Sun Valley: skating under the stars, scones with honey butter
Sun Valley, Idaho — ''You have to try the scones at Warm Springs,'' Glenn kept saying. ''They're fantastic!'' These were no ordinary scones, but then Glenn, who introduced me to these extravagant confections, served at the Warm Springs Restaurant a few miles from Sun Valley, is no ordinary person.
Glenn Patterson is one of the ice skating pros in summer at Sun Valley, a national and international competitor a few years back, acknowledged by many as one of the most beautiful ice dancers in America.
Watching him at the Saturday night ice shows at Sun Valley, wearing his top hat and tails and skating to ''Stepping Out With My Baby,'' Fred Astaire might even applaud.
Glenn has lots of favorite foods. He often eats three bags of M&Ms before a performance and after dinner may consume two, possibly on a good night three, chocolate sundaes at Little Annie's, in nearby Ketchum, where everyone goes for the best ice cream around.
Having weathered six summers in Sun Valley, he is therefore the perfect guide to the culinary byways of the area.
Yes, there is skating in summer. Although known as a winter ski resort, Sun Valley was founded by the Harriman family in the 1930s when it owned the Union Pacific. The trains brought carloads of movie stars from Los Angeles.
They all came. Gable and Colbert and Garbo, hobnobbing with Hemingway and his pals, who lived down the road a mile in Ketchum.
Fashionable in winter, Sun Valley is far less chic, far more casual in summer. The mountain setting, the crystalline air, and above all the skating rink, the outdoor skating rink, make for pure magic. For there is something ineluctably marvelous about skating outside, although the serious skaters, the ones who come from all over the world to train here, work out largely on the indoor rink.
During the day they pull a translucent black cloth over the outdoor rink, deflecting the sun's rays but giving a view of mountain and blue sky, and people skate in shorts. At night they pull it back for skating under the stars.
The only thing lacking in the immediate Sun Valley complex, which has a lodge , an inn, plenty of condos for rent, and shops and sports facilities, is a really good restaurant.
The Lodge dining room is hardly my favorite spot, except for Sunday morning, when the place is thronged for a spectacular brunch - crepes, omelets, fruit, cheese, pastries, and salads.
At the Sun Valley Mall there's the Ore House, which provides reasonable hamburgers, steaks, clams, and, of course, baked potatoes with every conceivable fixing.
There is also the Konditorei, where the sundaes are fine and the salads far too big. Accompanied by Glenn, I found lots of other places to eat. At Elkhorn, just over the hill, the Chart House serves wonderful steaks, chops, and succulent shrimps and scallops, and it has an amazing, if daunting, salad bar.
You get all of the salad you can manage with your meal or, for $6.95, as a meal in itself, and it is some meal: lettuce, scallions, kidney beans, guacamole , olives, peppers, bowl after bowl of fresh fruit, and a dozen toppings,from banana chips to chopped nuts.
In Ketchum itself, I avoid the ethnic, the Chinese, and the Italian places. Su Casa has pretty good Mexican if you must, but I head for the unpretentious, homey Kitchen.
The Kitchen only serves breakfast and lunch. The omelets are great, the bacon-and-egg platters with homemade fries sublime, and the pancakes marvelous. At the other end of the spectrum, there is the Christiania, in rustic elegance, and with excellent food.
But apart from Chez Russell, which is in a class by itself, where the simple, classic French food is as good as most I've eaten anywhere, my favorite place in the area is the Warm Springs Restaurant.
The decor here is simple and rustic. This was once a tack room. There is a pretty terrace next to a pond, where children throw bread to the fish.
The portions are enormous. Adults wise to its ways order kiddie platters without embarrassment. The steaks and chops are perfectly grilled, but you come here most of all for the trout from the nearby streams. All the fish, fried in clarified butter, are wonderful, served simply with heaps of spicy sheepherder potatoes.
And then there are the scones. As we arrived at Warm Springs, Glenn's eyes twinkled in anticipation. The waitress approached with a basket of the scones, made from sourdough starter with grated potato. They were like light-as-air beignets and more for last course than first.
As we covered them with the dense, sweet, homemade honey butter, I said I would have only one. Glenn looked skeptical. I ate another. He grinned.
But he, in fact, ate modestly that night, limiting himself to four or so. He then confessed that the first time he'd come to Warm Springs he had overdone it a little. Really, I said, how many did he have? He blushed. He smiled, reached for just one more, and replied, ''Thirteen.'' Sheepherder Potatoes 4 Idaho russet potatoes 2 onions 1 clove garlic 1/2 cup margarine or oil Salt and pepper to taste
Scrub the potatoes and bake at 425 degrees F. until tender, 40 to 60 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool completely.
Peel onions and chop coarsely. Peel and mince garlic. Dice potatoes without peeling.
Heat margarine in a skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and onions and saute until onions are translucent.
Add diced potatoes. Season with salt and pepper and mix gently. Cook until potatoes are heated throughout and serve at once. Sourdough Scones 1 cup sourdough starter 2 cups flour 2 cups milk Vegetable oil for deep-frying
Mix the starter, flour, and milk in a large bowl. Cover with a towel and leave at least 8 hours at room temperature.
Reserve 1 cup of the dough to use as starter for your next batch.
Punch remaining dough down until fully compressed. Turn out onto a lightly floured breadboard and knead 10 to 15 times. Return to bowl and allow to rise until doubled in bulk, about 45 minutes to 1 hour.
Pinch off into golfball-size pieces and mold into flat circles. Let rise again until almost doubled, 30 to 40 minutes.
Deep-fry in 375 degree F. oil until golden brown. Drain on paper toweling. Sourdough Starter: 1 tablespoon salt 1 tablespoon sugar 1 tablespoon flour 1 cup grated raw potato 1 quart water1 package dry yeast
Combine all ingredients except the yeast in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Cook until the mixture becomes clear, taking care not to burn it.
Stir in the yeast until thoroughly dissolved. Cover and let stand at room temperature for at least 24 hours before using.
This starter should be used at least once a week. Reserve any leftover in the refrigerator. It will last longer than a week, but it should not be used if it turns an orange color.
Sometimes a liquid will rise to the top, but just mix it in thoroughly before using.
These recipes are from ''Dining in Sun Valley,'' by Joan Hemingway and Russell Armstrong, published by Peanut Butter Publishing, Seattle, 1982.