Because of the German blood that flows through my veins, I fear neither cheese nor charcuterie. When I was five months pregnant with our first child, my husband and I explored Europe with a friend. We had a trio of pre-paid 14-day Eurail passes tucked into our packs and used Fodor's Europe on a Budget as our guide. Frugality was foremost. We sought cheap eats wherever we could, which yielded both novelties and surprisingly simple culinary treats. Breakfast at a youth hostel in Frankfurt included hard-boiled eggs, blood sausage and cold cuts. In Munich, we ate buttery-textured white sausages made from veal. And a 10-franc ($2) cheese sandwich at a pub near the Louvre in Paris turned out to be a footlong baguette stuffed with creamy camembert. Taking on the assignment to cover Bacquet's European wine bar, which specializes in imported cheeses and cured meats, did not inspire anxiety over my waistline but pure giddiness instead.
Bacquet's is tucked in the most unlikely of corners on the mall's lower level, just outside of Macy's. If you've visited Boise Towne Square in the last five years, you've probably seen Bacquet's tiny, fenced-in indoor patio. Although the patio is temporarily gone due to a flooring renovation inside the mall, the small shop still offers bottles of European wine and beer, as well as a deli case stocked with imported cheeses, cured meats and freshly made savory salads. Behind the wine shop sits a cozy, non-smoking wine bar with a handful of tables bearing red plaid tablecloths. Diners are not handed a menu. Instead, you're asked if you would like to have a cheese platter prepared for the number of people in your party. The beer and wine for sale in the shop are the same beverages you'll sip in the little bar, many of which are available by the glass. Besides vintages from France, Germany, Italy and Spain, you can also get a 25-ounce bottle of Chimay Cinq Cents (white label) or Chimay Grande Reserve (blue label) beer.
Why the mall location? For 15 years, Franck Bacquet owned a popular wine shop/bar in an outdoor pedestrian district in Kaiserslautern, Germany. After moving to Boise with his wife Linda, the Frenchman wanted to re-open his shop in the location that attracts the most people. After considering areas like downtown Boise and Hyde Park, the mall stood out as the most logical choice. Wonderful aromas regularly waft from the store's basic kitchen and into the mall's corridors. "People aren't used to smelling real food being cooked at the mall. They come in wondering, what is that?" says Linda. Chef Bacquet, who has cooked for a king and a chancellor, flexes his culinary muscles by preparing a big dinner on some Friday nights (call ahead). On Saturday, April 19 Bacquet's will hold a Cuban wine dinner with live music.
For help, I called on someone else who swoons over fine cheese. Susan and her husband, Mark, joined my husband and me at Bacquet's on a recent Saturday night for one of those incredible cheese platters ($15/person). Susan and my husband started with glasses of French red wine ($6.95 each), while Mark and I shared a Chimay Cinq Cents ($12.99). Soon, a large white platter arrived, artfully arrayed with cheeses, salami slices, shaved ham and a variety of salads and fresh vegetables. Quickly, our conversation devolved into single syllables of appreciation: "Mmm ... Ohh ... Yum ... Can we get more?" Standouts of the night were the dreamy duck pate; the feta-stuffed mini bell peppers; small wedges of creamy Affinois, heavenly Chimay, and Gouda flecked with basil and garlic; shaved Black Forest ham; salamis in Tuscan and Herbes de Provence styles; the lightly roasted asparagus spears; and mini eggplants Parmesan. With quality this good and prices this reasonable I think Fodor's would approve.
—Jennifer Hernandez has budding tulips.