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Apres with Esta
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Esta Hornstein said she loves putting on a show for Karl Uri and the Sun Valley Culinary Institute. “And people love my chopped liver,” she said.
   
Tuesday, January 10, 2023
 

STORY AND PHOTOS BY KAREN BOSSICK

They came for the chopped liver. And for the woman who’d made the chopped liver.

A stream of people thumbed their noses at a winter storm that was creating white-out conditions and making driving difficult to pour into the Sun Valley Culinary Institute for Apres with Esta.

The event gave longtime Wood River Valley residents a chance to connect with one of the valley’s legendary chefs. And it gave those in need of a Jewish deli-style corned beef fix a chance to enjoy corned beef on rye. Or, even, corned beef on rye with turkey!

 
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This interesting looking dish is Noodle Kugel.
 

“I like to support the culinary history of Ketchum and the Wood River Valley,” said Karl Johann Uri, who  put together the event for the Institute. “And Esta is an institution—people want to see her. They want to eat her food. I ate at Esta’s before I moved here and many others miss her restaurant, as well.”

Esta Hornstein was long known for her big city deli in a small mountain town as she ran restaurants near  what is now The Argyros and later in the 511 Building. Hollywood director Saul Turteltaub woud stop by for her corned beef, which she brines in her own special spices. And others happily pampered their immunity with a steaming helping of Grandma Esther’s Matzo Ball Soupl.

All of her uncles—Benny, Harry, Max and Al—owned famous delis in New Jersey and New York. And Esta became the last member of her family to open a deli when she moved to Ketchum, where she served Kosher Betsy Dogs, Challah French Toast, potato latkes and the Real Deal Reuben using her family’s secrete Russian dressing.

But she grew up in El Paso, Texas, rather than New York. And so she also tried to educate her customers that Mexican food is not all about gloppy red sauce by making her own sauces with Chimayo chiles for Yiddish Cowboy Style Huevos Rancheros, Mexican potatoes, Chimayo Chicken Salad and quesadillas that she served right alongside her corned beef hash, bagels and lox.

 
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Narda Pitkethley looks like she has Nirvana in a piece of garlic bread with chopped liver on top.
 

Happily retired, she offered to come out of retirement on occasion for the Sun Valley Culinary Institute when it opened a couple years ago, and Uri has put together a handful of events with Esta since.

Carlyn Ring braved nasty road conditions between her house north of Ketchum and the Sun Valley Culinary Institute to get her iron fix as she loaded up a bag with several portions of the chopped liver.

“I like to pick up food and take it home,” she said. “And I wanted to see Esta—I’ve known her forever, and I was always first in line at lunch. I’ve missed her food since she closed the doors.”

Roger and Linda Peterson savored a glass of wine as they awaited their order. But they would be taking their dinner home, Linda noted. After all, there was a big football bowl game awaiting them.

 
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Noodle Kugel, Chopped Liver with Capers and Matzo Ball Soup—something you can’t get every day in Ketchum.
 

JoAnn Levy took home two big bags of Esta’s cooking.

“Esta’s the best cook,” she said. “I love having her cook for us.”

As people fetched to-go bag around her, Narda Pitkethley sat, a broad smile across her faith as she took small bites of the chopped liver before her, pausing occasionally to sample a plate of slightly sweet Jewish Noodle Kugel.

“It makes me feel so happy,” said Pitkethley, who saw the dinner as a reward for a hard day of snowboarding on Sun Valley Resort’s Bald Mountain. “It reminds me of my partial Jewish heritage. Part of my family is Jewish—my grandparents met at Bellevue Hospital in New York City where my American grandmother was a nursing student and my grandfather Alfred Glass--a European Jew--was an intern training to be a doctor. And then I married a Jewish man. I wish I’d gotten more Jewish food growing up because I love the food.”

 
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“Esta’s the best cook,” said JoAnn Levy as she prepared to lug home dinner.
 

Uri said the Sun Valley Culinary Institute has much more planned this winter, including a James Beard chef’s dinner in March.

Other events include a Wine Bar with appetizers from 4 to 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 11; a wine tasting with Sean Stephens of Tastevin from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Jan. 18; Gourmet Game Night at 6 p.m. Jan. 27 with Cynthia Nims, a Seattle cookbook author who has taught classes at the Institute before, and two Thai cooking classes with Pranee Halvorsen on Feb. 7, 9 and 11, and an Apres Ski  Fondue evening on Feb. 17.

For more information, visit https://sunvalleyculinary.org/.

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