Nampa is not known as the hub of fine dining in the Treasure Valley, therefore I approached Copper Canyon restaurant with a slight bit of jaded apprehension. I rightfully had that chip knocked off my shoulder.
Granted, the decor of the popular Nampa eatery had me wondering. Small tables and booths, draped in linen tablecloths, were scattered around the space, but the design elements felt like they came from a pre-fab decorating kit, rather than adding to the atmosphere. The chairs--which were retro cool or just dated--matched the orange-red walls and ceiling, creating the effect of being in a red rock (or copper) canyon.
While the surroundings weren't exactly inspiring, the well executed meals that graced the table forced a major change of opinion.
Our meals started with salad (two tossed and one caesar). The caesar was passable, but I was pleased with the gingery bite of the house Asian vinaigrette and the dried cranberries, almond slivers and pear in the tossed.
I was disappointed to fold back the napkin in the bread basket to discover only a couple of slices of thin baguette rolling around the bottom. But I got over it with a glass of Sawtooth Winery's cabernet ($6.50).
All my questioning ended when the entrees arrived. The braised breast of duck ($18.95) was not only wonderfully tender, but coated in a port wine and sun-dried cherry sauce that made me glad I had chosen the garlic mashed potatoes as a side--all the better to soak up the extra. I soaked each bite of duck in the sweet and slightly tart sauce, turning the white breast meat pink before I could stuff it in my mouth. The thin layer of duck fat lining one side of the breast is probably preferred by true foodies, but it threw me off just a bit. Thankfully, the accompanying seasonal vegetables included both carrots and asparagus, and were crisp without being raw.
Dinner conversation devolved into forks being passed between diners as we sampled each other's dishes. The Five Spice Pork Tenderloin ($12.95 for a 5-ounce portion) was marinated in ginger honey, but the rich, earthy sauce had touches of pepper and citrus that made it a big favorite. The chicken marsala ($12.95 for a 5-ounce portion) had a substantial, creamy wine sauce, and the breading on the chicken was thin, yet remained just lightly crisp despite the sauce.
The option to have the smaller 5-ounce portion was a nice inclusion, not only for the cost-savings, but for those of us who don't like being intimidated by the size of our food. It also left room for the most important part of the meal: dessert.
The molten lava cake ($5.95) was completely decadent, piping hot and had a healthy dollop of fresh whipped cream. It quickly disappeared beneath battling utensils.
After my experience at Copper Canyon, I'll have to remember to check my food ego at the county line.
--Deanna Darr prefers duck, duck to goose.