Since opening their Hailey eatery in 2019, Liza Green and Ashley Krepps of Café Della have built a following by providing flavorful, tasty, nutrient-rich scratch-made food. Knowing that you cannot have great food without great ingredients, they forged relationships with local producers including Lookout Farm and Hillside Grain to serve the best our region has to offer. When COVID-19 struck, the female entrepreneurs quickly pivoted to online meal and grocery sales to boost business.
We caught up with Liza and Ashley to learn more about their farm-to-table philosophy:
What do you love about being local restaurant owners?
When we opened the cafe, we made it our mission to provide nourishing fresh foods to our community. We like to call it “food that makes you feel good.” It has been a true joy to experience the excitement and gratitude from our customers in our first 10 months as we have done just that.
You’re committed to purchasing from local farmers. Why?
It goes without saying that local farmers’ products are always the freshest. We are fortunate to have access to incredible farmers and producers in the Wood River Valley and surrounding areas. It is important to us to connect with and support our neighbors and fellow producers, especially when we know what goes into a product and the value of the person producing it. If given the choice between fresh local greens and some that have been trucked thousands of miles, hands down we’d pick the ones from our own backyard any day. We feel this way about a lot of ingredients (see below).
What’s one thing about owning a restaurant that you wish diners knew?
This industry has long been one of the most challenging industries from a business viability perspective, and this has been significantly amplified by the COVID-19 pandemic. Since the day that we opened, we have constantly grappled with finding the right balance of sourcing thoughtfully and offering products to our customers at a reasonable price, while trying to make ends meet. We are grateful for every single purchase a customer makes, regardless of the size. Every guest we serve helps us build momentum, working toward a critical volume level that will help ease some of these concerns.
What are your favorite ingredients to source locally?
Some of our go-to ingredients include lettuces from Itty Bitty Farms, flour from Hillside Grain, smoked trout from Silver Creek Farms, beef from Wood River Ranch and Silver Spring Ranch, apples from Waterwheel Gardens, and eggs from Harmony Hens. Given that we haven’t even been in business a full year, we are still excited about expanding that list and have had some great conversations recently with different farmers and suppliers. For example, we are super excited about our upcoming partnership with Lookout Farm as their CSA pick-up point, and are currently scheming up tasty recipes to feature more of their produce soon!
What ingredients (fresh or frozen) would you be interested in purchasing locally if you could?
Everything! In a dream world, we’d source everything from lemons to chicken to maple syrup. In reality, we are grateful for all of the wonderful local products that we do have access to here.
What’s your favorite locally inspired meal to cook at home?
With warmer days upon us, grilling has been a common theme. Grilled local grass-fed beef or lamb rounded out with a simple salad of local greens, crisp veggies and Della dressing has been featured on our plates recently.
What local fruit or veggie do you most look forward to each season?
Rhubarb in the spring, summer tomatoes, fall apples, and winter squash.
What’s your most memorable food story from your childhood?
We cannot possibly narrow it down to just one story! However, when we were discussing this, we both recounted similar versions of this story—picking berries in the wild with our families when we were quite small, eating enough to make ourselves sick and turn our fingers blue, and heading home to bake up the most delicious pies with our scavenged goods. At the end of the day for both of us, it is so much about connecting with those we love over a shared appreciation of fresh delicious food.
Who are your food heroes?
There are so many! Locally, we are inspired by people like Amy Mattias at the Local Food Alliance, who supports our local food system by connecting all of us and truly leads by example day after day. Brett Stevenson at Hillside Grain has pioneered a new level of sustainability to the Wood River Valley by providing high-quality, delicious and nutritious flour to our community. All of our local partners and fellow restaurateurs who are pursuing their passion for food every single day are heroes.
What change(s) would you like to see in the Wood River Valley in terms of food?
As we all know, the challenges of farming and producing in the high desert are not to be underestimated. In a dream world, we would love to see a more sustainable food system with larger-scale production that supplies our entire community and gives us more year-round access to fresh local food.
As consumers, one of the greatest ways to impact this change is to vote with your fork. The more we support local businesses and farmers, the more we will be able to provide these products to our community. We should all head down to the Itty Bitty farm store in Carey one day, grab a smoothie from 5B Fruit (who grows some of their own produce on their farm in Bellevue!), buy Hillside Grain flour, or pick up Cloverleaf milk or Waterwheel Garden apples from the Della online store. If we all keep voting for the right things through our actions every day, we will most certainly continue to move in the right direction as a valley.