Smoked trout bagel in Montana
We are on a family vacation back in my home state of Montana, staying in the once-humble, now-booming mountain resort of Big Sky. On our first night in early July, I walk across the golf course from our condo to the Hungry Moose Market & Deli to stock up on Moose Drool, a delicious brown ale I haven’t found in Brooklyn. While perusing the store, I check out the menu and there it is, the $6.50 breakfast deliverance. The smoked trout bagel.
The next morning, I jaunt back to the Hungry Moose for this breakfast, loading up for a 6.6-mile round-trip hike to Beehive Basin. While one could create the same menu item at New York’s famed smoked-fish purveyor Russ & Daughters, but in nearly 20 years of calling New York home, I’d never had one.
“This is our version of the New York City bagel with lox. We use trout because it’s so synonymous with our Montana rivers,” says Jackie Robin, who, along with husband Mark, opened the first iteration of the Hungry Moose, a simple veggie stand, in 1994. “The bagel itself is a strange one, more of a soft bread that comes from Blue Moon Bakery, and we jazz it up with our house-made herbed cream cheese, a tomato, and an onion.”
The bagel is dense; it has to be to hold the thick chunks of meaty fish. Leave the thin-sliced salmon for city folk; this is a fortification for those headed out for a day on the river, the slopes, or to tool about the national forests. I am alone at the outdoor tables, sipping coffee in the cool mountain air offset by the brilliant all-encompassing sunlight that will soon beat down upon us as we climb. It is quiet in the center of Big Sky, the Independence Day revelers yet to materialize. It is a gem of a morning at the Hungry Moose. The bagel is beyond perfect.
Five days later, after a night of overindulging on the Moose Drool, the walk across the green to the Hungry Moose seems to take as long as the trek to Beehive Basin. The air is too cold, the sun too oppressive, the coffee too jittery, and the Advil is not doing its damn job. There is but one hope of reclaiming myself.
The smoked trout bagel sets me right. Teach a man to fish, and you have to go find a fly rod, get a license, drive to the Yellowstone River. Give a man a fish bagel, and the center begins to hold.