Dutch oven cuisine may celebrate the simplicity of cooking in the outdoors, but it's not quite so simple to eat at the Dutch Oven Den, a catering venture currently serving dinners at Eagle's Blue Moose Cafe.
First off, it's only open for dinner on weekends--and not even all weekends. A recent Saturday night meal was canceled because of a Boise State University football game. The Den will also be shut down if there aren't enough reservations, something diners may not find out about until the last second. On top of that, unlike most restaurant experiences wherein diners show up and choose what they would like to eat, the Dutch Oven Den serves only a few items at a time and delivers them in one fell swoop at 7 p.m., like a cafeteria or a summer camp.
It makes for a somewhat unusual dining experience.
On a recent Saturday evening, the Blue Moose filled up quickly with locals seeking chow as simple and earnest as the log cabin-style decor of the cafe. The food was prepared in Dutch ovens resting on large, half-barrel barbecues on the cafe's front porch. Meat and potatoes; plain and to the point.
Diners got their choice of country-style pork ribs or barbecue chicken served with potatoes and salad, finished off with a small wedge of warm peach cobbler topped with ice cream.
The bone-free pork ribs had a lightly crispy exterior without being charred or dried out. They were served without complex sauces or rubs, letting the pork juices and flavors take center stage. The barbecued chicken had a nice tangy baste that leaned sweet rather than spicy, but the white breast meat was a little dried out from its time in the Dutch oven.
A side heaping of potatoes was a little more adventurous, complete with chunks of bell peppers and bacon for a hearty country-flavored medley.
That wasn't the case, though, with the lackluster salad intended to give the meal some color. It was little more than chopped iceberg lettuce garnished with slivers of red onion and a choice of Italian or ranch dressings.
Dessert was a peach cobbler that was warm and gooey enough that it could honestly be advertised as a little slice of heaven.
The Dutch Oven Den at The Blue Moose Cafe is not a culinary revolution. It's just comfort food, plain and simple. But it could be just the thing for those seeking an uncomplicated meal, provided they can get through the complications required to experience it at all.