Does Downtown Boise Have a Burrito Problem?

Downtown Boise might have a burrito problem. This problem has lingered on my mind since Pollo Rey—a reliable, if unspectacular, supplier of burritos—shut its doors last year.

There are plenty of impressive burritos across the treasure valley, but our thriving city center seems bereft of truly legitimate burritos—the type you can grab with two hands and attack.

Now it is possible that you are laughing at me because four new tacos places have arrived in downtown Boise in the past month. But one of those taco places, the still under renovation Diablo and Sons, is primarily a bar…

…and more importantly, tacos are not burritos. This should be clear to everyone. There are some slimy lawyer types out there who will argue that burritos and tacos are the same thing, and exist together on a ‘meat in tortilla’ continuum. Do not listen to those half-wits. They probably think hot dogs are sandwiches.

A burrito is an entirely different animal, closed on at least one end, hefty, brimming with beans. I am skeptical that, even amid our urban taco revolution, we are really offering solutions for urban burrito lovers. They have needs too.

But my complaints are anecdotal, and I am a man of substance. It’s time to get nitty-gritty. Continue reading Does Downtown Boise Have a Burrito Problem?

Rules of the Blog

I told you my blog was coming back. But what does that really mean? What can you, one of my six loyal readers, expect moving forward?

If you visit this page regularly (or follow me on Twitter), you can expect two things:

  1. A blog post every week. I will try my best to write two or even three, but one is my guarantee. These posts will include thoughtful restaurant reviews, exciting new recipes, and so much more.
  2. An interview with someone cool in the food world every month, starting in May.

If more people start reading this blog, here are some other things that could happen:

  1. Long-term projects (for instance, I have long dreamed of determining the best Indian food in Boise using comprehensive quantitative and qualitative analysis)
  2. A return to food podcasting
  3. Group-sourced culinary ‘Best Of’ awards
  4. I will finally figure out whether I prefer Cholula or Tapatio.

But for now, you will get 1-3 morsels of food writing every week! I am so happy for all of us.  These are going to be the best years of our lives.

The Food Blog is Back

In the words of George Costanza, I’M BACK BABY.

That’s right, our long national nightmare has ended. Eating with Henry hath risen, and it is getting Joan Rivers levels of reconstructive surgery. I’m making it more consistent, more ambitious, and more awesome.

Now you might be saying, “Henry your blog had seven unique visitors per month. Why bring it back at all?” That’s not an unfair question. But here is my response:

Reason to bring the blog back #1: Maybe the blog only had seven unique visitorsbut it had hundreds of hits every month because my grandma never stopped reloading it.

Reason to bring the blog back #2: Six people told me they miss this food blog. Six people. That’s basically a public outcry for my writing. The Rolling Stones have started a reunion tour for less.

I believe in democracy. When the people speak up and ask for more impish posts about salsa bars, I honor their wishes.

Now I’m making it sound like the decision to start blogging again was easy. It wasn’t. In fact, it was the hardest choice I ever had to make. But I didn’t make it alone. I was guided by the one man who really knows what it’s like to come out of retirement:

I watched this video over and over. I couldn’t get Brett Favre’s drawl out of my head: “You always gon wonder, what if.”

If I walked away from the food blog game, I might be missing my chance to become the next legendary food critic. And if I missed my chance to be a legendary food critic, I would have missed an opportunity to eat hundreds of free meals.

The thought of missing out on even a single free meal makes me convulse. The possibility, however remote, that I could be missing out on hundreds of free meals makes me want to throw myself into shark-infested waters. Where free food may present itself, I am bound to go.

So, 304 days after my last contact with the culinary world, let’s talk about food.

Tri-Tip and The Problem of Meat

This Father’s Day, my family elected to cook the family BBQ classic: tri-tip.

We bought two smaller tri-tips , so my mother and I decided to cook them different ways. My mom opted for Santa Maria style grilling,  turning the meat every four minutes and basting with a mixture of oil, red wine vinegar and garlic. I used Thomas Keller’s tri-tip recipe, in which you brown the outsides with oil and butter, and then slow cook it in the oven.

IMG_0286
My Tri-Tip, awaiting butter and rosemary.

Both cuts of meat received a paprika and black pepper dry rub about 2.5 hours before they went on the grill. If you’re planning properly, you’re supposed to rub and refrigerate overnight. I can see why, as my hasty spice work did little to improve the flavor.

The final products were… just ok. The Thomas Keller recipe produced a better texture, while the grilled meat had a more distinct flavor.

And this is my ultimate problem with tri-tip: it’s never as good as you hope it will be. It’s easy to overcook, and unsatisfying compared to other cuts of meat. During our Father’s Day meal, I realized that the portobello mushrooms we grilled for our vegan family members were abundantly more flavorful, not to mention less taxing on my vascular system. (Portobello marinade: olive oil, soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, garlic. Very delicious.)

Admittedly, I am no fan of red meat. But still I wonder, why do we value it so highly? Is it really so delicious? Or has red meat been perverted into a bloody status symbol, the Cadillac for the posturing philistine?

I believe we are deceived. We are stuck in a sort of Plato’s cave – Plato’s Meat Cave – and the shadows on the wall force us to rejoice in the chewy labor of the Stakehouse. If we only turned around, we could discover the truth: that chicken, fish, lamb, and most roasted vegetables, are more capable and delectable than the tri-tip and T-bone.

It is time for liberation. And a portobello mushroom burger.

(Note: none of this criticism of steak applies to Dave Yasuda’s sous vide steaks and Chandler’s fillet, which are absurdly and inconceivably delicious.)

Muse: Focaccia

This week, I realized that I want to learn how to bake bread, and focaccia was the first variety that I attempted. Soft, crusty and liberally flavored with olive oil, it’s a delicious accompaniment to any Italian meal.

Focaccia requires the following ingredients: flour, salt, olive oil, yeast, water, and a tablespoon of sugar. That is it. (Here is the extremely helpful recipe I used.)

The takeaway from making focaccia was the same as every other time I learn how to cook something: holy crap that’s so easy! Why did I buy that from the store before?

Making focaccia dough was so simple and enjoyable that I instantly felt ashamed for buying Trader Joe’s pizza dough all these years. The whole process was incredibly straightforward, and smelled so good. The smell of dough man, it hits you on a deeper level.

My first attempt at focaccia was pretty good. The inside was properly fluffy yet dense, and it paired nicely with balsamic.

IMG_5444.jpgYou know what they say, like it, loaf it, gotta have it.

 

Pit Stop: Meraki’s Zeus Fries

Meraki is a fascinating greek restaurant that probably warrants its own review — maybe even its own podcast. Just to give you an idea, they put french fries in their gyros. Better yet, they serve pork gyros instead the standard beef and lamb mix. This is because pork is in fact the traditional greek meat. (You can still order beef and lamb, but they tell me that such stylings originated not in Greece but Chicago, and may soon be discontinued).

But my visit to Meraki was all about the Zeus Fries. Yep, that’s right. French fries, seasoned gyro meat, tomatoes, onions, feta cheese and tzatziki sauce — drizzled with a side of spicy feta.

IMG_3070

Even your cardiologist wants a plate of these to himself.