The snow, the cheese, and the big sky of Montana

As you might remember, we spent the week of Thanksgiving in Montana where a large part of C’s family lives.

We were eager to see family, mountains, the big open sky, and hopefully some fresh snow. It had been six years since the last time I had visited. I missed the vast land and wilderness.

“I cannot wait to see snow” repeated Jon over and over again the days before our departure. He had only seen snow once up to that point, but he was too young to remember. I couldn’t wait to see his face once he felt snow in his hands. There were plans for sledding, snowman building, and definitely some snowball fighting.

On my agenda was also a visit to Amaltheia Dairy, which is an organic goat farm in Bozeman where they also make incredible cheese from their goat’s milk. I couldn’t wait for this one.

We could see the snow from the sky as we were making our final descent into the Helena airport. A sheet of white covered mountains, fields, and trees. Just as we had wished for, it had snowed all night leaving us with blue skies and fresh fluffy snow.

I had forgotten how dry and cold Montana can be, but quickly it all came back as soon as we stepped outside the terminal. “13 degrees” the thermometer in the car read at 1 o’clock in the afternoon.

It was amazing. Bright blue skies and fresh snow.

“I want to go sledding” Jon said as soon as we arrived at uncle Lane’s house.

Tucked away at the bottom of the hill sits Lane and Janet’s house. Surrounded by trees and a spectacular view, deer often times come up to their front door.

We wasted no time. Up and down that hill Jon went for an hour straight. Nothing but belly laughs and “let’s do it again.”

We spent time with C’s parents who helped the children make their first ever snowman. It was exciting for sure.

We spent our days visiting family and relaxing in the snow. Nothing feels better than the warm reflection of the sun in the snow. I took it all in.

Lane, the avid hunter he is, prepared many meals of wild game. I accompanied him in the kitchen cooking side dishes of risotto, soups, and even a couple of tarts. I love their open and spacious kitchen where we all gathered. Even C’s uncle Loren and aunt Jan came all the way from Washington to spend time with us. They told old family stories and we listened while sipping hot chocolate next to the wood-burning stove.

There was hot chocolate every single night.

One of the highlights of the trip for me personally was to be able to visit Amaltheia Dairy farm. The farm is nestled at the base of the Bridger Mountains outside of Bozeman. Melvin and Sue Brown along with their son Nathan, operate the organic goat farm where they make different varieties of cheese from their goats’ milk. They also raise beautiful pigs and in the summer sell organic heirloom tomatoes and other produce.

We were greeted by Nathan who took us to see how Melvin milked the goats. Such labor and time goes into it as no more than six goats are milked at a time. The place was quiet and peaceful. I could tell the animals were happy there.

Jon and Miren were taken by the pigs, particularly the newborns who did not stop eating the entire time we were there. We fed the goats and the lamas and simply observed them as they roamed freely.

I asked Melvin a million questions as I am fascinated by the life on the farm. He was passionate about their mission and very involved in the community and schools. Once again, I felt inspired by a simple life – not always easy, of course, yet wholesome and grounded.

From the farm, we drove a couple of miles down the road to their cheese-making facility where everything is made in small batches and packed by hand. Melvin told us about his adventures all over the world and his upbringing in rural England. We discussed food practices and explained to us ways in which we can support small farm operations.

We sampled their organic Gouda, feta, Perigord black-truffle chevre, and ricotta. Intense and delicious. “This so good” Jon shouted. He ate slice after slice until there was no more to cut. A good sign if there is any.

We were lucky enough to part with a small assortment of cheeses that Melvin was kind enough to share.

I carried the cheeses with me on the plane and I guarded them as if they were my children.

I couldn’t wait to cook with them.

As soon as we returned home, I made this shiitake and black-truffle chevre tart that everyone loved. Shiitake mushrooms cooked with leeks and garlic and baked in an herb crust with fragrant black truffle chevre and thin slices of purple potatoes. It was crispy and creamy and made a perfect lunch with a green salad.

Also enjoyed a winter salad with red kale, celeriac, Asian pears, hazelnuts and crumbled feta all dressed with a lemon vinaigrette. Sweet and salty.

It was such a magical time for our family. A great way to reconnect with those we love and be close to nature once again.

And any excuse is a good one for a snowball fight, isn’t it? We seem to think so.

