Tag Archives: Stanley

Eating Vegetarian in Stanley, Idaho

Highway 21 climbs to the top of Banner Creek Summit, an elevation of 7056 ft then drops down into the Stanley Basin.  The highway becomes straight, cutting through green fields that edge up to the Sawtooth Mountains.  The fields are like green dust bowls devoid of vegetables and fruit.  My vegetarian belly has learned not to be fooled by common sense observation.

Eating vegetarian in Idaho has its surprises.  Towns like Middleton, Kuna, and Emmett are surrounded by vegetables and fruit.  Despite the abundance of food most vegetarian choices on the menu taste like an unwanted step child.  If you’re not following here’s a different perspective.  Reader let’s pretend your a horny 20 something straight guy.  All day you walk along Venice Beach observing fields of women.  The sunny California female beach bathers have excited your taste buds.  Later that evening you are in the mood to hear some local music and talk to a beautiful woman.   You decide to check out the bar scene off the boardwalk.  The first bar plays techno music and claims to be the friendliest gay bar on Venice Beach.  You keep moving.  The second bar has Erasure night.  Buffed out men are dancing and mouthing the words,

“And if I should falter
would you open your arms out to me?
We can make love not war
and live at peace with our hearts.
I’m so in love with you
I’ll be forever blue”

You ponder what does forever blue mean to a bar full of guys?  Bar after bar packed with flirtatious men.  You are confused, the beach has field after field of women similar to Idaho small towns with field after field of fruit and vegetables.

Despite only observing cows in the Stanley basin, surprisingly a vegetarian can eat amazingly creative thought out meals from sun up to sun down.  I am so blown away that I might look for Mrs Right in San Francisco’s Castro District.

BREAKFAST

It’s Sept 14, Stanley Baking CO. & Cafe seems to be the most popular eatery at this time of day.  I get into line.  Clouds have socked in the Stanley Basin.  The Sawtooth Mountains are obscured from view.  I wonder will the seasonal disorder effect of no sunshine and the stress of a hopping eatery effect the cooks?  Distressed cooks and pigs don’t make good meals.  I start perusing the menu wall.  Holy moly a vegetarian has more choices than the typical cheese omelet, waffles, and pancakes.  A person can substitute real meat for fake meat.  Here’s the dish that made my vegetarian belly tremble.  This dish didn’t involve fake meat substitutions it’s the real deal.  A signature vegetarian dish called the “Mingas.”

“Our version of a Mexican breakfast.  Two eggs any style, tortilla chips, potatoes, green chilies, feta, provolone, jack cheese and black beans baked in a red New Mexican enchilada sauce & topped with homemade salsa.”  Eureka!

Despite a dark weather mood the chefs cooked like two happy pigs that go on daily walks and get their bellies scratched.

Click here to read the Stanley Baking Co. & Cafe omelet review.

LUNCH

I spent mid morning and early afternoon exploring the shore of Redfish Lake.  After some enjoyable hiking I stopped in at The Redfish Lodge for lunch.  The outdoor grill menu offers a veggie burger.  Before ordering I asked, “do you make your garden burger?”  To my surprise The Redfish Lodge services frozen garden burgers.  I decided to head down highway 75 to Smiley Creek Lodge.  Their website boasts homemade food which means no frozen veggie burgers.

When approaching The Smiley Creek Lodge an urban restaurant goer might keep driving.  City restaurants typically don’t have teepees, wood carved bear art, a gas station, and boast they sell non alcoholic beer.

Inside I’m quickly greeted by a friendly server named Lisa.  I ask her is the Abe’s Chair Garden Burger a fancy name for some pre made frozen veggie burger bought at Costco?  Lisa has incredible delivery on the same level of a comedian or motivational speaker.  She gave a long pausing smile then said, “Our chef makes the veggie burger.  The fries are home cut and the bun comes from Bigwood Bread.  After I take your order I think I’ll have an Abe’s Chair Garden Burger.”  Enough said!

Here’s the menu description.
Vegetable and bean patty, on a Bigwood Bread organic challah bun, topped with a cilantro jalepeno sauce.

DINNER

I am going to pose a question.  Would the Mona Lisa have the same impact tacked up on the wall of a mechanic shop framed by hotrods with models posing on the hoods?  I think not.  Great works of art are properly framed and the buildings that house the art are of the same awe inspiring level.

Welcome to the Sawtooth Hotel’s patio.  If you’re a mushroom lover and love the Sawtooth Mountains you’ll be enjoying a little piece of heaven.

