Boise’s Flavorful Frontier

Boise sits at an apex between the Rocky Mountains and an endless expanse of desert stretching north from Nevada. When the brilliant colors of the setting sun fade over the rolling hills and towering mountains nearby, it’s no wonder Idaho’s dubbed the “Gem State”. The Payette, Boise and Snake rivers meet here – calling to adventurers of every form. The 25-mile long Boise River Greenbelt twists and turns through the city with abundant opportunity for exploration – from parks to pools, and even a zoo found near the city’s river bank. Too far to walk? The local Green Bike system makes cruising a breeze!

A trove of opportunity! The capitol building, bikes, worms and giraffes ...
A trove of opportunity! The capitol building, bikes, worms and giraffes …

 

Dozens of years have passed since my first trip to Boise, Idaho. First impressions back then left me wondering if it was ready to dry up and blow away with the first Spring winds. Since then, however, I’ve had a taste of the state (read about my week of fishing and food in Stanley, ID, here and thought I’d seen Idaho’s best, but then came Boise! With more beards, trucker-hats and Edison bulbs than the state of Oregon combined, Boise is one hoppin’ city!

The Beer:

Did I say “hoppin’ city”? I should’ve said “hop-city”! Boise’s beer scene boasts dozens of local and state-brewed options, highlighted by Payette Brewing‘s Axe Handle IPL (the official beer of Treefort Fest and a refreshing brew perfect for cooling off after outdoor adventures in the region). Talented owner and beer-pioneer Mike Francis hails from Seattle and got his start in craft brewing at  Schooner Exact brewing, locally. Even Payette’s barkeep, Carlos, was kind enough to offer a little advice on the official pronunciation of Boise (BOY-cee, in case you were wondering) so I’d fit in like a local. Likewise, Bear Island Brewing‘s Jalapeno Pale Ale was the perfect compliment to Foodfort’s flavorful carnitas, and kept a peppery nose without a stinging heat. Looking for more on Boise’s brews? Visit Idaho‘s site gives ample suggestions to quell the deepest of thirsts while visiting. https://visitidaho.org/things-to-do/breweries/

The hallowed grounds of Payette Brewing
The hallowed grounds of Payette Brewing

 

The Food:

Boise’s food scene easily rises to the ranks of tasty adventures I’ve indulged in San Francisco, Chicago or Seattle with an abundance of locally-sourced ingredients and a cadre of chefs who know how to use them to their advantage. Downtown’s State and Lemp offers 9-course meals with imaginative dishes from bearded and bespeckled masters. This is no meat-and-potatoes joint: Their inventive menu draws diners through a seasonal story from one end of the evening to the other incorporating creative techniques and psychedelic dream-worthy flavors. In similar fashion, JuniperWild Root Cafe and Bluebird incorporate fresh local ingredients with colorful culinary personality – from Juniper’s Beet Eggs Benny to Wild Root’s Salmon Toast to Bluebird’s trippy Turkey Sandwich with brie, fig, and shaved apple . No trip to Boise should be made without a few comfortable pairs of Expando-pants tucked away for your dining adventures.

State and Lemp is dishing up phenomenal winter's-end themed creations
State and Lemp is dishing up phenomenal winter’s-end themed creations

 

Even the local brewhouse – Bittercreek Alehouse – did nothing I’d consider “ordinary”. Their poutine stood up to anything found across Idaho’s northern border. Local smoked trout was available as a board, with cheese, or in a salad worthy of the trip alone! An array of no less than 40 brews could keep the heartiest of beer drinkers sated for months. And in their basement? An army of Urban Worms busily compost food scraps and add to the local till.

Bitterroot, Juniper, Wild Root and Bluebird
Bitterroot, Juniper, Wild Root and Bluebird
Kitchen scraps? Easy work for the Urban Worms hanging out under Bitterroot!
Kitchen scraps? Easy work for the Urban Worms hanging out under Bitterroot!

The Music:

With options like March’s indie Treefort Festival (watch for my upcoming post specific to the Fest) and July’s big-name Boise Music Festival, this city holds its own for those who want to shake their booty or just chill and take in some local jams. Venues from the elegant Riverside Hotel’s Sapphire room, to The District Coffeehouse and historic Pengilly’s offer something for everyone year-round from big names to quiet songwriters. Boise Weekly keeps an updated calendar on nightly options, too: http://www.boiseweekly.com/boise/EventSearch?eventSection=940626

A little Afro Sonic at The Reef
A little Afro Sonic at The Reef

The Comfort:

Blissful respite came easily at Boise’s Riverside Hotel – a short Uber-jaunt (or quick hotel shuttle) to Garden City with stunning views of the Boise river and beautiful grounds throughout. With live music on weekends, low-pricing and comfy beds, I found them the perfect place to rest my head and dream of future trips back to this gem state.

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