Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Nectar: Charming Palouse Cusine

During the last half of July, I traveled through eastern Washington and Northern Idaho, thus all the recent posts from this part of the world. It is surprising how many cafe jewels I've come across in this region! So, here's another one I'd like to share. Read on!

If gastronomy is the study of the relationship between culture and food then Nectar, a small restaurant located in Moscow, Idaho, is the place to study it. Why? Nectar specializes in classic dishes made from local food. At Nectar you can experience the art of cooking (with a really good bottle of wine) and the food culture of the Palouse region.

Many in Washington and Idaho know the Palouse as wheat country, where in July rolling hills are golden. The rich, fertile soils of the Palouse grow many crops including wheat, barley, lentils, garbanzo beans, and peas. This agricultural area is home to big farms, but more and more small scale farmers are farming here, especially in and around the town of Moscow, Idaho. When I travel around the Palouse, I relive the history of my family, many of which grew up in small farming towns nearby that were once bustling with activity. Today, these small towns have only a fraction of the people once living there. Through the decades as farms grew bigger so did farm equipment, which has meant fewer people employed, fewer people farming, and fewer small businesses. There are some signs, however, that Palouse food culture isn't only about big agriculture. Take one trip to the Moscow Farmer's Market and you will find a suite of area small farmers selling vegetables, honey, cheese, and grain. You don't have to travel too far beyond that to visit Moscow restaurants that embrace local food and make a business from it. Nectar is such a place.

So let me set the scene. My boyfriend and I wandered in one fine summer evening and were shown to a small table in the back of the restaurant. The lights were dim and the wine glasses were sparkly. To start we ordered a bottle of wine. For an appetizer we ordered ceviche, which was wonderfully fresh, tart, and flavorful. I could of kept eating the ceviche, because it is one of my favorite dishes, so thank goodness for the small portion. For my main course, I had the best slice of meatloaf ever. Want to know why? It was seared around the edges with a slice of bacon, was perfectly moist and flavorful in the middle, was topped with a chipotle barbecue glaze, and was placed on a bed of creamy mashed potatoes with carrots on the side. Wow, heaven.

For dessert we had strawberries and cream and the last few drops of our delicious red wine. Nectar is a must if you find yourself in Moscow, Idaho. Nectar also has an extensive wine list and a rotating menu to keep up with the seasons. It is a restaurant I've wanted to go to for the last two years and finally made it there. Yah me and yah to my boyfriend who was so sweet in taking me there.

Photo credit: Peter Roise Photography

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