Each week, the Sip Advisor will alphabetically travel the United States, discovering the best each state has to offer in a variety of subjects. Mostly known for their potato industry, it may surprise readers that Idaho is nicknamed the Gem State because practically every type of gemstone (72 different types) has been mined from the area. So, let’s find out if Idaho truly is a gem:
Motto: “Let it be perpetual” – I don’t know, I like finite endings, myself.
Food: The Idahoan Sandwich, served at Meltz Extreme Grilled Cheese, in Coeur d’Alene, combines meatloaf and mashed potatoes, topped with cheese and dressed with a ketchup chili glaze. If you still haven’t had your fair share of starch, a popular Idaho dessert item is the Ice Cream Potato, a baked potato served with a dollop of ice cream and other sundae toppings.
Drink: Given Idaho is potato country, tater-based vodkas are popular in the state. The most well known may come from the Grand Teton Distillery, in Driggs. The company also offers a Huckleberry Vodka (using Idaho’s State Fruit), along with a few other spirit variations.
Site to See: Craters of the Moon National Monument will have you feeling like you’ve landed on another planet. The unique terrain was created by volcanic eruptions and lava flow thousands of years ago. Sun Valley Ski Resort is also a popular destination, as the country’s first such attraction, and also where the world’s first ski lift was built.
Street: At 33 miles long, the longest main street in the U.S. can be found in Island Park. With a whopping population of 286 people (according to the 2010 census), nearly every citizen lives along Route 20, which leads to Yellowstone National Park. Island Park was created to allow liquor to be sold in the area, skirting Idaho laws at the time.
TV Show: Has a state ever had less success with TV shows set there than Idaho? The Napoleon Dynamite cartoon lasted only six episodes, while other projects Amazing Grace (five episodes), The Manhunter (22 episodes), Spinning Out (10 episodes), Wayward Pines (20 episodes), and The Grinder (22 episodes), are all forgettable.
Movie: Because there will be plenty of other opportunity to discuss Napoleon Dynamite below, I will choose The River Wild for this category. Starring Meryl Streep and Kevin Bacon, this film tells the story of a family who goes rafting on Idaho’s Salmon River, encountering a trio of criminals along the way. The family must come together to overcome not only the fugitives, but the raging river, as well.
Book/Author: Vardis Fisher, best known for his novels Children of God and Mountain Man – which was adapted into the 1972 film Jeremiah Johnson, starring Robert Redford – was born in Annis. Fisher also wrote The Idaho Guide, as part of the Federal Writer’s Project, the first guide published among all the American states.
Fictional Character: Napoleon Dynamite, protagonist of the surprise 2004 hit comedy film, is an awkward high school student, with a penchant for sketching mythical creatures, dancing and tater tots. The movie takes place in Preston, where it was also filmed on a budget of only $400,000.
Fictional City: Wayward Pines was used as the setting for the 2015-16 TV show of the same name, based on a series of books by Blake Crouch. The town is surrounded by an electrified fence and trying to escape is punished by death. The series had some star power attached to it, with Matt Dillon and Terrence Howard as stars and M. Night Shyamalan directing the pilot, but was cancelled in 2018, two years after airing its last episode.
Actor/Actress: Aaron Paul, best known for his role of Jesse Pinkman, from Breaking Bad, was born in Emmett. Paul will next be seen in the third season of HBO’s Westworld, as the character Caleb.
Song: As much as I dislike The B-52s, their song Private Idaho is perhaps the most popular song ever recorded about the state. The track has been used in the movies My Own Private Idaho and The Wedding Singer and was the entrance song for the Idaho Steelheads of the East Coast Hockey League during the 2005-06 season.
Band/Musician: Formed in Boise, rock band Paul Revere & the Raiders enjoyed popularity and success from the late 1960’s to the early 1970’s. During this time, they recorded hits such as Kicks, Hungry and Indian Reservation. Founder Paul Revere died in 2014 from cancer, but his son Jamie leads the band now.
People: Joe Albertson, founder of the Albertsons chain of grocery stores, was raised in Caldwell. His first store was opened in 1939, in Boise, becoming one of the first one-stop supermarkets. Two additional stores were opened the following year, growing to be the second largest supermarket chain in North America. Albertson retired in 1976, aged 70.
