At the first Foodfort event of the Treefort festival, chef Bonnie Morales cooked a four-course feast for 100 lucky diners. How good was it? People literally screamed during the meal.
Morales became a culinary star serving an amped-up rendition of Russian cuisine at Katchka in Portland, and on Wednesday, Boiseans had a rare opportunity to witness her excellence without leaving town.
The meal opened with Khe, a marinated carrot, mussel and squid salad, which was perfectly salty, acidic, and light. The squid was ingeniously cut into thin rings so it blended texturally with the carrot, and the mussel created a burst of meaty, umami flavors without detracting from the effervescence of the dish.
The second course was Potato Vareniki, a rich potato-filled dumpling in an outrageously velvety butter sauce sprinkled with sturgeon caviar. I recognized the comforting emotional undercurrents of mac and cheese in this dish, but the butter sauce was infinitely more subtle, and the caviar turned these dumplings into objects of wonder. This dish received an actual standing ovation.
The main course featured a tender leg of rabbit (similar perhaps to duck, but stringier), surrounded by potatoes, sour cherries, porcini mushrooms and whole cloves of garlic. The sauce was richened by smetana, a cultured sour cream that Morales makes in house. The rabbit was the ideal companion for the marvelous sauce, which achieved sweet and sour notes without feeling overwrought or gimmicky.
The dessert was a close cousin to cheesecake, doused with a spoonful of rhubarb and lime compote. I was most impressed by the fragment of chamomile-infused baked cheese leaning against my dessert.
The meal was accompanied by four wine pairings, a curiously smooth shot of vodka and periodic narration by the chef. The decadence of the experience made the $100 admission price an absolute bargain.
Angry that you couldn’t enjoy this ridiculous meal? Foodfort is still going on! Join us in the Basque Center tonight for street eats made by Boise’s best chefs. Or grab tickets for Saturday’s steak lunch made by James Beard award-winning chef Hugh Acheson.
And head the Basque Center tomorrow at 11 am for a cooking demo with Bonnie Morales, who, after last night, is Boise’s most popular chef. ∎