Erin Zell and Don Shepler have been running the community owned Galena Lodge for 15 years. The lodge, a success of community collaboration, is the summer and winter gathering place for outdoor recreation in the Wood River Valley. While it might be the kilometers of groomed Nordic trails in the winter or miles of singletrack in the summer that draws people to the Lodge, it is Don’s delicious, locally inspired food and Erin’s warm hospitality that keep us coming back. For this winter, they’ve added a food truck and heated outdoor seating, so pack your warm layers and head on up!
How did you two get to where you are today? What’s your background, education, work experience in relation to food?
It’s been a funny trip. From washing dishes, learning to cook, ski “bumming”, culinary school, bike tours… and finally landing in Ketchum 20 years ago and meeting a great community of people. If anyone told us that we’d run Galena Lodge as our own business for 15 years now, we wouldn't have believed them.
What do you love about running a local restaurant?
Every day and every season is different (especially right now)! We are a good team. Don is a very tactile person who enjoys making things and learning, while Erin is great with people and a very smart business person.
You’re committed to purchasing from local farmers. Why?
We’re flattered by the title local food heroes and we do what we are able given our location. Supporting smaller local businesses does more for our community than sending money out of the valley or state. We are committed to local foods.
What are your favorite ingredients to source locally?
We’ve been using Idaho Lamb in many ways for a long time. Sheepherding is part of this area’s history and lamb connects people to that history. Many people don’t think they like lamb, but generally, once they have some Idaho Lamb they change their tune.
There is a ton of produce, but the seasons are short. It’s cliché but all of the winter squash, potatoes and winter greens are really fun and a great way to keep local flavors going during the winter season. I also really like to introduce people to Snake River Sturgeon.
What would make sourcing local ingredients easier for you, especially since your restaurant is more remote?
For me, given the location and quantities that we need, a single platform to order in commercial quantities would be fantastic! Also, it’s a long trip from Galena, so being able to make a single trip to town for all my local orders would be ideal. That or some way to figure out delivery. Often when I call a single producer I need a larger quantity than they can provide and still fill their retail orders. Mid-sized farms that can provide for retail and reliably fulfill wholesale orders would be ideal.
What ingredients (fresh or frozen) would you be interested in purchasing locally if you could?
Sadly we’re closed for the bulk of spring berry season, but I sure like eating them!
What local fruit or veggie do you most look forward to each season?
It’s a Guy Clark song but Idaho’s Muzzy Braun sings it really well:
“Only two things money can’t buy, that’s true love and homegrown tomatoes”
What’s your most memorable food story?
Erin’s mom is very creative and for one holiday season, she introduced a twist for our family dinner. Being part Polish (though none of us can read or write it), she decided to list everything you need for dinner (including: plates, silverware, salt, and all the foods) on slips of paper in Polish and put them in a hat. Each person was then allowed to choose five items for their dinner from the hat. Well, let’s just say some of us ended up with a knife, salt, bowl, rolls, water and pumpkin pie. It was a pretty funny dinner experience.
Who are your food heroes?
So many books and chefs have influenced me over the years! Samin Nosrat wrote the book I think people need, Salt Fat Acid Heat. I also love the Tartine series started by Chad Robinson.
What change(s) would you like to see in the Wood River Valley in terms of food?
In terms of restaurants, I think that nearly everyone in town is offering a very high-quality food experience. I’d love to see an Indian restaurant and a great, hippy-ish breakfast place. As far as production, our seasons are challenging, so anything to extend that would be wonderful. We’re also grateful for everything The Hunger Coalition is doing with programming, growing their own food and distribution!
Where can people enjoy your food?
Currently at Galena Lodge but that could widen in the future! You can also bring a Don Bar home with you!