Picnic in Wilbur, Washington
We recently returned from yet another great road trip to Montana. We’re not big meat eaters, so dining out is always a challenge in the interior West. As an alternative (and an economical one too), we ate a lot of picnics on the road.
A windy picnic along Highway 12, between Miles City and Baker, Montana
Here’s what we were eating (along with some dust):
The multi-grain bread, from a bakery in Miles City, Montana, was terrific
Our picnics were pretty basic: bread and cheese, sometimes some green onions, cucumber or carrots, and fresh fruit. But they were good and relatively healthy. The challenge was to find good bread and fruit. In light of that, I came up with a couple of rules for the road:
1. Never pass up a good bakery (you may need to search for one)
Le Petit Outre bakery, Missoula, Montana
Focaccia from Missoula made a great accompaniment to salad in our motel room in Davenport, Wash. on the return trip.
2. Never pass up a fruit stand or farmers’ market.
A great fruit stand in orchard country, Orondo, Washington
Missoula has a wonderful farmers' market on Saturdays. My friend Kathy also recommends the Livingston farmers' market on Wednesday afternoons.
I did a lot less cooking than last year’s motel cooking extravaganza, but I still brought along the important supplies: electric tea kettle, cutting board, knife, can opener, lemon reamer, bulgur, olive oil and salt, which resulted in some nice salad dressings (my basic lemon, olive oil and salt dressing is good on nearly everything) and a couple of bulgur-vegetable salads.
Bulgur salad with plenty of vegetables (along with bread from Anjou Bakery in Cashmere, Wash.) was a good change from the bread & cheese combo.
Our picnics often took place outside a motel room.
Beer before dinner at the Stardust Motel in Wallace, Idaho
I put together this meal of bulgur salad and tuna in the "rustic" Highlander Motel in White Sulfur Springs (W.S.S.), Montana.
We tried eating outside the motel room, until the mosquitoes emerged.
As for eating out, a couple times we indulged in a milk shake as a meal replacement.
Chocolate-espresso shake at Butterfly Herb, Missoula
Steve particularly likes going out to breakfast, but after some disappointing breakfasts at promising-looking cafes, I came up with a guideline for telling when a place might be most likely to fulfill that promise: If a cafe offers hash browns or home fries made from scratch, rather than slabs of processed frozen spuds, there’s a better chance of a good breakfast.
(Apparently the phrase “home cooking” these days includes a lot of processed foods, so it’s not a good indicator.)
The Dizzy Diner in Terry, Montana, used frozen hash browns, but Steve liked his breakfast anyway. I only had a cup of coffee here.
The Corner Cafe in Creston, Washington, makes their hash browns from scratch. I complimented the cook.
In regard to breakfast, another aspect that helped me out was bringing along a good stash of homemade granola.
On the way home, we stopped again at that fruit stand in Orondo, Wash.
We bought cherries and apricots. And honey.
Breakfast at home the next day was mighty good too!
p.s. Some places it’s easier to find good picnic food — I really like this post about picnics in Europe.