Who knew that there’s such a vibrant local food scene in Boise? I didn’t know it. And I don’t mean Russet potatoes (though they are delicious)- it’s much, much more.
During our trip to Boise last weekend, we were pleasantly surprised at how much attention there is to eating locally. We were going to see a Boise State football game without any local foodie intentions. However, we were much surprised. I would like to share how we unexpectedly experienced the local food scene in Boise last weekend.
A late night snack
We arrived in Boise around 9pm after a 5 ½ hour drive. All we wanted was a good drink and a light meal before we went to bed. Located in downtown Boise, FORK was a delightful surprise.
We ordered a cheese plate with a number of locally produced cheeses, hand cut fries and what they called a tomato fondue with grilled cheese. The later is a unique twist on fondue where cubes of grilled cheese sandwich (made with local cheddar of course) were dipped into a creamy tomato-based soup. Try to tell me that’s not a comfort food-lovers delight.
It was during this meal that we learned about a farmers market from our server, so guess what we did the next morning before we hit Broncos Stadium…
Though it’s late in the season, farmers markets are still going strong in Boise with tables overflowing with various produce, grass fed beef (both fresh and jerky-d), local goat cheeses, wine from local vineyards and a cornucopia of pumpkins and squash.
We found Rollingstone, one of the Idaho cheese producers we tried the night before. They make a number of different goat cheese styles, but we bought their aged Chevre with ash strewn through the middle, along with a small log of their unbelievably soft, fresh goat cheese. Aged goat cheese is rare to this area, but they’re doing it right. I’d say it’s close to Vermont Creamery for those of you on the East Coast.
After catching a spirited game at Bronco Stadium where Boise State dominated Fresno State at the Smurf, we went to Bittercreek Alehouse for a few celebratory pints of local Idaho brew and an overflowing bowl of poutine (oh, what a hot mess). Yes, poutine is a Canadian invention, but when made with local Idaho potatoes, local cheese curds (Ballard Family Dairy) and gravy from locally raised turkeys, it raises the dish to a new locavorian high (yes, I just shamefully made up that word).
Dedicated to the local food movement, this alehouse lists the sources of all the local foods they serve. It gets updated everyday. Pretty impressive.
A pre-dinner cocktail
Even for an aperitif that evening, we acted as locavore. Can you say martinis made from locally produced vodka (specifically Blue Ice Vodka)? I guess it makes a ton of sense that Idaho would make vodka (and a good one at that). The Polish have been distilling potato vodka for centuries, why shouldn’t it be done in one of the most prolific potato growing areas in the world.
In retrospect, I guess the lesson here is that anyone can discover local food just about anywhere if you get out there and explore – there are plenty of new and stimulating experiences waiting for you so don’t miss out.
Please don’t hesitate to share with me any of your local food experiences, be it in Boise or any other part of this country.
Thanks and happy local eating.
Hands down, two of my most favorite foods are beer and cheese. I will be so bold as to say that my very existence relies upon a perpetual supply of both. If I didn’t have either, I expect I would shrivel up and blow away into the crisp Rocky Mountain wind.
It’s not by accident that I love these two foods. They are actually perfect bedfellows…and I personally believe an even better pairing than wine and cheese. (I can almost hear the wine enthusiasts shouting, Blasphemer!)
At least listen to my reasoning behind this outrageous claim.
Firstly, both foods rely upon microbial activity and when made well, can reflect the terroir (sorry for using that word again) of the area in which it is made.
Secondly, cheese is earthy, pungent and intense, usually with a creamy finish that can overwhelm the flavor of other libations. Beer has similar flavor profiles as that of many cheeses, but also has carbonation, bitterness and roasted flavors that can handle the richness and creaminess of most cheeses.
I probably haven’t convinced you yet, but I’ve always felt the best way to persuade somebody is to have them experience it for themselves. Therefore, I will list for you some of the best pairings of cheese and beer and you can decide for yourself if I’m accurate in my statement above.
On a final note, here are some fundamentals behind pairing beer and cheese so you can try your own combinations (from the brain and experience of Garrett Oliver, brewmaster at Brooklyn Brewery and famed author). There aren’t any hard fast rules, so try, try and try again until you find what you prefer.
– lighter beers with younger or fresh cheeses
– malty beers with nutty, aged cheeses
– hoppy beers with tart, sharp cheeses
– strong, sweet beers with blue cheeses
The beauty of pairing beer and cheese is you can taste away until you find the perfect pairing. If you have any favorites of your own, please don’t hesitate to include them below.
- 5@5 – Cheeses that pair well with beer (eatocracy.cnn.com)
I would hardly call myself a degenerate gambler (can someone say denial), but I have to admit that one of my guilty pleasures in life is playing the ponies during the Kentucky Derby each year. Even though I enjoy gambling, for me, the Derby means more than betting a sawbuck on people riding horses in circles. It also means unique food and drink…and lots of it.
During the Derby, the local population in Kentucky holds Derby parties that feature traditional foods, stiff drinks and flamboyant hats. Who wouldn’t want to be a part of that? It’s less common around the rest of the country so here is your excuse to throw a party during the void that fills the first weekend in May.
Now, I know you’re going to say, What about Cinco de Mayo? I agree that it’s certainly a great occasion to celebrate (and falls on the same day this year), but a Derby party is a more interesting event and less common…and you do have the rest of the summer to drink margaritas. How often will you have the occasion to drink mint juleps?