Shiitake and Purple Potato Tart

makes a 9-inch tart

Tart crust

2/3 cups (90 g) superfine brown rice flour
1/3 cup (45 g) quinoa flour
1/4 cup (40 g) potato starch
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon chopped rosemary
1 teaspoon thyme leaves
8 tablespoons (110 g) cold unsalted butter, diced
6 to 8 tablespoons (90 to 125 ml) ice water

Combine the first seven ingredients in the food processor and pulse a couple of times to aerate. Add the cold diced butter and pulse until butter is the size of peas. Add the ice water and pulse to combine. Press the dough between your fingers and if it comes together, it is ready. Add more ice water, one tablespoon at a time, if needed.

Turn the dough onto your work surface and form into a disk. Chill the dough for 30 minutes.

Dust your work surface and rolling pin with superfine brown rice flour. Roll the dough to 1/8-inch thickness. Fill tart pan with the dough. Trim excess. Chill the tart crust for another 30 minutes.

Shiitake and purple potato filling

2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for brushing potatoes
1 small leek, diced
8 ounces (110 g) shiitakes, sliced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 teaspoon salt, plus more for topping
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
2 eggs
1/4 cup unsweetened coconut milk (canned)
2 ounces (60 g) black-truffle chevre or any other soft goat cheese you prefer
2 small purple potatoes, thinly sliced

Preheat oven to 375F (190C).

In a medium saute pan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the leeks and cook for 5 minutes or until soft. Add the shiitakes, garlic, salt, and pepper. Cook for 5 minutes until tender stirring occasionally. Add the parsley and stir. Remove pan from heat and let filling cool.

In a small bowl, whisk together the egg and coconut milk.

Spread the cooled filling and the goat cheese over the tart crust. Pour the egg mixture and spread evenly. Top with sliced purple potatoes. Brush the tops with a bit of olive oil and sprinkle a pinch of salt over them.

Bake the tart for 30 to 40 minutes until golden. Let the tart cool for 15 minute before cutting.

Winter Red Kale and Asian Pear Salad

serves 4

1 head of red kale, washed and chopped
2 Asian pears, cored and thinly sliced
1 medium watermelon radish, thinly sliced
1/2 medium celeriac, peeled and thinly julienned
2 ounces (60 g) goat feta, crumbled
1/2 cup toasted hazelnuts, chopped
Microgreens (pea tendrils, sorrel, kale, etc)
1/3 cup (80 ml) olive oil
2 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoons red wine vinegar
Large pinch salt
ground pink peppercorns

Toss all ingredients together in a large bowl. Let the lemon juice and vinegar macerate the kale slightly, about 5 minutes. Serve.

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99 Responses to “The snow, the cheese, and the big sky of Montana”

  1. Nicole says:

    Unbelievably stunning, Aran. I’m pretty much speechless.

  2. Sitting in my warm bedroom after spending a night out in this bitter cold that Colorado is sharing with Wyoming right now; I needed a reminder of why I really love this part of the country; it is so beautiful. I had friends from Bozeman when our children were small; going there was like going back in time. And it was good to do that for awhile. Gorgeous photos of this land I love.

  3. Celeste says:

    I don’t think I’ve ever really wanted to go to Montana up until this post. Snowy meadows, hot chocolate, goat cheese, general bliss? Yes, please.

  4. Misti says:

    So much to soak up in this post, beautiful photos, the outdoors and the food…mmm!

    Did I spy watermelon radishes in the salad?

  5. What a beautiful landscape! I wish it snowed here in Puerto Rico. Will be moving to FL in a month but it doesn’t snow there either. Can’t catch a break!

  6. Maria says:

    Love Montana and have some great friends from Butte there also. Thanks for sharing the images of your week!

  7. Y says:

    Gosh, what a perfect way to spend Thanksgiving. I must try your tart crust recipe one day by the way. Keen to try more gluten free baking.

  8. Cindy says:

    I love these shots! some of them remind me of where my mom lives in Nevada. Looks like you had a wonderful time, you cannot beat a first-ever snow!

  9. Ashley says:

    Oh Aran! This is magical. Beautiful all around.

  10. Winnie says:

    I love so many things in this post, Aran, but a few stand out: the pink puffy coat, the pigs, that butternut squash (?) soup…ah. So lovely.

  11. Nicole says:

    I have only been to Montana once, but every time I see photos I want to return. Maybe in the springtime as I would love to take my bike and ride the back roads forever! Beautiful post as always.

