Dat Pizza Dough

Boise, Idaho is a growing, thriving metropolis. It is not yet ‘world class’.

Yes, we live near ‘world class’ river rapids. Yes, we have a ‘world class’ college football training complex. And yes, we may even experience ‘world class’ quality of life. (I assume the mayor is happily nodding at that one.)

But the hard truth is, most of the things we like in this city are only ‘quite good’. Our food scene contains many excellent meals, but few transcendent ones.

This will likely be an inflammatory statement, and I welcome discussion in the comments, but I think there are two ‘world class’ establishments in Boise:

  1. Janjou Patisserie (more on this later)
  2. Tony’s Pizza

Tony’s Pizzeria Teatro is ‘World Class’ with two capital letters. It is the best pizza I have ever eaten. If you pretend that another pizza in this town is comparable, I will fight you.

Pizza begins with the crust. Tony’s crust is perfect.

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This Dough Will Make You Dance

For years, I heard enchanting tales about Tango’s Empanadas. People would return from the beloved Orchard St. establishment gently touching the flakes of fried dough stuck to their upper lips as if they were the shimmering remnants of a magic spell.

To my great shame, I never managed to visit. I ignored the siren song of these Argentinian treats for more than a decade. Just two weeks ago, I finally got my life together and visited Tango’s.

Now, what exactly is an empanada? It is hot meat, cheese, or vegetables fried inside a light and crispy shell of dough. And—Why are you already running toward the restaurant?

Continue reading “This Dough Will Make You Dance”

‘Petite 4’ Stands Tall On Boise’s Elite Restaurant Short List

When I found out that Bleubird was closing I could barely leave my house. The sudden evaporation of the city’s finest sandwich shop felt like a nightmare. Bleubird’s brilliant sandwiches, inventive side salads and herbaceous fruit sodas were so beloved that a line often curled out the door and down the block on Friday afternoons.

At the nadir of my emotional crisis, I was saved by astounding, thrilling news. Sarah and David Kelly, the power couple behind Bleubird’s massive success, were opening a new restaurant on Boise’s bench. Cleverly dubbed ‘Petite 4’ (a nod to its diminutive size and location at 4 N Latah St.), the Kelly’s new venture would serve French food in an ‘upscale casual’ environment. I made reservations as soon as possible.

My girlfriend and I visited Petite 4 on a Saturday evening at 7:30 pm. Reservations are mandatory unless you plan on fighting for space at the bar. Petite 4 has inherited much of its stylistic vision from Bleubird, but the execution is closer to impeccable. A striking kitchen forms the heart of the restaurant, and every member of the staff looks dapper in a pinstriped apron.

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Dave Kelly’s sodas border on artwork. His newest creation combines turmeric, ginger, mint, and apple cider vinegar to produce something with the crisp bite of ginger ale and the earthy, acidic tones of Kombucha. It’s called ‘The Cure’ and you must order it.

My girlfriend, blessed to be born in 1997, turned to the wine list. I, a cursed child of 1998, examined the sodas. We asked the waitress for guidance, and she said that most people order one starter, one vegetable, and two entrees. Expecting small, fine dining sized portions, I ordered those four dishes and a cheese plate. Little did I know, the entrees here are roughly the size of a family sedan. When you consider the vastness of some of these meals, the prices are closer to a brewery than a steakhouse.

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The menu is laid out simply. On the front: soup, salad and sandwiches, starches, vegetables, meat, seafood. On the back: cheese and charcuterie. On a separate card: today’s specials, including oysters and dessert.

If I had it to do over, I would order one starter, two vegetables, and split an entrée. That way, I would have had room for dessert.

Here is what we ate:

Continue reading “‘Petite 4’ Stands Tall On Boise’s Elite Restaurant Short List”

The Taco the Town

We are wrapping up taco and burrito week (get it?). I kicked off this week with a rundown of downtown Boise’s sorry burrito situation. But you may recall that the taco situation was better…

…much, much better.

This week I sampled the fare at two of Boise’s hot new taco spots. Calle 75 and The Funky Taco have strikingly similar stories: beloved food truck turned brick and mortar establishment. Both are focused on honoring their street food past and creating eyebrow-raising taco innovations. Their culinary goals are so similar that I’m surprised they opened just a few blocks apart. They will have to pull from the same taco loving demographic; I hope the population is large enough for both to flourish.    

Because these are good tacos.

But I’m not here to hand out participation awards. Here at Eating With Henry we pursue excellence and we choose winners. So where do you go when you have $11.73 in your pocket (remember, these are upscale) and a hankering for tacos?

