At the height of an Idaho summer, eating local is easy. Every Saturday, both Boise Farmers Market and the Capital City Public Market are crammed with tables loaded down by what's fresh, from apricots and cherries to green beans and lettuces. Grocery stores get in on the action, too, and people with fruit trees or backyard gardens have no trouble hauling in a feast. But all of that changes before Christmas, and by February, as KIN Chef Kris Komori said of an upcoming winter meal, "nothing is necessarily fresh."
That doesn't mean there aren't still delicious things to eat. In fact, Komori would be one of the first to tell eaters that flavor doesn't wax with the daylight—and on Saturday, Feb. 16, he and fellow KIN chef Michelle Nayun Kwak, along with Wild Root chefs Michael and Anne-Marie Trebbi, will prove it by crafting a four-course dinner in partnership with the Boise Farmer's Market.
Dubbed the February Full Moon Dinner, the meal will be the first upscale feast for the farmer's market that falls outside of harvest season. But don't worry about the cold; the event will be held indoors at the Barber Park Event Center, a spot that should provide excellent winter ambiance, not to mention warmth, with its stone fireplace and wall of windows. For BFM Interim Marketing Manager Tamara Cameron, who is stepping into the shoes of retiring Market Director Karen Ellis, the dinner is about raising awareness just as much as celebrating good food.
"People seemingly don't understand that there's local food available in the middle of the winter. People don't have the awareness or the easy access, the Farmers Market's not open on Saturday, and you have to sort of seek it out in the winter, especially if you want the fresh stuff, if you want sprouts or if you want mushrooms or if you want local protein you have to sort of reach out to the farmers individually to see how to get it," Cameron said. "...We could all make more of an effort to eat year-round and eat local food, and I think that one of the best ways to show people that that's possible is to feed them the food."
- Courtesy Boise Farmers Market
Komori and Michael Trebbi have been preparing for the dinner since Cameron filled Komori in on the idea in the fall of 2018 (he in turn brought Trebbi on board, fulfilling a long-held dream of collaboration), and the pair sat down with BW at Wild Root to discuss their ideas over notebooks filled with scribbled menus.
The duo has eschewed some of what Cameron described—they won't use greenhouse-grown sprouts and lettuces, for instance, which can be difficult to secure in large quantities—in favor of an even bigger challenge. Much of their proposed menu is centered on foods that have been pickled or otherwise preserved, and the kickoff to the meal will spotlight a protein that's often overlooked: stewing hens.
"It's a chicken that, once it's past its egg-laying days, basically it just isn't a very coveted meat chicken ... The stewing hen is just tougher, it's older, and it's trickier to deal with," explained Komori. "But Janie [Burns, of Meadowlark Farm] has this product and it's about utilization of it. So we thought the Farmers Market dinner would be a great showcase for it, because for the most part I think that the diners that go to it are interested in learning a little bit more about the food they eat, and the food system."
The hens will go into a celery root soup for the first course of the dinner, followed by a pickled vegetable and grilled apple salad starring habanada peppers from Fiddler's Green Farm (which Trebbi described as "a habanero-flavored pepper minus the heat"), fermented pumpkin and chevre puree, charred arugula and salsa verde. The entree course will include a coffee-rubbed braised short rib from Malheur River Meats served with smoked pickled beets, locally milled purple polenta and wild mushrooms. Dessert, Kwak's specialty, will be a fruit-forward frangipane tart.
"The concept behind the menu is we came up with a list of ingredients that we'd like to use and how they would play with each other in these particular courses, and I think the finalization, the end product, will happen as soon as we actually get into the kitchen," Trebbi said.
That level of innovation doesn't come cheap. The dinner—which includes a local wine and cider pairing (beer may also be an option) and fruity Ethiopian coffee from Form & Function specially roasted to match Kwak's dessert—costs $125 per person for early bird tickets (available through Sunday, Feb. 10) and $150 per person after that. Vegetarian and vegan options are available upon request.
If you're hesitant about the price tag, look at it this way: Every dollar guests spend on the dinner goes toward promoting what's local, as the event is above all a fundraiser for BFM. Cameron had a final word on the market's awareness-raising mission:
"It's a chicken and egg situation. Either you make [local food] available and people get it, or people want it and then it becomes available," she said.
Through the February Full Moon Dinner, BFM plans to show its customers that in Boise, the former is already a reality.