  12. Rebecca says:

    What amazing pictures! I absolutely love Montana. One of the world’s most beautiful places. And I know what you mean about the blue sky. I’ve always said “you’ve never truly seen the color blue until you’ve looked up at the sky in Montana or Colorado.” Simply beautiful.

  13. Maia says:

    What a lovely experience for you and your family. I have only ever been to Montana in summer. (A few years ago, I drove from Los Angeles to Banff, Canada; Billings, Montana was one of our stops.) It’s such a majestic place. I can only imagine it during the stillness of winter.

    The Asian Pear salad sounds modern and crisp. Thanks for the recipe!

  14. Joy says:

    Montana is crazy beautiful!

  15. Jen says:

    Beautiful pictures as always. I have family in Montana and the last time I went there for Christmas I was a little kid. Thanks for the recipes. The tart looks amazing!

  16. Juliana says:

    Montana is pretty in the summer, but it’s breathtakingly beautiful in winter!

  17. Kae says:

    I had to stop at each picture and just stare for a good five minutes Montana is absolutely breathtaking. You showcased it so beautifully. I NEED to go there!

  18. jacqui says:

    I absolutely love Montana! Every time I visit I plot a way to stay longer. There is so much beauty there!

  19. Amazing and dreamlike landscapes! What a beautiful place. I love goats and pigs. That tart is so unique and the salad slooks wonderful.



  20. Zita says:


    After looking and reading through your so-so wonderful post I fell in love with snow. I loved snow but I love it even more now. I can make hot chocolate at home if there will be snowing in Hungary this winter but the only thing I will miss badly is a fireplace! :)

    Thanks for sharing this beautiful family experience with us!

  21. Guzurretakoa emoten deu…edurra, txokolate beroa gauero, paisaia ederrak…kontetan dozun moduen, joateko gogoa emoten deu jeje

  22. Un lugar espectacular y maravilloso al igual que las fotografías, son divinas! Una preciosidad de reportaje y una receta riquísima.


  23. breathtaking photographs! congrats!

  24. Rossella says:

    I fell in love with your pics.
    Snow!!! Winter!!!
    It seems quite impossible here in Rome.

  25. Misti- yes those are watermelon radishes indeed!

    Thank you everyone for your kind words. Montana is such a special place for our family. Glad I was able to transport you there with me. :)

    Thank you!

  26. The beautiful landscape? The soft snow? The family time? Nature? Animals? Great food? I could go on but this is clearly perfection!

  27. Meg says:

    All of these photos are just phenomenal. You are justly showing the charm of winter!!

  28. I’m sitting in sunny Dubai right now but I can almost feel the snowflakes falling on my nose with this post. Thanks for transporting me to a winter wonderland. It all looks so beautiful :)

  29. Maja says:

    Unbelievably stunning, Aran. Everything looks so delicious!

  30. Elisabeth says:

    I have been reading your blog every now and then, but I don’t think I ever left a comment. So now is the time.

    I love the photos! The organic farm sounds exiting and interesting. Maybe I’ll go to an organic farm myself someday :)

    Here in Norway, we have snow every winter. Some places it can be several meters snow on the ground. Winter is beautiful, there is this special light that I like.

    Have a nice day :)

  31. Wow, stunning post Aran! I haven’t seen so much beauty together in a long time.

  32. Charis says:

    Your photographs are absolutely beautiful… & my goodness don’t I just want it to snow already?!

  33. Enchanting, from landscape and vegetation to fruit, soup and tarts. Magical :)

  34. What a gorgeous post…the world is full of such beautiful places — thanks for bringing a bit of Montana to my living room here in Maine. Hot chocolate every night, and these delicious recipes? Sounds like a dream.

  35. Lauren- well Maine is not a bad place to be either :) I can’t wait to make it there. Soon I hope.

    Thank you everyone!

  36. Tricia says:

    Oh, it’s so beautiful there. You got some great shots. My parents took my kids to a dude ranch in Montana two summers ago and the absolutely loved it.

    I’m always love those patterned spoons in your photographs, can I asks where you got them? :)

  37. Tricia- I got the spoons at Printemps in Paris. Thanks!

  38. beautiful aran. such a special time.

  39. Miss Milky says:

    Your family is lucky to have you :-) this post is grat, everythings are full of poetry…

  40. this looks like such a winter wonderland! Lovely pictures

  41. KELLY says:

    So so pretty. Your talent boggles the mind.