My answer is provided in 6 distinct categories:

Continue reading “The Taco the Town”

Pit Stop: Hyde House’s Turkey Bahn Mi

The Turkey Bahn Mi at Hyde House might be my favorite sandwich in Boise right now. It’s a brilliant creation that I have eaten twice in the last month. It’s on the pricey side as sandwiches go ($12) but I’ve been able to justify it to myself, mostly because the lime mayo makes me so happy.

Everyone knows that the success of a sandwich relies on it’s bread. Hyde House hits it out of the park here: their baguette is simultaneously light, soft and crunchy. Amen.

The turkey is equally well executed, with thick slices that really transcend the ordinary deli meat experience.

The pickled red onion is, as always, magic. (Most amazing bites of food I eat involve a sweet or acidic onion.) The jalapeño relish delivers a strong performance and adds much needed heat. And the lime-spiked mayo… shall I compare thee to a summer day?

I recommend making your way to Hyde House soon, just in case this delightful item is tragically removed from their seasonal menu. I always get their iceberg laden house salad on the side, but the choice of side is, as ever, a personal matter.

 

Baroo is Hollywood’s Semi-Secret Gem

Baroo was recently lauded in Bon Appetite Magazine as one of the ten best restaurants of 2016.  And yet, my family was skeptical as we pulled into a nondescript shopping mall on Santa Monica Boulevard. The restaurant is two doors down from 7/11 and smaller than most Starbucks. It doesn’t have a sign. They feared I was leading them to gastrointestinal disaster.

Luckily, they were instantly comforted by the minimalist decor and cleanliness of this experimental eatery. The color scheme is white, and the layout is as self-effacing as its signage. Tight confines limit seating to a few opportune barstools and one communal table.

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The chalkboard menu at Baroo displays nine dishes each day.

My eyes were instantly drawn to the shelf in the back, where jar after jug of liquids and vegetables are on display: fermenting.

Fermentation is the name of the game at Baroo. Chefs Matthew Kim and Kwang Uh have foregone traditional culinary approaches and chosen to innovate with microorganisms. The restaurant is a passion project and almost entirely experimental, hence the minute floorplan and lack of signage.

In a sentence, Baroo is to food what Kombucha is to beverages. This focus on fermentation creates completely unique flavors — on a spectrum that contains echoes of Tamari, lime and everything in between.

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Oxtail pasta: handmade noodles coated beautifully in sauce and flavorful meat. The pork skins on top tasted like a chewy Popchip.

When I interviewed Boise chef Richard Langston on assignment from my cooking class, he said that acid was almost always the key to unlocking the full flavor potential of a dish. Whether its a little lemon on pasta or vinegar in a salad dressing, we rely on it’s sharpness and brightness to cut through and define the richest parts of a meal.

No matter how much delicious salt, butter or cream you heap on a dish, without acidic counterpoint it all begins to taste the same — like a painting that’s all one color. Our eating experience is a product of contrast.

The flavors created at Baroo are analogous to a squeeze of lemon. But they work on a much deeper level. If you imagine the flavors of a meal as frequencies of sound, lemon is almost always a high frequency, a bright soprano in the choir. Baroo’s fermentation defines fats and adds depth and richness while singing in a baritone. It was such a startling realignment of the flavor universe that greens in the celery seed pasta tasted rich and nutty, almost blending into the surrounding aged parmesan.

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Celeriac pasta: typing this is making me emotional.

The simple beauty of the meals and the unprecedented matrix of flavors made this a one of a kind eating experience. The fact that this tiny culinary powerhouse sits without signage in a strip mall made it all the more exciting. As a man always looking for the unique eat, I felt this to be a singular triumph. Even the woman at the counter seemed impressed that a family of pasty Idahoans, clad in Harry Potter world merchandise, had managed to alight on such an urban secret.

But my credibility soon vanished when I walked up to the counter and asked for an order to go. I could see disappointment flood the eyes of the woman at the counter. “We don’t do to-go orders,” she flatly informed me. I knew I had been exposed — a glutton, and a dilettante.

Regardless of how scintillating their noodles were, I should have stopped when I was ahead. Sometimes the most important part of eating at a great restaurant is knowing when to leave — it’s always earlier than you think, when you still want a few more minutes at the table, and one last bite.

Henry Eats SoCal: Corrales Mexican Food

Every time I eat at Corrales, I am convinced, if only for a moment, that I live in the wrong state, that I have made a terrible mistake and I must leave Idaho behind for the superior offerings of the Golden State.

Ventura California’s premier burrito destination offers the experience and flavors of a taco truck from a permanent downtown location. On their menu you will find all of the greatest hits you know and love — burritos, tacos, quesadillas and beyond — filled with your choice from their full arsenal of meats.

But there are two menu items where, in my humble estimation, Corrales drop kicks the competition.

