I have good news and bad news. Bad news first: you missed the first Coeur d’Alene Food and Wine Festival. Good news: it’s happening again next year.
Hundreds of people flocked to the Resort April 6 and 7 for the two-day extravaganza. Most attendees hailed from the Coeur d’Alene Spokane area, but not all. Gary and Mary drove up from the Tri Cities specifically for this event. Stan and Jessica were in town from Portland visiting relatives, heard about the food and wine fest and signed up. Enthusiastic foodies Joe and Jennifer live in Coeur d’Alene but decided to book the entire package so they could eat and drink with gay abandon and not worry about driving home.
“We traveled a lot internationally last year,” Mary said, “and this year we decided to concentrate on great things in the U.S. We’re so glad this is one of the events we chose.”
What an extravaganza and what an opportunity to talk with the area’s top chefs and winery owners, sample exotic, delicious gourmet food, sip top wines from around the region and mingle with people who share a passion for fine food, wine and spirits – all at the beautiful Coeur d’Alene Resort.
Kudos to the Resort’s visionary president, Bill Reagan, a passionate food and wine guy who’s been researching food and wine festivals for over a decade and decided North Idaho was ripe for high-end eats and drinks. Event Director Danielle Beaudine, backed by coordinators Britney Cobb, Chuck Shirley and Cally King, helped Bill’s vision become a reality.
Friday’s Twilight Opening Reception was oh-so-much more than a cocktail party. Bartenders from Beverly’s, Whispers, the Convention Center (all at the Coeur d’Alene Resort) and local restaurant Bardenay were given free rein to create specialty cocktails.
Their tangy concoctions ranged from Lavender Green Tea Spritzer to Austin Sauce. Following the festival’s commitment to always pair fine spirits with surprising food, there were plenty of light hors d’oeuvres perfectly complimenting the drinks. Everyone voted for their favorite, not an easy task. The winner: Lavender Green Tea Spritzer, just what we sun-starved Northwesterners need right now.
Saturday started with a champagne brunch featuring sparkling wine from Yakima’s Treveri Cellars. I think this event’s theme should be Fuel Up, Big Things to Come because of the enormous number of choices. Made-to-order omelets, tables laden with pastries, fruit, breakfast meats and more insured no one would walk away with an empty stomach.
An array of chef demonstrations and cooking classes followed. I sat in on Celebrate the Salmon where the Beverly’s Executive Chef Jim Barrett and sous chef Anthony Buttice showed us how to prepare the famous alder planked salmon served in Beverly’s. Anthony’s deft knife skills made filleting the glistening fish look easy, and Chef Barrett walked us through barbequing with alder planks and his surprisingly simple salmon seasoning. (Silly me, I thought wonderful food had to have an ingredient list the length of my arm.) Gregg Alger, owner of Huston Vineyards in Caldwell, Idaho, poured his winery’s Riesling and enthusiastically educated us on the variations of that varietal.
South of the border for the next class, where Chef Chad White filled us in on the nuances of ceviche. Chad spent years traveling, cooking and generally falling in love with Mexican culture and cuisine and has operated restaurants on both sides of the border. He’s been featured on Travel Channel’s Bizarre Foods and competed on Bravo’s Top Chef Season 13.
While Chef White created Sinaloa Style Agua Chile Tostada and Baja Style Tuna Tostada ceviche, Melanie Krause from Cinder Winery in Idaho’s Snake River Valley poured a crisp, delicate rosé. Combining kick-ass ceviche with a calm-down-now rosé created an unforgettable match.
Cooking classes ended at 1:00 pm and we’d already consumed more food than I usually have in a day to say nothing of the party-hardy amount of wine. But I was drinking lots of water and I am a professional, after all, so I soldiered on to the Barrister Winemaker Lunch at Beverly’s Restaurant.
The three-course, two-hour affair was an experience in gastronomic vinicultural nirvana. (I am quite sure I have never uttered that phrase before in my life.) Amelthia Farms Goat Cheese was the amuse bouche (did you just Google that? It’s a small-bite appetizer), followed by a seafood trio, Muscovy duck salad, bison hanger steak and chocolate duet dessert. Sumptuous local wines, compliments of Klipsun Vineyard, Columbia Valley Winery, Walla Walla Valley Winery and Dionysus Vineyard, were paired with each course. Nibble, sip, chat with your new friends at the table, nibble, sip, chat.
An after-lunch stroll along the boardwalk, a little nap, a change of clothes and I was ready to board a Lake Coeur d’Alene Cruise boat for a sunset sail to the Hagadone Event Center and dinner. On board Chef Chad White provided hors d’oeuvres and Townshend Cellars supplied wine, just in case we were hungry or thirsty.
Overlooking Lake Coeur d’Alene and located above the Resort’s famous floating green, the Hagadone Center hosts weddings, corporate retreats and conventions. There was nothing staid and businesslike about the venue or the guests on Saturday night, however. We’d all been hanging out with each other for hours and were comfortable enough that conversation flowed, jokes passed back and forth and emails were exchanged.
We sat at enormous family-style tables decorated with spring-like bouquets and hubcap-sized cobalt blue bowls heaped with fresh seafood. Food stations lined the perimeter of the room offering coté de boeuf, pan-seared sea scallops, Spanish pork tenderloin, pistachio rack of lamb,
Dessert was a chocolate concoction that looked like it belonged in a modern art museum. And son of a gun, the entire thing, even the base, was edible.
No need to worry about “perfect” wine pairings. We just made a beeline to any or all of the participating wineries: Maryhill Winery, Huston Vineyard, Townshend Cellars, Latah Creek Winery, Colter’s Creek Winery, Cinder Winery, Barrister Winery and Forgeron Cellars.
Dueling pianos created a lively backdrop that got even peppier once we’d finished dinner. I think there are a bunch of Dancing with the Stars wanna-be’s around here, and the crowd let inhibitions fly as they boogied the night away.
“I couldn’t convince any of my friends to come with us,” said Mary from the Tri Cities, “but just wait till they hear about all the fun we had and see my pictures. I know they’ll want to come next year.”