In This Issue: Fall, 2017
A fall look at fish, farming and the future of Boise restaurants.
In this issue of Edible Idaho, I ask several experts on the subject of good food a seemingly simple question: “Is Boise ready to hit the national food stage?” So many small cities have hit that stage in the last few years—places like Portland, Maine; Asheville, North Carolina; Austin, Texas—it’s easy to think it’s Boise’s turn next.
What intrigues me most about the question isn’t a hunger for accolades (we already get tossed onto lots of best-of lists, although some are no more than veiled infomercials designed to promote rather than inform), but a hunger to find out where we truly stand among those striving to make American food better.
You’ll have to read the article to find out what many local experts think of the Boise food scene, but I will say it’s not all light and sunshine. Being self-satisfied is never a way to move forward anyway, nor does it help identify obstacles. I thank all of those I interviewed for their clear-eyed self-reflection and openness.
If you’re in the mood for some straight-up good news, though, we’ve got lots of that too. Regular contributor Casey O’Leary looks at what fires up the young farmers who are the local food movement’s source of energy. “Many of us see organic farming,” she writes, “as a beautiful lifestyle but also very useful work, filled with intrigue and creativity, connection with natural cycles, and the satisfaction of knowing we are nourishing our neighbors through our efforts.” Amen to that.
From different angles, writers Emily Schwing, Scott Ki and Cindy Salo take a look at Idaho’s aquaculture industry. Emily and Scott explore ways that fish farmers are taking real strides to make fish feed more sustainable and healthful while Cindy travels to Challis and finds something surprising and new on Idaho’s food menu: local shrimp. I can attest to their tastiness, since the farm, Garden Creek Farms, has been offering its shrimp and sea bass at the Boise Farmers Market off and on all summer.
Scott Ki also visits with a Boise chef who doesn’t seek accolades, but clearly deserves them. Christopher Zahn, or Chef Zee as many people know him, is a quiet guy doing big work that goes well beyond his rooftop restaurant in the C.W. Moore Plaza building. “e breadth of Zahn’s philanthropic activities,” Scott writes, “includes donating his culinary and floral-arranging services to a number of charities, decorating Christmas trees, teaching food-insecure families how to cook and shop on a budget, providing free meeting and event space to organizations, and founding and presiding over his own nonprofit.”
Kevin Huelsmann, former newspaper reporter and current State & Lemp sous chef, writes about a subject he also actively participates in: foraging local ingredients to make seriously interesting beer and cocktails. Along with Michael Bower, the acclaimed former Modern Hotel bartender, and Rob and Keely Landerman of Woodland Empire Ale Craft, the group has been using botany to blend the Idaho landscape with the art of brewing and cocktail making.
After describing Edible Idaho’s fall issue, I realize I’m less concerned about getting national recognition for our state’s food scene than I’m simply proud to be part of it.