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Ecotourism in Idaho: Our Discerning, Summering Palate


By Clinton Wilson

I just recently moved to Idaho from New York City, and it’s been all about enjoying the great outdoors in the summer of 2015. It’s outdoor theater and concert-going season at the Shakespeare festival and concerts at the botanical garden.

White-water rafting, camping and hiking in the mountains, boating day-trips to one of the state's many lakes, going to the Caldwell Night Rodeo and the Parma Motor-Vu drive-in cinema … these are things I couldn’t do in Manhattan’s Lower East Side.

At our neighborhood's weekly barbecue, we may be grilling hot dogs and hamburgers on the patio, but we still hold on to our epicurean disposition. We won’t turn away bags of chips, or (Idaho-style) potato salad, but we’ll sometimes find it hard to suppress our opprobrium when my parents ask for their black truffle Kobe burgers well-done. They can have it with their choice of endive, escarole or arugula.

With my (sometimes insufferably snobby) foodie friends, there’s an ongoing competition to pack and present the most appetizing, exotic food when we gather for an al fresco event. I’ve been trumping them all with a new online food find, Gift a Feast. Every time I buy one of their curated packages of food, locally grown and packaged in the San Francisco Bay Area, I know I’ll impress my crew with the novelties. They tell me they go out the next day and shop around to try and find what I’d introduced the night before.

I used to keep this secret to myself, like the roasted tomato salsa from San Francisco’s Papalote. It’s probably the best salsa in the world, famously defeating Bobby Flay in his Food Network Throwdown, and always throwing me into a salsa reverie.

There has always been a rich tradition of Mexican cuisine here in Idaho. You never had to travel very far to find authentic taquitos. We didn’t know what arugula was, but we definitely knew our salsa.

Like me, you probably missed National Grab Some Nuts Day on August 3, and Oren's Kitchen Wild Rosemary Almonds from Gift a Feast would have been a perfect contribution to our King Lear play-going that day had I planned ahead. National Nachos Day is just around the corner though.

Olives. We are all mad for great olives here in my circle of friends. Good Faith Farms' green Lucques olives seasoned with rosemary and lemon cured between six and 18 months in a brine solution of gourmet and local salts from Gift a Feast conquers anything my friends could procure from any grocery store around here.

We are a bit snobbish with the olive oil we generously drizzle over heirloom tomatoes and fresh mozzarella. The organic extra virgin olive oil from MoonShadow Grove or the oil from Ascolano olives, prized for their highly aromatic quality, quickly make their way in similar packages from the Bay Area, rounding out our summer evening spreads.

When I pine for New York City and great wine, I turn to Bottlerocket to make an informed wine choice for perfect pairing with food. This was another social win for me. A food and wine hero I would forever be in the Treasure Valley gastronomic circuit.

I couldn’t continue to keep these sites a secret; it was too much to keep from gifting to my foodie friends. Indeed, this is what I’m gifting them for the holidays.

I’ve secured my Feast of Appetizers basket -- complete with artisanal cheeses and candied citrus peel -- for the Caldwell Night Rodeo. It’s not my first rodeo, but it will be my first one with a gourmet food basket and a bottle of wine. Not sure if we’ll be ridiculed tonight, but any of my cowboy friends from high school are certainly welcome to join us for a toast from our 2013 Chateau Bellvue Rougier!

Image credits: 1) Flickr/Quinn Dombrowski 2) Clinton Wilson

Clinton Wilson is an inveterate traveler, enthusiast of anything related to technology, music, and cinema, and has written for Just Out Newsmagazine and Black Lamb in Portland, Oregon; PragueOne in the Czech Republic; and for Penguin Group in New York City. He recently relocated to Boise, Idaho from New York where he lives with his wife and three step-kids.


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