Mosaic Restaurant and Wine Bar 

I have lived in bigger cities, and one of the only things I miss is the food. Boise has some fantastic restaurants, but there are too few places that really nail the right balance of stylish and inviting, gourmet and approachable, high quality and reasonably priced. On that short list is Mosaic, a tidy little eatery that looks and tastes worthy of any posh corner in any posh city. The beauty is, it manages to be trendy without being pretentious, and the food has never failed to meet my most stringent standards of "yumminess."

To my delight, the BW office is not more than a block away from Mosaic's lovely patio and gallery/wine bar. During summer I like to sip citrus tonics and nibble bruschetta, and winter's best cure is the outstanding clam chowder served every single day. I stopped by for a bowl of said ambrosia the other day and decided to go robust. Side-stepping my usual order of half a sandwich and soup, I asked for a half of the Van Gogh (grilled eggplant, kalamata olive spread, roasted red pepper, fresh spinach and a "spicy mushroom and onion infusion") and a half of the O'Keefe (grilled salmon, sun-dried tomato spread, fresh spinach, fresh tomato and mayonnaise) with my cup of chowder. A girl dining alone should never mess around.

Having missed the lunch rush, I sat back in my turquoise velour chair and took in my surroundings. One of my favorite details is a three-part chandelier made of glass mosaic. At night it sheds wonderful light on the bar where you can order appetizer plates, a good Irish whiskey like Bushmills or any of a long list of signature martinis. The walls play neutral and primary colors with a professional's eye, and spindly track lighting illuminates the shifting selection of art (a great excuse to look wistfully into the distance if your date is boring).

In the middle of my reverie, a creamy ceramic plate appeared bearing an exquisite smorgasbord. One thing that always strikes me about Mosaic sandwiches is the girth of the bread. Even grilled, each slice stands about an inch high, making something like the Van Gogh a messy treat. The eggplant, a notoriously difficult vegetable, was tender, mild and almost meaty between whole roasted peppers and a colorful pile of spinach and caramelized onions. Combined with the crisp, oil-infused bread, this sandwich honestly gave me a flashback to a tiny café in Italy. The salmon concoction was just as good, marrying flaky, moist fish with greens, reds and that same dynamite bread. Juice and sauce dripped everywhere, and I only blushed a little as I licked tapenade from my fingers.

Then came dessert--chowder. Each bite of the bisque-like, crème-based broth produced bits of clam, carrot, zucchini, onion, scallion, tomato, red potato and whatever secret potion the chefs must ad to make this dish so irresistible. It is nothing like any chowder I've ever had, but it is one of my all-time favorites. Soon, all that was left on my plate was an empty cup and a pile of discarded bread-parts. My waiter politely asked if I wanted them boxed up, and I laughed, perhaps a little too heartily. Then I asked for dessert number two, a handmade blueberry truffle. I have discovered in my many chocolate safaris that a chocolate truffle is easy. Fruit flavors are much harder to do well, but I was impressed with Mosaic's dainty. The shell was just stiff enough to keep its shape, giving easily to a velvety core of dark chocolate with an ever so subtle hint of berry. And very untrue to form, I was so stuffed from my excellent lunch that I brought truffle remnants back to the office where they were promptly inhaled by other fans of the little wine bar that could.

--Erin Ryan could feed a small village with discarded bread parts

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