Recently, out-of-town friends asked me to show them around Jackson Hole; they wanted to see the foodie side of town. Where do locals like to eat? Where do you find the best bread, cheese, and eggs? What is the best source for meat? And where can you find fresh morel mushrooms?
You could call this a selfie, at my favorite Jackson bakery workshop south of town.
I was happy to answer all their questions--excluding secret morel hunting spots, of course--with a Foodie Day in Jackson Hole. We hatched a plan. We'd spend the week foraging for the best ingredients on both sides of the Teton Range. At the end of the week, we'd celebrate with a locavore cooking class and feast on our finds. I needed an entire Foodie Week to show off the best spots to eat, drink, and forage in my mountain town.
Baguettes fresh from the oven welcomed us on our early morning bakery tour.
First stop: Persephone Bakery
headquarters, to see how the bakers crank out Jackson's most beloved croissants, crackers, buns, baguettes, cupcakes, cakes, pies, tarts, financiers, macarons, chocolate chip cookies....and my favorite sandwich bread, Pain au Levain.
Chief Persephone baker Kevin Cohane multi-tasking at 8 am.
Owner and head baker Kevin Cohane is hard to catch standing still. One minute he's measuring rye flour to fold into his Pain au Levain, the next he's pulling dozens of hamburger buns from the magical oven--shelves revolving like the seats on a ferris wheel.
Sharan watches as flatbread dough gets cut into crackers.
Silently, he materializes on the other side of the bakery to check on the Herb Flatbread crackers before they go into the oven. All the while, he patiently answers our questions about yeast and altitude, measuring vs. weighing flour, getting a good crust on a baguette, and how to make frangipane.
Love the Herb Flatbread crackers sold under the Mountain Roots label? Me too.
We wanted to hang out at the Persephone Bakery all morning, smelling the buns as they exited the oven, and peering into the gigantic standing mixers. But the bakers were busy and we had a schedule to keep. We grabbed a baguette and headed out in search of the best cheese in the valley.
Linsday Klaunig, cheese maker at Teton Valley Creamery.
It just so happens that my favorite cheese shop is not in Jackson at all. We headed up and over Teton Pass to the one-stoplight-town of Driggs, Idaho and the Teton Valley Creamery
. Here, cheese maker Lindsay Klaunig was busy molding her baby camembert cheeses into whimsical shapes. But she's never too busy to take a break and talk about cheese.
Lindsay has been busy all winter putting up cheese in the cheese cave.
Teton Valley Creamery produces cow's milk cheeses from milk sourced locally in Idaho. I have a serious addiction to their Farm Fresh Fromage, a fresh cheese served plain or laced with herbs, and occasionally the essence of truffles. I also seek out their Sapphire Blue, a mild blue cheese that my kids really like. And their Haystack cheese is the ideal melting cheese for a grilled cheese and tomato sandwich.
Teton Valley Creamery also makes ice cream and gelato from scratch with their fresh local milk. I never drive by without picking up a pint or two of Java Jolt or hazelnut ice cream.
Camembert babies incubating in the cheese cave.
It being morning, we weren't in the mood for ice cream. We were definitely in the mood for cheese. Lindsay was gracious enough to let us sample all of her lovingly cultured cheeses. Lindsay learned how to make cheese in Croatia the old-fashioned way, and it shows. The camembert needed some more time to age, so we made a mental note to return in a few months.
Meat doesn't get any more fresh or local than at Ellis Custom Meats.
For the freshest meat in town, we headed over to Ellis Custom Meats
in Victor, Idaho to see what butcher Derek Ellis had hanging in the meat cooler. Derek sources animals from local farms, transforming whole animals into custom cuts for his clients. Derek can find you a pig, a lamb, and a side of beef. He also processes wild game and wild birds. He's the first person I call when my husband brings home an antelope, deer, elk, bison, or moose.
Derek's merguez sausage recipe is the very best I've had: Smoky with Spanish paprika, spicy with crushed red pepper flakes, and sweet with dried apricots and roasted red peppers.
We stocked up on some fresh bison, duck sausages, and lamb merguez for the freezer. Thanks to custom butchers like Derek, I almost never buy meat from the supermarket. All my meat is sourced locally from animals that were raised and harvested humanely by people I know.
Next up on the locavore tour? Lunch. Immediately followed by wine tasting at Jackson Hole Winery
, a family-run, small batch winery using grapes from Sonoma County that are stomped in Jackson Hole.
Winemaker Anthony Schroth, making wine in his hometown of Jackson Hole.
Anthony Schroth and his family are passionate about making wines on their historic dairy farm home on Dairy Lane, a short hop off the bike path that winds south of the town of Jackson. Our climate is certainly too harsh for growing grapes, but--as it turns out--it is perfect for making wine.
