Unobtrusively tucked into a loose collection of buildings opposite McCall's diminutive airstrip, the North Fork Cafe has undoubtedly been missed by diners who habitually congregate at some of the town's longer-lived eateries. That's unfortunate, especially when the community's newer options surpass the established culinary canon. At the North Fork Cafe, both the food and the atmosphere are unassumingly elegant.
Though ordered on recommendation after collectively faltering to select a starter, the chicken and ginger potstickers proved an unenthusiastic opening for the meal to come. Pan-fried and lackluster, the pockets whimpered aside a bold plum sauce, which by contrast collected a number of compliments. Rest assured, that was the only disappointment.
Beds of lettuce cradled the weight of Roma tomatoes, carrots, cucumber, beets and homemade croutons. All varieties of made-in-house dressings begged for attention beyond that typically paid to mere condiments, and warm balls of dense wheat bread yielded cranberries and walnuts when carefully pried open. A plate of beef medallions, thinly dressed in a peppercorn sauce, defiantly set a high bar for two entrees sampled shortly after. Distinguished as the day's special, the peanut beef (reminiscent of posh Pad Thai with its thinly sliced meat, long and flat green tea infused rice sticks, peanuts and subtle heat) mastered a complexity of flavors while boasting a simple list of ingredients. The table favorite, albeit by a narrow margin, was a dish of chicken piccata. Quartered lemons cooked alongside the silver dollar-sized chicken pieces, piccata cream sauce and capers entreated an impromptu poll to determine if North Fork had produced the most successful example of a dish of the piccata kind. Not to be outshone by either the piccata or the medallions, a side of mashed potatoes on each plate was of such impressive consistency and temperatureeven after sitting for several moments while photographs were snappedit was unavoidable to draw any conclusion contrary to the idea that quality of taste and presentation is not only essential at North Fork Cafe, but auspiciously achieved. When dessert arrived, lemons once again generated high praise for the dish they graced. Thinly shaved strings of rind became not a pile of discarded pulp, but the sought after treats ensnared in the filling of a lemon meringue tart.
The drive back to Boise hosted a summary discussion during which it was quickly evident that all were most impressed by North Fork's from-scratch approach. In a small mountain town not typically known for exceptional culinary excursions, the North Fork Cafe provides reason enough to make a special trip from the Treasure Valley to McCall.
Rachael Daigle has burned water only once.
The North Fork Cafe, 337 Deinhard Lane, McCall, (208) 634-5090. Tue.-Sat.: 11 a.m.-2 p.m., 5-10 p.m.