Tell Jane Hammons that Embers by the Lake in Hauser, Idaho, reminds you of the Catskills resort from the movie Dirty Dancing and she'd be pleased, says her husband Chris. Assisted by family and friends, the two transformed the former upscale Chef In The Forest eatery into a popular, casual pizza place more in keeping with this landmark's 1960s origins as the Woodland Beach Resort.
They're also renovating the adjacent cabins, calling that business Mr. Hammons' School's Out Resort. It's a nod to the couple's longtime careers in education: he retired after 32 years while she spent 19 years teaching, another seven as Pita Pit's director of training, and is returning to the classroom this coming year (at Woodland Middle School, where Chris used to be principal).
Their intent, says Chris, is to create a place where the Hauser community can come together.
Indeed, the overall feel at Embers is light, fun and friendly. They kept the original fireplace but reoriented and expanded the entryway. Warm gold-and-auburn walls are offset with ample wood trim and whimsical paintings of lake scenes by Chris' sister, Belinda Bell, who also custom-painted the tables. Abundant windows take advantage of the lake view, while French doors open onto the patio, bringing seating capacity to around 100.
Inside, the wood-fire pizza oven churns out 10 standard pizzas, plus a build-your-own option, all about 9 by 13 inches, with a crisp, garlicky, buttery crust (also available gluten-free). The Mediterranean ($12) features their red sauce, Kalamata olives, red onions, peppers, sun-dried tomatoes, feta, spinach and garlic. The white sauce in the Garlic Chicken Pesto ($13) is rich with Gorgonzola, while the Carmelita ($12) pairs Walla Walla onions and crimini mushrooms.
Appetizers include Garlic Knots — baked dough — while a variety of salads can be ordered in two sizes ($5/$9).
For dessert, try s'mores for one ($1) or the whole family ($5/serves 6), which you can cook yourself at the outdoor campfire. Don't know how? Chances are the Hammonses will happily teach you. ♦
Embers by the Lake • 12008 N. Woodland Beach Dr., Hauser, Idaho • Open daily 4-10 pm • facebook.com/embersbythelake • 208-262-8219