Photo © Roger Ward
by Roger Ward
“Foodie Heaven,” trademark of the Sun Valley Harvest Festival, accurately depicts this food and drink nirvana for those who love to mingle with other food lovers and with outstanding chefs who create odes of joy from the finest Idaho ingredients. Showcased during a gentle season of warm days and crisp evenings, communities surrounding Sun Valley transform into glorious four-day foodie destinations.
The festival is packed with activities well-suited to balancing health and fitness with foodie fun in this outdoor paradise. In between early morning guided hikes and the last call for caviar and martinis, educational and tasting experiences for every level of interest and expertise abound.
Heidi Ottley, one of the co-founders of the festival, reassured me that the most popular activities of the past festivals will be retained for 2014. The restaurant walk, “A Taste of Ketchum,” is always a hit, while a new event will feature Hailey restaurants at “Swine, Wine and Dine.” Restaurants will feature their take on local Idaho pork paired with wine and a demonstration of whole pig carving.
Ottley barely contained her excitement while describing the festival’s innovations. Her highlight for 2014 features a choice of a foodie adventure hosted by a farm, ranch or lodge for a small group of only 30-40 participants each. Food prepared by notable chefs will be the focus, paired with a related adventure, such as bicycling, fly fishing, an organic farm tour or a cooking demo.
“These shared adventures, plus the intimate and casual venues,” she explains, “are designed to encourage energetic and satisfying interactions among the participants themselves, the chefs and the hosts of the activities.”
As a certified hedonist, I won’t deny that my favorite activity was munching and drinking my way through last year’s festival. I hiked the morning hikes so I could forgive any guilt brought on by so many days of extravagant indulgence. I talked with fishery owners, farmers and ranchers, all the while imagining the pleasure of their fresh local products transformed by notable chefs and local restaurants. Also true with the bakers, confectioners and other food artisans. Indulging in these, and the high-quality Idaho wines and brews, sent my palate to heaven.
This year, the Sun Valley Harvest Festival will take place September 18-21. For more information, visit sunvalleyharvestfestival.com. For more information about traveling to Idaho, go to visitidaho.org.