Trendwatch 2006 

A look at the food trends currently in Boise and those that have yet to come

Boise is known for being ... should we say, a little behind. By the time most trends have come and gone in major urban markets, they still have not filtered down to little ol' Boise. But at least they do eventually get here, unlike other trend-deprived parts of the state. Almost 18 months ago, Epicurious.com ran an article on restaurant trends they hate. Granted they were addressing the highly competitive "trendy" restaurant cities like New York and Los Angeles, but eventually we may see some of these trends in the Treasure Valley--even if, as one local chef told me, trends take five years to get to Idaho. We reviewed Epicurious' hated trends from 2004 to see if any have made their way to I-dee-ho and also took a look at some of the other trends we've witnessed this year.

Over-publicized restaurants

In bigger cities, often more money is spent on decor and marketing than on the food. Luckily we haven't had to deal with many over-hyped restaurants in Boise. In fact, word of mouth (and a few FÜD News items in BW) is usually enough to get people going to a restaurant here.

Raw cuisine

This one is starting to take hold here. Name a nice local restaurant that hasn't had seared ahi on its menu. We're seeing rarer and rarer bits of meat on plates but the closest thing to raw that seems to be taking off in Boise is sushi. With Superb Sushi in the basement of the Idaho Building and this week's opening of Koi in the Mode Building, there are two new sushi restaurants on 8th Street alone--not to mention the conversion of Taste in Hyde Park. We have seen more and more Boiseans embrace the raw fish my own pappy simply called "bait."

Bragging about buying local

While many restaurants in the area help the local economy by buying as much locally grown produce and meat products as possible, we're not being inundated with the message. In fact, you should know that this is a trend some local restaurateurs want to see happen more. Dave Krick, owner of Bittercreek Ale House, Red Feather Lounge, Reef and the newly opened Front Door, says he'd like to see a lot more of it.

"Did you know the average carrot travels 2,000 miles before being eaten?" he asks. "We should be offended by tomatoes picked green and sprayed with growth hormone." And, while he says that the local food economy is getting better, local chefs need to go beyond just using fresh produce. They need to know where it is coming from. He hopes to see a trend toward paying more attention to building a network of local food growers and protecting open space for smaller farms instead of mega-planned communities.

Reservations

In big cities if you call ahead for reservations you'll be told the only times available are 5:30 p.m. or 10:30 p.m., but if you show up at 8 p.m. and you'll be seated right away. First of all, in Boise you shouldn't have to call ahead two weeks for a reservation unless it's for a holiday. And you don't, thank goodness. Second, a lot of restaurants don't serve past 10 p.m. However, one disturbing trend we noticed this year was lunchtime reservations being almost required during the first few months of P.F. Chang's opening. Luckily, other local restaurants have not adopted the lunchtime reservation policy.

Unisex bathrooms

While most Boiseans usually have no problem using either the men's or women's bathroom if the other one is occupied, we haven't seen a plethora of unisex powder rooms appear.

Foam

We guess this is a meringue or some kind of edible lump of bubbles that is appearing as a side dish or decoration in trendy restaurants. We haven't seen it here, nor do we particularly want to.

Pizza joints

If you haven't noticed, pizza is taking over. Boise already had some great pizza houses but in the last year we've seen almost a half-dozen new ones open up. New-school pizza places like Pie Hole, Lulu's, Front Door and recently opened Tony's next to the Egyptian Theatre are now on the scene to compete with old favorites like Guido's, Lucky 13 and Chicago Connection.

Fusion Restaurants

Carlos Tijerina, who will manage the newly opened Koi until the Eagle Mai Thai opens later this year, says the biggest trend he sees happening in Los Angeles when he visits is fusion cuisine. While you may be hard pressed to find fusion cooking in Boise, Koi might be one of the first.

"Because of the large Latin influences in the kitchens of L.A.," says Tijerina, "you are seeing Cuban/Asian and Chinese/Latin cooking from a lot of innovative chefs." Carlos says Koi will have a Peruvian influence so Boise may get its first fusion-themed sushi restaurant.

Other Trends

Boise has still not seen any shabu-shabu restaurants or noodle houses come to town. We haven't seen gimmicky restaurants with hydraulic tables that turn into lounges late at night with tables that are lowered for drinks and raised for dinner. Regional Latin cuisine such as Oaxacan or Guatemalan styles haven't shown up either. New spins on Eastern ingredients haven't made as much of an impact on local chefs other than new sushi bars.

While new trends (new to Boise at least) are inevitable, we like that the Treasure Valley restaurant scene continues to grow with more and more diversity, an increased awareness of locally grown organic vegetables and meats being used by chefs, and an attention to developing a regional cuisine including salmon, venison, elk and other wild game. And while pizza is one of our favorite foods on earth, we think we might have enough now.

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