Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Guardian of the Corn

Della Mano

Della Mano
260 N. Main
Ketchum, ID

The pasta is obviously the star of the show at Della Mano. The agnolotti with charred pea filling was excellent - very distinctive flavor and perfectly cooked pasta. The tagliatelle with fava beens and proscuitto was well prepared, but could have used a little something extra to make it really stand out.

The starters could use a little improvement. The arugula salad had too much lemon in the dressing. The octopus with potatoes was somewhat chewy (tender octopus seems to be something only the Spanish can pull off consistently).

Service was very good, the noise level was moderate, and the overall ambiance was just right for a warm summer evening. The restaurant is relatively small, and was only 1/2 full when we tried it, so it may feel different on a busy night.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Baked Kale Chips

1 bunch curly-leafed kale
1 T olive oil
sea salt, fine to medium coarse

Preheat convection oven to 275 deg F.

Wash kale and trim stems. Cut or tear kale into chip-sized pieces (for any definition of chip size you like). Spin the kale dry in a salad spinner. Toss with the olive oil. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Place the kale on the paper in a single layer, with the curls facing down (keeping the chips up off the paper as much as possible to maximize airflow). Bake for 14-15 minutes, or until the chips are moderately crispy and have just some hints of browning. They'll crisp up a tiny bit more as they cool.

Season to taste. If the salt is to coarse, it will mostly just fall off the chips. Flavored salts work work well (garlic is good; smoked bacon-chipotle sea salt -  yum!).

On the watchtower

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Western Cherry Fruit Fly

Sadly, it looks like the western cherry fruit fly is back in town. I spotted a few of these on my cherry tree today:

Friday, April 19, 2013

Snake River Winery Cabernet Franc 2011

Rich, fruity new release. Currants, raspberry, plum, with just a bit of earthiness and sage. Silky finish. Very nice example of the Snake River AVA.

Snake River Winery "GSM" 2010, Arena Valley Vineyard

A blend of Grenache, Syrah and Mouvedre (hence "GSM") from Snake River Winery. The grapes are Estate-grown in the Snake River Valley AVA.

Medium garnet color with some blue hints at the rim.

Tobacco, cedar, boysenberry jam, slight tomato, wood smoke. Lingering fruity/cherry syrup finish. A slight burnt rubber scent in the nose.

Initially somewhat puckering and tannic, but opened nicely after a bit.

Definitely merits some old world style points.

A nice wine, and pairs well with rich meats.

Barn Owl in Winter

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Estofado de Carne de Toro

An Idaho adaptation of a beef stew from the Basque territory:

2 lbs. Kelso Farms beef neck bones - thawed, rinsed, and patted dry
2 T olive oil
1 lg onion - chopped
3 cloves garlic - minced
1 T flour
2 carrots - chopped
1/2 c Snake River Winery 2010 GSM Arena Valley Vineyard red wine
2 T Sherry vinegar
2 bay leaves
2 whole cloves
1 large jalapeno - seeded and chopped
1 large red bell pepper - seeded and chopped
2 c low sodium beef broth
1/8 tsp cinnamon
1 T parsley - chopped

In a 6 quart stock pot or dutch oven, heat the olive oil and brown the meat on both sides. Add the onion and sautee until they begin to turn translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the carrots and peppers, and sautee for another 5 minutes/until the vegetables start to soften.  Add the garlic and sautee for 30 sec./until fragrant.  Sprinkle everything with salt, pepper, and the flour and cook for another 1 minute.  Stir in the red wine and the vinegar, scraping the bottom of the pan to remove any browned bits of meat or vegetables. Then add the bay leaves, cloves, cinnamon, and beef broth. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer covered for 2 hours/until meat is tender and falling off the bones. Remove the bones, add parsley, and adjust the seasoning if needed.

Serve with mashed potatoes. Alternatively, add a few peeled, chopped potatoes to the stew for the last 30 minutes of cooking.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Baked Sweet Potato Fries

2 medium sweet potatoes (about 3/4-1 lb. total)
1 tsp cornstarch
1/4 tsp rosemary salt
pinch fresh ground black pepper
2 tsp olive oil

Preheat oven to 450°F.

Peel sweet potatoes and cut into 1/4-3/8" fries.

