The Lodge Dining Room (or LDR to those in the know) holds a special place in my heart. For years and years, one of my family’s foremost holiday traditions was dinner at the Lodge Dining Room every December 23. Through the decades, our ever-growing clan (boyfriends and girlfriends, then husbands and wives, then one … two, finally seven grandchildren) dressed in our holiday finest and journeyed to the Lodge for a wonderful meal, live music and a serenade from Sun Valley’s storied carolers. When the LDR closed for dinner a few years ago, my mother was visibly upset – one of our most treasured traditions was no more.
Her smile has returned because the LDR is again open for dinner and we managed to reserve a table for eight on the 23rd. With the return of the tradition, though, come some exciting changes. In fact, at last night’s grand re-opening of the history-rich restaurant, while I obviously knew I was seated in the room where I had dined many times, I found myself doing a quick reality check – the food was so sophisticated, so new. Was I still in Sun Valley?
But I am getting ahead of myself.
For weeks, I have been hearing about a fantastic new chef who is transforming Sun Valley into a foodie Mecca. Who is this shining knight? His name is John Murcko, a man credited for single-handedly elevating cuisine in Utah from pedestrian to gourmet. With an emphasis on quality, creativity and professionalism, Chef Murcko’s vision and execution is transforming food in every Sun Valley venue; from the mountain day lodges to the elegant LDR.
But I am getting ahead of myself.
The LDR is the fine dining jewel in Sun Valley’s culinary crown and anticipation was palpable last night as the doors opened. Would the food live up to the hype? Would Chef Murcko usher in a new era of Sun Valley dining? The short answer is yes. When my best friend and I were comfortably seated next to the picture windows, an amuse bouche arrived at our table. The combination of perfectly cooked scallop and crunchy accoutrements was a leading indicator that things really have changed for the better.
I am, by all accounts, a picky eater who favors fish, vegetables and lighter fare. Often, in a mountain town, I struggle with menus filled with wild game, red meat and lots of starch. This menu, however, delighted me. At first glance (with the help of a candle – the hostess did say they plan to print the menus in a darker ink that is easier to read) I saw numerous items I wanted to try, not just one or two appealing choices. For starters, I had a hard time deciding among the Forest Mushroom Tart, the Idaho Potato Pillows, the Diver Scallops and the Tomato and Sunchoke Bisque. My inner picky eater rejoiced! Each of the four salads also looked tantalizing and entrée choices included everything from Ricotta and Butternut Agnalotti to Classic Osso Bucco, Braised Rabbit and Butter Poached King Crab. The menu offers something for everyone.
After much consideration, I opted for the Idaho Potato Pillows with caviar, crème fraiche and chives and a Black Cod with artichoke barigoule, smoked tomato, red wine reduction and petite herbs. My friend decided on the Seared Foie Gras with toasted brioche, Idaho huckleberries and bittersweet chocolate and the Lobster Thermidor. From these selections, you can probably tell that the menu emphasizes many local, seasonal and very fresh ingredients. The choices we made were flavorful, inventive, beautifully plated and well portioned. Evidently, Chef Murcko’s reputation is well deserved and kudos to LDR Chef Adam Findlay for preparing our memorable meal.
And the truth is, everything tastes even just a little better in the beautiful LDR. The elegant two-tiered space, twinkling with crystal chandeliers, polished brass, rich fabrics, crisp white linens and sparkling silver features a repeating pattern of circles. Half moon banquettes line the back walls, scalloped railings delineate the boundary of the upper “tier” and marble steps lead into the lower portion of the room, marked by the curving exterior walls. All this rounding draws your attention and eye inward, making the room very intimate. For the holidays, the Sun Valley elves have outdone themselves, turning the LDR into an elaborately wrapped present. Oversized ornaments provide a sparkling overhead canopy; trees and holiday lights twinkle with thousands of tiny white lights; a stunning tree wrapped in what looks like crystal casts soft light onto surrounding tables.
From the smiles, laughs and exclamations of pleasure emanating from around us in the full dining room last night, it seems that everyone is excited that the LDR is once again open for dinner — just in time for the holidays. Don’t miss this memorable culinary opportunity. For reservations, call 208.622.2019 or book on online by clicking here.