The Greatest Meal I’ve Ever Experienced!

Several months ago I was on the commode (where I do my I best thinking) and I decided to look in an old issue of the Wine Spectator, I believe it was 2017. I was interested in looking up the top wine lists in the country. I gravitated towards Idaho as this will be our second home and a place to explore its grandeur and natural beauty.

As I was rifling through the pages of the Spectator I expected to see wine lists recognized in Idaho within the spectrum of tourist enclaves, Coeur d’Alene, Ketchum, McCall, and of course the larger city of Boise. I suspected I’d find WS recognition in the above cities representing some of the finest restaurants/wine lists in Idaho.

I was a bit taken back when I saw a wine list with two wine glasses (exceptional wine list) in a little town I’d never heard of, Athol, Idaho. When I googled the restaurant (Candle in the Woods) I was surprised to see it was in between Sandpoint and Coeur d’Alene. Then I became intrigued when I googled Candle in the Woods and read the reviews. Could it be I stumbled upon a gem in the gem state?

Nancy and I were going to stay in Sandpoint anyway and so this would be a no brainer to go to Candle in the Woods for dinner. After some wonderful repartee with the chef/owner Dave Adlard I made reservations not knowing what the menu would be or the wine pairings. He was quite excited to hear I work for Jean George in Las Vegas. This opened a wonderful dialogue between the chef and I leading to my first understanding that this was going to be something very special.

Part of the service extended to their guests is limo service. The dinner as I understood was going to be 8-10 courses (turned out to be 12 courses) with wine pairings… and so the limo service was a perfect compliment to the experience.

On October 8th (a day that will live in infamy) we were picked up by Benjamin Givens (the nephew of the chef) at the Best Western in Sandpoint. What a fine young man, so well mannered and polite. The perfect beginning to this memorable night.

When we arrived we were greeted by the hostess and sommelier, Noelle Loparco. She was so kind and extended the warmth and graciousness which was such an integral part of this experience. I could go on and on but what is really important is what I’m about to share with you… The meal.

But first, a quick background on the chef, Dave Adlard. From military service to world class gymnast coach to chef extraordinaire… all of these professions have one thing in common, attention to detail.

Dave Adlard and his band of Merry Men and Women include Sous chef Sarah Kitchings (18), Chef de partie/ Chief in charge of the line David Sharon, Commis Benjamin Givens (19), Commis Ethan Storm (16), and Commis Simone Venengo from Italy. This is one of the most professional, humble, and talented group of young chefs I have ever met.

The table was set for just twelve guests. Each place setting was a work of art configured for the first couple courses perfectly aligned with napkin ring, silver ware, a copper water glass and the wine glasses. I will not spoil the culinary wine, food and social nuances before, during, and after that add to this experience… because some things are better left to the imagination.

The introduction “nibble” was an “impossible” Nacho & Caviar blini served with a sparkling wine infused with Grand Marnier and gold dust. This provided the affect of a snow globe as the edible gold dust floated through-out the beverage. This was quickly followed by Asparagus in Prosciutto with Huckleberries and the Candle in the Woods signature dish, Steak Smores.

1st Course – Ahi Tuna Tartare with Avocado in a mold lifted as your fork is positioned for immediate extraction. Paired with the Chateau d’Aqueria Tavel Rose (Grenache, Syrah, Cinsault and Clairette)

2nd Course – Homage to the Masters Trio: Poke Langostino inside Cajun Whip Cornets, Snow Crab, Truffle Custard Egg (topped with caviar and chive) and Marrow. Paired with Jules Berthier Methode Traditional Brut Champagne and Vignobles Lachateau 2018 Vouvray

3rd Course – APPB&J which is green apple, prosciutto, mixed seed butter, strawberry jam, bruleed raisin bread, ancho infused maple syrup (I fell off my chair and cried like a small baby when I tasted this course). Paired with a Pajzos 2017 Tokaj Furmint

4th Course – Smoked Scallop in Phyllo with a Vodka Sauce and Pesto (this dish was brought to the table enshrined in an enclosed glass dome filled with smoke that was lifted as the smoke enveloped the scallop). Paired with Marques de Caceras 2017 Verdejo de Rueda

5th Course – Lobster Cappuccino with Cajun Foam and Sunflower Microgreens. Paired with Isenhower 2019 Roussanne

6th Course (Intermezzo) – Pickled Strawberry and Huckleberry Nitro Ice Cream with Balsamic and Pepper Medley (Huge bowl of smoking nitro Huckleberry made ice cream at the table) Paired with Candle in the Woods proprietary 2016 Lumiere Alborino

7th Course – Mozzarella Ravioli with Candied Bacon and Flash Fried Cajun Prawn in Lemon Sambuca Cream Sauce. Paired with Craftsman Cellars 2014 Reserve Pinot Noir (drank like a Zinfandel or a Grenache/Syrah

8th Course – Lamb Medallion, Tabasco Grits, and Gnawing Bone (All meats were cooked Sous Vide style to 130 degrees). Paired with Charles Krug 2010 Merlot

9th Course (Intermezzo) – Lemon Zest and Olive Oil Sorbetto with mint leaf and pop rocks. Paired with Candle in the Woods 2018 Candle-Abra Bordeaux Blend (Cabernet, Merlot, and Cabernet Franc)


10th Course – Surf and Turf (Filet Mignon and Lobster Tail in Parsley Butter with Asparagus). Paired with a Raymond 2002 Cabernet Sauvignon

11th Course – Balsamic Creme Brulee Stuffed with a Mascarpone Poached Pear. Paired with Trockenbeerenauslese 2010 Eiswein

12th Course – Smoked Gouda and Chocolate Truffle. Paired with a Meneres Tawny Port

Each course was magnificently described and orchestrated by Chef Adlard. Each wine pairing was described with expertise and nuance by Sommelier Noel Loparco.

To book a reservation go to the “Candle in the Woods” web site or call 208-664-0135.

Somewhere between JRR Tolkien’s Lorien and Peter Pan (the boy who never grew up) lies a culinary experience that is infused by the love of family and friends and the devotion to create a magical experience that is unparalleled in scope, imagination, and technique.

I will never be the same after this meal…