Under a high summer sky, pop-tents provide shade to the Boise Farmers Market at 10th and Grove streets. From late spring into fall, farmers, specialty food makers and wineries set up here each Saturday and, by 10 a.m., the market is awake with music and voices.
The focus here is food: asparagus, radishes, spring onions, corn, peas, herbs and leafy greens. Berries and, soon, tomatoes. Porcini mushrooms that taste like the smell of a forest, garlicky ramps and lingonberries tart as limes. Chicken, duck and quail eggs. Goat cheese, milk, butter and cream. Bison, elk, goat. Beef oxtail, hanging tender, flat iron. Honey, jelly, bread. Fresh pasta and kombucha. It's all lovely, but nothing bombards an appetite like the smell of frying dough, so I set out for a walking, wandering brunch.
Nitro iced coffee—$4
The first order of business here, like life, is to get some coffee. Neckar does not just serve "some coffee" from its minimalist white cart: Its spoked-wheelhouse is pour-over coffee created with an exacting, seven-step method.
The nitro-cask cold brew is the cup of coffee you will think about all week. Like with Guinness, a milky, haunting thunderhead forms in a brew as rich as chocolate. The guy next in line asked me, urgently, where I had managed to buy a pint of stout. Though he seemed doubtful, I told him, "This is better."
Haji Sunguro International Foods is a tented booth with a single hot case of pastries on a table draped in a floral cloth. It serves black-eyed pea fritters, sweet fried dough flavored with coconut and a rice-beef soup, as well as its signature item—samboosas—which are Somali pastries: a crispy, puffed triangle of meat, eggs or lentils with onions, bell pepper, cilantro and garlic. All items are served a la carte. A few condiments are offered: Sriracha, ranch dressing, ketchup and Louisiana hot sauce. All of them kind of work.
BOB deluxe waffle—$8.50
Waffle Me Up serves thick, Belgian-style waffles—mostly sweet versions, from the $3 plain waffle with powdered sugar, to strawberries and Nutella or cookie butter and banana.
The yeast-risen waffles have depth—chewy like a perfect pretzel—which provides a solid platform for savory flavors, as well. The BOB Deluxe is layered with a fried market egg, bacon, organic syrup and rags of basil on a slice of havarti that melts as though relaxing in sunshine.
Of all the vendors sampled, the customer service at Waffle Me Up was most sincere. They did the little things well, coming out to ask us about our food and remembering the name of a guest who had been there only one time before.
Meat lovers' pizza—$8.50
Il Segreto translates to "the secret," and the setup of the Il Segreto Wood-Fired Pizza stand seems to be obscuring the primary feature: At the back of a setup of banquet tables and banners is the hearth, a brick-mouthed pizza cave on wheels.
An 8-inch single-serving pie takes about eight minutes, which seems a little long for the order-and-stand-around-until-it's-ready model, but that allowed time to go pick up a few things at some of the other booths and, in the end, the wait was worth it. The sausage, sliced meatballs, pepperoni and cheese were rich but not greasy. There was the right amount of sauce, which had zing. We especially liked the thin, flavorful crust, which was bubbling and blistered. If anything, we'd have waited longer if, perhaps, the flames were allowed to caress the crust a little more, but I ate pizza for breakfast outside, and I was happy.
Apple hand pie—$5
Blue Feather Bakery's booth looks like a Pinterest country fair: miniature pies in tins and hand pies laid out on robin-egg blue shelving, or in baskets or wire bins on burlap-draped tables. Each Blue Feather hand pie is a little different than its neighbor, but all are dressed in white paper sleeves tied with colored string.
One weekend, the lemon curd hand pie contained perhaps the best single bite of portable dessert I've ever had: layers of warm, buttery pastry crumbling to a cool, tart lemon center. A chef friend who is an expert at pastry agreed, saying, "Whoa." More recently, an apple hand pie crackled with coarse sugar was not quite as decadent as I'd have liked more of its cinnamon-flecked filling, but it was delicious nonetheless.
Brownie cookie vanilla latte gelato sandwich—$4
Mobley's Craft Gelato owner Mark Mobley has grown his business of plant-based, small-batch craft gelato by word of mouth at the market and is delivering pints door-to-door.
The phrase "plant-based gelato" is less elegant than the actual product, whose creaminess and texture is among the best coconut-based frozen desserts I've tried. Even if you have no dietary restrictions, you might choose this over ice cream.
The ice cream sandwich was excess above a whole morning's worth of excess. Though a little chilly at first, as it warmed, it was a beautiful final note for the market.
Dining is certainly not the market's primary design, and my multi-cart experiment was a meal certainly not intended by all these well-meaning and talented business owners. The totality of what I ate combined for some weirdness, for sure. We also realized almost everything for sale you could eat right away was bread, or sugar or both, yet there are so many vegetables so close.
After all this, there was so much I missed, but had no room for anything else—not beef sticks, cookies, tamales or beignets. Not until next Saturday.