Vegan Huckleberry Shake by Dan d’Lion

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For more than a decade, Meg Blakney ran a catering business, delivering food — sometimes 600 meals a day — to events, weddings, and raft parties in and around Glacier National Park. As with any business in this part of the state, spring and summer are maddeningly hectic. When the pandemic struck two years ago and everything (at least briefly) ground to a halt, Blakney stopped to take a breather and think about what she wanted to do next.

Looking ahead to her career in the kitchen, Blakney could already be proud of her accomplishments — from working in fine dining restaurants in the East to owning and operating a successful catering business in the West — but she knew she wanted one more act , before finally retiring . So in 2021, she and her husband Tom turned the catering business into a dine-in restaurant in Hungry Horse called Dan d’Lion, serving only vegan and plant-based dishes.

Blakney thought it was a bold decision to open a vegan restaurant at the Hungry Horse, which had a reputation for being a little edgy — and sometimes still is — in its heyday 70 years ago, during the construction of the Hungry Horse Dam. But Blakney thought it was an untapped market, and she had data to back it: For the past six years that she’s managed the catering business, requests for vegan dishes have increased 6 percent each year. While some caterers would do the bare minimum to accommodate those with special dietary needs — enjoy this reheated vegan lasagna — Blakney would go out of their way to ensure those wanting special meals got something equally delicious and healthy. And in some cases, the resulting vegan menu item was actually better than what she was trying to replicate, so she just made the plant-based item for everyone.

Still, Blakney thought Dan d’Lion might appeal exclusively to a certain type of eater: younger people who are primarily concerned with health. But as soon as she opened the doors in June 2021, she found that the market for her groceries was much larger than expected.

“Before we opened, some people thought we were crazy, but the response has been fantastic,” she said.

Dan d’Lion’s menu is anchored in filling salads (the Greek salad, for example, has heaps of tomato, cucumber, red onion, peppers, Kalamata olives, peperoncini peppers, tofu feta, served with a tangy house dressing) and classics like pizza, made possible by the restaurant’s homemade gluten-free crust. These flavorful dishes, along with all the others on the menu, have kept people coming back – sometimes quite literally. Blakney said one of her first clients was in the area on vacation and came back five nights in a row.

A vegan blueberry shake. Hunter D’Antuono | Flathead beacon

But perhaps the best customer experience Blakney has experienced came after the introduction of the Huckleberry shake, which has long been a staple of Flathead Valley menus. The shake blends Blakney’s vegan coffee cream blend – made with hazelnut butter, chia, vanilla and dates – and of course blueberries. Blakney said the moment they put up the sign with vegan Huckleberry Shakes on the front, people immediately started turning off US Highway 2. But she remembered one customer in particular. An 80-year-old woman celebrating her birthday came with her family shortly after the shake went on the menu. The woman had dietary issues with dairy and had never had a blueberry shake before. After the first sip she started to cry.

“I saw that and I was like, ‘That’s why I’m doing this,'” Blakney said.

The details

Description: A vegan blueberry shake made with vegan cream – hazelnut butter, chia, vanilla and dates – and of course locally sourced blueberries.

Price: $10.75

Location: Dan d’Lion, 8942 US Highway 2 East, Hungry Horse

Contact: earthangelorganicsmt.com or (406) 260-6654.

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