Don’t Miss Genuine Hospitality, Culinary Delights In Idaho
Looking for the personal touch? Then you have come to the right place. Sit back, relax and enjoy the spectacular beauty of a September tour through the Snake River Valley in Idaho. Set in picturesque Sun Valley, the annual Harvest Festival has become the signature food and wine event of the region.
Idaho was settled by the Basque people from Spain and sheep-herding was how they made their living. The Basques made a major impact on the countryside and brought a distinctive ethnic flavor to the local food. Today, lamb is a top choice on all restaurant menus.
The annual Trailing of the Sheep festival follows the Harvest Festival. Watch 1,500 sheep trailing down Ketchum’s Main Street with sheep herders directing the traffic.
Our group flew into Boise to begin this wine and culinary adventure. We headed for the Riverside Hotel overlooking the Boise River for our first night. Early morning we found walkers and joggers on a scenic 25-mile recreation pathway along the river that connects 15 parks. Even with the time change, we managed a brisk morning walk.
That evening a welcome dinner was hosted by Chandlers Restaurant in downtown Boise. For the past 15 years, Chandlers has won Wine Spectator awards for their wine paired with a top dining experience. The wine list features 640 wine selections from all over the world, with an inventory of more than 6,000 bottles.
“It represents a significant milestone in my 40-year career to create an exclusive experience for not only our local community but also a premier restaurant destination for national travelers to Boise,” said owner Rex Chandler. This delightful culinary experience provided the perfect backdrop for getting to know each other.
After such a satisfying dinner, we boarded the bus in the morning and headed for the mountains and the Sun Valley Harvest Festival with visits to local wineries along the way. Idaho is home to 50 wineries. Our first stop was to sample Coiled Wines from grapes grown in the Snake River Valley. We enjoyed a lovely Syrah, Tempranillo and my very favorite-the Viognier-a crisp white semi-dry wine with peach and apricot flavors. The Viognier has earned a gold medal in competitions.
Heading north, the family owned Bitner Vineyards deck and picnic area was the perfect setting for a box lunch. Warm days and crisp cool evenings were great for us and are perfect for growing grapes.
Our next stop was the Symms family owned Fruit ranch. It was fascinating to watch all the fruit coming off various assembly lines. All varieties are harvested by hand each summer and fall and are of superior quality. There are nine varieties of apples!
Another delightful stop was at Koenig Vineyards where the emphasis is on European brandies and Idaho potato vodka. The owner spent his boyhood years in Austria and loves the spirits.
We proceeded on to the Sawtooth Estate Winery. Nestled between 500 acres of vineyards, Sawtooth was the magnificent backdrop for a gourmet outdoor dinner and wine pairing. Exchanging views and travel tales made for a lively dinner.
And now our destination! The Sun Valley Lodge is a charming resort adjacent to the city of Ketchum where Ernest Hemingway lived the last years of his life. Visitors from around the world enjoy its skiing, ice skating, hiking and trail riding and other outdoor recreation. The town of Ketchum is about a mile from the Sun Valley Ski Resort and offers small bistros, restaurants and a variety of small shops in a totally picturesque setting.
Early the next morning several of us walked into town for a country breakfast at the Kneadery Diner. The delicious breads, pastries and pancakes were all homemade. Great way to start the day!
Lunch at CK’s was a special treat. The soup of the day was a cold cantaloupe, yogurt and lime that was delicious followed by the Lava Lake Lamb Gyro served on pita. Dessert was homemade raspberry ice cream.
We gathered at the Ketchum Town Square to begin our foodie adventure. Well known chefs provided cooking demonstrations of their favorite dishes and everyone got to sample after the presentation.
Then we wandered around Ketchum, sampled the regional fare and learned culinary secrets from the country’s top chefs. Their creative menus used regional ingredients and paired local wines with each course.
Executive chef Rodrigo Bueno from Rancho Pescadero in Baja, Mexico, showed us how to spice up local food with an international flair. We tried his Local Goat Mexican Chorizo with Idaho Potatoes.
Chicago pastry chef, Malika Ameen’s fascination with spice and attention to detail began in a food focused home where family dinners were prepared from scratch each day. She has just launched her online pastry business.
Tal Ronnen and Scot Jones hail from Crossroads Restaurant in Los Angeles and are known for their incredible vegan cuisine. They catered Ellen DeGeneres and Portia de Rossi’s vegan wedding and Arianna Huffington’s party at the Democratic National Convention.
Our last restaurant stop featured Akasha Richmond, owner of Akasha Restaurant in Los Angeles. She talked about her passion for organic foods and a healthy lifestyle. Her favorite cooking experiences from Hollywood include: making holiday dinners for Billy Bob Thornton, catering parties for Pierce Brosnan and working as a private chef for Barbra Streisand. Bet that was a challenge!
The highlight of the weekend was an invitation to the Roundhouse Restaurant’s Martini and Caviar party. Off we went on a scenic gondola ride up Baldy Mountain while sipping a glass of Michelle sparkling wine. The view alone was worth the evening. Again, the chefs created an assortment of mouth watering hors d’oeuvres featuring sturgeon caviar from Fish Breeders of Idaho. Mixologist Ryan Sullivan again created incredible cocktails featuring Square One Organic Spirits and potato vodka.
Our last day started with an outdoor brunch hosted by the river guide-chefs and local rafting companies. We learned the tips and tricks of food preparation in the back country as they demonstrated how to cook incredible food over an open grill and in a Dutch oven without leaving a trace of debris. We sampled the food and enjoyed Michelle’s sparkling wine with authentic music by Spike Coggins on the ukulele.
What culinary vacation would be complete without a last dinner on a working ranch? Our delightful host was Celia Gould, director of the Idaho State Department of Agriculture. After sipping watermelon and Idaho vodka martinis, the chef prepared a delicious fresh vegetable salad, surf and turf dinner followed by poached pears and huckleberry sauce with peach sorbet and chocolate bacon potato chip. Lively conversation and ranch war stories made for an entertaining evening. All menu items were from the Idaho Preferred Cookbook and paired with local wines.
Enjoy the most delicious food, learn new food trends, sip potato vodka and taste great wines and beers. Don’t miss the most beautiful time of year, the genuine hospitality and wonderful culinary delights from the people of Idaho.
By FREDERICA DUNN (firstname.lastname@example.org), The Post-Journal