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Idaho Falls

Is there any chance you'll be in Idaho Falls, or be there over the weekend to make a road trip? (I realize it's on the other side of the state)

I ask because, if you do make it over there, you should definitely check out the:
Hawg Smoke Cafe
4330 N Yellowstone Hwy
Idaho Falls, ID

It's very small (8 tables), reservations only, and very funky - handwritten menus taped on the wall, posted on beer in the white fridge, white wine in the green fridge, and red wine along the edges of the room.

It's been some years since I was there, but it was great and worth the trip! Incredible calamari ( huh.gif I know, that seems unusual in Idaho) and the rest of the food was outstanding. It's right by the railroad tracks and when I was there the neighboring stores were a leather shop and a tattoo parlor laugh.gif

Sorry I can't help you with Boise!

Edited by porcupine
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We spent one night in Boise is July, 2004. Here is a quote from my post on another forum ---

"Our other outstanding meal was at Mortimer's in Boise, where the chef makes a point of using local, seasonal products. I had the tasting menu which included: morels with puff pastry, lobster "cappuccino," roasted yellow beet salad, Idaho Kobe beef tenderloin w/spice crusted potato, port salut cheese, and boysenberry tart w/house-made ice cream (can't remember the flavor). I may have forgotten something, but all was delicious and the price of $40 a bargain. "

Loved our meal there. smile.gif

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Boise is not what I expected. It's quaint and picturesque. The backdrop of the city is mountains (which are snow-capped right now).

Last Thursday, my co-workers and I dined at Tapas Estrella in downtown Boise. You order the tapas like you order sushi at a sushi restaurant. Circle your choices, choose the small or large portions, and, as in any other tapas restaurant, the food comes out when it's ready.

The space was trendy and fun. Very hipster. Funky chandeliers, exposed brick behind the open kitchen. Colorful. Festive.

The food was wonderful - cheese plate (manchego, cabrales, and a third that I can't remember), chicken empanadas (the worst dish we had, it was extremely dry and our waitress expected that comment from us), spinach empanadas (much, much better than the chicken), garlicky crimini mushrooms (yum!), herb roasted new potatoes, rock shrimp cakes with avocado relish (the favorite of the night), garlic roasted prawns with chili and olive oil, mushroom, goat cheese, and serrano ham tart (my favorite dish), and meatballs in a romesco sauce. Dessert was a chocolate cupcake with chocolate ganache.

The dinner at Tapas Estrella ranks number 1 in among my Spanish tapas experiences.

Tonight's dinner in Boise was at the Milky Way restaurant (sister restaurant to Tapas Estrella). Overall, the meal was delicious. Our wine was a 2004 Hartford pinot noir. Bright, fruity, a little sweet, and enjoyable. For starters, we shared the smoked salmon flatbread (the texture of the flatbread was too crispy; I was expecting a pizza crust texture) and shrimp and scallion potstickers (perfect in every way).

I had the sea bass with a black eyed pea succotash (the succotash was more like a spicy southwestern vegetable soup - different but good). My dining companions had the meat trifecta (salmon with a pesto aioli, hangar steak with a chipotle aioli and a sausage (turkey, maybe?) with a mixed green salad and corn and the smoked salmon and marscapone ravioli. Everyone was happy with their dishes, but the clear winner of the night was the smoked salmon ravioli. It was extremely rich and flavorful.

Dessert was a triple chocolate cake with caramel sauce, cr�me anglaise, and vanilla ice cream. The ganache on the cake was rich and chocolaty. The cake, itself, was just ok (too dry). The caramel sauce was perfection (we asked for a little more!). Cake is my favorite dessert but I hate a dry cake. I ate the ganache, ice cream and sauces and left the cake for the others.

So far, we've eaten well in Boise...


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National Geographic Traveler (one of my favorite magazines!) had a feature re: Boise in the March issue. The author, Andrew Nelson, chooses to go to those cities you often see in last-minute fare sale e-mails but don't really think of that often. He loved Boise.

The issue should still be on newsstands. Unfortunately the feature doesn't appear to be available online, at least not yet. If you can't find it, PM me your fax number and I'll send it to you.

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Dang, this thread is a pleasant surprise! I'm going to Boise for a friend's wedding at the beginning of May, and now I've got great hope for at least one good meal while I'm there!

[walks off to find a news rack with National Geographic Traveler's March issue]

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Hey Mods! How about changing the title of this thread from general "Idaho" to "Boise?" Here's an update for those headed to the land of famous potatoes.

