Political Drinks - Boise Bargain Basket - Taste of Idaho 

Politics, Ribs and a Bargain

A wise man once told me that three topics of conversation should be off limits in all bars: religion, politics and another man's wife. But Franco Latino has found a humorous way to remain politically attuned while stepping out of the actual talk. On Sept. 5, the Eagle restaurant started serving one drink with two names. It's an orange flavored vodka martini called either a "Barackatini" or a "McCainapolitan," depending on which candidate the drinker supports. The bartender will keep a running total through Nov. 3 to gauge the support each candidate has among its diners. As of BW press time on Tuesday, the official count was 17 to 4, Barackatini.

And it's that time of the week again when I'm forced to report on the closures of local eateries. This week the count is two: downtown Indian restaurant Bombay Grill and the valley's only Polish restaurant, My Caffe. Although the restaurant closure hotline (aka, my office extension) has been fairly quiet for the first time in weeks, at least one communique is worth some column inches this week. Boisean Paul Peterson headed out to Eagle for the rib cook-off reportedly taking place on Labor Day weekend, and wrote to tell BW readers that the whole thing was a big bust. "First we discovered that you can't actually sample the ribs in the cook off," writes Peterson. "Huh? Isn't that the point of the whole deal? Again, maybe I misunderstood the concept."

One bright shining food ray made its way my way last week: Boise Bargain Basket. It's also comfortably known as the "three Bs on Broadway." Sprawled out over what was formerly two separate stores in the red-mud-colored stucco shopping center at the southern end of Broadway Ave., BBB is a coffee shop/arthouse/live music joint on one side and what could be the most random collection of groceries on the other. B3 opened last month, and it could very well be the only place in town where one can score a five-pound bag of just-add-water vanilla icing mix, individual saltine cracker packets priced at two cents each, organic kids' cereal, milk bones for Fido, a six-pound can of tomato sauce for $1.88, six flavors of Rockstar and four flavors of gluten-free, vegan quinoa cookies. It's a minimalist set inside—concrete floors, still-in-shipping-boxes product and pallets in several colors—but you can still find the little things (like free chopsticks for your bowl of noodles). I found a gold mine of Hawaiian Sun juices so don't be surprised to see me wandering the aisles on the regular. Stop in and check it out at 2141 Broadway Ave.

Chefs Throw Down at Taste of Idaho

I arrived at the Qwest Arena on the morning of Sept. 6 with only coffee in my gut ready to judge a series of chef competitions at Idaho Preferred's fourth annual Taste of Idaho. With four rounds, a total of eight chefs and more dishes than I was able to keep count of, it was a full-day food and wine gorgefest for myself and fellow judges, chef David Knickrehm of Blue Ribbon Artisans and Greg Hahn from the Idaho Statesman. In each round, contestants had one hour to cook, using Idaho-grown products with four different required ingredients for each round.

The first competition was intense, with Dustan Bristol of Brick 29 Bistro in Nampa taking first place with a mere one-point lead over Iron Chef king Jered Couch of Eagle's SixOneSix. Couch's curried trout ceviche over watermelon made for a most interesting first meal of the day, but in the end, Bristol's single offering of lentil hummus stuffed trout trumped a half-dozen fantastic dishes from Couch.

In round two, Dana Brechley of Highland's Hollow and Andrew Catt from Rudy's battled it out over beef tenderloin. Brechley's medley of labor-intensive dipping sauces took second to Catt's morel-smothered tenderloin medallions.

The biggest upset of the day—and one that even we judges weren't expecting—was in round three. Scott Mason of Ketchum Grill dished up apple-stuffed pork tenderloin, green garbanzo bean fritters and a delicious dessert of peaches. But it was newcomer Richard Jimenez of Cucina di Paolo who swung into first with his Cajun-rubbed pork sided with a mash of green garbanzo beans topped with garlic and bacon.

The day's final round was a proper culinary fist fight with only four-tenths of a point putting Arid Club's Chris McDonald in the lead over Gary Kucy from Tamarack Resort's Morels. Kucy's lavender-and-sage-rubbed lamb skewers sided with a cold apple and green bean dill salad were as equally impressive as McDonald's fried-potato-wrapped medallions. The choice was so difficult, we may as well have left the results up to a game of rock, paper, scissors.

Lessons learned: Idaho is home to some serious chefs. And my job ain't half bad.

September is Idaho Preferred month, and through the end of October, selected local restaurants will offer specialty dishes featuring Idaho products. A $25 Dine Around pass gets you 50 percent off of featured entrees at Red Feather Lounge, Bittercreek Ale House, SixOneSix, Brick 29, Franco Latino, Bull's Head Pub, Chef Lou's on 8th Street and SpurWing Country Club. For more information, visit idahopreferred.com.

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