  42. I’ve only lived a few hours from Montana most of my life and never before has it looked so beautiful to me! It is a beautiful place–I forget that. :)

    Gorgeous pictures! So wonderful that you were able to travel there. The goat cheese sounds fantastic. I might have to drive up there just to visit and have some cheese.

    (p.s. I made your pear and hazelnut tart with the chocolate crust for Thanksgiving and it was a huge hit. Absolutely delicious!)

  43. Gorgeous pictures, congrats! it really is like poetry for the eyes

  44. Montana looks amazing,and I do miss snow also.I would love to visit organic farm,great!!

  45. I love your collages…what program do you use to create them?

  46. Just beautiful! I love the contrast of the reds and blues on the white, white snow. Can I go for a visit?

  47. Wow, look at that! Gorgeous!! It’s been a couple of years since I’ve been to Montana and it’s good to revisit those vistas.

  48. I love this post! Montana is an amazing place and your photos capture its beauty so eloquently. My brother just moved to Helena and seeing the land, animals and food reminded me of him. Thank you for sharing. Warm heart, happy heart from seeing this. Honestly, that happens every time I get a blog post from you! Merci!

  49. Shelby says:

    What an extraordinary post!!! Perhaps one of my favorites to date.. Your photography is simply captivating, words true and recipes mouthwatering.. Thank you for this glimpse of winter magic. I loved it!

  50. Heather says:

    So fun to see MT on your blog. I’m a Montana native and live in the NW part of the big state, but a lot of my family is in Bozeman and it’s like another hometown to me, so we go there to visit often. I can’t believe, with how often I’m there, I’ve never gone to that dairy…and I love goats cheese and local foods!!
    Your winter photos are beautiful. And yep meals of wild game, soups, hot chocolate, sledding, skiing, getting firewood, and playing in the snow pretty much sums up life here for most of the year. :)

  51. Jurgita says:

    Yep, winter. A special time of year – you know, I can smell Christmas in the air looking at your pics :)

  52. heather- you should definitely go visit Amaltheia. What a great place and the Browns are so hospitable and welcoming. They sell their cheeses in many local shops and restaurants so I am sure you have eaten them at one point you just weren’t aware of it. :) Lucky you get to live in such a beautiful spot of this country.

    Thank you!

  53. Jessica- I forgot to answer your question. I use photoshop for the collages. Thanks!

  54. Chez Us says:

    Happy Belated Thanksgiving. Oh, how I am missing our Thanksgiving in Montana. This was the first year we weren’t up there – very sad, and very different. Love the high country; more stars than I have ever seen. Lovely post, thank you for sharing a special time.

    ~ Denise

  55. Angela KL says:

    Lovely post Aran.. all the beautiful pictures and the stories you tell. You know what’s amazing.. it felt like reading I was reading National Geographic cyberspace style. Truly wonderful that I am able to do that anytime of the day and what with so many great photographers and writers out there.. great photographers and writers like you. Thanks Aran. I can imagine how the children must have enjoyed themselves. The child in me did too!

  56. LOVED this post; your pictures are amazing and I love the scenery!
    Happy Holidays.

  57. Anniina says:

    What great photos! For some time already I’ve had this urge to visit Montana. I don’t know why, but I want to do it. Too bad Finland is so far away..

  58. sefika says:

    All the photots are amazing. I love this post. thanks a lot.

  59. Carla says:

    I have just been introduced to your blog absolutely stunning.
    I so enjoyed my journey into Montana thank you and the scrumptious goats cheese tart has my tummy rumbling!!
    Carla x

  60. Valeria says:

    I arrived here through Txakusine, “herrimina”z…, and I loooooove it. Your photos always make me feel as the world is still worth.

  61. Valeria- thanks for telling me about Txakusine. Wow… What a blog. It has all te elements I love. Wonderful. Eskerrik asko :)

    Thanks all!!

  62. GG says:

    What stunning pictures, they capture the light of a snowy day beautifully. It all looks wonderful. GG

  63. Kelly says:

    What a beautiful post. I have family in Bozeman. I was thinking of taking a trip next year, it’s been a while since I’ve visited-after seeing all your wonderful pictures I think a visit is overdue.