So, now you have this irresistible idea to be the envy of your friends and throw your own Derby party, but what do you serve? Well, there certainly are traditional Southern dishes such as ham and biscuits with sawmill gravy. However, why not opt for more traditional Derby faire. Here’s a short list of those dishes and a quick description:
- Hot Brown – The dish that sounds like the title of a 70s porno may be a little more PG rated, but is just as oozing and seductive. Originally made in The Brown Hotel in Kentucky in the 1920s, it is an open-faced sandwich including turkey and bacon, covered in Mornay sauce and baked or broiled until the bread gets crispy and the sauce becomes golden brown. I don’t think I need to say anything more about this one. If you’re not tantalized yet, you can’t be my friend.
- Burgoo- The beauty of this dish is that there is no real recipe so you can make it however you want. Please don’t ask about the origins of the name because there is no definitive answer. There are only a few basic considerations when making this stew:
- Since it’s a community-inspired dish where people would visit neighbors and bring whatever they had available, you can use a variety of meats, including mutton, beef, chicken, even rabbit.
- Add an assortment of corn, potatoes, beans, tomatoes, and okra. Be generous since these will probably be the only veggies you serve at the party.
- Now add various spices and Worcestershire sauce according to your taste.
- Cook it low and slow until its think enough to hold a spoon upright in the middle and most ingredients are unrecognizable.
- Derby Pie® – Another food that is a double entendre, being gooey and nutty resulting in much moaning and groaning. It was first created over 50 years ago at the Melrose Inn in Kentucky and the name has actually been trademarked. It includes a light and flaky crust with a walnut and chocolate filling. On top is a heaping pile of whipped cream. It is cloyingly sweet, so be prepared for a trip to the dentist post consumption. It can be ordered online here if you want the original. http://www.derbypie.com/buypie.html
If I haven’t offended you and you’re still reading, now it’s onto something that holds a special place in my heart (yes, brown liquor). It may not be your thing, but I personally believe that the mint julep is the most underrated cocktail if made correctly.
Ok, so what’s so great about this cocktail? In short, it is simplicity in a glass. All you need is some bourbon, simple syrup and fresh mint. Stuff some crushed ice into a glass (or more traditionally a pewter cup) on top of a heaping bunch of mint. Drizzle on simple syrup, pour a generous shot of bourbon atop and there you have it. Some like to muddle the mint, but I prefer a clean drink and just place the mint on the bottom of the glass.
I will admit that you need to know the right technique when making this drink, such as letting the ice dilute the mixture a bit since it is very strong, and if you’re using a pewter cup, ensuring the drink gets so frigid that a perma-frost forms on the outside of the cup. If your fingers freeze to the cup, you’ve achieved mint julep perfection.
I hope you agree that the Kentucky Derby is a special time – and maybe you have become inspired to hold your own Derby party. I mean, who wouldn’t want an excuse to wear a Derby hat. Though it may not be as flashy as the typical Derby hat, here is the one I’ll be wearing this year (yes, a real derby). This weekend look for me in Park City at the High West Distillery clutching onto a worthless ticket in one hand, a mint julep in the other, and sobbing like a baby.
If you have any interesting ideas for your Derby party, please share them below.
Good luck and happy eating.
As we come to the conclusion of National Grilled Cheese Month, I figured I’d end the month with a little cheesy, gooeyness. Now, I’m no professional chef, but I do have a long history with grilled cheese. I’ve experimented with many different cheese and bread combinations. I’ve found that I love whatever I’m in the mood for at that moment. Over those years, I never really thought about the history of the beloved sandwich, so now is the perfect time to reflect on one of our most famous sandwiches.
In some form or other, grilled cheese sandwiches have been made since Roman times. Go figure, another food recipe popularized by Romans (for another bit of food history, do a search on garum, the Roman precursor to modern-day ketchup).
However, the modern-day version of the grilled cheese sandwich, of which we all know so well, originated around the 1920s. It was a single piece of bread with melted cheese on top, which was called a “cheese dream.” The second slice of bread came decades later, sometime in the 1960s.
Culturally and psychologically, it was an important creation because it let people during the Great Depression enjoy a tasty, inexpensive meal that didn’t break the bank. It was so popular it was even served at dinner parties.
Can anyone guess why it happened around this time?
Well, it’s the best thing since sliced…ah, but of course, that’s when affordable sliced bread became available to the masses. And it also came at a time when inexpensive American cheese hit the market (probably the best use of individually wrapped grocery store cheese).
The bread and meat stars were aligned and the rest is cheesy history.
It became so common that grilled cheese sandwiches were even made by Navy cooks during the Big One (World War II for those who don’t watch All in the Family).
Today grilled cheese has experienced a revival. It has gained top billing in restaurants and food trucks and remains the popular choice among families in the home kitchen. It has even evolved into a replacement for bread, becoming the top and bottom halves for cheeseburgers (certainly a decadent treat best left to that once-a-year indulgence).
So this is only our humble history of the grilled cheese sandwich. It is worth noting that most other countries have their version of a grilled cheese sandwich, though it is a little more elaborate than our humble sandwich. Just a few include the luscious Croque Monsieur from France (add a fried egg for a Croque Madame) and the tangy and dripping Welsh Rarebit (or aka Rabbit) from the UK.
On that note, I bid adieu and encourage you to try to make your own version of this classic sandwich. I’m partial to a bit of Uplands Pleasant Ridge Reserve or Thistle Hill Farm Tarentaise, a complex cheddar (maybe Gold Creek Farms Smoked White Cheddar) and a thin swipe of Dijon mustard on hearty whole grain bread.
Feel free to share your favorite combinations below. Thank you and happy experimenting.