I fretted for weeks about my upcoming trip to Bozeman, Montana, for the April 2008 installment of Food & Wine Across America. A city mouse at heart, I pictured getting buried under an avalanche with no cell phone reception to call for a rescue. While I did see more cattle than I did people, I ended up loving the mountainous remoteness of it all and had an excellent elk-eating, hot-spring-dipping time.

In addition to terrific grass-fed red meat, I also found lots of great sweets, perhaps thanks to all the hardy farmers and cowboys there who can afford to indulge regularly in sugary cakes and candies. One of our favorite caramel makers, Robin Béquet, who is based in Bozeman, recently introduced a licorice-scented caramel that rivals the excellent ones our former intern brought back with her from Sweden. At The HomePage Café, one of the trillion local coffee shops, owner Frankee Muller bakes lightly-spiced bundt cakes, chewy chocolate chip cookies with crispy edges and other homey desserts, to accompany her Fair Trade lattes. On a tip from Bozeman food writer Sally Belk King, I stopped before sunrise at The Coffee Pot, a standalone pottery studio/bake shop, because she told me co-baker Marci Gehring makes a mean lard-crusted pie. After turning around three times in search of the far-flung shop, I learned Marci’s legendary pies weren’t ready yet on the Monday morning. Disappointed, I settled for a pleasantly dense slice of banana bread and then I smiled--as an East Coast snob, I never would have guessed a week earlier that I’d be thrilled to have a reason to return to Bozeman.