Road Trip for Food Lovers: Discover Culinary Adventure Around Every Turn
These days, farmers markets are a staple, not an oddity. Even large, chain grocers have incorporated local farm, ranch and dairy products into their offerings — refecting the fact that folks are more interested in eating local and eating right. This desire to support local food has an appeal to travelers too. Kalispell is surrounded by thousands of acres of fertile agricultural land — and is an agritourist’s jackpot. From dairies to roadside Flathead cherry stands, there are several opportunities to dig into the local dirt (literally!) and enjoy the bounty of the region.
Kalispell Kreamery began 35 years ago with the Hedstrom family acquiring their very first milking cow to provide their family with fresh, raw milk. That single cow soon turned to two and now the milking operation is the family’s main business. And business is good. Located in West Valley, Kalispell Kreamery is dedicated to providing the freshest, most natural product to families across Montana. Their milk is pasteurized but not homogenized and left in its natural state as much as possible. Tours of the working dairy run from April to October and include everything from petting baby calves to watching the final product being bottled and labeled. (http://www.kalispellkreamery.com/tours.html)
Purple Frog Gardens is well known in the Kalispell/Whitefish area as a tasty stop along stunning Blanchard Lake — as well as the opportunity to talk politics with proprietor Mike Jopek, a retired Montana legislator and favorite among locals. Mike and his partner, Pam Gerwe, travel the state when they’re not digging in the dirt, educating folks about the importance of local food. Every Wednesday on the farm is volunteer day and an opportunity to weed the onion rows under the shadow of Glacier National Park. There is even good music to pass the time with the children’s music hour, Morning Melodies, every Wednesday morning during the summer months. Or just stop by to pick up a tasty clove of garlic or basket of summer squash. (http://purplefroggardens.org/)
The Campbell family began growing grapes along the western shores of Flathead Lake 33 years ago. Since then, the delicious products of Mission Mountain Winery have become staples across Montana, Idaho and Wyoming. The vineyard is the main source for the winery’s Pinot Nior and Pinot Gris; and the tasting room — with views of the soaring Mission Mountains and aquamarine Flathead Lake — is open seven days a week from 10 a.m. — 5 p.m., May through October. (http://www.missionmountainwinery.com/)
After visiting the winery, loop around to the opposite side of Flathead Lake, where cherry orchards line the East Shore Highway. Stop at roadside fruit stands for baskets of delicious sweet cherries. Many orchards also allow visitors to grab a bucket and pick their own cherries. Flathead cherries are typically ripe from late July to early August.
At the end of your culinary tour, head back to Kalispell for a sit-down tasting at any number of fine Kalispell restaurants serving local cuisine. The 406 Bar and Grill is famous for its Montana-grown grilled lamb chops. If you happen to be in Kalispell on a Saturday morning, don’t miss the Farmers Market on the campus of Flathead Valley Community College — offering locally grown fruit and produce alongside baked goods, jams and jellies, and beautiful arts and crafts.
There are several Kalispell hotels that also incorporate homegrown products into their offerings. The breakfast buffets at the Hilton Garden Inn and Holiday Inn Express offer fresh, locally grown produce; and the Kalispell Grand Hotel even uses Wheat Montana flour in their homemade dog biscuits — who says the dogs don’t appreciate the better things in life too!
The vibrant city of Kalispell is the gateway to Glacier National Park, Flathead Lake, Whitefish and all of the recreation, art, shopping and adventure that northwestern Montana has to offer. Plopped in the center of the Flathead Valley, it’s an easy drive to the park entrance, the art galleries of Bigfork or the water sports mecca of Flathead Lake, and well-equipped with affordable, comfortable lodging, great dining and a range of shopping from one-off boutiques to price-conscious large-format retailers. For more information visit http://www.discoverkalispell.com.
Tags: Agritourism, Flathead cherries, Hilton Garden Inn, Holiday Inn Express, Kalispell Grand Hotel, Kalispell Kreamery, Locovore, Mission Mountain Winery, North Bay Grille, Purple Frog Gardens