Managers of the Eastern Idaho State Fair brought the event back to its agricultural roots on Thursday night by hosting a five-course meal made entirely from local ingredients.
The sarsaparilla was flowing, the pots were hot, and the food was local.
“The primary intention of it is to celebrate local agriculture,” said John Lyskett, special projects coordinator for the fair.
That was the theme of the inaugural Farm Fresh Feast, a state fair kickoff dinner for nearly 100 commissioners, sponsors and local people.
It was also the vision of Lyskett, who was inspired by the PBS TV show “The Endless Feast,” which uses entirely local ingredients to make a meal that’s shared over one long table.
“It’s a good way to bring the fair back to its roots a little bit and give people a chance to find out what’s in their back yard,” said Lyskett.
The goat cheese appetizer came from Wood’n Goat Garden Dairy, beef and chicken from Bingham County farms, and fresh produce from the EISF and Blackfoot community gardens.
Even the music and chef were local.
“We picked basil yesterday, yesterday; (the) corn was picked and shucked today,” said chef Josh Swain, who runs Stockman’s restaurant. “It does feel good to know it came from this community, mostly from Blackfoot proper, this area right here.”
Lyskett said he sees a growing demand for fresh, local food, which can bring benefits.
“You can go right outside town here and get some freshly grown, picked-today, local produce and do away with transportation and energy wasted moving stuff around,” said Lyskett.
Swain said once they have the food, anyone can do the cooking.
“I don’t think you need to be a chef.(You could) just be fantastic housewives, housemen,” said Swain.
But there are some keys to success.
“No. 1, find the freshest ingredients,” said Swain. “Have fun when cooking.”
And above all else, said Swain, what a cook needs to make every meal complete is butter and salt.
Many call the Eastern Idaho State Fair one of the last “truly agricultural” fairs in the country.
It kicks off Saturday at the Blackfoot fairgrounds.