We're quite lucky in Idaho to have a number of restaurants fitting into the category of "countrified gourmet." Whether it's Danskin Station in Garden Valley or the Blue Canoe in Murphy, we can drive out to places that look--by the population signs and the cars parked in nearby yards--like the height of Western Family, and instead find locally produced ingredients, local wines and plenty of local color. The Sandbar River House in Marsing is just such a place. Be seated at this Owyhee County landmark and you'll not only find a great view of the Big Scummy (the Snake), you'll also get a local history lesson from pictures on the menu--and yes, the food is great, too.
I made the hour-long schlep to Marsing for dinner on my father's b-day, with three generations of Colli-i in tow. We had all eaten at the Sandbar before, and spent the drive stewing on our memories, picking out our entrees long before we arrived. We also (with the exception of my erstwhile vegetarian sidekick) were snapping our tongues at the thought of the Sandbar's specialty appetizer: frog legs.
The Owyhee version of french fries come attached at the hip, with a side of tartar (though I suggest cocktail sauce and a squeeze of lemon). Others may favor the thigh for its larger portion of meat, but I'm firmly in the category of "calf man." The way the entire bite pops off the bone, right into my mouth--it's like the cleanest, most convenient fried chicken ever. I know some readers will shudder at the above description, or the mere idea of staring down at a plate containing connected legs, but I've come to grips with the reality that my food was once anatomy. I advise everyone else to do the same, because those springy little bastards are to die for--and this from a guy who knows the words to "It's Not Easy Being Green."
For the entree, I ordered a delightful cut of beef titled the "Spencer," which as I understand it, is the core of a ribeye--the crack cocaine of steak. It was immense, tender and cooked to a perfect medium rare. Bunnicula ordered only the Sandbar's famed au gratin potatoes, and grazed on the table's never-ending salad supply. Others ordered dishes ranging from brochettes (i.e., beef kabobs) to prime rib to fried oysters, and traded the delicious morsels back and forth like baseball cards.
At meal's end, we were distended beyond hope of dessert (but shared a chocolate silk pie regardless). Our preternaturally friendly waitress brought out take-home boxes for everything--even the salad! They must roll their eyes at lightweights like us, but we were too happy thinking about the next morning's breakfast to care.
--Nicholas Collias wears his Podunk palate on his sleeve.