Christmas decorations are already up in the stores, and whether we like it or not, the holiday season is here. That means open houses and parties to attend, visitors to entertain, gifts to give.
Which got me thinking: Could you plan a party serving only Montana-made drinks and food? The answer is mostly yes.
Drinks, of course, are easy, with all the beers, ciders and uniquely flavored hard liquors that are made in Missoula and Montana. Coffee and tea? Plenty of choices. Cookies and cakes can be made with Wheat Montana wheat and eggs from Plains or the Mission Mountain Valley.
Instead of dashing in and out of grocery stores lately, I’ve meandered down to the aisles, taking more time to look for those “Made in Montana” and “Grown in Montana” stickers, and I spotted many products I didn’t know about before, or didn’t know I could buy at a grocery store. Montana honeys, beef jerky, ice cream, mustard sauces, chia seeds, steak sauces and even frozen vegetarian “burgers” made with Montana lentils caught my eye.
For me, each of these “Made in Montana” stickers is a tribute to the hard work, ingenuity, creativity and spirit of someone who had a dream and who chooses to live in Montana. I honor these people. When I can, I buy their products to use in my own kitchen, or to give as gifts to others.
I made a long list of the Montana products I ran across as I visited six different grocery stores in Missoula. Orange Street Food Farm, Fresh Market, the Good Food Store and Pattee Creek Market are good places to see Montana products, but all of the stores carry some. The hunt is part of the fun.
Here, I’ve listed just a few of the products that were new to me — or that seemed to have especially tasty possibilities for the holiday gatherings ahead. Tour your grocery too, and ask a manager to point out the Montana products if you don’t see them.
A reminder: The Missoula Valley Winter Market starts Saturday, Nov. 10, and will run through April. Hours are 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturdays, at the Missoula Senior Center, 705 S. Higgins Ave. You can find local products there, too, along with local produce.
Caramel Cookie Waffles, Billings. I found these at Orange Street Food Farm; they’d be great served with fresh fruit and a hot cup of tea or coffee. They are thin waffle-with-caramel cookies — very dense and heavy for their size — that are made at the Dutch Brothers Bakery in Billings. Called “stroopwafels,” they’re a traditional Dutch treat traced back to 1810 and the city of Gouda (Yes, namesake of Gouda cheese) in the Netherlands. According to the bakery’s website, the Montana version has been around since 1981 and follow “a traditional and closely guarded recipe.”
Tandem Doughnuts & Bakery breads, Missoula. This is a small-batch, artisan bakery in Missoula that makes vegan and gluten-free breads. I spotted molasses oat, multigrain and sandwich breads, and English muffins in the frozen section of Orange Street Food Farm, but they’re available at the Good Food Store, Rosauer’s and Pattee Creek Market, too, according to the bakery’s website. French toast made with the company’s molasses oat bread would be delicious.
Pioneer Meats and Redneck sausages, Big Timber and Kalispell, respectively. One or both of these popular sausages are available at many Missoula grocery stores, including national chains. Each company offers an impressive selection of bratwurst and sausages to fit any cooking need: green onion and cheddar cheese, green onion and wild rice, mango-habanero, Italiano Reggiano, and a “Hot Hen” sausage with chicken and pork are just a few. Chunks of these would be great added to soup or pasta, or heated for a quick and easy dinner, served with a crisp, fresh salad.
Plant Perks, Missoula. I first ran across these vegan cream cheese spreads at Missoula’s Clark Fork Farmers Market. Loved them. They are made with cashew milk instead of cow’s milk, and go through a fermentation process much like traditional cheeses do. The small company has already developed 10 flavors: Smoked Provolone, Smoked Gouda, Chive, Pepperjack, Savory Herb, Sharp Cheddar, Dill Havarti, Smoky Black Pepper, Garlic and Herb and Sriracha Cheddar. Their website says they’re available at all Missoula groceries except Albertsons, although that might be in the works. Spread Plant Perks on crackers or bruschetta, top with a slice of fruit or avocado or a fresh sprig of a favorite herb, and you’ve got the tasty beginnings of an hors d’oeuvres plate.
Rabbit’s Pickled Garlic and Roots Kitchen & Cannery Curried Carrot Pickles, Stevensville and Bozeman, respectively. I spotted jars of these products at Lucky’s Market in Missoula, but one or both are available elsewhere, too — for example, retail outlets listed for Rabbit’s Pickled Garlic include the Good Food Store, Fresh Market and Rosauer’s. Rabbit’s garlic comes in five flavors: Smoke, Spicy Dill, Chipotle, Habanero Dill and Hot Habanero. The uses for the garlic are endless: in pasta sauce, soups or rice; sautéed with shrimp; on salads and garlic bread; mashed into potatoes; made into a dip. Find recipes and ideas on Rabbit’s website at rabbitspickledgarlic.com. The Curried Carrot Pickles from Roots Kitchen & Cannery would be something unexpected to add to an appetizer plate; the company has dill, sweet beet and garlic and bread-and-butter pickles, too.
KornUtopia Gourmet Pop Corn, Missoula. You’ll see these displayed at several Missoula groceries; this company has been locally owned and operated since 2005 and has a retail shop of its own on Higgins Avenue. Naturally, they have some of the all-time favorite flavors — butter toffee, caramel, butter pecan — but they also offer some unique combinations, including Snickerdoodle, Huckleberry Cheesecake, Tangleberry and Caramel Apple Crisp. Mix a package of the sweet popcorns with salty snacks — Chex Mix or your own combo of pretzels, crackers and cereals — for a fresh take on the traditional munch bowl.