Lodge's economy.”

“I hope it draws people from Billings and Cody and from elsewhere to experience our food scene,” said Weamer. “Bringing in the ag component and making their lives easier by creating these hubs they are talking about will produce some action from it. It’ll keep Red Lodge out there. We have a lot of talent in town.” 

Red Lodge Mayor Bill Larson added it is “a great tribute to our Chamber and CVB to get those people here.” 

“When you see our restaurant owners shopping at the farmer’s market it is a real tribute to our restaurants,” said. 

“From our experience, we felt that community members were embracing new restaurants and new food offerings. During our tour of local restaurants, we would always find a mix of locals and visitors,” said Stoddard.  “In talking with Red Lodge residents, we found an overwhelming support for these new restaurants.”

“Red Lodge sounds like a place you can come home to,” said Stoddard. 

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.