Thursday, May 10, 2012

May 1, 2012. Excellent Meal At Epi's In Meridian, Idaho.

After traveling from Twin Falls,
the Hawthornes ended up in Meridian, Idaho, for the night.
I checked out my computer
for restaurants and found Epi's, a Basque restaurant.
I was intrigued by it.
It's in Idaho and it's Basque.
Rosie wants to go
and she's not letting Mr. Hawthorne 
and his damned and damnable diet
screw this up for her.
I'm going to Epi's tonight.

Bottom line:
this is not negotiable, Mr. Hawthorne.

Of course, Rosie had her way.
And the Hawthornes had the best meal to date.

The Hawthornes stopped by a wine shop,
A New Vintage,
to stock our cellar,
and I asked the owner, Ilene, about Epi's.
Ilene was very enthusiastic about the restaurant
and was kind enough to call Epi's for us
and snag us a table.

Several of the reviews I read said
something about how "they treat you like family."
In spite of this,
I didn't let it deter me.
I still wanted to go.

First, some history.
(I love the background stories.)
Epi, was the grandmother of the owner, Chris.
These are Epi's wonderful recipes.
And that's Epi and her husband David above.

Epifania (Epi) Lamiquis was born in Busturia, Spain, in the province of Biskaia, on February 4, 1903.  She grew up in a middle-class family with seven siblings and an adopted brother.  While working as a seamstress in Ibarrangelua, she met David Inchausti.  They married in Ibarrangelua on December 30, 1925.  David was first to travel to America.

In the fall of 1929, David sent the money and travel instructions for Epi to come join him in America.  Epi did not speak English, but traveled with their first born, Rosario, via ship and train, finally meeting up with David in Pocatello, Idaho.  The only word Epi knew in English was 'coffee,' therefore that was the only thing she was able to order.  Needless to say, Epi and Rosario were both very hungry when finally arriving in Idaho.

David and Epi settled in Challis, Idahho.  Epi had not cooked a great deal prior to this time, but had cookbooks, so she accepted the job of cooking for the sheepherders coming in from the hills.  What a challenge she faced in this desolate area, compared to the lush beautiful terrain of Euskadi (The Basque Country).

In 1936, David and Epi moved to Hailey, Idaho, where they established the Gem Bar and Boarding House.  By 1946, their family was complete.  They were the proud parents of six daughters:  Rosario, Dorothy, Maria Luisa, Josephine, Juanita, and Julia Maria, and one son, David.

Epi's reputation for being a great cook and hospitable hostess continued to reach many lives.  She expanded her dining room table to people outside the boarding house.  Her name became well known, and she cooked for several celebrities, including Janet Leigh, Tennessee Ernie Ford, Ernest Hemingway, and even Colonel Sanders.  Epi served Colonel Sanders chicken, and he had to admit, "Well, don't tell anyone, but it's 'almost' as good as mine!"  Epi had grown to be a very confident cook.

In the 1940s, Epi and a few Basque ladies from Hailey started to cook and serve Basque dinners for the public.  This idea proved to be an enormous success, and later became an annual fundraiser for St. Charles of Boromeo Catholic Church.  Epi continued to cook this dinner until the mid-1970s, when she turned the job over to the parish and her daughters.  The dinner continues to be an annual event. 

Epi died on December 20, 1983, at the age of 80.  Those who knew her could not help but be influenced by this peace-filled lady.  She was a quiet and dignified person with a deep faith.  The example she set each day of her life continues to touch many lives through her children, her grandchildren, and her great-grandchildren.

Here are the menus:

I was all set on the lamb chops,
and then our waitress 
mentioned one of the specials that night - scallops.
Whoa, back up the truck!

That's Chris, the owner,
attending to her customers in the back.

When we walked in,
Chris greeted us warmly
and asked if I was Rosie,
sent by Ilene from the wine shop.
By the time we were settled in at our table,
I felt like Chris was an old friend whom I hadn't seen in years.

That's the kind of place this is.
That's the kind of hostess Chris is.

I ordered a sublime shrimp and rice soup.
Creamy, heavenly goodness.

Mr. Hawthorne ordered a robust red bean soup,
Rich and filling.
He loved it.

I got all the bread
and took with me what I didn't eat,
 for breakfast the next morning.

The restaurant itself is small and intimate,
with family photographs and memorabilia on the walls.
And Chris is in her element,
greeting her old customers and her new friends,
and regaling them with stories about her family.
It's obvious she loves what she does.
It's her passion
and it's something to see.

I'm sure Epi would be proud
of the restaurant and her family.

Our salad was tossed with a light garlic vinaigrette
with just a hint of sweetness.

Mr. Hawthorne ordered the grilled cod with roasted red peppers
and minced, browned - but not burned - garlic on top.
Fresh herbs topped his cod.
Roasted, herbed red potatoes completed his plate.
More potatoes for me.

I had the sauteed scallops with sundried tomatoes
in a dilled cream sauce
which was to die for.
Sweet, beautiful scallops.
Reminded me of home.

I squeezed a little orange juice on my scallops
since I love those two flavors combined.

Sweet green peas with butter and garlic
rounded out the meal.

Chris gave both of us big warm hugs when we left.
That was our dessert.
And it was very filling.

Epi's Basque Restaurant.
If you're ever in Meridian, Idaho,
you owe it to yourself to dine here.


Marilyn said...

Yay, score one for Rosie! Mr. H needs to listen to you more often.

Anonymous said...

I can't imagine the circumstances that would lead to me being in Meridian, Idaho, but if I'm ever there, I will definitely seek out this restaurant. It looks great!

vera charles

Rosie Hawthorne said...

Vera, it was wonderful. The food was excellent, but the part I love most was the passion of Chris and her devotion to her Grandmother, Epi. Epi, I'm sure, was there. Smiling.

And who'd a thunk we'd be in Meridian, Idaho?