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LAST BEST PLATES

Getting Yumtwisted at Faye’s Cafe

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What piqued my interest in Faye’s Cafe was the hours posted on her website: Open Saturday-Thursday, 8 a.m. until we serve 40 amazing people, or 11 a.m. What the heck did that mean?

That was the first question I asked Sarah Faye when I showed up a few minutes before 8 a.m. on Saturday to chat with her. Sarah explained with her warm smile, “That’s the number I feel we can prep for, assuring that everyone gets a unique experience, but sometimes we serve up to 75…it just depends on how the morning goes.”

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Faye’s Cafe is an extension of Sarah’s energetic personality and the blueprint for how she navigates life, summed up in three words: peace, love and happiness. The cafe, located in the Shane Lalani Center for the Arts in Livingston, feels like an artists' showplace, with walls covered with original art from Livingston artists, including Sarah’s watercolors.

Cloth napkins in a rainbow of colors, sterling silverware, coffee cups and plates from local potters, and an eclectic mix of tables and chairs merge into a kaleidoscope of delightful colors. Soft music fills the room. The vibe is one of cheerfulness, shaped by Sarah and her staff. I found myself anticipating what Sarah would craft for my breakfast. This wasn’t going to be your standard bacon, eggs and toast meal.

Shortly after I arrived, jolly Rob Bankston showed up, a regular on the weekends. He looked me in the eye, held out both of his hands, palms up and cupped, and said with a grin, “I do two things — I eat, and I show off.” He is the weekend magician, moving between tables to show off his magic tricks to the delight of both kids and adults.

Every dish that comes from the kitchen is tailored for the customer. It’s Sarah being spontaneous. She has a word for it, one that she invented and trademarked, that being "Yumtwist."

Yumtwist means “to entwine with another to inspire creativity; interlace ingredients, textures, flavors and styles. To interweave color and design into unique beauty. To add a yumtwist to something and create something new that is different than the original.” Rob may be working magic with his hands, but Sarah has magical powers that sense what each customer needs.

There isn’t a typical menu, rather a potpourri of words on the placemat. You tell your server what sounds appealing, and from there, Sarah goes to town crafting your entrée. I was keen on trying Grandma’s cinnamon rolls. I was also in the mood for bacon, eggs, and a few bites of a cheesy potato dish I spied fresh out of the oven. Sarah asked how I liked my eggs, to which I answered scrambled. With that, Sarah smiled and headed back to her prep area.

A dainty cinnamon roll was presented first, swimming in a creamy, delectable glaze, and served with coffee topped off with almond creamer. My main entrée had three slices of crispy bacon with a huckleberry glaze, a garnish of fresh fruit, and a helping of the potato casserole nestled in scrambled eggs. Topping the eggs was a hollandaise mango sauce. The sauce was nothing like the hollandaise I’m familiar with. It was a translucent buttery color with a delicate flavor and a hint of lemon.

All the entrees are $16, which includes a drink. It keeps things simple. There could be a slight upcharge if a customer goes hog wild with his requests. As Sarah puts it, “Money isn’t the goal. Happiness is.”

Born and raised in Livingston, Sarah’s love for all things culinary started at an early age in the kitchen with her grandmother and mother. Cooking, cleaning and organizing the pantry were part of their routine. Together they would shop at Town & Country Foods, where to this day, Sarah still shops with her daughter. Sarah shares that her grandmother’s words of wisdom have been the cornerstone of her life: “Two wrongs don't make a right.”

Her life’s journey connected her to the gastronomic scene in many ways. Starting with a stint at the Yellowstone Valley Grill in Paradise Valley, she worked at various restaurants in Montana and then as a private chef on a 120-ft. yacht out of Alaska.

Returning to Montana as a single mom with a 2-year-old and a baby on the way, she created a cookbook, appropriately named “Yumtwist,” and worked as a private chef. She launched her breakfast cafe on July 7, 2014, intending to keep it open for a decade. Now into her seventh year, I asked what the future holds when she reaches the 10-year mark.

“I’m going to travel across the U.S. and visit all the wonderful people who I’ve had the privilege of serving here in the cafe,” she said.

Zesta Swift, one of Sarah’s assistants, calls her boss a culinary goddess. I couldn’t agree more, but Sarah also has an innate ability to nurture others, an ambassador of dispensing good in this world. If you need to unburden yourself for whatever reason, Sarah is there to listen. She gives watercolor lessons to folks involved with Suffer Out Loud, a nonprofit organization leading an effort to reduce suicide rates in Montana. She teaches cooking classes and still works as a private chef for families around the Livingston area. Catering is also in her wheelhouse. Sarah’s kids are her number one priority, thus the reason the cafe is only open for breakfast.

By 8:30 a.m., Faye’s Cafe was packed, with others waiting by the door for a table to open. I overheard a family saying they drove from Anaconda for breakfast after hearing about this one-of-a-kind eatery. Rob was entertaining three young kids. The smells and smiles coming from the kitchen warmed my heart. For a few minutes on this day, all seemed right with the world.

Balsamic Cream Sauce

Over medium-high heat, saute for 2 minutes:

2 Tbs. olive oil

1/4 cup finely chopped shallots

2 Tbs finely chopped garlic

Then add:

1/2 cup balsamic vinegar

2 cups beef or mushroom stock

Reduce down to 1/2 cup on medium-high heat, then add:

2 cups heavy whipping cream

Simmer until bubbly and starting to thicken, 10-12 minutes

Turn heat to low, add:

Espresso sea salt or kosher salt

Fresh ground pepper

1 cup finely chopped tarragon

Great with pasta, steak, sautéed mushrooms, roasted garlic, grilled asparagus, roasted meats, and seafood. Serves 4

Now to Yumtwist the sauce:

• Add fresh chopped mint

• Drizzle sauce over pasta just before serving

• Give a squeeze of citrus — lime, lemon, or orange

• Grated Manchego, Asiago, or aged Gouda on top just before serving

Donnie Sexton, who retired in 2016 after a long career with the Montana Office of Tourism, currently freelances as a travel writer and photographer, covering destinations around the world.

TheLastBestPlates.com is a digital destination that serves up Montana's tasty food, travel and culture stories … one bite at a time.

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