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Foodie heaven Revised festival capitalizes on interest in food- and wine-inspired travel
Chef Taite Pearson, slicing heirloom tomatoes in the kitchen of SEGO Restaurant, will be among the chefs highlighted at the Sun Valley Harvest Festival next weekend. (KAREN BOSSICK/For the Times-News) KAREN BOSSICK/For the Times-News

SUN VALLEY — SEGO Restaurant, one of Ketchum’s newest casual luxury restaurants, doesn’t have a freezer save for a small stand-up unit used to store ice cream.

Chef Taite Pearson says he hopes that’s the wave of the future as more restaurants — and home cooks — seek to replace frozen with fresh.

“Freezing breaks down the tissue of meat. Thawing lets out 50 percent of the flavor that could have been retained. Europeans know what flavor is because they buy their eggs fresh. They cook with vegetables and fruit they bought that day at the street market,” Pearson said.

Pearson will share his vision of the future — a future he says could be much tastier if we use fresh, locally produced food — as part of next weekend’s Sun Valley Harvest Festival, Sept. 24-26.

The festival will kick off at 11 a.m. Sept. 24 with cooking demonstrations and a culinary trade show featuring regional farmers, producers and vendors at Carol’s Dollar Mountain Lodge.

A Restaurant Walk that evening will give a chance to stroll from restaurant to restaurant, sampling tastings paired with regional wines and beers.

A Beer Garden with live music from Cow Says Moo and Seattle recording artist Danny Barnes, beer tasting, a home brew competition and a beer making talk will be held from noon to 4 p.m. Sept. 25 at Ketchum Town Plaza. Chefs’ demonstrations and the trade show will continue that day from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Carol’s Dollar Mountain Lodge. There also will be a Harvest Tasting Room and Wine Cellar from 2 to 5 p.m. at Carol’s and a workshop on dry rubs, marinades and simple grilling sauces offered by Sawtooth Club owner Tom Nickel at 4 p.m. at The Roosevelt Bar and Grille.

A Harvest Martini and Caviar Party will be held at 5:30 p.m. Sept. 25 at SEGO Restaurant. And Chef’s Dinners featuring special Harvest Festival menus will round out the evening Sept. 25.

The festival will feature 15 chefs and presenters preparing Idaho food, wine and spirits in unique ways. They include Viking chef Vaughn Hobbs, who cooked for such notables as Presidents Ford and Carter, Johnny Mathis, Joan Rivers, Sammy Davis Jr. and stars from “Charlie’s Angels” and “Dynasty.” Also: Kristi Echols-Preston and Chris Preston of Boise’s Chocolat Bar; Moshit Mizrachi-Gabbitas of Boise’s Janjou Patisserie; comfort food specialist Dustan Bristol of Nampa’s new Brick 29; and John Turenne, who transformed the cafeteria at St. Luke’s Wood River Medical Center from a chicken nugget factory to a green cuisine cafe.

Cristina Cook of Cristina’s Restaurant will demonstrate how to make pumpkin tiramisu; Ketchum Grill’s Scott Mason will present a demonstration titled “Autumn Foraging from the Forest to the Table.” Big Wood Bread founder Art Wallace, who learned to bake pain au levain in a wood-fired oven at the Boulanger in France, will present “The Art of Bread.” And the Arid Club’s Alvin Charlton will present a workshop titled “How to Feed Your Friends and Family and Still Enjoy the Party.”

The Sun Valley Harvest Festival grew out of the Sun Valley Food and Wine Festival, which the Sun Valley/Ketchum Chamber and Visitors Bureau started a few years ago to take advantage of burgeoning interest in food- and wine-related travel, said chamber spokeswoman Carrie Westergard.

The chamber started it with the intention of having someone else take it over. And that happened this year when self-proclaimed Ketchum foodies Heidi Ottley and Ed Sinnott claimed it for their own. They moved it to fall to better showcase Idaho’s harvest, revamped the format and rechristened it the Sun Valley Harvest Festival.

“As food- and wine-related travel has become the fastest growing segment of the tourism industry, why shouldn’t Idaho and Sun Valley be on that map?” said Ottley. “The best caviar, which apparently even gives our Russian friends a run for their money, is raised right here in Bliss, Idaho. Pair that with some of our locally produced vodka made in Rigby and you have an amazing party with a great story.”

Sinnott said festival organizers have concentrated on marketing the event to foodies in Boise, Twin Falls and southern Idaho this year, rather than taking it nationwide.

“This is an Idaho event — Idaho chefs, Idaho foods,” he said.

Pearson, of SEGO Restaurant, says he hopes the festival will help spur an interest in buying local. That would give producers like Lava Lake Lamb and CA Bull Elk the incentive to sell more fresh meat, and it might induce produce growers to offer more variety.

Pearson also hopes it inspires more creativity and confidence in home cooks.

“We all should be eating more home-cooked food. And I think that’s happening, as I’m getting a lot more questions from people asking me how to use certain kitchen gadgets or how to cook certain foods,” he said.

Karen Bossick may be reached at 578-2111 or kbossick@cox-internet.com.

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