After a glorious first day in Idaho in the Snake River AVA, we packed up and made our way to Sun Valley for their 4th annual Harvest Festival. We stopped at CK’s in Hailey, just outside of Sun Valley and enjoyed a delicious lunch of butternut squash bisque and a Lava Lake Lamb Gyro with fresh raspberry ice cream for dessert. Two representatives of the Trailing of the Sheep Festival described the festival in detail and it sounded both fun and delicious. I wasn’t able to attend this year, but hopefully will next year. The festival features, well, sheep, of course and a fiber festival, sheep herder’s ball, a folk-life fair, storytelling and a parade.
We took the short drive to Sun Valley, sat in on the Food Trends panel and then stopped at Atkinson’s Market to meet some of the farmers. I have cousins in the Sun Valley area and had been to Atkinson’s before. It’s a wonderful store with a strong emphasis on local. We tasted breads, cheeses, wine, beer and hard cider along with some baked goods and then crossed the street to the town center for an Idaho Wine tasting. We had discovered the day before that Idaho produces some outstanding wines and we tasted a few more. After the tasting, the restaurant walk started. We sampled delectable tastes from several of the nearly 20 participating vendors including Bigwood Bread Café, Sawtooth Brewery, Cornerstone Bar & Grill, Dashi and Cristina’s. It was truly a taste of Idaho.
Home for the next two nights was the magnificent Sun Valley Lodge. Built in 1936, signs of its gloried past are everywhere. Photos of Olympians, politicians and movie stars line the hallway from the lobby to the outside. My room was a spacious two-story, with living room and kitchen on the ground and bedroom with luxurious master bath upstairs. The grounds are immaculate, the air is crisp and clean and there’s an outdoor ice skating rink.
The second day of the festival we headed to Carol’s Dollar Lodge for the Harvest Marketplace, where vendors, farmers and food producers displayed and gave samples of their wares. From coffee to hard cider to fruits and veggies, the choice was impressive. Outside, several chefs took center stage for cooking demonstrations. After watching each chef prepare their dishes a small plate was paired with a taste of wine. I sat down with Tina Ruggiero, author of The Truly Healthy Family Cookbook, and was amazed by her passion and her coviction that truly healthy food can truly tasty. I’m a believer! I also met with Rodrigo Bueno, Executive Chef at Rancho Pescadero in Baja California. He puts innovative twists on traditional Mexican foods and is also passionate about the use of fresh and local ingredients.
The Festival held its first annual Sawtooth Brewery Oktoberfest in the town square. Craft beers from Sawtooth Brewery and German food from Gourmet Mountain Dogs were accentuated by live music. A lively crowd enjoyed the festivities and seemed eager for next year’s event.
I haven’t been on a ski lift in decades and I’ve never ridden one on a mountain without snow. We gathered at the Roundhouse Express to take the lift to Roundhouse Restaurant at the base of Mt. Baldy for the Festival’s Martini and Caviar party. Mixologist Ryan Sullivan created five signature martinis featuring Square One vodka. Leo Ray, owner of Fish Breeders of Idaho, told us how he raises sturgeon, tilapia, catfish, alligator and more and produces sturgeon caviar. He’s a master storyteller and he kept us spellbound. Several caviar-inspired hors d’oeuvres were tray passed throughout this elegant evening.
The following morning, Spike Coggins provided an old west feel with his garb, guitar, percussion and gravel voice while we watched Idaho river guides demonstrate the art of dutch oven cooking. It’s how they prepare food for their clientele and we feasted on Caesar salad in a won ton bowl as well as lasagna and carrot cake prepared with charcoal in dutch ovens. I can only imagine what a treat it would be served fireside by the river.