Al fresco dining is wildly popular in Boise. Despite the summer heat and smoke-filled air that regularly accost the city, patios are such moneymakers that restaurants have squeezed them into even the most unlikely spaces—a prime example is Capitol Cellars, a subterranean eatery with a brand-new patio pushing up onto the street like a flower through a sidewalk crack.
A new Downtown Boise Association event will create a patio in perhaps one of the most unexpected spots of all Sunday, Sept. 10: right in the center of Capitol Boulevard. The 150-seat banquet table will hold a four-course meal with wine pairings catered by five top Boise chefs. Even though the event comes with a $150 per-person price tag (or $650 for a party of four) the DBA reports a number of Boiseans are more than willing to pay for a night of fine dining in the not-so-fresh mountain air.
According to DBA Events and Programs Manager Karlee May, the idea of closing Capitol for a night of fine dining has been three years in the making. Since hearing at an international conference about similar events taking place in other cities, DBA has been brainstorming ways to recreate that success in Boise.
"We've been kind of putting it together in bits and pieces," May said.
Three of the pieces they chose: using a single table to create a communal vibe, focusing on local food and wine pairings, and gifting a chunk of the proceeds to a food industry-related nonprofit. To make it happen, chefs from Fork, Brickyard, Red Feather, Juniper and Capitol Cellars will be putting out four-course pre-fixe menus inspired by five local wines, with half the proceeds going to Create Common Good. Diners will be split into five groups of 30, with each group being served by a single chef. Parties of four get their first choice of restaurant, while singles can make requests but will be placed according to availability.
"We really wanted to highlight Idaho food products, the Idaho wine industry and the creativity of the amazing chefs that we have downtown who have been able to think outside the box and showcase those cool items that are local to here," May said. She added that CCG, a nonprofit that trains refugees, veterans, people with disabilities and others with barriers to employment to work in industrial kitchens, was "a great fit for this first year."
"We're all coming together as a community, we all have these common themes that run through our lives and that's food, friends, and supporting ourselves and our families," said CCG Community Engagement and Development Manager Erin McCandless. "That's what makes us a perfect fit for this community event."
CCG staff will be on site for the big day, with 15 to 20 volunteers standing by to help the chefs, who will truck in their ingredients on ice at noon to begin prepping for the meal at 5:30 p.m. Each restaurant will have its own staging area outside along Capitol Boulevard for plating and serving, and although preparing food in a restaurant without walls presents some challenges, Fork/Alavita Executive Chef Kris Ott said he isn't worried.
"Since it's an offsite event I made things as plate-ready as possible, so there will be a lot of squeeze bottles, a lot of really simple touch-up stuff—I didn't want to make my dishes too complicated," said Ott. "And it's going to be hot, so I have a lot of cold courses and room temperature stuff, which I think will play really well with the warm weather."
While the $150-per-person price tag may be a bit prohibitive, the menus are bound to stellar. Ott offered a sneak peek at the four courses Fork will serve, which include cantaloupe gazpacho with toasted hazelnut salad and beluga caviar; heirloom tomato confit pork cheeks with mustard green puree and grilled peaches; a savory tomato and basil upside down cake topped with salted caramel and creme fraiche; and a dish he calls "Fish Out of Water," which features yellowtail ahi crudo and a bright blue flower- and spice-infused tea that turns hot pink when spritzed with lemon juice.
"Everything is locally sourced. Literally for this event, I don't there's anything but the caviar and maybe the pork cheeks that's [from] farther away than 150 miles. It's pretty hard-core local," Ott said. "I'm not worried about too many hiccups, and we'll be putting out some really beautiful food."
For those intrigued by the menu and concept but unable to afford the ticket price, there's still hope—May predicts that the event will grow in the coming years, and more diners shelling out the dough could bring prices down. For now, though, DBA is sticking by its $150 price point.
"The price point is set to reflect the level of food and drink that the attendees will be receiving," said May. "And it's kind of right on point with a typical four-course fine dining dinner that you would see at a fine dining restaurant. From the attendees who are coming's perspective, we've actually had a very successful first go at this—we only have a couple of tickets left."