“Mushroom Ragout wild and cultivated mushrooms stewed with fresh herbs and aromatic vegetables served with buttered orzo.”

An amazing dish like this served in a smokey truck stop won’t taste the same as enjoying it the presence of the Sawtooth Mountains.

Side note:  When preparing a menu for a smokey truck stop cafe does the chef ask questions like, “Would a roasted beet salad with spinach, goat cheese, toasted walnuts and a roasted garlic vinaigrette taste good with a Lucky Strike?”  After a moment of thought with a Lucky Strike in the left hand and a beet in the right hand the chef answers his question. “No, a Lucky Strike won’t compliment the taste of a beet but I’m sure a rocking chair, PBR, and The Sawtooth Mountains will.”

Palmer Cafe located in Stanley, Idaho

Hallelujah, Processed Food

photo taken at Sawtooth Fish Hatchery

While pedaling to lower Stanley, Idaho for an omelet, my eyes keep following the Salmon River. Right now, a majority of the Fish and Game salmon are returning to the fish hatchery. This is a remarkable feat because they float all the way to the big wide Pacific Ocean, and then for some reason, they decide to swim all the way back to where they are born in these large cement bathtubs.

A person can identify a fish hatchery salmon from a native salmon because the Fish and Game make sure to exclude the adipose fin from their salmon.

Cruising past the fish hatchery with my eyes still focused on the river, I see a bald eagle sitting on a post. We both happen to be looking at the same stretch of river. I feel bad for it because this week the Fish and Game have stopped stocking the Salmon River with rainbow trout for the season. I suppose it’s time for the eagle to fly south where it’s warm and where the rivers are stocked year round. Taking a closer look at the bald eagle, I notice it has all of its body parts. I don’t think the eagle was hatched by the Fish and Game. I yell at the bird, “Shoo, shoo, fly to Alabama where it’s warm.”

Our eyes meet, but I don’t think the eagle understands. It remains sitting on the post. I suppose we are too different to connect. The eagle has mom and dad eagle parents; I have mom and dad human parents. With so many animals and fish bred in captivity, I bet test-tube babies can commune more naturally with nature, both being conceived in a similar sort of scientifically engineered environment. If I were a test-tube baby, I would want my animal spirit to be a Fish and Game hatched salmon. Like the fish hatchery salmon, when I have lived a full life, I will feel a tug on my heart and crawl to a rest home to die. Like the farm raised salmon in the grocery store, when I die, someone will come along and add some pink to my cheeks so that I may look presentable at my funeral.


I arrive at lower Stanley in time for breakfast. Choosing a restaurant in lower Stanley is easy because it does not have sprawl like upper Stanley. The town has to compete for space with Highway 75 in the middle, mountains to one side, and the Salmon River to the other.

The restaurant I choose, Palmer’s Café, is adjacent to a whitewater rafting company. I notice the person next to me eating pancakes off of disposable breakfast ware. His snow-white fork and knife do not have a smudge. His clean silverware a reminder that my hands are dirty. I get up to use the bathroom.

The men’s room is shared between the café and raft company. On the wall there are pictures of rafters in unsafe floating situations.

I think it odd that a raft company would voluntarily post pictures of possible drownings. The only other time I saw this odd advertising was in Thailand. The cigarette companies have to place a picture showing the consequences of smoking. So while lighting up, you get to admire tubes coming out of someone’s mouth and nose. The person looks like they could have lung cancer. I don’t think this form of advertising has slowed down the smokers or rafters. Teenagers and young adults love to flirt with death in the form of smoke and water filling the lungs.

The bathroom looks as if it hasn’t been cleaned for a while. The smudge of poop on the toilet leads me to this conclusion. To add to my horror, the soap dispenser does not have any soap.

The dirty bathroom reminds me of Anthony Bourdain’s cleanliness comments in Kitchen Confidential:
“I won’t eat in a restaurant with filthy bathrooms. This isn’t a hard call. They let you see the bathrooms. If the restaurant can’t be bothered to replace the puck in the urinal or keep the toilets and floors clean, then just imagine what their refrigeration and work spaces look like. Bathrooms are relatively easy to clean. Kitchens are not. In fact, if you see the chef sitting unshaven at the bar, with a dirty apron on, one finger halfway up his nose, you can assume he’s not handling your food any better behind closed doors. Your waiter looks like he just woke up under a bridge? If management allows him to wander out on the floor looking like that, God knows what they’re doing to your shrimp!”