The first item: corn burritos. In more gringo laden parts of the world, these might be called black bean taquitos, but lay off the Baja Fresh vernacular lest you be branded a heretic. These are corn burritos — filled with refried black beans, rolled, fried, slathered in cheese and sauce, and baked to melty perfection. They come four to an order, and dipped in Corrales gloriously garlicky hot salsa, they present my greatest risk of an early death.

The second menu item I ask you to visualize with me. Imagine that we baked a poblano pepper, and then we stuffed it with a range of mexican cheeses, and then we battered and fried that pepper until it was golden brown, and then we laid that pepper atop a tortilla, alongside beans, rice, and a generous helping of guac, and then we rolled a burrito the size of Hulk Hogan’s forearm.

That is the Corrales Chile Relleno burrito. It works on so many levels. The beans and rice would be delightful on their own, but combined them with the grease of a cheese stuffed pepper and the bright, heady richness of guacamole, and we’ve got a different beast entirley. Every bite of this burrito makes me grown.

What’s so ingenious about this setup is that the cheese is INSIDE the pepper. Whereas the dairy in a burrito can often pout lukewarm and disenfranchised on one side, this cheese forms the molten core — the beating heart — of the whole operation. The spicy pepper juices and flavorful cheese grease flow outward with every bite, permeating the bottom levels of the burrito. Thus, the last few bites become mind-blowingly good and completely shameful. This is not the place for a first date.

And anyways, you would be a fool to try and find a connection more true, and meaningful, than the one you feel when you suckle that last flap of bean smeared tortilla from your fully cupped hand.

4 1/2 STARS

We Need to Talk About Campos

If tomorrow the front page of the paper reads “secret cult of carnitas wizardry uncovered in local mexican market” or “Boise food authorities confounded by the perfect Al Pastor” or even “Barack Obama initiates CIA investigation of conspicuously delicious asada”, I would barely blink. In fact, I’d probably be relieved.

At least then I could explain what the hell is happening in Campos Market.

Last week I made the trip to the market’s hallowed ground, hidden inconspicuously on Orchard Street in a remodeled bar. Though the sign still boasts a crescent moon and a martini, the interior has been transformed into a joyful marketplace. The pinatas overhead and the mariachi music on the air make the aisles of tortillas, tomatillos, and gummy candy all the more enticing.

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In the back, there is a handful of wooden booths and a small kitchen. The menu is intuitive — on one side, a list of meats; on the other side, the possible enclosures for that meat. I was eating lunch with my girlfriend, and we ordered six tacos, two enchiladas, and the all-important pineapple Jarritos.

Moments later we were greeted with two massive platters of Mexican food. The asada tacos were the logical starting point for our hungry rampage.

We took a bite, then stared at each other. Dead-eyed.

Perhaps it was only carne asada, cilantro, and onions on a corn tortilla. Perhaps it was only a taco, purchased for $1.25.

And yet, we were experiencing something beyond meat. Something too perfectly greasy and seasoned to have emerged from the stacks of marbled flesh in the deli case beside us. We chewed with gluttonous delight.

“This is my favorite restaurant,” my girlfriend categorically announced.

We took another bite.

“I’m not kidding. This is my favorite restaurant.”

We added some house salsa.

“Hoooooo my god. What do they do to their meat?”

My ability for articulation had vanished with the Asada, so I merely dove with enthusiasm into the enchiladas.

This moment typified Campos for two reasons.

  1. The first is that Campos is very, very good. And good in a specific way. It is a simple and deliciously sautéed experience. It does not feign the more prim and proper trappings of an upscale taco, nor does it approach the gummy self-hatred of Taco Bell. Yes, the salsa is tasty. Yes, the beans are delightful. But this is a meal that starts and ends with the meat. It hits you in two waves — the first wave of, wow, yum, meat — and then the second wave of, WTF THIS TASTES YUMMIER THAN I WAS PREPARED FOR AND I DON’T UNDERSTAND WHY.
  2. This of course leads us to the second part, the part where, attempting to cope with the greatness of your tacos, you ask :“What do they do?!?” The flavors are almost a little too gratifying, especially when paired with a well timed splash of jarritos.

My personal theory is the the grill has been seasoned by years and years of good cooking. I imagine that when this griddle meets some well crafted Al Pastor, a love affair worthy of The Bachelor takes place right then and there.

But the funny thing about Campos is, as much as you might wonder, and speculate, you don’t really want to know. Peering back into that kitchen would be like ripping the curtain off of Oz.

As a man of subtlety, I am not prone to declarative statements, but I will throw aside my more political instincts to make one unabashed claim:

Campos Market makes the best taco in Boise. And it is altogether possible that their dominance extends across the state of Idaho.

A statement such as that necessitates the full five stars.

5 STARS