Indulge Your Senses

Chris Kastner, one of eight chefs who will give cooking demonstrations at the Sun Valley Harvest Festival, says that starting out with good produce is key to taste. ‘It’s hard to make food taste good if you start with bad stuff,’ Kastner says.

SUN VALLEY • Chef Dave Martin’s penchant for adventurous foods has led him to create prickly pear mustard, lychee and sweet chili aioli and even pink guava ketchup for his Frying Dutchman gourmet french fry truck in Manhattan.

Now this finalist in Bravo’s “Top Chef” show plans to pair Bucksnort Root Beer — a concoction of wintergreen and other flavors created by a Bellevue brewer — with Snake River Farms’ pork and serve it atop wild cherrywood bacon and goat cheese grits drizzled with Dave’s Roasted Poblano BBQ Sauce.

The beneficiaries? People who attend the second annual Sun Valley Harvest Festival, set for Sept. 22-25 in Ketchum and Sun Valley.

“I’m all about flavor — layers of flavor. And I like to make people smile through my food,” said Martin, who left the technology industry to pursue his passion for cooking when tech took a nosedive several years ago.

“The two most common mistakes in my opinion is overcooking meat or not seasoning it. I don’t want just a plain piece of pork. Everything I cook I season with pepper and salt — sea salt or kosher salt rather than iodized salt, since it’s not good for you. And I love dry rubs, marinades and sauces. I also advocate buying local and fresh when possible to get maximum flavor.”

Martin will be one of eight chefs offering hour-long cooking demonstrations capped by samples, beginning at 9 a.m. Sept. 24 at Carol’s Dollar Mountain Lodge in Sun Valley. The others:

• Sam Talbot of The Surf Lodge in Montauk, N.Y., and Imperial No. 9 in New York City will create huckleberry trout using Buhl-based Clear Springs’ fish.

• Cathy Whims of Nostrana in Portland, Ore., will prepare a mushroom sformata using organic mushrooms grown by Teton Waters Ranch in eastern Idaho.

• Clay Conley of Buccan in Palm Beach, Fla., will prepare Idaho rabbit.

• Sun Valley caterer Judith McQueen will make dishes using tomato water.

• Taite Pearson of Ketchum’s new della Mano restaurant will show how to properly cut and dice vegetables, among other techniques.

“A lot of vegetables we don’t know how to prepare — we butcher them,” said Ed Sinnott, co-founder of the Sun Valley Harvest Festival. “Vegetables taste differently depending on how you cut them.”

• Chris Kastner of CK’s Real Food in Hailey will show how to make grilled tomato soup that he can then turn into sauces and marinades.

“It’s easy for me just to dump a box or bag of tomatoes on the grill,” Kastner said. “Once they blacken and take on that smoky flavor, I get rid of the seeds and blend the tomatoes with a food mill. It’s a good way to use stuff you have so much of this time of year. And you can make things taste good without a lot of time.”

• Finally, Melissa Costello, a vegan chef from Los Angeles and personal chef to P90X workout creator Tony Horton, will lead a demo on fall vegan cooking.

“Veganism is all the rage with heavy hitters such as Sun Valley’s Steve Wynn and Bill Clinton taking on the lifestyle. But it’s more than just not eating animal products,” Costello said. “Being vegan and healthy means eating whole foods, plant-based foods, nutrient-dense foods. Many vegans will gorge on processed foods that are vegan, but are not necessarily healthy. You want to take baby steps and not just dive in without the knowledge that you need, because your body will go into shock.”

Co-founder Heidi Ottley said the festival is designed to expose food lovers to new tastes, techniques and products. The latter include Melt, an organic butter substitute made of fats formulated for nutrient content and absorption, weight management and heart health.

“We want people to walk away saying, ‘I really learned something new,’” Ottley said.

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