  64. Shiitake and purple mushroom tart?? fabulous. love it. youve turned these humble veggies into such a lovely treat. the photos seem to put the viewer right into its winter wonderland escapism. the trees with the red could line my house if they want! xx

  65. Alessia says:

    it really gives the feeling to be there with you..

  66. Mirage says:

    Such great photos! I’m not so positive about winter but seeing this post makes me do!

  67. Madelief says:

    Just Magical photographs!

    Madelief x

  68. a. maren says:

    reminds me of my home out west. thanks so much for such a lovely post, a pleasure to read.

  69. Looks magical… and the tart recipe sounds tasty. But I want to know what is in those cups at the beginning of your post.. is that hot chocolate?

  70. hello :) i just want to ask you, what type of camera you use?

  71. Run fast travel slow- yes that is hot chocolate. We have been drinking lots of it around here. It’s spiced.

    Petitefleur- I shoot with a canon 5d.

    Thanks all!!

  72. Wow, what a winter feast this post was! Thank you, thank you, thank you! We don’t have snow where I live, and I miss it and the cold and the cozy nature of all things winter.


  73. Such wonderfully beautiful photos. I grew up not far from there, and your post made me remember how much I love home. Thank you.

  74. wow that’s some post! amazing land and sky, snow and animals as well as food :-} Nice to meet you.

    Do come say hi if you feel the urge.

    HUGS Lorraine

  75. ¡Unas fotos preciosas!, me ha encantado el post.
    besos desde Canarias

  76. Jennifer says:

    Aran, such a gorgeous post. Just love looking at your photographs. Montana in the winter is definitely on my travel wish list now!

  77. Lia says:

    I am daydreaming over here!

  78. Your photos are gorgeous -it’s like a mini-break from my desk! And as always, your food looks delish! Thanks for inspiring!

  79. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this post about Amaltheia dairy and your time in Montana. I live in Montana and purchase Amaltheia cheese religiously. Thank you for your support for the local farms and as always, stunning photography!

  80. Ana says:

    Hola Aran, las fotos son maravillosas, pero quisiera comentarte algo, cuando intento leer las recetas en este nuevo formato, todo seguido, me resulta bastante mas complicado que antes seguirlas, si se aceptan sugerencias me gustaba mas antes, aunque eso si, las fotos y los paisajes son cada vez mas impresionantes, un saludo desde Alava.

  81. Ana- agradezco la sugerencia. gracias,. Pero no se a que formato anterior te refieres. Sigo publicando las recetas de la misma manera, espaciando entre puntos. Me lo explicas por favor? Gracias.

    Thanks all!

  82. Silvie says:

    Ze poliiita!!! Eta hainbeste elur! Inbidia sortzen dit, nik ere nahi dut hemen!
    Elurrrik gabeko Alemaniatik eskumuinak ;-)

  83. I dream of being able to experience winter in that degree… such a beautiful spread of white throughout.

  84. Anonymous says:

    This has to be one of my favorite posts…it truly feels like winter wonderland…i wish we had snow here…it never does…not like these picture anyway…the smiles on your children faces says it all!!!

  85. Ilke says:

    Oh how I miss the snow!!! It looks like a quiet place. Would love to retreat to a place like that for a while.

  86. Wow! Your photos are just lovely!

  87. emiglia says:

    I am in awe. What lovely pictures… that Montana scenery is breathtaking!

  88. Love this post! Your pictures are absolutely beautiful! Check out my blog at, I would really appreciate if you followed me as well!

  89. Liberty says:

    J’adore ton blog il est très beau, tes photos sont magnifique vraiment je suis fans !

  90. So beautiful! I made the salad last night and it was delicious. Making the tart now. If it’s okay with you, I’d love to write about it on my blog,, and would of course cite you. Please let me know if that’s alright – thanks!

  91. Sheila- Yes of course and I hope you liked them both!


  92. Steffi says:

    Really really cute website with many beautiful pictures and yummy recipes! ..just a little bit too much scrolling to do!

  93. […] makes a 12-inch tart // adapted from cannelle et vanille […]

  94. Mary Ansotegui says:

    Yes, my husband is Spanish basque. We lived in Gardiner, Mt for 12 years and then right outside of Glacier National Park for 16 years. Montana is a very special place. I love your recipes, your book and this web site. Just within the last year found out my daughter and grandchildren and my husband are gluten intolerant. Have enjoyed many of your recipes. I just today took your zucchini and pecan bread recipe and converted it to gluten. Delicious!

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