Saturday, April 27, 2013

Idaho Go Play List

It's warming up out there, so emerge from indoors, stretch, and go run around.

So much to see, do, and experience...and so little time.
That's why I thought it would be fun to simplify things for you.

Like to camp, cabin it, or be on the water?
Mountain bike, hike?

See the handy dandy little Appetite for Idaho list below:

Idaho Public Lands Campgrounds

Idaho Mountain Biking Trails

Idaho State Cabin Rentals

Idaho Hot Springs

Idaho Hiking Trails

Idaho Walking Trails

Idaho Fire Lookout Rentals

Idaho Parks

Idaho Reservoirs

Idaho Bed and Breakfasts

Idaho Candy Stores (a must, right?)

Idaho Lakes and Rivers

Idaho Caves

Idaho Rock Climbing

Idaho Museums

Idaho ATV Trails

Idaho Ghost Towns

Idaho Dude Ranches

Idaho Yurt Rentals

Idaho Waterfalls

Idaho Whitewater Rafting & Kayaking

Idaho Boating

*A big thank you to, their website was a constant source for anything fun I could dream up to see or do.

 *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!

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Buffalo Sous Jake Totter

Many moons ago, an eighteen-year-old Perkins employee watched cooks at the grill line and thought, “I can do that. I can do what they’re doing.”

Cooking since age five, Jake Totter made crepes Sunday mornings with his grandparents,  the first recipe he ever learned.

One busy night at Perkins, two cooks walked out. Jake was told, “You’re up.”

Young and just working to have enough money to play, he didn’t realize this was a pivotal moment.

Once trained, Jake moved up through the system, eventually becoming assistant manager. Corporate life wasn’t a fit, so he moved back to the kitchen, cooking his way around Nampa and Caldwell for the next few years. When management at the Coffee Pot let him do his own specials, a trend was set. The creative liked expressing himself through food. When the Coffee Pot closed, Jake was looking for work. Seeing a Job Service ad for Bon Appetit at the College of Idaho, he secured a position on the grill there. Six months later, Chef Maury Bennett made Jake his unofficial prep cook. When the current sous chef wasn’t working out, Maury sent Jake home with a blank menu sheet, saying, “Fill this out for me next week.”

Two days later Jake returned with a menu that, he was told, was far better than the sous chef’s. Jake Totter became Bon Appetit’s new sous chef.

At Bon Appetit, Jake learned flavor building, a multitude of cooking styles, and how to create international cuisine from the very Asian-influenced Chef Maury Bennett. He also mastered the art of catering and fine dining, having the honor of presenting dinners at the College of Idaho’s President’s house.

“Matt Caldwell and Maury Bennett of Bon Appetit took me under their wing,” Jake says, “It was my first big opportunity and I learned a lot. That’s where my career started to take off.”

Jake was offered the Head Chef position at the Market Limone in Nampa. That was exciting for him, but he didn’t know plans were already in place to close the establishment. During the months he was there, things started to turn around, but Market Limone still closed.

“It was a little discouraging,” he relates.

Jake’s in-laws, having just moved to McCall, assured him there was work up North. The Totters moved, and Jake quickly secured a position at the Brewery, the first job offered. A year later he saw an opening at Buffalo Gal and felt a tug.

“I viewed their menu and had a feeling they needed me to work there, and that I needed to work there. I’d talked to Tom and Julie once before, and when we went in to eat, I knew.”

From the first bite of the brisket, Jake thought his cooking style would mix well. The Japanese steak bites and crab tomato bisque were also…

“—super tasty!”

Buffalo Gal found their new Sous Chef, with owners Tom and Julie giving Jake the freedom to expand on his already-present talents. Tom and Jake came up with the new small plate menu, and worked together with their respective contrasting palates. (Jake leans toward the sweeter side, while Tom goes for the more savory). They fine tuned sauces and dishes until they were nothing less than outstanding.

These days, the chefs choose a nation they’d like to do a theme from, then avoid what everyone else is doing. They research out what items, if you lived in that country, a mom would cook for dinner. The idea: International Comfort Food. Because of his Bon Appetit experience, it was a concept Jake was familiar with.

It goes without saying that a high end restaurant with world class cuisine along a sleepy highway in Idaho is in the running for getting passed by.

“It’s Donnelly, Idaho,” Jake laughs, “I understand!”

What really makes Sous Chef Jake and Chef Tom grin is hearing people say they’ve been driving by for years and wonder why they’ve never stopped.

“They love the flavors, they love the diversity,” says Jake, “but what they really love is that they finally visited us.”

The locals are trying new things, with several that trustingly say, “I’ll have whatever the special is.” Slowly spicing things up, every so often a little more heat is introduced, inching and educating eaters towards authentic ethnic dishes.

“They’re eating at least one and a half times hotter than they used to,” Jake says proudly, no small feat for what some might think would be a typical meat and potatoes audience, although that isn’t always true. Buffalo Gal plays to a diverse crowd, from the Tamarack folks seeking fine dining to the ski bum walking in with ski clothes still on, famished and looking for a burger. Even the d├ęcor suggests a mixture of simple, country elegance, a place you’d feel comfortable in dressy clothes, or wearing jeans and a ski parka.

Another aspect: those working at Buffalo Gal enjoy each others' company. There’s laughter happening every night at the restaurant diners are flocking to.

“When you’re happy,” says Jake, “things get cooked with love. You hear that all the time, but it’s real.”

Chef Tom sings Sous Chef Jake’s praises often. Both avid snow-lovers, (Jake is a major snowboarder), the two went to Utah not long ago, because Utah got the snowstorm they wished had hit Idaho.

“In the lift line, Tom talked about his restaurant, saying, ‘This is my sous chef, he does a wonderful job for me,” laughs Jake, “It’s almost embarrassing. I’m kind of humble and from small town, Idaho.”

Whatever they’re doing, it’s working. Last summer, Buffalo Gal’s all-time record was broken, formerly 67 diners in one night. Their new high is 85. Sales are up, and things are looking great.

Jake graciously says, “It was really exciting to have (Appetite for Idaho) come in and write a review, and since then we’ve had one other food blogger.  Guy Hand (of Edible Idaho South) also stopped in on New Years’ Eve.”

Jake adds, “Donnelly makes us unique. Being here makes us one of a few good places to eat, compared to being one of many in McCall. That gives us an in to get more customers.”

With so many beating a trail to Buffalo Gal, Sous Chef Jake heavily recommends getting reservations, especially on the weekends.

His signature invitation on Twitter as @buffalosous, “Come get some”, is a great excuse to take the drive to Donnelly.

 *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!