by Matt Furber
Vintners, brewers and distillers joined Ketchum and Sun Valley chefs to cap off a weekend of culinary enjoyment Sept. 23, at the third annual Sun Valley Harvest Festival.
Outside Carol’s Dollar Lodge, guides from Mackay River Wilderness Trips, brothers Brennan and Delamon Rego, cooked paella over charcoal.
“We used a Basque chorizo and chicken to represent upland game birds and trout,” Brennan said, explaining that paella is a dish that can be easily made in the wild. “If you bring the rice and a couple of veggies, you could catch whatever you find.”
The brothers also prepared a Spanish-style salad with arugula, sherry vinaigrette and dried oregano, which complemented other foods prepared by guides with Idaho River Journeys and Far and Away Adventures. The River Guide Cooking Demonstration wrapped up just as rain clouds arrived and visitors to the festival’s Grand Tasting moved indoors for a bountiful feast.
Top Chef competitor John Tesar joined the fray sampling food, including elk prepared by Trail Creek Cabin Chef de Cuisine Wendy Little. Tesar said that his visit to Sun Valley was a welcome break before he heads back to Dallas to complete his new restaurant, Spoon, set to open by the time Top Chef hits the air Wednesday, Nov. 7.
Little’s slow-roasted leg of elk was served with chanterelle mushrooms, huckleberry demiglace and carmelized onion mashed potatoes.
“I get the chanterelles from The Mushroom Man,” Little said.
Many felt that the dish paired well with Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars’ 2009 Artemis Cabernet Sauvignon. The Napa Valley winery won the famous 1976 Paris Tasting, an historic event often referred to as "the judgment of Paris," which transformed world opinion of California wines.
Wines were not for sale at the festival, but at $75, the Grand Tasting was a fairly affordable food education. Some of the proceeds went to the newly formed Sun Valley Culinary Institute, which is currently in the process of pinning down a home in the Wood River Valley.
A shot of Idaho potato vodka from Gray Ottley’s Distilled Resources, Inc., based in Rigby, helped to clear the palate.
“We use Idaho russets, standard Idaho winter wheat and certified organic wheat,” Ottley said, explaining that DR produces 14 vodka brands in Idaho, 96 percent of which are shipped out of state.
In need of something sweet, many gastronomes making the rounds at the lodge stopped by Ketchum’s The Chocolate Moose table to sample lemon tarts, meringue mushrooms and chocolate mousse, of course.
Bakers with the College of Southern Idaho Baking and Pastry Arts program in Twin Falls also produced a delectable treat—macaroons filled with candied chili pepper and vanilla butter cream. The CSI program has 32 students and the baking program is in its fourth year.
Tom Nickel, owner of Sawtooth Club and Elevation 486, served fire-grilled baby lamb chops with apricot-jalapeno-mint sauce. Nickel, who has been a part of the Sun Valley cuisine scene for 25 years, said he was glad to see where things are headed in the area, especially the Harvest Festival.
“I enjoy the hell out of it myself,” Nickel said. “This is one of those things that if we all give it some time, we could really make something happen here.”
But many felt that the festival has already arrived, claiming that numbers have tripled since 2011. Main Street Market Chef Brent Rasmussen said he had to have two menus on Sunday because the first selection—ginger crab croustades, butternut squash bruschetta, dried plum with smoked fontina and prosciutto followed by gaspacho and tiramisu—had sold out.