CALDWELL — Celebrate the agricultural bounty of Canyon County in a delicious way at the 10th Anniversary Taste of the Harvest. The delectable, family-friendly event showcases sumptuous dishes and fabulous wines, all from local purveyors.

The Taste of the Harvest, presented by the Idaho Press-Tribune and sponsored in part by Bon Appetit and Simplot Company, is the brainchild of The College of Idaho alumnus Ron Bitner. Bitner is a 1968 graduate of the college and a local grape grower who saw an opportunity to bring the community together at The C of I campus to celebrate all things agricultural in Canyon County.

“The Taste of the Harvest is modeled after similar events in other Northwest college towns,” Jill Pilote, the college’s director of special events and conference services, said.

The celebration features wine tasting from some of Idaho’s boutique wineries that have rapidly made a name for themselves among wine connoisseurs throughout the world. “Many believe the soil and growing conditions in southwest Idaho rival those of the Napa Valley in northern California,” Pilote said.

The highlight of every Taste of the Harvest, however, is the uniquely prepared menu. This year, executive chef Kelly Dickson of Bon Appetit Management Company, who oversees food preparation for The College of Idaho and all of its events, has prepared succulent dishes created entirely with locally grown or raised products.

They include such mouthwatering items as roasted eggplant and tomato bisque with crispy chiffonade of basil from Next Generation Organics, brown butter and sage Idaho potato gnocchi with “Hardball Farms” chorizo and wilted local greens, or grilled “Williamson Orchard” peaches with thyme-infused local honey glaze and homemade mascarpone with toasted almonds.

All are created from the imagination of Dickson, who is participating in his first Taste of Harvest. “I’m excited about my first opportunity to prepare these different dishes using locally produced items grown right here in our backyard,” Dickson said.

Catering manager Rebecca Choo helps select the fresh produce, meats and other items used for the event. “Naturally, we look at what’s in season and grown locally when deciding on the dishes that will be served. It’s a fun challenge. We almost always have a soup and a dessert and something that is kid friendly.”

Taste of the Harvest has steadily grown in its decade-long history from about 500 people to well over 1,000 last year. It’s also expanded to include cultural entertainment, campus tours and a host of children’s activities. This year the event — coordinated with the college’s 2010 Homecoming celebration — includes a rededication of Boone Hall, a museum tour, live music, between 30 and 40 artisan booths and food sampling, all for the low 10th Anniversary price of $10 per person.

“One of our goals has always been to bring people out to Canyon County to sort of brag about all that we have to offer here including our pride in The College of Idaho,” said Pilote. “We also want to make it affordable so that families can enjoy the event together, being entertained and sampling wonderful, locally grown and produced food items and wine. It’s designed to be a very relaxing atmosphere where people can enjoy talking with vendors, sampling wines and the fabulous food.”

Another special attraction this year is a book signing by author Alan Minskoff and photographer Paul Hosefros who will be on hand with their coffee table book, “Idaho Wine Country.”

Proceeds aid scholarship fund

Proceeds from The Taste of the Harvest benefit a scholarship fund for first generation students whose parents are agricultural workers. The work of these families makes the harvest possible.

Check it out

What: 10th Anniversary Taste of the Harvest

Where: The College of Idaho, Morrison Quadrangle, 2112 Cleveland Blvd., Caldwell

When: 1 to 5 p.m., Saturday, Sept. 25

Admission: $10 for adults, free for children five and under, at the door or purchase in advance at collegeofidaho.edu or at the event.

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