Wednesday, December 11, 2019
Wood River Sustainability Center Moves on Up
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Al McCord and Alyssa Daven started a food truck a few years ago that offers dishes made with products provided by farmers in Picabo, Hagerman and other nearby locations.
 
Saturday, November 23, 2019
 

STORY AND PHOTOS BY KAREN BOSSICK

It broke new ground, offering a permanent place in Hailey for local farmers to sell products to local consumers when it opened eight years ago.

Now, the former Wood River Sustainability Center is carrying on that tradition in a more visible location—smack dab in the center of Hailey’s Main Street.

The Wood River Sustainability Center reopened this week as Al’s Sustainable Mercantile. It occupies a  space that used to house Freshie’s and El Toro restaurants in between The Mint and Shorty’s.

 
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Tenaya, Sadie and Hazel Kohr find a spot at the head of the table in Al’s Sustainable Mercantile.
 

“It’s nice to see them on Main Street where even visitors driving through will see them. And it’s nice to see them continue to offer retail space for local farm products and serve as a gathering place for farm-to-table dinners,” said Amy Mattias, co-director of The Local Food Alliance.

It wasn’t Al McCord’s choice to relocate. He loved being in the white, green-trimmed building built in 1936 to service the Forest Service’s trucks, which would roll in and out on its dirt floors.

There was something special about being able to roll back the garage doors for a Harvest Festival or some other community gathering.

But FAPO, the owners of The Village at Hailey Center commercial complex, went before Hailey Planning and Zoning in October to ask permission to demolish the building to make way for parking. And McCord set about finding suitable space--at 122 S. Main St.

 
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Tom Stevens offers Tenaya and Sadie Kohr a sample of his extravaGONZO culinary oils infused with blood orange, roasted garlic and other flavors.
 

“We knew going into it six years ago that being asked to relocate was a possibility,” said McCord, a former food and beverage director for The Valley Club who took over the Sustainability Center from Picabo farmers Dick and Melinda Springs. “I loved that space because of its history. But we’re being proactive.”

On Wednesday, McCord and Alyssa Daven served up free lamb burgers, samples of butternut squash soup and shortbread and cowboy cookies boasting chocolate chips, coconut, oats and pecans to those who stopped in for the grand opening.

McCord explained to one customer that the big red tomatoes next to the greens, cauliflower and peppers in the refrigerator case were from Hagerman. Librarians LeAnn Gelskey and Kristin Fletcher checked out the grab-and-go lamb lasagna, which comes with Caesar salad and bread.

“I’m excited that it’ll be open regularly now,” said Hilary Sinnamon, as she and her children Julia and Decker helped themselves to the lamb burger samples.

 
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Julia, Decker and Hilary Sinnamon love to buy the Mercantile’s sourdough bread fresh out of the oven.
 

 “It seems like a fitting space,” added Tenaya Kohr, looking around at long room which features the big luscious food photographs of Pauline Phlipot and the dot art of Marie Stewart’s. “I like the brick wall in here.”

The new center features more house made dressings and other products than ever.

Honey poppyseed and lime cilantro dressings have taken their place in the refrigerated space next to the  garlic and kale pesto and homemade yogurt. There are a variety of grab-and-go quiches, including one made of ham, goat cheese and leeks and another boasting asparagus and goat cheese.

And for the sweet tooth; mini-pies, including the Lemon Lavender Pie that Daven concocted.

 
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Jennifer Parnell samples a lamb burger with Santos Serva, who owns Hailey Coffee Company.
 

“I was experimenting with using lemon bars in a pie and sprinkled a little lavender on it and it has become so popular,” said Daven.

Daven, who came to the Sun Valley area to teach skiing in a program for at-risk kids, was working in the surgery recovery center at St. Luke’s Wood River when she wandered into the Sustainability Center six years ago.

She left, devouring big chunks of warm sourdough bread she tugged off as she walked away.

“Then I found out that Al and I had the same dream—of having a food truck. So, we’ve been working together for three years,” said Daven, who is currently experimenting with tiramisu and rosemary shortbread. “I love to cook everything, but I really love baking so I make the pies, quiches and the fermented sourdough focaccia.

McCord plans to get his farm-to-table dinners back online as soon as he can. But that’ll have to wait until after Thanksgiving.

Through Monday evening he’s busy taking orders for at variety of Thanksgiving dinner items, including  coconut curry pumpkin and butternut squash soup, a Farro salad made of leeks, shallot butternut squash, craisins and thyme; and deep dish apple and lemon lavender pies.

Al’s Sustainable Mercantile is open from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. weekdays. Want to know more? Visit wrsustainabilitycenter@gmail.com or call 208-721-3114.

 

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