Chef Esta Hornsteinhas been instrumental in the Wood River Valley food scene for over 30 years. Her matzo ball soup and potato latkes are cultural touchpoint locals and visitors alike. Along with continuing to represent her big city routes with Jewish deli classics, Esta has embraced the use of local ingredients. She has been a committed supporter of local food organizations including the Hunger Coalition, the Sun Valley Culinary Institute and our own Food & Farm program.
What do you love about cooking in the Wood River Valley?
I love bringing the east coast Jewish deli foods to the valley. All those things I grew up with that were not available when I moved here. Matzo ball soup, potato latkes, home cured corned beef, all the ethnic foods I grew up with. Even though I don’t have a restaurant now, I love the community I have created with my food. People still call me all the time asking me to make their favorite dish.
You’re committed to purchasing from local farmers. Why?
It is so important to use local ingredients. It helps local farmers, boost the local economy and makes for the most delicious food. I believe in sustainable living and buying local food is an important first step. Having a big network of farmers and food producers makes our community strong.
What are your favorite ingredient to source locally?
I use local eggs in everything. There is nothing better than cracking a local egg and seeing that bright orange colored yoke. I’ll crack a couple eggs and make a scramble any time of day. There is so much more flavor in an egg raised locally and raised right.
What ingredients (fresh or frozen) would you be interested in purchasing locally if you could?
I use parsnips and celery in many of my soups. I would love to see those cultivated and available. I also want to keep local food available later with season extension such as greenhouses and more local processing.
What’s your favorite locally inspired meal to cook at home?
I love picking up fresh zucchini, basil and garlic at the market and making a zoodle (zucchini noodles) tossed with pesto. I also love creating a fresh cucumber salad with local onions. And I can’t forget the pleasure of eating a simple grilled peach!
What’s your most memorable food story from your childhood?
All of my uncles owned delis in New Jersey and New York. I grew up behind the counters of those delis. Loaded corned beef sandwiches on the best rye bread you have ever had and bright green pickle and potato knishes on the side, that’s a food memory!
Who are your food heroes?
My uncles who owned the delis back in New Jersey and New York. They started my love of food that has brought me to where I am now. Also Katharine Kagel, Chef and Owner of Cafe Pasqual’s in Santa Fe, New Mexico. There is nothing better than New Mexican Mexican food and her dishes are the best.
What change(s) would you like to see in the Wood River Valley in terms of food?
We really need two things: local processing and a consumer food coop. The processing facilities will allow our farmers to extend the season for their crops. A consumer food cooperative would be an ideal outlet for local products. It would be great to have people join the coop and be a part of demanding local options. A guaranteed market for local produce and locally made goods would pave the way for building an even more robust local food scene here. I envision a place where local foods come first and then the other essentials are filled in from outside our area. Local would be the priority. Wouldn’t it be amazing if we could tie together the culinary arts, local food processing, and a food coop into one big food system?