A Taste of the Flathead Valley

Kalispell and Whitefish events to highlight local culinary chops

By Molly Priddy

As most residents know and many tourists quickly find out, the Flathead Valley is home to a plethora of culinary delights, ranging from the traditional to the exotic, comfort food and daring dishes coexisting in Northwest Montana.

But tasting all of the morsels the Flathead has to offer can be a challenging task, both in terms of time and money, for any dedicated foodie. With that in mind, Kalispell and Whitefish have an answer: one evening in each city with bites and glimpses of the menu offered here, all for one price at each event.

The 27th annual Taste of Whitefish hits the town on Sept. 4, and the fifth annual Taste of Kalispell takes place Sept. 6; two evenings offering samples from more than 30 restaurants between the two events, as well as beer, wine and spirits.

It’s a nice way to learn about the various menu items in town, said Kalispell Downtown Association coordinator Pam Carbonari.

“It’s a family-fun event to taste all the great foods that we have to offer here in the Flathead Valley, and after Labor Day, nice to get out and be able to socialize and visit with neighbors,” she said.

In Kalispell, proceeds from the Sept. 6 event go toward funding the Museum at Central School. The museum also hosts the evening on its lawn in downtown Kalispell, with shade, grass and live music from the Fetveit Brothers to keep it comfortable.

The Kalispell event will include samples from: The Blue Canyon; North Bay Grille; Brannigan’s Irish Pub; Colter Coffee Roasters; the Marina Cay Resort; Sykes; Split Rock Café; The Knead Café; John’s Angels Catering; Stillwater Fish House; Brix Bottleshop; Scottibelli’s Ristorante Italiano; Tree Frog Tavern; Acqua Pazza; The Kila Pub; and The Southern Skillet.

With one entry fee – tickets are $25 for adults, $20 seniors (65 and over), $10 youth 11-14, and kids 10 and under are free – participants can visit as many booths as they want, as many times as they want, testing out the offerings.

There will also be beer and wine samplings, Carbonari said, from the Kalispell Brewing Company, Glacier Sun Winery and Mission Mountain Winery, and beer and wine will also be available for purchase by the glass.

Carbonari said that in the past four years, Taste of Kalispell has garnered about $40,000 for the Museum at Central School, and it is not showing signs of slowing down. Participating vendors had asked to have the event in September so they could join in without also dealing with the crush of the summer crowd at their businesses, she said.

There is also a kid zone at the event, which will include face painting, rock climbing and a trampoline.

For more information, visit www.downtownkalispell.com.

Up north, the Taste of Whitefish is a tried and true event, with more than a quarter century under its belt. Sarah Stewart of the Whitefish Chamber of Commerce said the community has grown to expect a great event, with exciting food and drink selections.

“People like to eat and people like to be able to taste a whole bunch of different restaurants and decide where they want to spend their money after they taste,” Stewart said.

This year, the participating vendor list totals more than 20, with newcomers and mainstays offering their wares.

It will include: Boat Club – Lodge at Whitefish Lake; Casey’s Pub & Grill; Ciao Mambo; Cooper’s Restaurant; Craggy Range Bar & Grill; The Cuisine Machine; Fun Beverage, Inc.; Genesis Kitchen; Glacier Distilling Company; Glacier Sun Winery; Great Northern Brewing Co.; Latitude 48; MacKenzie River Pizza Co.; Montana Coffee Traders; Montana Olive Oil, Inc.; North Valley Hospital; Piggyback Barbeque; Pin & Cue, Inc.; Subway Sandwich Shop; Sweet Peaks Ice Cream; Swift Creek Café; and Wasabi Sushi Bar.

Vendors have also supported the event over the years, Stewart said, and usually make room in their busy end-of-summer schedules to participate. Next year, the event may be moved to later in the fall or even spring to accommodate more people who would like to be involved, she said.

Proceeds from Taste of Whitefish go toward the Whitefish chamber, and tickets are $40 in advance or $45 at the door. Stewart said there were a few gate tickets available last year, but advised attendees to buy theirs in advance at the chamber because the event sells out.

“It starts at 5:30 it’s probably best to not wait until 5-to-8 to come,” she said. “It’s very popular, and people are usually lining up at the gate.”

For more information, visit www.whitefishchamber.org or call 406-862-3501.

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