Holidays: Passover in Sawtooth

In their house near Sawtooth National Forest, one family celebrates the holiday Idaho-style, with crispy fried trout, spiced brisket and brown-sugar cookies.

Professional chefs are generally expected to prepare family meals, especially on holidays. Carrie Pillar, 37, who made desserts at Los Angeles's Spago and Patina before leaving the business in the mid-'90s, does most of the cooking at her home in Santa Monica, California. But her husband, Russ, the 38-year-old president of Viacom Digital Media Group, takes charge at Passover—with help from their sons Cole, 5, and Levi, 2.

The Pillars spend Passover at their Sun Valley, Idaho, house, which borders on the Sawtooth National Forest. Russ makes the most of local ingredients: He uses Idaho potatoes to make crisp, salty chips as a snack to serve with Sawtooth Mountain Breezes, grapefruit-cranberry drinks spiked with smooth Teton Glacier vodka, which is produced nearby. He coats local rainbow trout with seasoned matzo crumbs and pan-fries them, then serves them with a light green oregano-flavored olive oil. For dessert, Russ uses Carrie's recipe for caramel-flavored Brown-Sugar Meringues; Cole and Levi spoon batter onto the baking sheet. Carrie watches them, laughs, and says, "If only Mother's Day was this easy."

PUBLISHED April 2004