Late on a Wednesday night, my friend the art professor and I were seated at a small table in Red Feather's dimly lit upper level. Noisy revelers filled the booths on the ground floor near the bar, providing a nice dichotomy between the jovial atmosphere downstairs and the hushed conversations above. And though cozy, the overall assessment of Red Feather could easily cross the line from elegant to pretentious, but safely avoids sticking its nose in the air with a menu that offers beautifully prepared, yet simple Americana food and service that is efficacious but not overly solicitous.
I love a hearty bowl of mac and cheese--even out of a box--and any time I see it listed on a fine-dining menu as just that and not "pasta and parmagiano" or "macaronis et fromage," I'm likely to order it. And after eating Red Feather's honestly monikered macaroni and cheese ($10), I may never eat boxed crap again. Tangy Ballard Family white cheddar oozed through large, almost al dente elbow noodles, and after one bite, I would even have forgiven a "fromage" on the menu. I paired the dish with an order of Red Feather's signature housecut fries, which are sprinkled with herbs and shredded parmesan and served with a spicy ketchup dipping sauce.
The art professor ordered the cedar-plank roasted Wild Bristol Bay Salmon with beurre blanc, sided with wild rice ($14). The large, pink salmon steak flaked off the fork like phyllo dough and the wild rice--a dish I seldom enjoy--must have been drizzled with the sauce; the dense, weedy-tasting grain was dulcified by a delectable buttery and slightly tart essence.
The waiter-recommended glass of the Cinder Viognier ($8) was a bit sweeter than expected, but cool and bright and a pleasant libation in the waning heat of the day.
To expand our flavor profiles for the night, the art professor ordered the grilled kale Caesar salad ($6) and I ordered the wedge of butterleaf ($5) with grilled tomato, fried shallots, shaved parmesan-reggiano and buttermilk chive dressing. A few brown spots on the leaf ends and the unrefined way in which a person must consume a wedge salad even in a fine-dining establishment didn't completely derail the dish. I swirled the oily tomatoes around in the zesty cheese and the chive dressing and felt I'd at least taken a bite out of the food pyramid's recommendation of daily vegetables. And then I tried the professor's kale salad.
In high school, I worked at a Wendy's. I was usually on salad bar, responsible for topping off crocks with cubes of ham, shredded cheese and kidney beans, filling a large plastic bowl with lettuce and stuffing the spaces in between with decorative kale. In the years since then, that stiff leafy green has found its way onto plates instead of just around them, but other than throwing it in a blender with fruit to add texture to a smoothie, I wouldn't have considered it as a main ingredient until Red Feather's offering.
Served as an unassuming pile of wilted, dark green leaves, topped with crushed croutons and more of that lick-it-off-the-plate parmesan-reggiano, I was shocked when I tasted it. The gritty texture of the leaves was subdued by the grilling preparation, and the salty Caesar dressing married blissfully to the bosky flavor of the kale. Near the end of our meal, I noticed that neither salt nor pepper graced our table but, more importantly, hadn't been missed. For less than two Andrew Jacksons apiece, we'd dined on sophisticated but unfussy food and discovered that kale can be so much more than garnish. I wonder what the chefs at Red Feather could do with parsley ...
--Amy Atkins will eat her greens come kale or high water.
Boise Weekly sends two reviewers to every restaurant we review. Read what our other reviewer had to say about Red Feather Lounge here.