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Sun Valley Harvest Festival

Sun Valley Harvest Festival cooking demonstrations are always entertaining, as shown by Dallas Chef John Tesar’s demonstration using octopus at last year’s Harvest Festival.

SUN VALLEY • He’s the “everything plus the kitchen sink” kind of guy who can combine refrigerator leftovers like veggie burgers with the waning produce in the garden to come up with a grilled zucchini succotash utilizing onions, mushrooms and bell peppers, all folded in a tortilla.

She’s the type whose idea of a fun Saturday night at the University of Vermont was to prepare a meal for friends, the menu and table setting planned days in advance.

Somehow Ed Sinnott and Heidi Ottley have managed to parlay their divergent takes on food into the Sun Valley Harvest Festival, which runs from Sept. 19-22.

In 2010, the two took over a food festival that the former Ketchum/Sun Valley Chamber of Commerce had started. They moved it from spring to September, when they could show off Idaho’s harvest, promoting locally grown foods.

And they continue to put their imprint on it with new events that promote healthiness through good nutrition, while educating people about new food trends, such as the gluten-free craze which, Ottley points out, can be valuable to those who are gluten-sensitive but not so useful to those simply wanting to lose weight.

Their focus led renowned dietitian Ashley Koff to give them the moniker “qualitarians,” meaning they focus on whole foods over processed foods, natural over lab-made foods and organic food when possible.

“We met Ashley in Los Angeles through a mutual friend and she was fascinated with what we were doing with the Sun Valley Harvest Festival,” said Ottley, who invited Koff to participate in three events at this year’s festival. “She’s really excited that it focuses on health and fitness and sustainability; that it’s not just about celebrities and food and wine.”

Sinnott and Ottley call themselves “foodies through and through.”

They watch the “Food Network” Sunday mornings. Then they run out to their backyard to pluck some red and Yukon gold potatoes, broccoli, cauliflower, squash, lettuce and herbs to experiment with the ideas taking root in their heads.

“Summer’s a big salad and whatever we can throw on the grill,” said Sinnott, who circumvents the short growing season in his backyard a couple miles south of Ketchum by starting plants at his Clearwater Landscaping nursery.

Thanksgiving, by contrast, is all about traditional turkey stuffings, along with such family favorites as a Hungarian dobos torte-a five-layer sponge cake layered with chocolate buttercream and topped with caramel slices.

When they’re not cooking at home, they relish trips on the road where they look for the next great chefs for the festival, whom they then lure to Sun Valley with the prospects of a fly-fishing and mountain biking vacation.

That included a swing through Turkey last year, where they watched women create paper-thin Phyllo dough, sampled homemade brew made from fermented cherries and learned to make savory pastries.

“We spend the year traveling, meeting chefs and learning about culinary trends. We like to find people who have unique specialties they want to showcase. We are very proud that we can bring in such amazingly talented people who want to share their skills at our event,” said Sinnott.

“We hope eventually to bring in chefs from across the ocean, from around the world,” added Ottley.

In Italy, they learned how important the pairing of wine and food can be, culminating in a demonstration pairing wine and hors d’oeuvres at this year’s festival.

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They also have taken a chocolate walking tour of Europe and a cooking class that started off each day at the market on their

itinerary.

The couple has become increasingly interested in local foods.

“My new favorite is Lava Lake Lamb sausage. Falls Brand puts out a wonderful Salmon Creek Farms pork tenderloin. And Teton Waters Ranch in the Teton Valley will be bringing organic mushrooms that they grow, along with their grass-fed beef. We’ll have organic tea, garlic and raw milk, as well,” said Ottley.

At the end of the day, Ottley said, she hopes people leave saying they learned a new technique or found a new product, such as melting an organic butter substitute made of a combination of fats formulated for optimal nutrients, weight management and heart health.

The festival is gaining momentum, attracting people from as far away as Florida and Texas. This year’s festival will include members of a Colorado Pilots Association fly-in. Last year’s included motorcyclists, who flew to Boise and rented motorcycles. The Festival Restaurant Walk has even introduced locals to some new players on the region’s restaurant scene.

“There were a couple restaurants I didn’t even know about,” said Ketchum resident Craig Delagardelle, who attended last year’s walk.

For more information about the Sun Valley Harvest Festival, which runs Sept. 19 through 22, visit sunvalleyharvestfestival.com or call 208-450-6430.

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