Something Old, Something New

By / Photography By Guy Hand | March 15, 2015
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Chef Topple and crew
Chef Topple, without hat, and crew, Photo courtesy of Shore Lodge

Shore Lodge blends tradition with innovation at The Narrows

Seated at The Narrows restaurant inside McCall’s historic Shore Lodge, peering out over the silvery surface of Payette Lake, a sudden craving for steak sets in. Not for some dainty tenderloin, but a marbled monster washed down with an icy martini or a blood-thick California Cab. There’s nothing adventurous about this kind of meal, but it’s profoundly satisfying in this setting.

It’s the type of thing Shore Lodge guests Bing Crosby or Robert Taylor might’ve ordered while they were staying at the mountain lodge in the late 1940s and early 1950s. In fact, on Chef Ozzie Annen’s 1969 menu, under cottage cheese and fruit Jell-O, there was a broiled 12- ounce New York steak. Current Executive Chef Steve Topple is still serving that steak—though now it’s 16 ounces, cooked in a 1,000° Montague oven and costs almost seven times as much ($38 versus $5.50).

But steak aside, Shore Lodge has been through a lot of changes since it first opened in 1948—including the contentious “Dark Years,” when the resort was purchased and privatized by San Diego developer Doug Manchester. But when Alscott Real Estate purchased Shore Lodge in 2008 and undertook a number of massive renovations, they hoped to strike a balance between being the community’s gathering place and a first-class resort. Enter Chef Topple, who took over as executive chef in 2013.

“We haven’t really changed the concept too much,” explained Topple. “It’s got a steakhouse feel to the menu. We have five or six items on the steak menu and then you choose your side as well. But then we also have some more complex entrees, like the herb-crusted lamb with a chorizo sauce, which is amazing.”

Originally from Portsmouth, England, Topple worked for British TV chef Brian Turner before relocating to the United States to work at Lake Placid Lodge in New York’s Adirondacks. After stints at a variety of other resorts and restaurants, including Wolfgang Puck’s now-shuttered Postrio in San Francisco, Topple landed in McCall.

“I just had a dream, kind of a passion that I wanted to come across to the United States and cook over here because there’s just so much more variety of ingredients,” said Topple. “I’m really trying to focus on Idaho products—’Creative Pacific Northwest’ is our actual brand,” said Topple. “We’re using Lava Lakes Lamb, which is stunning, stunning lamb … There’s a buffalo ranch here in town that not many people know about, NorthWood Buffalo. We get quail eggs that come out of Donnelly. There’s a lot of resources here in town.”

Shore Lodge Outdoor
Shore Lodge Sign
Shore Lodge exterior
Shore Lodge Interior

In the summertime, Topple scours the McCall Farmers Market for produce and even buys buckets of huckleberries and morel mushrooms from foragers who stop by the lodge. This past summer, he froze local corn in order to offer open-faced corn ravioli with roasted tomato-zucchini ragout and basil vinaigrette well into the winter months. While this local focus lets Topple experiment seasonally, he doesn’t stray too far from the restaurant’s steakhouse roots.

But The Narrows is only one slice of the Shore Lodge’s elaborate dining structure. All told, Shore Lodge operates five restaurants, including the lounge-y Narrows Grill, the more casual Lake Grill and two restaurants at the Whitetail Club. They also offer room service and cater weddings and conferences. When things are in full swing in the summer, Topple says he’s in charge of around 35 cooks, plus a crew of stewards and dishwashers.

“On a summer weekend, you’ve got a wedding at Shore Lodge, an event at Whitetail, you might have an event out on the golf course at Whitetail,” said Director of Lodging John Wood. “The Narrows is busy. Lake Grill is blowing up—it’s going to do 600 covers this day . . . You walk through the kitchen and there’s not a horizontal place anywhere except for the food pickup where there’s not somebody chopping or dicing or prepping something.”

Shore Lodge is not only pushing to become one of the Northwest’s top mountain retreats, it’s striving to honor its storied history in the McCall community.

“Shore Lodge is really iconic in a lot of people’s minds from growing up here,” said Wood. “It’s been the place for the New Year’s Eve party; it’s been the place that has live music out on the dock in the summertime … A lot of kids when they were growing up did their turn bussing tables downstairs. So there’s a really fun sense of ownership from all these different people that it touches.”

Shore Lodge 501 W. Lake St., McCall, ID 83638
800.657.6464 •

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