The food community in Idaho is still intimate enough that savvy chefs and boutique caterers can create the connection between growers and diners with integrity. Nothing showcases that like a farm-to-table dinner. Whether indoors or out, these popular experiences of the shared farm table, same-day freshness and a great local wine are a rich part of the Treasure Valley culinary scene.
“It’s great to be able to tell people that something was picked just this morning,” says chef Gretchen Talbert, of 3 Girls Catering. Talbert creates a farm dinner series at Nampa’s Sawtooth Winery that pairs fresh Idaho produce and meats with Sawtooth’s vintages.
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The ethic of creating one of these dinners relies on a commitment to going local, says Wild Plum Events and Eats chef Alex Cardoza. He’s planning an invitation-only harvest dinner as an Idaho Botanical Garden fundraiser in September, featuring Idaho-raised turkeys and bushels of local produce.
“We’re lucky that we can get oranges from Mexico in the winter, but it’s more beneficial for us to get freshly grown products from people we know in the region where we live,” Cardoza says.
Planning a farm dinner takes flexibility and a knowledge of what farmers are doing. Cardoza shops the farmers markets and keeps up with what growers have coming. Like many chefs, he also works with Idaho’s Bounty, a statewide co-op for growers and a wholesale marketplace.
“When I put forth a menu, certain ingredients will have an asterisk to let people know it might change,” he says. “If something doesn’t happen or I can’t get something on that day, I’d rather alter a dish than use a product from somewhere else. In the summer here, there’s no reason we can’t put together a menu that’s almost entirely local.”
One of the most popular destinations for the serious farm-to-fork foodie, Peaceful Belly Farm, is not doing its dinner series this year because the farm is moving, owners Josie and Clay Erskine say. But there are a few of note, mostly at Idaho wineries, and some farm-to-table harvest dinners are happening indoors.
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▪ Talbert and 3 Girls Catering will prepare two farm dinners at Sawtooth Winery’s 70-acre vineyard, 13750 Surrey Lane, Nampa. Talbert plans to serve fresh-picked squash blossoms stuffed with cheese from Gooding’s Ballard Family Dairy & Cheese. Dinners are 5:45 to 9 p.m. Friday, Aug. 18, and Friday, Sept. 15. Tickets: $75 general, $65 for wine club members at Universe.com/sawtoothfarmtofork17.
▪ Open Table Catering’s April Hale will create this year’s Boise Urban Garden School’s Harvest Dinner, 6:30 to 10 p.m. Friday, Aug. 25. It’s at the BUGS garden, 2995 N. Five Mile Road, Boise. Tickets: $65 per person, $450 for a table for eight.
▪ Modern Hotel and Bar chef Nate Whitley will create a farm-to-table wine dinner at Koenig Distillery and Winery, 21452 Hoskins Road, Caldwell, on Saturday, Aug. 26. For dessert, Whitley will create sweet corn mousse made with corn from Homedale’s Next Generation Organics, topped with peaches from Emmett’s Waterwheel Gardens, and a crisp cookie made from Next Gen’s cornmeal. Tickets: $95 at 208-459-4087.
▪ Dean Fuller, executive chef for Albertsons corporate cafe, will cook up a five-course farm dinner at 6 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 16, at Huston Vineyards, 16473 Chicken Dinner Road. Each course will be paired with Huston wine. Fuller ordered a small flock of Idaho-raised ducks for the occasion. He’ll be serving a duck confit appetizer and a crispy duck breast with huckleberry sauce as the entree. Tickets: $100 at BrownpaperTickets.com.
▪ An array of chefs will put together a collaborative meal for the Boise Farmers Market’s Harvest Moon Dinner at 6 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 2, at the Inn at 500 Capitol, 500 S. Capitol Blvd. Chefs Richard Langston (Richard’s), Kris Komori (State & Lemp), Michael Ridder (Red Feather Lounge), Whitley (The Modern) and Aaron Wermerskirchen (Juniper) will use ingredients from the Boise Farmers Market, which happens at 11th and Grove streets from April to October. Tickets: $100 until Saturday, Aug. 19; $125 after EventBrite.com.
▪ Chef Al McCord will prepare two lamb-centered farm dinners for Ketchum’s Trailing of the Sheep Festival, with a focus on lamb from Hailey’s Flat Top Sheep Company. Dinners are at 6 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 4, and Thursday, Oct. 5, at the Wood River Sustainability Center, 308 S. River St., Hailey. Tickets: $85 at TrailingOfTheSheep.org/ farm-to-table-dinner.
▪ This isn’t a farm dinner but it’s really cool. The Capitol Table, produced by the Downtown Boise Association at the north end of Capitol Boulevard, is 5:30 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 10. Five restaurants — Brickyard Steakhouse, Capitol Cellars, Fork, Juniper and Red Feather — will each create a four-course meal, featuring the same surprise local ingredient and Idaho wine pairings. Tickets are $150 per person, $650 for four at DowntownBoise.org.