Saturday, April 10, 2010

The Kneadery

Four days after he was first elected governor of California in 2003, Arnold Schwarzenegger had breakfast at The Kneadery in Ketchum, Idaho.

I know this because he and I sat back-to-back about 18 inches apart, he with Maria Shriver and their four kids, I with Kathleen, her sister, Iris, and Iris' husband, Vernon. We overheard the entire Schwarzenegger-Shriver conversation. OK, we eavesdropped big time. (Apropos of nothing, Arnold isn't as big as he seems on TV. I'm 6-1, 230 -- after a diet -- and Arnold was at least three inches shorter than I and not shockingly muscular. Also, he drinks decaf.)

They talked about Ahnold's going to the White House (no, kids, sorry, you can't go this time), Maria's ideas on promoting tourism in California, etc., etc. When they were done, Maria and the kids left and Arnold sat alone at the table for awhile. Kathleen wanted to say something to him but I pleaded with her not to. No one said a peep to him, and eventually he left, making his way to his black Chevy Suburban. Kathleen is probably right -- he was expecting to be approached and would have readily engaged in conversation. Kathleen thought seriously about stealing his fork and selling it on e-Bay.

Frankly, Maria was kind of rude. While Kathleen was politely waiting in line to put our name on the waiting list, Maria barged past her and announced to the waitress (in her deep, kind of masculine voice), "We're here." They were seated before we were, but only by five minutes. As a sort of payback, Maria spent a solid 10 minutes during breakfast with some sort of sauce dribbling down her chin before Arnold pointed it out to her.

But this isn't about Arnold and Maria. It's about The Kneadery, A Ketchum fixture since 1975 and one of three or four of the best places in Idaho to get breakfast (Moon's in Boise and Smitty's in Idaho Falls are right up there). I've seen other celebrities at The Kneadery over the years (most memorable was Mariel Hemingway, who was impossibly tiny except for her enhanced breasts), but the reason to go to the Kneadery is the wonderfully delicious food.

Lovingly run by transplanted San Franciscan Michael Martin from the time he bought it six months after it opened in 1975 until his unexpected death in 2002, The Kneadery is now owned and operated by the same folks who run another Ketchum culinary landmark, the Pioneer Saloon. The Pioneer, where the prime rib and drinks come in serious quantities, is now celebrating its 60th year in business and was once a favorite of Ketchumite and occasional writer Ernest Hemingway, grandfather of the aforementioned Mariel.

During the high winter and summer seasons there's always a wait to get into The Kneadery, so the slack seasons of early spring or late autumn are more convenient. Highly recommended is the omelet created in tribute to Michael Martin -- eggs, apple-chicken sausage, spinach, mushrooms and  jack cheese. The coffee is stout. If you drink this stuff black, you probably grew up on a farm somewhere.

On your way out, say "hi" to Buck, the life-size wood carving near the cash register sitting beneath a growling stuffed grizzly, and take a complimentary cookie from the plate in front of him. And if you see Ahnold, please chat him up, maybe ask for an autograph. At this point, he'd probably like that.

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