Oh, the Idaho sky.
It’s important to look up at the sky in Idaho, or you might miss this stunning sight.
Still in Idaho Falls, day two on the Idaho Potato Harvest Tour was packed with more great opportunities to learn just why potatoes in Idaho are so famous — and why they’re America’s favorite vegetable. (If you missed Day One, catch up with us here.)
We met Lynn Wilcox, a third generation potato grower and president of Wilcox Fresh, who took us out in the middle of the potato fields. On the way, I couldn’t help but stop to watch some potatoes being washed.
When we arrived to the fields, we were able to dig up our own spuds if we wanted to. I’m thinking, who wouldn’t!?
Don Ordione, Vice President of Foodservice for the Idaho Potato Commission (our host), has an incredible passion for absolutely all things potato. He also happens to be one of the nicest guys you’ll ever meet.
There are so many steps in getting the potatoes from the ground to the packing facility, to stores, and ultimately to the table. Twigs and other larger pieces debris from the earth are removed here (below image), before they travel to one of the dozens of sheds where — just like the Red Rose potatoes we saw on day one — they’ll “sweat” for a few weeks.
Once again, I was struck with how amazing this “pile” of potatoes was. Immense and somehow beautiful at the same time. What a sight.
You don’t know where to look first when you enter the enormous packing facility. You can actually see the potatoes travel from being washed (more than once), to being sorted, and to the proper box or bag — and a whole lot in-between.
And there are hard working people everywhere. Some potatoes are sorted by hand (below image), so they travel down the right passages in the maze. Through this tedious and repetitive process, workers are calm and ever so patient. It’s humbling. Potatoes are sorted by size and shape. Are they big? Medium? Small? Do they have bumps on them? Are they green in some areas? Are they lopsided? You name it, there a place for each one.
Those that aren’t “pretty” enough to be destined for the produce section of your market, will head to Idahoan Foods where they are used for instant mashed potatoes. Here they are washed (again), peeled, cooked, mashed, pressed to remove as much of the water content as possible, and then pressed again — this time into sheets that frankly, look exactly like parchment paper. This is then shredded to make instant mashed potatoes — and off they go to be packed and shipped. And guess what my friends? They’re good! Really good. And at the end of the day it’s potato, and potato only that you’ll find in one of the boxes.
Things just kept getting better and better. After an incredible lunch served to us in this beautiful setting, we were treated to some of the most delicious potato dishes I’ve ever had. All thanks to Adam Moore and Todd Downs from Charlie Baggs Inc., While everything was crazy delicious, my favorite creations were Todd’s Pommes de Terroir, and Adam’s Peruvian Potato Causas with Maple Glazed Pork Belly. Without question the Pommes de Terroir was the pièce de résistance. After all, its preparations began in the field.
Let me tell you what’s going on here. First Todd gathered soil from the field — the very soil from which potatoes were pulled. Yes, soil is one of the ingredients! The soil is poured into a pot — a pot where you might plant flowers, that is. On top of the soil, a handful of fresh rosemary sprigs are added. All of this is covered with a thick layer of cheesecloth and potatoes cut into bite-sized pieces. So you don’t actually eat the soil (go figure) — it simply imparts the flavor of the earth. Truly. Finally, the potatoes are coated in a few inches of salt and then the whole thing is roasted — very slowly.
(When we left the field earlier that day, Adam grabbed a handful of dried twigs from the ground and said, “I’ll find some cool use for them.” Looks like Todd swooped them for an awesome presentation, along with fresh rosemary.)
I almost have no words to describe this. I won’t do it justice, but let’s just say that these potatoes were some of the most luscious and flavorful I’ve ever tasted.
And Adam’s Peruvian Potato Causas with Maple Glazed Pork Belly, was equally as mind blowing. Presented much like nigiri sushi, a bundle of creamy, rich chile-lime potatoes are wrapped with a bite of sweet, succulent, remarkably delicious pork. Oh my.
Thank you Todd and Adam! For this incredible food, and for greatly enhancing this trip with your fun loving personalities.
I rode with the “California girls” for most of the trip. What fun we had together! And how lucky we were to have Don in our car. Not only did we get a handful of extra Idaho and potato history, but he also suggested a lovely detour on the way back to our hotel. A detour that took us to some velvety smooth, super delicious ice cream at Reeds Dairy — because clearly, we all needed more to eat.
From left to right: Amy of Cooking with Amy, Priscella of She’s Cookin, Denise of Denise Vivaldo Group and Denise Vivaldo Blogs, Susan of The Girl in the Little Red Kitchen, Nancy of The Wife of a Dairyman and that would be me, front and center. 🙂
And would you look at these sweet animals just steps from the ice cream store. Just look at them! So cute!
I hope you’ll join me for day three when we’ll visit Potandon to learn about and sample various Idaho potato varieties. Then we’ll head to Teton Springs Lodge, where Chef Rick Sordahl will cook for us, and we’ll horseback ride and dine at Linn Canyon Ranch.
Oh, the Idaho Sky.
I’ll be sharing another potato recipe in the next day couple of days — get ready for Individual Salted-Cinnamon Caramel Potato Cakes.