Toss with cornstarch, mixing well to avoid any clumps. Then toss with salt and pepper. Finally toss fries with olive oil.

Place in a single layer on a parchment-lined baking sheet, with space between fries. Bake for 15 minutes, then turn fries over and bake for another 10-15 minutes/until crisp on the outside and cooked through. Some fries may be fairly dark.

NOTE: Fries may burn on the bottom if baked directly on a metal baking sheet.

Sprinkle with a bit of additional salt.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Asian Wok

Asian Wok
3504 W. State St.
Boise, ID
(208) 384-9200

(2nd location in Star)

It may not be much to look at, but our take-out order was reasonably good - and it was at least 1/2 hour between the time we picked up the food and actually had time to eat dinner.

The Mongolian Beef was a little oily, but had very good flavor with pronounced onion.  The Moo Shu Pork had a very subtle 5-spice flavor (maybe it was actually in the Hoisin sauce). The pancakes were appropriately thin and light, and packed to travel in a ziplock so they stayed reasonably moist.  The pot stickers were a little chewier than I would like, but still fairly good.

Both location deliver, and between the two locations they have a fairly large coverage area e.g. all of Eagle is covered.

Definitely will be trying delivery from the Star location in the near future.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Idaho-local St. Partick's Day feast, featuring Baked Corned Beef

3 lbs. Porterhouse Market SRF American Wagyu ("Kobe") Corned Beef
1/4 c. Wagner's Smoky Hot mustard
1 T. Idaho Wildflower raw honey
2 T. brown sugar
10 whole cloves

Preheat oven to 350°.  Rinse corned beef to remove any whole seasonings and pat dry.  Place beef in a shallow roasting pan, fattiest side up.  Insert the cloves into the top of the beef at somewhat evenly spaced locations.

Whisk mustard, honey, and sugar together.  Coat top of beef with mustard mixture.  Cover beef loosely with foil and bake for 2 hours.

Remove foil and broil the beef until the top starts to caramelize (2-3 minutes).  The mustard mixture can burn quickly, so monitor the beef closely while broiling.

Rest the beef for 10 minutes.  Slice across the grain into 1/4" thick slices.

Serve with boiled Rice Family Farm red potatoes, sauteed cabbage, hearty wheat bread made with Idaho Gran and Flout Mill whole wheat, Cold Springs carp/ology 2006 Snake River Vally AVA Syrah, and Guinness (ok, not everything can be local).

Monday, February 25, 2013

Koenig Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon

2009 Snake River Valley
100% Cabernet Sauvignon

Dark opaque red color. Rich and jammy with lots of dark fruit and pronounced earthiness. Powerful yet well balanced with moderate tannins. An excellent representative of the Snake River Valley AVA.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Sawtooth Chardonnay

2009 Snake River Valley

Peaches, cream, straw, and melon, but with a tinny/metallic finish. Medium body with moderate acid. Overall just fair.  This could have been a nice wine for the price, but the metallic tang brings it down.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Busters Restaurant

Busters Restaurant
1396 East State Street
Eagle, ID 83616
(208) 938-1800
Definitely interested in drawing the sports viewing crowd (lots of banners about the games, plenty of TVs), but mostly setup as a sit-down restaurant with not as much bar space or bar tables as one might expect.

The prime rib (available Fri and Sat) was very tender, served rare (as requested), and relatively good overall.  The accompanying horseradish cream had a decent kick, and the jus was well seasoned.  The fries were nicely crunchy, and the fry sauce better than average, but the side salad was very disappointing (something out of a '70s diner, with an overly acidic Italian dressing).

The chicken taco salad (hold the sour cream) was passable, but the salsa was another weak spot.

The 3 Picket Porter from Crooked Fence brewing needed just more body and depth to be a real winner (and to merit the "porter" label).

The restaurant was packed on Friday night, with most of the crowd dining (not just there to watch bowl games).

Burger 'n Brew

Burger 'n Brew
4295 West State Street 
Boise, ID 83703
(208) 345-7700
Dive bar plus diner. Large selection of beers on tap (24 at last count, many local).  The beer sizes could use a little update - the choices are 12 or 20 oz.  The 20 oz is served up in a weighty schooner glass, which makes the whole thing rather unwieldy.  A pint glass (American or Imperial) would be a welcome addition to the choices (or replacement for the schooner).

