Boise Restaurant Week

Having a blog has some perks. For one, it’s an excuse to carry my camera around and take pictures of the most obscure things and when it’s questioned, casually say, “Oh, it’s for my blog.” Also, a common theme here on my blog is adventures I take with my family, usually just a drive away from home. I’ll write about what we did, where we ate, what we saw, and why everyone else should do it too (I’m also very bossy).

If you’ve never been to Boise, you’re missing out.

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Years ago I visited Boise and I was so unimpressed. There were a few stores they had that were kinda cool nothing I couldn’t live without. Over the past 10-15 years, Boise has completely transformed itself. It’s hip and cool and offers all the national stores (West Elm, Anthro, etc) but what makes it stand out is the number of little boutiques, locally owned shops and their incredible food culture.

They’re working hard to keep things on the up-and-up and that’s pretty obvious when you look down the street.

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But here’s the thing: the construction isn’t annoying. It’s exciting. It’s tangible proof that Boise loves its people and is keeping with what they want and need.

The Downtown Boise Association and Idaho Tourism invited me to come to Boise and attend some kickoff events for their annual Restaurant Week. Here’s Restaurant Week in a nutshell: participating restaurants have a special prix-fixe Dine Out Downtown Boise menu for lunch and dinner. A 2-course lunch is $10 and for dinner, there’s an option of a 2-course ($15), 3-course ($30) or fine dining ($50). I wish I was able to spend the entire week down there because what these restaurants are offering is incredible. This year, Restaurant Week is from October 28 – November 6th, so get on it!

First and foremost, the women who helped organize this entire event are lovely. They made sure I had everything I needed, communication was easy and thorough, and they were genuine and enthusiastic. They hooked me up with a hotel room which was worth it on its own. A solid night’s sleep without children kicking my kidneys all night? Done and done.

The Thursday night event was a tasting party, basically, where guests were invited to try food, wine, and beer from Idaho peeps.

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{Kobe beef tartar from Snake River Farms on crostini from Chandler’s Prime Steaks and Seafood and trout from Clear Springs Foods in Buhl from Zee’s Rooftop Cafe}

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{Sturgeon from Fish Breeders of Idaho from Hangerman on a lentil cake with truffle cream corn from Juniper}

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{These were all great, but the blood orange Rustler was my favorite, from Payette Brewing}

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{Alright. This is where things get serious. THIS CHEESE. Ballard Family Dairy and Cheese had a table just full of different cheeses. But the very best was this grilling cheese. It never melts completely, so you grill it or pan fry it and it sears on the outside and is just the most amazing thing ever.}

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{I’m a sucker for hard cider and Longdrop nails it}

—- I suggest you follow these links if you’re at all interested in this amazing food and drink —-

It was so fun to speak to owners and representatives from each company and hear about how and why they started their business, what makes them unique, what they love most about the industry, etc. When you know more about who is making it, it tastes better. Every single one of these companies is passionate about their craft and it shows. And tastes.

After the kickoff party, JD (I conned him into attending all this stuff with me) headed down to Freak Alley.

Downtown Boise respects its people — all of them. Freak Alley is a place where artists are chosen to come and paint a section of wall in their own style. It’s like walking through an art gallery for sure. It’s unique and fun and interesting and I was told that because there is this space for artists to publicly display their passion, it’s helped cut vandalism.

Another cool thing: Downtown Boise has started a program where artists can apply to be a featured artist on traffic boxes (I’m having a hard time thinking of how I can describe what they are…but they’re like metal boxes on the sidewalks, smaller than telephone booths but the same shape…you get me?). Artists are chosen, they create a piece of original art that’s turned into a vinyl wrap, and it’s put around these metal boxes. Rarely are these vandalized which is a change from what happened before.

After a stroll through Freak Alley we ate at Eureka.

They’re brand new and they could use a little direction when it comes to staffing and training the staff, but the food was good. Their outdoor seating is pretty cool and it’s right in the heart of downtown so there’s a lot to see.

The next day we were treated to lunch at Cottonwood Grille, a restaurant participating in Restaurant Week. I had the soup and grilled cheese and I was not disappointed.

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We enjoyed Idaho wine, talked about what’s happening in Downtown Boise (a lot of really, really good things!) and towards the end of the meal, Jesus, the executive chef, paid us a visit. He’s a happy, joyful guy who knows his way around the kitchen.

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But here’s where things got really fun. We loaded into a van and were taken on a private tour of downtown eateries.

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We started with Payette Brewing Co. (they were at the kickoff party, too) where we got a glass of beer and a tour through the whole facility.

 

From there we went to The Chocolat Bar, a small husband-wife owned gourmet chocolate shop. They gave us samples of some of the chocolate and I was sold on the lavender right away.

Right next door to The Chocolat Bar is City Peanut Shop.

If you have anyone in your life who likes nuts but is also a foodie, this is it. I’m ordering lots online for Christmas gifts. In fact, if you own a business, peanuts, chocolate (from The Chocolat Bar), and beer would be an amazing holiday basket to send to clients. Just throwing that out there.

We ended our tour in the Basque block of downtown Boise. Boise has the highest Basque population outside of Basque country. We were told that they came here for sheep herding. That’s not necessarily what they did in their native country, but they came not speaking English but were hard workers. I LOVE when cities have little pockets of culture. I know that we have lots here in our town but that it isn’t appreciated like it should be! In Boise, Basque culture is celebrated like crazy with streets being shut down often for celebrations and festivals, and HUGE events happening every five years or so when thousands and thousands of Basques come and celebrate their culture.

First, we checked out a crazy-old handball court.

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Then we headed across the street to Bardenay. We got a tour of the distillery and then they made us cocktails. Cocktails is my love language.

 

So what do you do now that you know all about these Idaho-local eateries, breweries, wineries and business owners? You book a trip to Boise during Restaurant Week and take advantage of everything they have to offer. In between meals, work it off with a hike, walk around downtown, grab a Boise Green Bike  and spend the day taking a self-guiding tour of everything that downtown Boise has to offer. You’ll need a couple days.

Boise it is, you guys. It’s cool as-is but I can’t wait for it to continue to grow and for people to come discover it on their own.

 

(Thanks to Idaho Tourism, Downtown Boise Association and Gloria with Red Sky for sending me to Boise and showing me the hidden gems. If all my readers want to check out what’s going on this week, search Instagram for #dineoutboise and always check out #visitidaho for amazing pictures that will inspire you to do a little research of your own.)

 

 

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