News From the Food Side (Rather Than Food from the News Side)
Here's a saucy tidbit that's a fine specimen for a newspaper food column: a news-themed eatery. If ever there were appropriate food-news gossip, Rick's Press Room is it.
Recently opened in Meridian, Rick's Press Room is two 96-year-old buildings with a restaurant, a private dining room, the adjoining Treasure Valley Smoke Shop and a plush smoking lounge. Chef owner Rick Valenzuela has used his personal collection of newspapers—which he's been collecting since he was only 7 years old—to cover the walls of the Press Room. As he explains, people remember specific moments in history the same way they remember specific meals. (Valenzuela used the example of people remembering where they were when Kennedy was shot. Since I have no Kennedy reference, I thought about where I was when Princess Diana died—in a restaurant, eating potato skins.)
Valenzuela, whose experience in the food business includes stints in New York, Paris and San Francisco, has done everything from dishwasher to owning a restaurant, including studying under Roger Verge (yes, that Roger Verge). However, when it comes to Valenzuela's skills in the kitchen, he strikes a modest tone and talks about the menu items he's most excited about. It's his wife and co-owner Julie who says that, thanks to her husband's formal training, he can cook a perfect hollandaise that won't break, as well as build a fantastic Philly sandwich. And the menu reflects skills on both fronts, combining kickers like a Vietnamese-inspired chili garlic dipping sauce for Rock shrimp with old favorites like meatloaf sandwiches. It's what Valenzuela says is "affordable contemporary American cuisine," which means that when the fridge is empty at dinner time, Rick's Press Room is the kind of place where you can show up for a simple meal that's a few shades more delicious than what you would have cooked: fettuccine alfredo, lemon and garlic chicken with mashed potatoes, or a fat burger with familiar fixin's like cheese, bacon, onions, fried egg and chili, or fancy fixin's like sun dried tomato pesto, roasted bell peppers, pepperoncinis and olives.
In keeping with the press theme, diners can pick up copies of the Wall Street Journal, Idaho Statesman and USA Today (sorry, you'll have to bring your own BW) to have a read while waiting for a meal. And for you hungry night owls, Rick's Press Room will serve late, late night breakfast Friday and Saturday nights in the wee hours of the morning, when you can get a jump on breakfast (or get your breakfast and your dinner on the same plate with steak and eggs) from 1 to 3:30 in the a.m.
Rick's Press Room, 130 E. Idaho Ave., Meridian, 208-288-0558. Open Mon.-Thur. 11 a.m.-10 p.m., Fri. 11 a.m.-11 p.m., Sat. 5-11 p.m., closed Sunday.
Up and Coming
• The Sawtooth Lodge in Grandjean hosts a Dutch oven feed-your-face fest Saturday, September 22. Cabins and camping are available if you inadvertently put yourself into a food coma. Cost is $7-$14 per plate. For more information, call 208-259-3351.
• Boise Urban Garden School, aka BUGS, which dedicates its efforts to raising community awareness about such things as local food economies, sustainability and nutrition, hosts its Farm and Garden Harvest Dinner on Saturday, September 22. Wine and hors d'oeuvres will be served at 5:30 p.m. at the BUGS Garden (4821 W. Franklin Rd.). Dinner will be served at the home of John and Susan Medlin at 7 p.m. Cost is $50 per person and seating is limited. For tickets or more information, call 208-890-0782 or e-mail email@example.com.
• The inaugural Eagle Food and Wine Festival is Friday, September 28 and Saturday, September 29. Friday night's opening gala is a "Wine Country Casual" celebration benefitting the International Special Olympics with live and silent auctions at the Casa D'Auila Vineyards in Eagle. Saturday's event highlights local food, wine and art with a chef's tent featuring seven local chefs, tastings from local wineries, winemaking demonstrations and art from Idaho artists. Friday night's events start at 6 p.m., Saturday's events happen noon to 6 p.m. in downtown Eagle. For more information, visit www.eaglechamber.com.