The Restaurant Plague Moves West
The last eight months have been brutal in the local culinary scene.
In less than a year, Boise has lost some of the biggest names in its food business. The chefs who long sated our palates have closed up shop and either skipped town or found a job on someone else's line. When things started to go belly up in April, news crews were actually competing to cover restaurant closings, but as time has passed and the closings continued, the attention has waned. The last two downtown Boise restaurants to close did so with little fanfare; it's a story that's old news. Chefs notoriously aren't spectacular number-crunchers, nationwide chains are luring diners away from local eateries, and the economy has simply ground to a halt, meaning fewer butts in seats all around. It's the perfect economic storm for a restaurant to flounder.
This week will be the last time this year I have to report on another closing, and I do it with a kernel of optimism. Chef Jered Couch recently announced that he will close his upscale Eagle establishment, Restaurant Sixonesix. Saying that it's not a great time to be in the high-end restaurant business, Couch made the announcement in conjunction with the news that he's happy to say there will still be a viable business operating in his restaurant's stead. A restaurateur with two established Boise eateries is moving into the space.
"We've done a good business," said Couch. "We put our lives into this and tried to make the best of it." But Couch said he's ready for a little family time, which means less time being married to the food business.
"I want to stay in Boise and work in the Boise culinary field, but I'll never open another restaurant. I would love to be involved in this cooking scene—I believe in the culinary scene in Boise," he said. Sixonesix is Couch's second acclaimed Treasure Valley restaurant; he also owned The Dish on State Street prior to opening his Eagle eatery.
So, if Couch isn't moving on to another self-styled food venture, where's that glimmer of hope I was talking about? Suppose you'll just have to stay tuned until BW can get the whole scoop.
Here's hoping 2009 bodes better for the local chef than did 2008.
Dine Locally, Wine Locally
Dave Krick, owner of Bittercreek Alehouse and Red Feather Lounge, is one of Boise's most vocal local-first ambassadors. The menus at each of his restaurants reflect careful thought and attention to selecting food that's grown close to home. Whether it's Ballard Family cheeses from Gooding or morels from Idaho's forest floor, Krick strives to keep it local, keep it seasonal and keep it real.
Methinks I sound like a cheerleader, but I ain't done just yet. I do hold in my cramped little hands a wine menu that shows just how far Krick will go (or just how close he'll stay) to make his local point a little sharper.
According to the mini mission statement, the menu "celebrates 'place'" because "investing in our 'place' helps our community grow deeper roots."
The new set-up has wines and beers listed in order of how far they had to travel to reach your glass. Clocking in at the closest by the glass is Fraser Vineyard's syrah (two miles) while you'll have to go a whopping 5,450 miles to Aragon, Spain, to get to the bottom of the list. Wines by the bottle are similarly listed, rather than relying on price or even varietal to draw the differentiating lines. Not being so worldly, a mere 1,283.2 miles separates Highlands Hollow's brew Doolies (1.8 miles) at the top of the list from Alaskan Brewing Company's Winter Ale (1,285 miles). Ready to get serious about going local? Let the menu do the math for you.
Bittercreek Alehouse, 246 N. Eighth St., 208-345-1813; Red Feather Lounge, 246 N. Eighth St., 208-343-311