Putting a French wine bar in a mall might seem an odd combination of genius and lunacy. On one hand, a wine bar is a completely welcome haven beckoning to weary shoppers. On the other hand, it's in the mall.
Of course, there is something significant that cannot be overlooked for any reason, geographic or otherwise in Boise Towne Square: Bacquet's successfully competes with the hordes of fast food joints, cookie stores, pretzel places and chain restaurants.
Open five years, Bacquet's is owned by French chef Franck Bacquet and his Idahoan wife Linda. A staple of the place is Christophe Lucet, who came to Boise from Paris in 2002. Lucet is the former head waiter at the Moulin Rouge in Paris and really knows his wine. He demurely credits the wine bar and its originality and consistency as the recipe for Bacquet's success.
"The success is our consistency in our product and our choice with the wine. Franck is very picky about the cheese, the salami, the ham. He's been in the business for 25 years, so he knows how it should be, the true product. We really want to bring authenticity," says Lucet.
At a typical visit to Boise Towne Square's little wine bar that could, a visitor can expect to be greeted by Lucet, who may ask what your favorite wines are so he can choose something perfect for you. This all comes as a very welcome change from the food court. The decor is French bistro meets vintage, with film and music posters abundantly spread throughout the space. The cheerful red-checked tablecloths are charming, as is the atmosphere. But make no mistake, you are reminded constantly that you are in the mall, and not at a streetside cafe, by the herds of shoppers passing by. However, a few glasses of wine can change your outlook on that.
During a visit for lunch, my friends and I opted to taste red wines, and we were pleasantly surprised with our choices. Two of us drank a French malbec-merlot blend which was priced very reasonably at $5.95 a glass. The favorite wine of the day was a rather hearty and surprising 2006 Les Jamelles Pinot Noir, from the Aude Valley in the Pays d'Oc region of France. The color on the pinot more closely resembled a petit syrah or hearty zinfandel, but the nose was deeply floral. The pleasant surprise was that out of the bottle, fresh off the pour, the wine tasted exactly as its nose indicated, and as it breathed it became more deliciously complex. It was delightful, and—surprisingly—the meatiest, richest pinot I'd ever tasted. At $5.50 a glass and $12.99 carry-out retail, I indulged in my new discovery. A few lovely bottles of it found their way home to my wine rack.
As for food, Bacquet's doesn't have menus or complicated offerings. They offer fabulous cheeses and salamis, pates and antipasto. Dishes are $12.99/person for a mixed plate of gourmet goodies with unlimited baskets of delicious, crusty French bread. The deli items rotate, but Bacquet's tries to keep their best-selling items available at all times, so as to not disappoint their loyal customers.
As a new customer, I was very excited about the gourmet plate. I dove into the cheeses enthusiastically, as did my party of wine-and-food-starved friends. We all enjoyed the triple creme and Gouda the most, and devoured the marinated mushrooms, antipasto and deli meats with un-ladylike zeal. I think my friends ate a basket of bread each. The only criticism I have is that I would have loved to see some fabulous French dessert offerings as well, or at least some chocolate.
Since my visit, I've concluded that Bacquet's is a wonderful hidden gem; something I can look forward to when I have to go to the mall. So much so, in fact, that now I might have to look for reasons to head over there.
—Rachel Abrahamson's outlook is rosier after a bottle of vino.