Foodfort 2018 Looks Beyond the Burger 

Chef Hugh Acheson (above) started working in restaurants when he was 15 years old, and opened the first of his own in 2000.

Matthew Wordell

Chef Hugh Acheson (above) started working in restaurants when he was 15 years old, and opened the first of his own in 2000.

While Foodfort 2018 doesn't technically have a theme, it can be almost entirely summed up in a single word: adventure. Since its inception in 2016, the tastiest branch of the sprawling Treefort Music Fest has been exploring local cuisine—and surprising local taste buds. In the past, chefs have pushed boundaries with the "Tastes" portion of the event, which offers for-purchase bites in partnership with Alefort. This year, the organizers have gone a step further, securing a demonstration space that will allow attendees of Foodfort "Talks," the panel and discussion half of Foodfort, to sample dishes like beef hearts and Filipino-style noodles straight from the stovetop.

"In the past, the [Foodfort] Talks Tent was attached to the Alefort Tent, so we weren't really able to do any live cooking demos, because it was in a tent," said Foodfort Talks Director Tara Morgan, co-founder of local catering company Wild Plum Events. "So this year, we're in the former Kindness space in the Owyhee Hotel. We'll actually have this wonderful long marble demo counter, where we'll be able to prepare food on site and offer samples and more fun stuff. People [will] actually get to see food being prepared and dished up right in front of them."

The beef hearts will be cooked up on Saturday, March 24, during a talk called "Eat Your Heart Out" with Chef Hugh Acheson, a past Top Chef judge, cookbook author and chef/owner of six Georgia restaurants who is returning to Foodfort for a second year. Plus, on Friday, March 23, Portland, Oregon-based restaurateur Chef Carlo LaMagna will prepare pancit bihon, a Filipino noodle dish studded with meats and vegetables, to go along with his talk, "Explore the Evolution of Filipino Food."

click to enlarge Foodfort "Tastes" in 2016 ran the gamut, a trend that will continue in 2018. - MATTHEW WORDELL
  • Matthew Wordell
  • Foodfort "Tastes" in 2016 ran the gamut, a trend that will continue in 2018.

Out of the 15 chefs taking part in Foodfort, Acheson and LaMagna are the only two traveling in from outside the Gem State. They'll both also be featured at the Foodfort Meat Up, the carnivorous cocktail hour that will kick off the fort Thursday, March 22. Local meat maestro Brad Taylor of the barbeque/vegan eatery BBQ4Life will join them to represent the City of Trees.

"I'm more of a pitmaster than I am a chef," Taylor said. "It's just a different realm than what [Acheson and LaMagna] do, and those guys are phenomenal. So I'm really excited to be a part of it."

After careful consideration, Taylor has decided on housemade pork sausage and tri-tip as his contributions for the night.

Another talk set for Saturday, March 22, in partnership with Storyfort certainly furthers the adventure theme, featuring restaurateurs who've traveled a long way to become Boise locals: Chef Kibrom Milash of Kibrom's Ethiopian and Eritrean Restaurant; Chef E, who hails from Thai pop-up/catering company Lime and a Coconut; and Chef Ratna Subba, who started the Nepalese food truck Darjeeling Momo.

"Storyfort did a refugee talks event in the past that was super successful for them, and so they wanted to explore that a little bit more in the context of food," Morgan said. "So we partnered up on that event. We're calling it, 'Digging In: Stories of Global Flavors' ... The point of the conversation is to really explore the story of food and global flavors, get to know the personal stories of these chefs and have them explain why these dishes are significant in their culture."

Milash said that for his portion of the talk, he plans to focus on a handful of ingredients crucial to Ethiopian and Eritrean cuisine, including injera—a sourdough flatbread often used to scoop up bites of other dishes—chickpeas, cabbage, potatoes and chicken.

"I'm going to talk about my history," said Milash, "... [In Ethiopia,] we serve the chicken for special guests, if someone comes to our home. We serve the whole chicken. We kill the chicken and cook it with 12 eggs, because the chicken has 12 different bones [or parts: two each of drumsticks, thighs, breasts and wings, plus the neck, chest, ribs and giblets]."

click to enlarge Foodfort 2018 will be heavy on meat, including tri-tip, housemade sausage and more. - MATTHEW WORDELL
  • Matthew Wordell
  • Foodfort 2018 will be heavy on meat, including tri-tip, housemade sausage and more.

Beyond the food, Milash said he's most excited about meeting other international chefs at Foodfort, and creating a community to fill the gap left behind when the Boise International Market was razed by fire in 2015.

"That would be good, if we could find an international place for [chefs from] different countries," he said. "The Boise International Market was really good, because it was fun and we had a really good family."

Another Saturday talk worth noting for its emphasis on pushing culinary boundaries is "Beyond Burgers and IPAs: Bringing More Adventurous Cuisine to Boise," which will feature Bittercreek Alehouse Owner Dave Krick, recently James Beard-nominated State & Lemp Chef Kris Komori and BreAnne Hovley, co-owner of Barbarian Brewing, which opened a downtown Boise taproom in 2017. The topic arose out of Morgan's personal curiosity, perhaps a companion to the question: Can we get people in Boise to eat beef heart and like it?

"I feel like, I'll talk to restaurateurs around town and they'll say they serve burgers and IPAs because that's what people buy. And I totally get that," Morgan said, "But then I'll talk to my food friends around town, and they'll say, 'Gosh, I wish I could go somewhere and get something besides a burger and an IPA.' And I'm just fascinated at where the disconnect is."

With its four-day slate of highly edible events, Foodfort will attempt to answer that question and many more. Visit Treefort's Foodfort website for a full list of talks, and to check out the 15 creative "Tastes" that will be available in the Foodfort Tent.

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