Tag Archives: Idaho

Traveling to the World’s Largest Rainbow Trout Farm

Who would have guessed a land-locked state included the largest rainbow trout farm in the world? Clear Springs Foods sits in Buhl, Idaho, beside immense rock walls. The company raises between 24-26 million pounds of trout annually. At any given time about 10 million fish thrive in their fresh water facilities.

Growing trout in a pool at Clear Springs Food in Bulh, Idaho.
Growing trout in a pool at Clear Springs Food in Buhl, Idaho.

I flew to Idaho to participate in Taste Idaho, a culinary tour that I assumed would include a lot of potatoes. It didn’t. What’s that they say about making assumptions? This year the potato harvest came early, so the fields were clear of potatoes. But I did learn a lot about agricultural operations and visited a beef and dairy farm, wineries, a fruit ranch, and a trout farm.

A natural phenomenon occurs at the walls of Snake River Canyon creating an ideal situation for trout farming. Heavy winter snows in the Tetons area melt in the spring, thus filling a massive underground lava rock aquieir –the size of Lake Erie. The fluid works its way southwest via gravity and emerges at Buhl in a gushing roar of pure, oxygenated water at a constant temperature of 58 degrees. Since those are the exact environmental conditions trout prefer, this location makes the most perfect spot on earth to raise Rainbow Trout.

Clear Springs Trout Farm
Clear Springs Trout Farm

No surprise then that trout operations in the area date back to 1928, however, Clear Springs was founded in 1966. The company now manages the entire production process from selective breeding to growing, harvesting, cleaning, deboning, packaging and distributing nationwide.

I toured parts of the plant, seeing labs used for testing and the breeding area which felt a little like walking into a science fiction movie. Although trout typically spawn in the fall, by careful selection and specialized lighting to adjust the length of day, Clear Springs can stagger the normal spawning cycle to provide a continuous supply of eggs year ’round. The eggs are placed in incubators where they are bathed in spring water for about ten days until they hatch. The young fish (called fry as in small fry) are then transferred to indoor ponds to continue their growth. When they reach three inches in length, they’re moved to outdoor ponds. Here they are nurtured for up to an additional year until they reach a typical market weight of 16 to 28 ounces.

The outdoor pools are alive and thriving. I heard flapping fish tails and saw lots of splashes. You feel like you could throw in a net and catch enough food to feed an entire town. My favorite part of the tour was the underwater viewing window that gives you a peek into a trout’s world.

All ponds are constantly inventoried and monitored for health. The fish are fed a consistent diet of high-quality nutrition including vitamins, minerals and protein.

A rainbow trout swims by the underwater viewing window.
A rainbow trout swims by the underwater viewing window.

At the optimal time, live trout are trucked to the nearby processing plant and placed in holding ponds. The fish then travel through computerized weighing and sorting lines and into chill tanks for about 30 minutes. They are then packaged as “Dressed Fish” meaning they still have their head, tail and fins or sent to other stations for further processing such as filleting and breading. Trout burgers, anyone?

Finally, the trout are shipped fresh or frozen in refrigerated trucks across the US. Some customers receive air shipments.

The 500,000 gallons of water per minute that flow through the farm and processing plants are closely monitored under very strict codes. The plants manage their waste by manufacturing liquid fertilizer and are non-consumptive water users. Environmentally safe and good for everyone.

The dramatic Snake River Canyon and Perrine Bridge in Idaho.
The dramatic Snake River Canyon and Perrine Bridge in Idaho.

Later that day, I was served some rainbow trout, courtesy of Clear Springs, at Elevation 486 in Twin Falls. The restaurant overlooks the spectacular Snake River Canyon and the famous Perrine Bridge used by B.A.S.E. jumpers. However, it was a windy day, so no one was jumping. Nonetheless, the stunning panoramic vista is worth a visit.

 

A serving of delicious trout.
A serving of delicious trout.

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Disclosure: Many thanks to Taste Idaho for hosting me on this trip.

The Best in Boise: Chandler’s Ten Minute Martini

Oh Boy, Oh Boise

I’d never been to Idaho before and after receiving a guidebook from the state’s office of Tourism, I was downright excited. I flew into Boise, the state capital, arriving in the afternoon. I found the land surprisingly flat, but with wonderful foothills in the distance.

Boise State Capitol
Boise State Capitol Building

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My tour would start with a kick-off dinner for members of the International Food, Wine and Travel Writes Association at Chandlers, a favorite local restaurant known for their steaks and Idaho-sourced ingredients. Chandler’s was also the recipient of a 2013 Wine Spectator ‘Best of Award of Excellence’ for their impressive wine list.

 

Ruby Trout
Ruby Trout

We began with Idaho Ruby Trout as a starter, then an appetizer of Snake River Sturgeon with risotto.  The dish was paired with an Idahoan wine- Cinder’s “Dry” Viognier.  I’m not wild about Viognier but the pairing was right on.

Snake River Sturgeon with risotto

 

 

 

Next came a scrumptious lamb loins , which I love.  I rarely cook lamb for myself so this was a treat. The meat was moist, pink in the middle and paired with Vale Wine Company Syrah, much more to my liking.

Lamb
Lamb Loin

 

 

 

 

 

American Kobe Beef with roasted Idaho garlic potatoes and baby carrots arrived next. I don’t eat much beef but when I do, I go for the best.  The Kobe Beef was melt in your mouth delicious; I could see why Chandler’s has such a fine reputation.  The wine pairing was also my favorite of the evening: Koenig Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon/Syrah blend.  It was about this time I started thinking; maybe wine made in Idaho is actually going to rank as good. (And later, when I visited Koening, I grew to truly love their varietals.)

 

Kobe Beef
Kobe Beef

We ended the evening with a lemon curd tartlet with huckleberry sauce. Now, I’m a sucker for dessert, so naturally I devoured my tart– and the Ste. Chapelle Riesling. Again, don’t usually drink dessert wine, but this one was lovely.

Tart

The Ten Minute Martini

Although Chandler’s restaurant is known for their beef and wine, they also serve a legendary 10 Minute Martini. During dessert bartender Pat Carden joined us table side and told us the history of the drink.

Taste Testing a 10 Minute Martini
Gayle tastes the 10 Minute Martini

The story began more than thirty years ago when Pat stumbled on a martini preparation.

He was about to stir a guest’s martini when the man told him to stop, then indicated he would be back shortly. Unsure of what to do, he buried the unstirred martini in the ice well. The customer didn’t return for twenty minutes. Pat said he would be happy to begin again because he was sure the martini was diluted, but the customer said no.   After taking his first taste, the man’s eyes widened. “Wow,” he said,” you’ve got to taste this.” Thinking the drink had essentially become water, Pat again offered to make another. “No, take a sip,” he repeated. So, Pat finally took a sip and claimed it was the smoothest martini he’d ever had. The gentleman became a repeat customer asking for a “long martini.”

After pondering the question about why this method worked, Pat said the light finally came on — physics and chemistry.  Pat’s explanation sounded like something Sheldon Cooper, a character with a Ph.D on the Big Bang Theory, would say. “We’re talking fluid dynamics here — convection. Some of the same principles, laws and equations associated with ocean currents are applicable to an iced mixing jar filled with gin and vermouth, then buried in ice and left on its own for a period of time. Molecules of liquid descend in suspension as they chill, displacing the molecules below. In a small vessel like a bar’s mixing jar, it is in fact a very slow stirring.”

Whatever, the 10 Minute Martini works.  I had a sip and it was very cool indeed.

 

Disclosure:  This evening was part of a trip for the International Food, Wine and Travel Writers Association sponsored by the Idaho Department of Tourism.