Despite agreeing with Mr. Bourdain that poop on the toilet seat should raise a red flag, I have already ordered my food and I’m hungry enough to risk an afternoon of being sick. Don’t get me wrong, thoughts of dirty fingers touching my omelet scare me. I calm myself by visualizing latex-gloved fingers cracking eggs, American cheese protected by plastic wrap, beans spooned out of a freshly opened can, and salsa squeezed out of a tube. I can’t believe I’m saying out loud, “Thank god for processed food!”

Here comes my omelet on a paper plate. Oh, fuck. It looks fresh.

995 Acres to Toss my Trash (short film)

empty-cartons.jpg
click to watch

Recycling at the Idaho Rocky Mountain Ranch inspires one employee to make creative use of trash. The ranch is framed by the Sawtooth and White Cloud Mountains, surrounded by more wilderness than anywhere in the continental United States.

Drawn into the Egg-Centric Vortex (guest omelet review)

by John Alonge, proprietor of The San Diego Wine and Culinary Center

fireplace.jpg

On most days, the rustic-but-comfortable dining room at the Idaho Rocky Mountain Ranch is a pretty lively place at breakfast time. There’s a fire burning in the oversized 1930s fireplace and a big buffet spread of coffee, juice, cereal, bread, muffins and other delights. At every table, animated conversations can be heard. Ranch guests, bent over steaming platters of eggs, bacon and hash browns, wax on rhapsodically about their plans for the day. Some will hike to distant alpine lakes high in the Sawtooth mountains. Others will take a fly fishing lesson. A few will raft or kayak some portion of the Salmon River. Everyone has some energetic plan for the day and wants to tell their tablemates what they’ll be doing before dinner.

So, on this particular day in July, when a hush fell over the dining room shortly after 8 AM, I looked up from my banana pancakes quizzically, wondering what had happened. Glancing to my left, I saw Brandon (one of the Ranch staff members) spinning around a table snapping photos. Paige, one of the other Ranch guests, was sitting squarely before a plate which cradled an egg creation of some sort swathed in a rich overcoat of red salsa and flanked by several quarter-folded tortillas and a bunch of plump, purple grapes. I wondered what all the fuss was about.

paige-omelet.jpg

I jumped up from my seat to investigate. “What’s going on, Brandon?” I asked.

“Look at it!” he exclaimed with tantamount enthusiasm. “It’s an all yolk omelet!”

I peered down into Paige’s plate. Sure enough, her omelet exhibited a rich, deep golden hue of an intensity far beyond that of the ordinary egg scramble. I gazed upon it with rapture. I knew instantly that this was one of those moments of extraordinary significance that life reserves for us on very rare occasions. The extreme importance of the moment was just beginning to sink in.

Brandon continued to dance in circles around the table like a dingledodie, snapping photos at a frenetic pace. More and more people gathered to see what all the commotion was about. Soon, the focus of everyone in the dining room was the golden mass on Paige’s plate. Sandra, the General Manager, walked in and was instantly drawn irremediably into the egg-centric vortex. The fragile silence reigned like an ephemeral ice crystal on an aspen branch.

At last, after an anxious eternity, Paige picked up her fork and planted it in the preternatural pile of egg. Slowly, like a glacier advancing down a mountain couloir, she lifted the first all-yolk forkful to her mouth and engulfed it. Someone behind me gasped with emotion.

Immediately, I had a vision of tiny alevins, post-embryonic salmon rising from the gravel of the riverbed, a yolk sack attached to their tiny bodies for sustenance. Like some primeval ritual, the forkful of all yolk omelet being consumed by Paige joined the rich, protein-laced protuberance on the underbelly of the fledgling fish in a paroxysm of primitive life force. All the evolution of every species on the planet was suddenly nourished by that one single bite.

For that one, perfect instant, the future of the human race was assured.

……………………………………………………………………………………………………….

John Alongé, proprietor of San Diego Wine & Culinary Center, known as The San Diego Wine Heretic, personally presents a variety of classes, tastings and seminars, demystifying the sometimes arcane world of wine and entertaining groups of all sizes. He is a much sought after speaker for corporate and private groups all over the country.