The menu has an interesting variety of burgers, some of which are upsized just like the beers.  Decided to go with a traditional Reuben instead, which turned out to be a disappointing choice.  It was somewhat greasy and didn't have much flavor.  The fries were a little soft and undercooked.

Overall underwhelming, but a burger and a 12oz beer would probably have been a totally different experience ...

Noodles & Company

Noodles & Company
2274 N. Eagle Rd., Suite 100
Meridian, ID 83646
Chain of >100 "fast casual" restaurants specializing in noodle dishes with international influences ("American", "Asian", "Mediterranean").  For a rapidly-growing chain, the food is relatively decent.  The Indonesian Peanut Saute is spicy (more than one would expect from a chain) but without being over the top.  The roast pork (a recent addition to the meat selections on the menu) was tasty and tender, but the flavor didn't really mesh with the Indonesian dish.  It would likely be better with the American-themed dishes.  The noodles were somewhat gluey on our to-go order, but that might be a result of the 20 minutes or so between picking up the order and actually eating it.  Eating in is likely to be a better option.
The soup choices (chicken noodle, Thai curry, tomato basil) seem rather limited and uncreative for a noodle house.  Would be nice to see an Asian-inspired noodle soup on the menu.

Red Feather Lounge

Red Feather Lounge
246 N. 8th Street
Boise, ID 83702

Half of the Bittercreek Alehouse/Red Feather Lounge group, serving "seasonal American cuisine" and focusing on very local ingredients as much as possible.  The menu changes frequently based on availability of ingredients.

The seared pork belly was, as pork belly usually is, quite tasty but the Asian-style broth it was served in was too vinegary throwing the entire dish somewhat out of balance.

The Kale Caesar is an interesting twist on a classic. Fire-roasting the kale is a fantastic idea, adding great roasted flavor and keeping the kale crunchy while still breaking it down enough to not be excessively chewy.  The Ceasar dressing had enough tang and just enough creaminess to mesh well with the kale.

The smoked trout had just a very light smoke flavor, which didn't overpower the trout itself.

Somewhat disappointing was the roasted root vegetables, mainly because the mix was far too low on the more interesting root vegetables (parsnip, turnip, etc), and ended up being mostly potatoes, carrots, and some kale (which would have been ok if it wasn't being compared to the Caesar).

The Fraser Couloir Cuvee was a solid, well-balanced red blend that fit the menu nicely.

Taphouse Pub and Eatery

Taphouse Pub and Eatery

760 W. Main Street
Boise, Idaho 83702
(208) 336-6991

A tasty pub centrally located in downtown Boise, with a large selection (40+) of beers on tap including many local and regional choices.

The pulled pork sandwich was very tender with only a hint of smoky flavor and a nicely tangy BBQ sauce.  The Rosemary fries were nicely cooked, but the seasoning could have been more evenly distributed - some bites had virtually no salt or rosemary, others were highly seasoned, and the seasoning definitely was not sticking very well (perhaps salted a little to late after coming out of the fryer?).

The Tin Shed turkey (with bacon, maple aioli, and roasted apples) included a generous serving of real roasted turkey (not processed/deli slices).  The maple aioli does a great job of tying the bacon, turkey and apple flavors together.

Tea Leaves N Coffee Beans

Tea Leaves N Coffee Beans
121 S. Main Street
Cascade, ID

Vintage tea house meets internet cafe, with a healthy dash of eclectisism thrown in, right on Main St/Hwy 55 in downtown Cascade.  Seems to be fairly active in local community events if the Take-A-Look calendar from the Alpha Grange is any indication.

The regular coffee is individually brewed cups of Doma coffee.  The coffee is very tasty but unfortunately mine was only lukewarm - hopefully this isn't a recurring problem.  Will have to try again next time passing through town.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Fraser Vineyard Couloir Cuvée

2010 Snake River Valley
70% Syrah/30% Cabernet

Nice dark red color with slight browning. Blueberry, blackberry, toffee flavors, just a little oak.  The syrah definitely comes through.  Could use a little more time to smooth out.  Definitely a nice example of Idaho wines.