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Idaho’s Basque Tables

A distinct Old World culture brought culinary treasures to the Gem State.

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 LEFT Epi and David Inchausti with children Dorothy (on lap), Rose (standing) and Epi’s brother, Jose Lamiquis (standing in rear). ABOVE Epi and David Inchausti, taken around the time of their wedding, in 1925, in Ybarenguela, in the Spanish Basque Country. The couple honeymooned in Barcelona.


It’s a Family Affair

A black-and-white photograph hanging on a red brick wall in the back of Bar Gernika shows an elderly man tending a busy bar in Hailey, Idaho. The man is David Inchausti, Dan and Chris Ansotegui’s grandfather. The man’s wife, Epifania Inchausti, is rightly considered the matriarch of Basque cooking in Idaho.

Epifania and David Inchausti opened the Gem Bar and Boarding House in Hailey in 1936, the same year that Sun Valley Resort opened. The establishment was housed downtown in a former Chinese laundry on Bullion Street, and it came to be one of the best known Basque boardinghouses in Idaho.

Epi, as Epifania Inchausti was known, at first served mainly Basque lodgers, but her cooking skills soon earned a reputation. She opened her dining room, and busloads of diners flocked to the little Hailey house. Early patrons included Sun Valley’s golden-era celebrities like Janet Leigh, Tennessee Ernie Ford, Ernest Hemingway, Gary Cooper, Clark Gable and Bing Crosby.

Epi’s legacy in the Wood River Valley continues today through an annual lamb dinner and fundraiser for Hailey’s St. Charles Catholic Church, an event that Epi and other Basque women helped originally organize in the 1940s. In the Boise area, her spirit lives even larger at her granddaughter’s popular restaurant in Meridian, Epi’s Basque Restaurant.

The culinary passion that Epifania Inchausti brought to Hailey has flourished with her progeny. Chris Ansotegui and her mother still laugh about the day Chris needed an emergency appendectomy, at the expense of what was cooking on the stove.

“Mom took me to the hospital but didn’t realize I would need an operation,” Chris recalled. “She told me, ‘I gotta go home and cook dinner for your dad. I’ll call you later.’ And, I’m a seventh grader, and I’m crying and the hospital staff later got my mom on the phone and she said to me, ‘Honey, I’m making pork chops with pimiento (red peppers) for the family. I’ll be there later.’”

In 1999, Chris opened Epi’s in a small bungalow-style house in Meridian. Epi’s menu is filled with traditional Basque delicacies—inkfish in sauce, beef tongue, lamb stew, halibut and red bean soup. The cooking is simple but precise. “Basque cooking uses very few seasonings,” she said. “Garlic, salt, parsley, paprika, saffron, pimiento. We take good food and make it taste better. We see things that we can incorporate and still stay authentic. We try to stay true to our ancestors and the taste of the Basque region.” >>>

 

 

 

Sun Valley Magazine encourages its readers to post thoughtful and respectful comments on all of our online stories. Your comments may be edited for length and language.

Old to new | New to old
Jun 14, 2010 07:38 pm
 Posted by  Anonymous

My compliments to the fine job you did in researching and writing this article. Many have been done about my family over the years....none match the quality of this one.


Dave Inchausti

Jun 15, 2010 10:23 am
 Posted by  Jnisson

I agree ! I'm 2nd generation of this family. I am so thrilled with this article. Thank you Sun Valley Magazine !!

Jesse Mallory Nisson

Jun 15, 2010 10:25 am
 Posted by  Jnisson

oops...... I'm third generation

Jun 19, 2010 08:02 am
 Posted by  Anonymous

As an Ansotegui serving in Afghanistan I am always happy to see such articles that share an accurate and entertaining history of the Basque culture. I can't wait to return home and share stories and visit with my grandpa.

Oct 12, 2011 05:19 pm
 Posted by  Olatz Saitua

I am niece of Epi´s friend in school Juana Paguaga, who emigrated to NY from Ibarragelu in 1919, and just found out about Epi. We also have family in Idaho and Seattle, Guisasaola, arrived in Boise in 1915. Both sides came to the Basque Country this summer. Happy to know people from Ibarrangelu settled in USA and made history in many different ways.

Olatz Saitua, fromo Ibarrangelu

Jun 22, 2012 06:17 pm
 Posted by  Anonymous

My husbands first love was Chris back in 1978. I can see how he was attracted!

This has been flagged
Jul 20, 2013 03:47 pm
 Posted by  Patti Murphy

Belatedly, I want to thank all of you for your kind comments on this article. Obviously, with a name like Murphy, I am not Basque, but I have graciously been welcomed into the community by my Basque friends and acquaintances who have said I could change my name to Patti Murphyaga. :) Its a wonderful community, and I had a great time researching this article. Unfortunately, it didn't include any free food. Thank you again for your comments.

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