Stanley Baking CO. & Cafe located in Stanley, Idaho

Eating, Reading, and Drinking in Stanley, Idaho
entering-stanley.jpg

The self-serve water dispenser is the first thing I notice at the Stanley Baking CO. & Cafe. Having just cycled nine miles on Highway 75 from Idaho Rocky Mountain Ranch, the free water is a welcome sight. The restaurant, like all of Stanley, Idaho, does not have a bike rack. However, I’m not concerned about my bike being stolen. Maybe it’s the Tibetan prayer flags flapping in the breeze beside the Bakery and subduing my anxiety. Or it’s the looming Sawtooth Mountains that are always watching and keep the bike thieves at bay.

the-bakery.jpg

The inside of the restaurant does not have the usual dead animal motif. In fact, I couldn’t find any fur or scales on the wall. The only thing dying on the wall are pictures of snowy Sawtooth Mountains and an aging Dali Lama. The Sawtooths in the pictures are covered in old winter snow that hangs on throughout the summer. Now summer snow peaks are as rare as the returning salmon. Like the rivers that need the Fish and Game fish hatcheries to help maintain a semblance of a healthy stream, the mountains will need the Forest Service to haul up snow making equipment to keep the peaks looking majestic.

aprons.jpg

While waiting for my omelet, I notice the aprons strung across the kitchen. The aprons remind me of the recent MaryJanesFarm magazine and the words of Jeannie Pierce: “Seeing a woman wear an apron lets you know she loves to create. Her creations may be pies or paintings or pottery, but she also produces an aura of comfort, ease, and curiosity. You just naturally think, ‘What is she making?” The cooks in the kitchen created a delicious omelet made with feta, cheddar, and tomato.

up-gravel-road.jpg

After breakfast, I follow the dirt road from the Stanley Baking Co. & Cafe towards the mountains. The road becomes steep and bumpy leading up to a plateau, and the view from the top is worth the leg burn. The view is so amazing that some sort of human structure had to be built. Instead of a large house, a meditation chapel was erected, open to weekly church services and private special events. Next to the chapel, there’s a park. I choose the swing set over the chapel. I’d like to meet god swinging through the air, pretending that I’m a teenage sparrow rather than listening to a man dressed as a politician speaking god’s will.

Riding down the hill from the park, I pick up speed quickly. In a blink, I might cruise through the town of Stanley and end up back on Highway 75. I dash madly down the hill past the Bakery, then apply the brakes and turn left at the stop sign because the library is a great place to hang out.

The library keeps unusual hours. Luckily, today the library is open with two chairs unoccupied. With the library being so small, they wisely chose to fill the space with books instead of couches or large sofa type chairs. Sometimes when I’m at other libraries and the book I want is not available, I think, “Maybe if there weren’t so many chairs there would be room for the book I asked about!” The library has a small amount of magazines, but once again the librarian was thinking about space. Instead of filling up precious room with People or Vogue, there are copies of magazines like the National Geographic and Smithsonian. I pick up a magazine and read about people celebrating the 50th anniversary of Jack Kerouac’s On The Road. I decide it’s time for an afternoon cocktail.

downtown-stanley.jpg

There are two bars close to the library: The Rod-N-Gun Saloon and The Kasino Club. The Kasino Club has open mic on Thursday nights and it happens to be smoke free. The Rod-N-Gun Saloon is not smoke free but opens at 2PM. I’ve been a fan of the Rod-N-Gun for a number of years. When I got my first poem published, Johnny Ray (the owner) let me recite it on stage. Back then, along with two of Stanley’s former mayors, Johnny Ray used to be in a cover band that played on the weekends.

At 2PM nothing’s happening. Johnny Ray and his wife are trying to talk me into buying tickets to see the comedian, Jason Resler, who’s appeared on Comedy Central and will be appearing at the Rod-N-Gun tonight. I’d go to the show, but I don’t feel comfortable riding my bicycle at night while sharing the highway with deer and drunk drivers.

deer-butt.jpg

I order a cranvodka and listen to Jane’s Addiction on the jukebox. Part of the ceiling is covered in women’s panties. I can’t find a good quote about panties in MaryJanesFarm magazine. If panties had a pocket on the front, they could act as aprons.

underwear.jpg

Here’s another quote by Jeannie Pierce from MaryJanesFarm magazine, edited to fit the context of the panties at the Rod-N-Gun Saloon: “With my panties, I carry snap peas, peppers, and cherry tomatoes after picking. I wipe my hands while canning and baking. I store tissues for my granddaughter’s occasional runny nose. My panties even give me a place to park my thimble and quilting thread. They make me feel like being busy with my hands.” I get my hands busy by taking the straw out of my cranvodka. Now I have to bring my drink to my lips. My afternoon cocktail gets me through $1 worth of Jane’s Addiction songs. I decide it’s time to go because trying to focus on riding between the white line and gravel edge of the road for nine miles can be a challenge sober much less buzzed.

white-line.jpg