At restaurants from Yellowtone to Missoula to Sheridan, creative chefs are turning to local farmers for superfresh ingredients.
"Know your farmer" urges a popular bumper sticker, and for Jason and Emily Corbridge, owners of Café DeCamp in Billings, Mont., those words are gospel. Jason, the chef, says he’s on a first-name basis with some 40 farmers.
The meat for his lamb burgers comes from Lehfeldt Ranch in Lavina and from Pioneer Meats in Big Timber. He adds dried mint to the grind, then tops each grilled patty with dried apple rings, local bacon, feta cheese, and arugula. All this is heaped on Grains of Montana ciabatta slices spread with honey-garlic aioli and cucumber-coriander syrup. Hand-cut yam chips are piled on the side.
“Even before it comes through the back door, every piece of your meal has care and consideration in it,” Jason says. “It really matters where food comes from and how it was treated.” (406) 256-7285, cafedecamp.com.
For seven more restaurants serving local eats in Montana and Wyoming, read on.
- When Morgan Milton, executive chef at Chico Hot Springs in Pray, Mont., needs organic herbs, vegetables, or edible flowers, he plucks them from the resort’s garden or year-round geothermal greenhouse. Mushroom pickers show up at the kitchen’s back door with bags of fresh morels, which he adds to specials such as risotto served with roasted root vegetables and braised chard.(406) 333-4933, chicohotsprings.com.
- Margaret Corcoran, owner of Benny’s Bistro in Helena, Mont., buys poultry from Milford Colony, a Hutterite community at nearby Wolf Creek, and serves an unexpected chicken Wellington: chicken breast, prosciutto, and tarragon-apple stuffing in puff pastry with brandy cream sauce and seasonal vegetables.(406) 443-0105, bennysbistro.com.
- At Pescado Blanco in Whitefish, Mont., chef-owner David Lewis sits down with Jason Mahlen of Lower Valley Processing to customize the fat percentage and grind size of his elk chorizo before the seasoning is added. Try the chorizo mixed with caramelized onions, cremini mushrooms, and roasted sweet chiles and served with corn tortillas, cheese, baby arugula, and Mexican crema. (406) 862-3290, pescadoblanco.com.
- Sola Café in Bozeman, Mont., serves locally inspired breakfasts, lunches, and dinners. One small plate features organic Amaltheia Dairy goat cheese baked until golden and then drizzled with lavender and thyme honey and served with grilled bread and preserved lemons.(406) 922-7652, solacafe.com.
- “Flour for our crusts comes from Montana Flour & Grains in Fort Benton,” says Bob Marshall, owner of Biga Pizza in Missoula, Mont. “It’s organic, and I deal with them directly.” Marshall runs weekly specials inspired by what’s available: wild mushrooms, beef short ribs, dried chiles, shallots, apples. His Flathead cherry pizza, a menu staple, includes house-made sausage, cherry chutney, and smoked Gouda. (406) 728-2579, bigapizza.com.
- Menus at the Obsidian Dining Room at Yellowstone National Park’s Old Faithful Snow Lodge feature over three dozen sustainable items, including bison short ribs braised in Moose Drool ale with buttermilk mashed potatoes and seasonal vegetables. Xanterra, the concessionaire, is also pursuing “back of house” green practices, such as burning some of the park’s 10,000 gallons of used cooking oil to heat lodges in winter. (307) 344-7901. yellowstonenationalparklodges.com.
- At Lulu’s Cafe in Sheridan, Wyo., soups such as fresh corn, yam and herb chowder, and free-range chicken chili with local tomatoes are specialties. “In summer, we grow herbs in the front yard,” says owner Lynn Sedar. “During winter, we grow them at each table, nipping and picking as needed, even while people are eating. They love it.” (307) 674-5858, luluscafewyo.com.
This article was first published in July 2011. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.