Cooking from the Water's Edge Featured

Where there's smoke, there's dinner

Blue Smoke that is…

There was a time where finding a good meal in a small river town was a challenge. While not a fishing town by trade, Three Forks, Mont., is finding itself in the middle of a recreation boom and among the throngs frequenting the local rivers and trails.

This small town, where a stoplight has yet to illuminate the streets, is home to three famous rivers — the Madison, the Jefferson and the Gallatin. And while “sleepy” isn’t the word for it, it moves at its own unyielding pace.

Except when it comes to food. By late afternoon, there is already a line forming under the waving flags of the Blue Smoke BBQ food truck.

And if you want dinner, you better get off the river early.

What makes your barbeque “authentic?”   

(Kristen Dantagnan and Justin Kollar) Wood smoke, 100 percent sourced hard woods.  That’s real bbq. We get our apple from Washington, our cherry from Paradise, Mont., and our oak comes from Lubbock, Texas.   

Justin Koller (right) and Kristen Dantagnan (center) at the Blue Smoke food truck

Tell us about your backgrounds? Why did you choose Three Forks as the home base for your business. 

We chose Three Forks as our home, and the business followed. Although neither of us are from Montana originally, we have lived here long enough for Montana to feel like home. Justin is a professionally trained chef, and Kristin came to the food truck as a teacher with a passion for food and looking for a job. Be careful what you wish for. She got the job, and a partner who shares the love of food, cooking and feeding others. 

What are your top three tips for the weekend warriors looking to get the most out of their campfire or backyard barbeque pit? 

1. Always cook over coals, not a flame. 2. Always buy meat from Montana. We have some of the best in the world. It makes all the difference and it’s available everywhere and worth supporting your local rancher. 3. Rest your meat. Take it off the heat, have a beer and then dig in.

I’m always torn on this but you’re experts: Barbeque or BBQ?   
The barbeque came from the BBQ abbreviation. Technically, the correct spelling is barbecue. We like the barbeque spelling… it represents the unique “slow and low” type of cooking that we do.  

You’re located in the heart of fly-fishing country — without giving away any secret spots, tell us some of your favorite places to fish or recreate? 

Let’s just say we recreate close to home.

A lot of Western communities are booming right now as people flood the rivers and buy up property in smaller recreation-based communities. Are you feeling that wave in your business and community? 

We are definitely feeling the influx. However, as a small business, we welcome it and see it as an opportunity to influence and educate new clients and customers about the surrounding abundance of Montana. Justin says that having lived in the Mountain West his entire life and seeing this happen in most of the places he has lived, he has been anticipating the wave and trying to stay in front of it. 

You have spent time working in full-sized kitchens: How does that compare with the cozy interior of a food truck? 

No comparison.  Working in a food truck requires dance skills if you are not the only one in there. It requires a staff you are comfortable bumping into on a regular basis. The upside, the biggest, anyway, is that there isn’t a mortgage, rent or a lease you are locked into.   

By Shauna Stephenson. Shauna Stephenson has been a writer, photographer, communicator and conservationist for nearly two decades, the past decade being spent at Trout Unlimited, working on projects…