The Trailing of the Sheep Festival, held today through Sunday, Oct. 15, uses the history of sheep in Idaho as a conduit to the Basque traditions. Many Basques came to Idaho directly from the western Pyrenees to work as sheepherders, and fortunately for those who followed in their footsteps they brought their style of comfort food with them.
In fact, food takes on a huge importance in this unique festival. Think of it this way: Sheep and lambs become food and sheepherders must eat, while tending to future fine-dining entrées.
Two events cover the basics: Start the weekend by taking the opportunity to learn from two pros.
Scott Mason, owner-chef of the Ketchum Grill, will teach a lamb-cooking class from 1 to 3 p.m., Friday, Oct 13, at Ketchum Grill, at 520 East Ave. in Ketchum. Immediately afterwards, head to Irving's hill at Main and Fifth streets in Ketchum to learn how to bake bread while out on the shepherding trail with camp cook Allan Laudert.
On Saturday, Oct. 14, enjoy the St. Charles Traditional Basque Lamb Dinner, beginning at 11:30 a.m. and continuing all day, at the annual Folklife Fair in Hailey.
In addition, during the full-day fair at Roberta McKercher Park, there will also be plenty of other foods to go along with the cultural entertainment, crafts and demonstrations.
Hearty, gut-warming fare, Basque food includes dishes such as fish and shellfish, lamb, beans, rice laced with chorizo, chicken and ham, salads and traditional desserts, such as delectable flan. To wash it all down, insist on bold red wines.
Throughout the weekend, valley restaurants are engaging in a Lamb Dine Around, with special lamb entrees added to the menus.
The highlight of the weekend comes Sunday at noon, when hundreds of sheep make their way through Ketchum for the annual Trailing of the Sheep parade.
(For more information on the Trailing of the Sheep Festival and a full schedule of events, see the Express special section in the Wednesday, Oct. 11, newspaper.)