Friday, August 27, 2010

A Roundup of Sweet Things in Montana (and Idaho)

Cookie cannonballs me in Flathead Lake

Last weekend Cookie and I took a road trip to Montana to visit our friend Joelf and his family. Joelf, Cookie, and I met our very first day at Willamette and have been fast friends ever since. That's almost 20 years now! My sister calls us a tripod, but I prefer to call us the Stooges.

Joelf has been in the Dominican Republic for several months and has only just recently returned stateside. His family is in western Montana and I haven't been out to visit them in almost 10 years, so I was really looking forward to the trip. Plus, Stooge time! I always look forward to Stooge time.

Western Montana is absolutely gorgeous. We were right at the base of the Rocky Mountains with their granite peaks towering high above the valley floor. Deer bounded through Joelf's family's property and the full moon lit the night like lights in Vegas.

getting goofy
Joelf and Cookie in his backyard. Hello mountains!

We gathered Joelf's two brothers and spent an afternoon at Flathead Lake. We swam, snacked, and socialized. I almost took a nap on the dock. Cookie, Joelf, and his brother Allie swam out to a nearby rock.

circus seals

Huckleberries in Montana are like Marionberries in Oregon. When the season hits, people go crazy for them. Huckleberries are related to blueberries in that the berries are round and have a waxy look. Huckleberries are purple in color and smaller, and when cooked exude a whole lot of juice. Like Marionberries they have a sweet/tart flavor that is uniquely their own. Huckleberry plants like cold alpine air and don't seem to do well in captivity. Hucks grow on Mt Hood here in Oregon but they are hard to find, and people guard their huckleberry patches like they do their morels.

Joelf and his mom made a couple of experimental huckleberry hand pies one night while we were there. Joelf's mom didn't like all the extra work it took to make individual pies and decided to make a traditional two crust pie. Unfortunately I only have a photo of one of the hand pies.

huckleberry hand pie

The crust was nice and flaky, the berries jammy and juicy. Vanilla ice cream, episodes of Glee, and a round of Canasta were perfect accompaniments.

Joelf and his mom told tales of wonderful and huge raised doughnuts in a nearby town that were to die for. The Stooges drove out there one morning only to find that the bakery was closed, and for apparently no good reason. We were robbed! Joelf suggested driving back to his cousin's huckleberry shop where they used to have huckleberry empanadas. But no dice; they stopped baking empanadas years ago. Now what? Joelf told us about a bakery in downtown and without hesitation we piled back into the car and headed out there.

Ronan Cafe' has been around for forty years, but the present owners are a group of Mennonites who bake a mean pie. The cafe was busy with the lunch crowd but we stuck with our original intention of sweets and bought coffee and pie. Joelf chose the triple berry and I ordered the german chocolate cream.

mennonite german chocolate cream pie

Pretty tasty. It was sweet, but a couple cups of coffee helped balance things out nicely.

On the day we left for Portland, (Joelf came with us!) we stopped once more at the doughnut shop (Windmill Village)--we really wanted those doughnuts! This time, the store was open, and there were TWO doughnuts left. Success!!

this donut is huge

Unfortunately I only have shots of the pastries on their own so it is difficult to imagine their size. They were about 4-5 inches across and about 2 inches high. Now that's a doughnut! Mine seems to be drowning in glaze.

seriously glazed and raised

These doughnuts had a slightly tangy flavor and were chewy like a raised doughnut but dense like a cake doughnut. It was fantastic.

We headed west, and after a couple of hours were were in Northern Idaho. I used to come to N. Idaho yearly for camping and vision quests outside of Cataldo. We would be out camping for about a week, and at least twice people would sneak off to get huckleberry milkshakes in nearby Pinehurst. I say sneak off as if it was a secret and forbidden mission, but really everybody knew when anybody was going, and the rest of us would press cash into their hands along with our orders. I convinced Joelf and Cookie to stop by The Tall Pine so we could see if their milkshakes were still as rich and thick as I remembered.

still worth sneaking out for

Which they are. So good. No fake fruit flavoring here; little chunks of huckleberry created some textural interest, and contributed big berry flavor. Delicious!

After our milkshakes we said our goodbyes to Montana and Idaho, and turned our faces west and south towards Portland and a week of urban adventures with the Stooges. More to come!


  1. Wow, that scenery is just gorgeous!! One of these days I'll have to visit the Northwest. I've been to California but never north of that. Can't wait...

  2. Your 3 stooges sound like my fantastic 4 - with over 20+ years of friendship between us.

    I'm glad that your friendships are just as tight... friends are like whip cream on a sunday, it may work without it, but its so much better with it.

  3. Your mini vacation sounds wonderful!
    I remember days in Oregon being able to swim in the mountain lakes. Your lake looks just like one of them. So much fun and the perfect summer day with friends.
    I love that your friends have a 'bakery goods' tooth! The huckleberry pies and shakes look delicious. Yum-MEE! Love those huckleberries.

  4. "The crust was nice and flaky, the berries jammy and juicy." This is the best description of berry pie I've ever heard. What a great trip. Very jealous of that milkshake and donut!

  5. Hanaa, hope you get to make it out west sometime soon!

    Monica, I love that you have a fantastic four! Your whip cream analogy is perfect.

    Melinda, there was one summer when my friend Regenia and were obsessed with finding good swimming lakes on Mt Hood. We didn't have too much success but we know there are good ones out there!!

    Vicki, thank you! Hopefully someday you'll be able to try the milkshake and donut for yourself!

  6. Anonymous28/8/10 15:56

    Looks like a fun trip :) I've never had a huckleberry, the pie and shake look yum. and joelfre's back yard is gorgeous.


  7. annamaria, joelf's montana home is worth a trip someday. plus, hanging with his family is fun!

  8. We did have a great time! I love it when the Cookie and ECL hang out with me and my family. This was especially exciting since they have never been in Montana together before.

    We will definitely get you some hucks when you get back to The States, Maryanne. I will try to keep some stocked in ECL's fridge in case you can't make it to Montana.