Friday, February 1, 2013

The Orchard House: Comfort and Contentment

The Orchard House: Comfort and Contentment

The Culinary Club (aka the Foodies) consist of three flavor-lovers.

I'm beginning to see my role in the configuration. I want to write about the food, of course, but from me you'll always get the storybook version. What leads up to it, thoughts and feelings while there, and what's lingered after the fact.

I'm the touchy-feely, warm fuzzy one...
I can accept that.

The three of us met in a Nampa parking lot, piling into my Jeep for a ride through the snow, ice and (O joy!) thick fog. I chose to take the scenic route down my beloved Lakeshore Drive, just off Highway 45. The home I'd moved (from out by Boise Towne Square) and planted on seven acres, remodeled and re-constructed with my former husband was on Lakeshore Drive. The area is embedded in me, and I hope to return one very triumphant day. We'll see how that goes.

I played tour guide, pointing out the friends' house that held annual Christmas tree burns in March every year, with flames jumping higher than their rooftop when teenagers piled on ten trees at once. In the fog, we could barely make out an outline of the house on the corner.

I told Sarah and Deb about the closed-down cafe, where Lakeshore legend had it that a cougar once crashed through the big front window, alarming cafe customers. The legend has never been confirmed, and I don't recall now where I first heard it, but it's fun to tell.

I motioned to the house that had the dog that battled with our dog. The owners and I had words, then months later laughed about it over a plate of cookies. They gave away their dog, our dog died, and we remained friends.

My heart beat faster as we approached our old property. The trees I'd planted, the gazebo my then-husband had built for me, the exterior paint I'd exasperated over, finally deciding on 'Sunny Beach', the kids' fort... I'd loved that place, and I always will, but it was shrouded in fog and we couldn't see a thing.

"There it is," I told my friends, then quickly realized I was pointing to the neighbor's house, not ours. Fog factor.

Memories all the way around the lake as I remembered early morning bike rides out to Walker Lake or Riverside roads, summers of smelling the freshwater air, and a much slower-paced life than the one I'm living nowadays. There were days I'd avoided taking this very route for just such reasons, when the emotions were too poignant to take, but the thick white mist and always-intriguing conversation of Deb and Sarah distracted me just enough to be delighted versus slightly depressed.

We drove past Ste. Chapelle winery, where I'd spent many contemplative moments overlooking the Marsing valley below and planning my life and/or praying for guidance. Although not a drinker of wine, this is my favorite spot for those activities.

Due to low visibility, we almost missed our destination, the Orchard House. Once again, nostalgia hit me when I remembered my friend Lisa and I sitting over a bowl of soup and a heart-to-heart chat at this same dwelling when it was 'Cooky's Famous Potato House' years ago. Now I was there with new friends, new restaurant owners, and really, a very different and new life. The thought stuck and encouraged me. I was cold from the damp, hungry, and ready for what I hoped would be an amazing brunch.  According to one Sunset Magazine article featuring the place, we were in for a treat.

Combine the wooden paneled walls, tin stamped ceiling, white sparkling lights, and vintage-y country decor, and you'll come up with one word: relax...and yet, there was something more. I didn't put my finger on it until just now when I looked up the healing properties of wood. This is what I found:

The element of wood is closely linked to new beginnings and renewal.

How fitting that we should have a brunch so close to the beginning of the, surrounded by wood, and having just passed my old home with its many connections. Perhaps the day, the occasion and the element were assuring me it is now time to move on into future happinesses.

I expected down-home cooking from the Orchard House, but got something else. It was down-home, home-made, and comfort-style, all right, but with a twist. Within my Portabello scramble were eggs, an earthy spinach, and the delightful depth of asiago cheese. I wouldn't have been surprised if it had been infused with a rich consomme of some sort, and/or possibly white cooking wine. (It all cooks out, right?) At any rate, it was freaking delicious.

Sarah chose an omelette (also tasty when she offered me a sample) and Deb stuck with the traditional bacon, eggs, toast and hash browns, explaining that the day seemed to call for that. Could there be anything more homey than being surrounded by a Grandma's cabin-feel, people all around us talking, laughing, eating, and our table filled with plates of culinary comfort? I think not.

My scramble was flanked by four hearty sun-dried tomato and herb slices of bread, toasted to perfection and glowing with just the right amount of butter, as well as colorful slices of tomato. I chose an herbal tea that (reminiscing, once again) was the same tea I'd had at my sister's on a cold rainy day in Seattle. Combined with my dear Foodie friends, the Orchard House atmosphere, and the warming mug of licorice spice tea, I was fast entering contentment zone.

A constant plus for our CClub meals is the conversation. Sarah,Deb, and I are never at a loss for things to say. Each from differing backgrounds, the diversity and open communication enhance every single shared meal.

Some bonuses during our visit: My friend and salon owner Talie Elordi and her family were there having brunch, also a cheerful-looking woman who sat nearby dining alone grinning, clearly enjoying each splendid bite as she leisurely paged through the local paper. Many times I'll frequent a place with my only companions being a journal and a book, so I observed with the happiness only a part-time solitude junkie could. Orchard House owner Sherri McCoy approached, chatting for a bit with the opener, "I see you three taking pictures, are there any questions I can answer for you?"

Sherri is among the few restauranteurs that have thus far paid us any mind, but then again we were pretty obvious with the picture-taking. I think it's safe to say we prefer to remain fairly anonymous foodie bloggers, but her joining the conversation was a definite plus. What she shared was entertaining and real; we enjoyed her comments immensely. When asked if Sunset Magazine's article put them right into stardom, her reply was, 'Not really.' Same with 'Diners, Drive-In's, and Dives'. Some notoriety where every now and then a diner mentioned that they're checking it off their D,D and D list, but for the most part, their lifeblood was from locals and the neighboring orchards' fruit-seekers.

It has become tradition to visit Marsing orchards, and then the Orchard House. The Orchard House chef, Rubio Izaguirre had no prior restaurant experience. This is one of the things  I suspect makes his work so amazing. Low on ego, high on talent, and an obvious love for his art.

The perfect storm for satisfaction was created last Saturday. Old and new, past and present, damp and fog, comfort and cheer and contentment on a plate. The Orchard House is bound for tradition for the Foodies, and as for myself, I intend to return, especially on the very next contemplative, cozy, foggy day.

 *For more adventures in Idaho, (with recipes between the stories!) get the "Appetite for Idaho" book here.

And visit the Appetite for Idaho Facebook page, with new stuff to do posted every weekday!