Bountiful Beautiful: A 300-mile Culinary Odyssey Through the Inland Northwest. Harvest Idaho, One Bite at a Time

Warren and I have always wanted to visit eastern Washington and northern Idaho. So off we went, on a 300- mile culinary odyssey through “The Inland Northwest.” Our agenda: Exploring, feasting, and wine tasting.

Starting in beautiful Spokane, then driving into northern Idaho, golden wheat fields, elegant mountains, and sparkling lakes awed us.

 

We picked fresh apples, posed for photos with mammoth pumpkins, and feasted on tangy huckleberries. At family owned wineries, we tasted nectar of the gods.

Talented chefs served us smoked trout, roasted quail, rosemary foccacia, filet mignon, and sweet peach pie. Farmers waxed poetic over lentils, wheat, and heirloom tomatoes. Everything from farm to table was delicious, grown and prepared with love.

 

CULINARY DELIGHTS
 Our culinary tour began in Spokane, known for historic architecture, spectacular scenery, and as Bing Crosby’s birthplace. We dined at three very special restaurants: Sante, Masselow’s, and Latah Bistro.  Sante is a chic bustling cafe, serving organic gourmet fare. Specialty of the house is charcuterie: duck prosciutto, Spanish chorizo, and chicken liver pate. We breakfasted royally on gravlox with pears, French toast with anise syrup, and gnocchi with bacon. An artfully presented fresh fruit plate could have been painted by Cezanne.

Masselow’s is one of 14 restaurants within eastern Washington’s only AAA Four Diamond casino resort, the stunning Northern Quest Resort & Casino. Chef Robert Rogers delights diners with seared scallops in lemon roasted cauliflower sauce, Washington beef sirloin with wild berry glace, and butternut squash soufflé with maple sauce. The sophisticated dining room is adorned by Native American tribal portraits, including a powerful image of Chief Masselow.

 Chef David Blaine’s Latah Bistro is a wonder of regional fare. His goal is “making everyday eating healthy and delicious.” We’re treated to locally farmed chickpeas, lentils, and wild mushrooms on pizza, spinach salad with organic chicken, and jumbo blackberries. Nibbling on the best rosemary foccacia of my life, I’m introduced to farmer Read Smith, who proudly says, “I grew the wheat that made the flour in the bread you’re eating.” Now that’s farm to table, a way of life in The Inland Northwest.

 

Leaving gorgeous Washington State and driving into northern Idaho, we rev up for more culinary treats at Pend Oreille Winery/Bistro Rouge Café, Beverly’s Restaurant, and Nectar. Northern Idaho is a marvel of sparkling lakes, perfect for sailing and fishing, and undulating mountains, home to elk, deer, wild turkeys, and huckleberry eating bears. Idaho lays claim to the most whitewater rapids in the lower 48 states and boasts 50 wineries.          

 

Pend Oreille Winery/Bistro Rouge Café is in charming Sandpoint, recently awarded “Most Beautiful Small Town in America,” by USA Today and Rand McNally. Located on 43-mile long Lake Pend Oreille, this picturesque town deserves her accolades. We enjoyed a peaceful cruise on the Lake aboard the Shawnodese yacht, photographing bald eagles and learning about the lake’s history and geology. We look forward to returning to Sandpoint for fishing, kayaking, hiking, swimming, art galleries, fine dining, and seaplane tours over the mountains.

 

 More gorgeous views greeted us at breakfast at Beverly’s Restaurant, inside the fabulous Coeur d’Alene Resort. Executive Chef Rodney Jessick served poached eggs topped with trout and hollandaise, grilled zucchini, homemade sausage, and tangy huckleberries. We hope to return soon to taste Chef Jessick’s firecracker prawns in Cajun spices and baked Alaska.

 BOUNTIFUL BEAUTIFUL
Throughout our culinary odyssey around The Inland Northwest, we were inspired by the passion and creativity of farmers, chefs, and winemakers, who devote their lives to creating food and wine that satisfies not just the palate, but the soul. One multigenerational farmer proudly told me, “My grandfather homesteaded here. I still farm here because this is Home.”

Classic red barns and graceful golden fields frame picture perfect cows and horses grazing peacefully. Driving away, looking out the window, I understand why all who live here treasure this bountiful beautiful land.

 

 

Adapted from Jet Set Extra – Culinary Writer Sharon Spence Lieb

 

 

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