Sharan swirls the 2010 JH Winery Chardonnay with delight.
We tasted the 2010 Chardonnay: Crisp and fruity, not too oakey, with the aroma of pears and apples. We sipped on the Rendezvous Red cabernet franc/syrah blend bottled in 2009, and tasted the soon to be bottled 2012: Plums, cherries, cocoa, currants, caramel, spicy and complex, but smooth at the finish. Finally, we tasted my fave: The 2010 Catch and Release Table Red; 100% zinfandel grapes, pepper and spice, with big raspberry jam fruity depth, smooth and spicy all at the same time. My go-to summer wine for steaks on the grill, lamb chops with chimichurri, and bison burgers with friends.
Edi and her mother check out the ruby-toned Catch and Release wine at JH Winery.
What did my foodie friends think of the Schroth family's wine? They were smitten. Cases of Jackson Hole Winery wines flew off the shelves. They couldn't wait to share these hand-crafted wines back home with their friends in Boston and Milwaukee. Which is exactly what the Schroth family is all about--making exceptional wine in Jackson Hole to share with those you love.
Finally, it was time to gather in the kitchen and cook up our goods. Our locally foraged ingredients were the cornerstone of our menu. Paradise Springs
raw milk was coaxed on the stovetop into a rich, creamy ricotta, perfect for smearing on our beloved Persephone baguette with slivers of fresh mint.
We made créme frâiche by folding raw milk into buttermilk and letting it culture overnight, then tossed it with fava beans, preserved lemon slivers, and little lamb meatballs, over homemade pasta made from Snowdrift Farms
Our bison tenderloin was rubbed with fennel pollen and seared in a blazing hot skillet. It was finished in the oven with a sauce of roasted red grapes, heavenly with our Jackson Hole Winery Catch and Release Zin.
My favorite preparation for wild game tenderloins involves a simple 3 ingredient sauce.
And for dessert, Lindsay's luscious Farm Fresh Fromage was paired with my Homemade Fig Butter
and Marmalade Cake
Yes, we were happy locavores indeed. And when we paused from our feasting for a moment to consider all the people who contributed to our meal--the cheese and winemakers, the butcher, the baker, the dairy and vegetable farmers--we were grateful locavores too.
Wild Game Tenderloin with Roasted Red Grapes
When grapes are tossed with olive oil and roasted in a hot oven, they burst and create the most lovely sauce for the rare meat. Wild game tenderloins are best served rare, so I always use a meat thermometer to avoid overcooking. This recipe works equally well for antelope, venison, elk, and bison. For an easy weeknight supper, I often substitute sausage links to roast along with the grapes.
Fennel pollen can be ordered online at spice shops, or brought back from Tuscany in your suitcase.
Serves 6, easily doubled
For the meat:
• 1 1lb. wild game tenderloin, at room temperature
• 3 T. butter, at room temperature
• 1 T. Kosher salt
• 2 tsp. fennel pollen (optional)
• freshly ground pepper
• 1 T. grapeseed or canola oil for seering
For the sauce:
• T. olive oil
• 1/2 pound seedless red or black grapes
• 1 T. balsamic vinegar
• Kosher salt, to taste
• Sprigs of fresh thyme, for garnish
1. Preheat the oven to 400ºF.
2. Rinse the grapes and remove the stems. Lay them out on a kitchen towel to dry. Toss with the olive oil in a 12-inch oven-safe skillet and place in the oven. Roast for 20 minutes, or until the grapes are beginning to burst and become saucey.
3. While the grapes are roasting, prepare the tenderloin. Trim off any silver skin, and dry well with paper towels. Rub with softened butter, and sprinkle with Kosher salt, fennel pollen, and freshly ground pepper.
4. Heat the grapeseed or canola oil in a 12-inch frying pan over high heat. Once it starts to smoke, add the tenderloin and sear for 1-2 minutes on each side, or until the surface is starting to brown. Set aside.
5. When the grapes are done, place them on the stovetop and nestle the tenderloin in the center. Reduce the oven temperature to 250ºF. Once the oven has cooled down, put the skillet back in the oven for 10 minutes, or until a meat thermometer placed into the center of the loin registers 115ºF. Set the tenderloin aside to rest on a plate.
6. Meanwhile, heat the skillet of grapes over medium high heat (remember that the handle will be hot!); add 1 tablespoon of balsamic vinegar and a pinch of salt, and toss for a few minutes until the sauce reduces and thickens.
7. Carve the tenderloin into 1-inch slices, and serve with the roasted grape sauce. Garnish with the fresh thyme, crushing the sprigs a bit with your fingers to release their leaves.
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Eat more cake. Persephone's mission statement is one I take very seriously.