September 27, 2011
We Came, We Saw, We Imbibed, We Indulged: Sun Valley Harvest Festival 2011

From across the Northwest the foodies flocked, answering the culinary call to head to Sun Valley for year two of Foodie Heaven – aka the Sun Valley Harvest Festival.

It was truly a feast for all senses and all palates. From pig’s head lollipops to goat cheese bacon grits, rabbit five ways to tomatoes three ways – the bounty, beauty and breadth of Idaho’s producers, vintners, farmers and chefs was on full display for four days.

Building on its inaugural year, this time around the Harvest Festival added a River Guide Cooking Demo and Grand Tasting event and ratcheted up the star factor with Top Chef finalists and visiting chefs.  Throughout the weekend, each of these star chefs put their personal spin on our regional fare, along with some of Blaine County’s culinary favorites.

It was a jam-packed four days, including a Carnivore’s Dream kickoff dinner, Ketchum Restaurant Walk, Chef Demonstrations, Harvest Marketplace, Martini & Caviar Party, Harvest Dinners, River Guide Cooking Demo and Grand Tasting. Whether you wanted a step-by-step demo, a one-on-one chef experience, a smorgasbord of tasting-sized nibbles or a sample of Idaho’s wine, beer and spirits – there truly was something for each one of the hundreds who turned out.

The true essence of the Festival was that universal experience, food as our common ground, just as James Beard said.

This foodie had a tough time picking a favorite event, though there were a few favorite moments…

• Just like ambiance can make or break a meal, so can the personality of the chef behind the meal. Chef Dave Martin of Top Chef fame delivered, with a dynamic personality and a love of cooking that oozed out of his pores. His Carnivore’s Dinner on Thursday night set the stage for the chef demonstrations that would follow with equally passionate and engaged masters of their craft sharing the tricks, tips and tools of the trade.

• The beauty of a restaurant walk is getting bite-sized introductions to places you've never been – or places you've forgotten. Add to that the dynamic of strangers sharing favorite stops and bites as they strolled the Ketchum sidewalks and you have a community culinary moment that is hard to beat.  It was one of those perfect September evenings that had locals and visitors alike beaming at the bounty and the fall beauty, lingering just a moment more at each stop.

• The best food and wine festivals help you move beyond your comfort zone to indulge in or experience something new. Sun Valley Harvest Festival delivered on that with Chef Demos featuring vegan and diabetes-conscious cooking along with a thoughtful presentation on utilizing every aspect of a rabbit. 

• Beyond the satisfaction of indulging is the satisfaction of discovery – learning that a meal made over a campfire can be just as gourmet as one from a five-star kitchen; finding that vodka distilled in Idaho paired with caviar raised here can transport you; rediscovering a love for a long-forgotten ingredient prepared in a new way; realizing that I have a common culinary love with a couple from Portland and a family from Pocatello.

The true essence of the Festival was that universal experience, food as our common ground, just as James Beard said. Here’s a toast to sharing that with foodie fans from across the Northwest this year and in years to come.


All photography courtesy of Paulette Phlipot,