Animal: The Appaloosa Horse is the State Horse of Idaho, appearing on a version of their license plates. Known for their spotted coat, conservation efforts for the breed led to the formation of the Appaloosa Horse Club, based out of Moscow (the Idaho city, that is). The horses are commonly used in western movies and TV series.
Invention: No matter what else was invented in Idaho, the second I learned the TV was designed (1927) and patented (1930) there, it was game over. My life, for better or worse, is greatly influenced by television and I have Philo Farnsworth to thank for that. The first image Farnsworth transmitted through TV was that of his wife.
Crime: Lyda Southard was one of the first known female serial killers in the U.S., having poisoned a number of husbands, a brother-in-law and even her own daughter, for life insurance payouts. Most of the crimes occurred in Idaho, with a couple taking place in Montana. Southard was eventually tried and convicted, sentenced to 10 years imprisonment, but escaped and remarried. She was returned to prison a year later and served her sentence.
Law: In Pocatello, it is illegal not to smile in public. I’m curious as to what the punishment for breaking this law would be. Perhaps a stint of happiness training, where all you do is have fun with endless resources.
Sports Team: With no pro teams, the Boise State University Broncos are the talk of the Idaho sports world. I would love to see a professional franchise come to Idaho and be called the Potatoes or Spuds or something of that ilk. Until then, I will continue waiting with baited breath.
Athlete: Inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1984, Harmon Killebrew was fourth in career home runs when he retired and today sits 12th with 573 over his 22 years playing. Killebrew, born in Payette, was a 13-time All-Star and named the 1969 American League MVP.
Famous Home: Standrod Mansion, also known as Standrod Castle, was built in 1897, in Pocatello, by Drew William Standrod. The home is said to be haunted by the spirit of Standrod’s daughter, who died young. Visitors to the mansion, when it was a museum and event center owned by the city, reported feeling ill once they entered the place and others have seen the daughter in the tower window, which was her room when she was alive.
Urban Legend: Amongst some other interesting tales, I had to go with the theory that the state of Idaho is mythical. This wacky notion is actually debated by some (probably also flat earth folks) who ask questions such as “Do you know anybody from Idaho?” and debating the population size versus geographical size, among other arguments.
Museum: The Museum of Clean was opened in 2011, in Pocatello, by Don Aslett, a cleaning expert and co-founder of the Varsity House Cleaning Company. The museum displays 6,000 artifacts to do with cleaning and cleanliness, including early vacuum cleaners and washing machines. The site also has a small theatre, art gallery and gift shop.
Firsts: Idaho is home to the world’s first nuclear power plant, which resulted in the city of Arco being the first to be lit by atomic energy. The downside of all this, is the area also experienced the world’s first nuclear meltdown.
Company: In many cities, Mrs. Sip and I have used the CityPASS system, which offers travellers access to a number of popular attractions at one discounted price. The company is based out of Idaho, of all places, launching in 1997 in Seattle and San Francisco, before other destinations were added in the following years.
Events: The largest forest fire in U.S. history, dubbed the Great Fire of 1910, burned entire cities in parts of Idaho and Montana. The blaze killed 87 people and destroyed an estimated $1 billion worth of timber. A notable survival story from the fire, featured Idaho firefighter Edward Pulaski saving most of his crew by taking refuge in an abandoned mine. Pulaski later invented a tool, with an axe at one end and an adze on the other, which became essential firefighter equipment.
Miscellaneous: Idaho is a made up word, originally suggested for what is now Colorado. Lobbyist George M. Willing said the word came from a Native-American language, meaning ‘gem of the mountains’. Despite the name being fabricated, it gained popularity and was later used for what is now Idaho… if it does, in fact, exist!
- 1.5 oz Whiskey
- Splash of Lemon Juice
- Dash of Simple Syrup
- Garnish with a Maraschino Cherry and Orange Peel
In all my research, it was hard to find a cocktail associated with Idaho. That said, many articles referenced the Whiskey Sour as the state’s favourite alcoholic beverage, based on Google searches and liquor sales data. Variations of the Whiskey Sour recipe can turn it into a Boston Sour (with the addition of egg whites) or a New York Sour (with the addition of a red wine float).