Boise, like Walla Walla, is one of those places not well covered on dr.com probably because it's not really on the way to anything and not enough of a destination in its own right. But, Boise is indeed a nice town. The "city of trees" made all the more interesting ringed by beige/burnt high mountains. Very low cost of living from real estate to restaurants. Minor league baseball. Wonderful place for cycling, hiking, paddling and most anything outdoors. Big time college football (well not quite That Big). One of the best in-city bike paths, called the "GreenBelt" extending more than 10 miles from end to end...on both sides of the Boise River. If you have only half a day free in Boise on a nice day, pick Idaho Mountain Touring at West Main and 13th and get a bike to explore several miles of Greenbelt. And, of course, that blue football field.

All that aside, IMHO Boise isn't as good as it may be some day when it comes to food. The basque mention upthread is definitely still applicable and a cool exception to the currently under-realized potential. Here are a few current spots also worth prioritizing should you find yourself in southern Idaha. Also one to avoid.

Flying M Coffee. Good independent coffee shop.

Boise has a pretty vibrant coffee house scene with local chains like Dawsons, Lucy's and Flying M all occupying the top tier as different people define it. Flying M is a large comfortable space with plenty of seating in the middle of downtown. Better than average quality baked goods. Their own roasted and dated beans. Good cappuccino had here.

Cottonwood Grille. One of the better restaurants in a town not known for many good restaurants using quality ingredients.

We had a decent but underseasoned bison burger and a nice salad with lump dungeness crab.

Interesting anecdote from Cottonwood for french fry aficionados:

We asked for a new side of fries when ours came out pretty limp and the waiter was more than happy to oblige. When the new order came out nicely browned, hot but still not crisp, we had a nice conversation and I suggested the problem might be the oil temperature being too low, the starch level too high or the fries' thickness too great.

After consulting with the chef about this, we got a funny answer which was that the fries used potatoes....from Oregon! Classic, those dang Oregon potatoes. But, hey, this is Idaho! They have "famous potatoes" on every license plate! Boise, biggest city and capitol in the state most famous for potatoes and a waiter at one of the city's best restaurants told us the reason their chef couldn't make 'em crisp was that they were from Oregon. Funny stuff inasmuch as waiter and chef were dead serious.

Fork. Fork is a one year old self-proclaimed "farm-to-table" restaurant in a city where very few proclaim or position that way.

Pretty good food I'd imagine is one of the best bets for dinner in the city. Short ribs are a specialty and fall-off-the-bone delicious on top of lumpy potatoes that were also very tasty and surely from Idaho. Lettuce craps with miso glazed black cod were excellent and I was happy see them using this fish which I only recently learned is not endangered and will perhaps become more available nationwide. A salmon sandwich and large salmon salad were made with wild Alaskan sockeye and were quite good. Service a bit amateurish but a small nit. As with most things about Boise, a beautiful area with very low cost-of-living compared with the coastal towns six hours west, Fork was very reasonably priced. All the above grub, a generously poured glass of a WA-state bigger red blend and a side salad all came to less than $75 for three people.

Gino's in Meridian, a Boise suburb. Sadly, this is an Italian restaurant which may have been great years ago but decidedly isn't now.

Gino's is a 15 year old business owned by a gentleman straight out of {insert favorite Italian stereotyping movie or television show here). It was located in downtown Boise for most of its tenure before moving to a large space in an outdoor mall in Meridian. It's by far the best example of why Yelp can't be relied on that I've come across anywhere in months. Gino's gets some of the highest scores on yelp for the Boise area with many posters proclaiming it "authentic Italian" and "best Italian" in Idaho. I'd have to proclaim it a downright fraud with big emphasis on food marketing buzzwords. The salad with artichokes clearly from can or jar was flavorless because the vinagrette was just "the essence of the garlic." The $28 special fish (highway robbery in these parts for wild fish) was "sushi grade tilapia." Tomato anything (sauce especially) was allegedly done with "san marzano tomatoes" but tasted more like Chef Boyardee. A side meatball ordered with a main was as dense as the proverbial hockey puck. Chicken parm "with reggiano" was not made with Reggiano but, rather, grana, and was very reminiscent of Buca de Beppo. Fresh tomatoes, also flavorless, were straight from the pages of Barry Estabrook's excellent recent book. An odd brown substance served with the bread was "extra virgin olive oil turned brown because it was infused with garlic." Service was awful as the place was largely staffed with high school kids. Our letterman couldn't remember to bring dressing for a salad, a fork to replace one taken with the mains or to deal with empty water glasses. Yet, still on Yelp, this spot is proclaimed with so much positive hyperbole and a large number of reviews that it's one of the best possible examples of the problems that substantive and quality sites like dr.com work to solve.

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