If you spend any time in Downtown Boise, chances are you’ve seen Meredith Stead, dressed in high heels and business attire, cruising around on an e-scooter.
Culture. It’s a hub for belonging. An unspoken code of respect. A rhythm for life. Many international families have relocated to the Treasure Valley. Some to find refuge, others simply to experience something new. Because of this global migration to the Treasure Valley, landlocked Boise is garnering a terrestrial taste from places far, far away.
Along with the infusion of diverse languages, these individuals are also bringing their culture’s most exotic and sought-after flavors. French, Asian, Persian, Indian, African and Oceania influences have moved in to the Treasure Valley.
One of the newest international restaurants to open features authentic cuisine from New Zealand. However, it’s a concept many Americans need some warming up to before noon. Kiwi Shake & Bake on 8th street in Boise offers 22 flavors of meat pies.
American’s understanding of meat pies extends not far beyond Marie Callender’s Chicken Pot Pies. Imagine that—but all natural, fresh baked, and with more flavors. And covered with 86 delicate puff pastry layers on top instead of one thick mass of a crust. Chicken and softened cream cheese with bacon. Savory steak and melted cheddar cheese in a sea of gravy. A veggie option with broccoli, carrots, silverbeet, celery, lentils, potatoes, onions and leeks cooked into a creamy homemade white sauce. And time. A whole lot of time.
Because there’s a fine line between getting those 86 puff pastry layers just right and just … not so right. The amount of fat and the temperature of the water must be perfect in order to create the best pastry. They roll out and fold each layer, and then let them rest. The key thing, says co-owner Katie Munro, is the amount of time you let each layer rest.
Katie and her husband, Chris Munro, traveled to Boise for sprint boat racing and stayed for the kind people. “The people in Boise are similar to home,” Katie Munro said. “They’re friendly, laid back and not scared to try something new.”
The Munros may enjoy the culture of Boise, but they are trying to change one little thing: the understanding of meat pie travel-ability. Katie Munro says customers don’t need to carve out an hour of their day to come in, sit down, and eat a meat pie. Although, they love visitors who hang out for a bit, there are other options. Stop by, snag a pie, and be on your way with a savory pastry to go.
A 10-minute walk north on 8th Street from Kiwi Shake & Bake will take you to an elevator in the heart of downtown. Ride up to the second level, walk under the elegant archway and enter Taj Mahal. Here you will find authentic Indian cuisine. The owners, Sohail and Fasha Ishaq, are from Pakistan and take it upon themselves to educate their guests on the culture of Southern Asia.
It’s like entering a palace. Energizing background music sings from wind instruments, deep hand drum sounds, and bowed string instruments. The owners take pride in making the Taj Mahal feel like home—and sharing free meals with those who cannot afford one.
“Even if man has no money,” owner Sohail Ishaq said, “I feed him.”
They have a selection of rich curry bowls such as the Makhini (butter) Curry Bowl. It’s thick with a red curry sauce and fenugreek leaves, brought to life with a mixture of spices.
Indian cuisine is largely about a variety of earthy, bitter spices. The spices are bright with mustard yellow, sunset orange and sage green colors. The Taj Mahal also offers a whole section of traditional oven-baked flatbread called Nawn. The Peshawri Nawn has almonds and raisons baked inside making it sweet, nutty, and perfectly puffy.
Rice is another staple for Indian cuisine. Biriyani is a mixed rice dish with robust Indian spices, local meat, and bright vegetables. They also have a stocky vegan section with options such as the Baingan Bharta dish, an eggplant baked in a tandoor, and sautéed in a ginger tomato reduction. Visiting the Taj Mahal is more than just eating at a restaurant. They say their number one mission is to make guests feel at home. If you take the time to visit, you’ll understand just how important that mission really is
There’s a common theme among most of the international restaurants in the Treasure Valley: the importance of high-quality ingredients. Le Coq d’Or, soon to be renamed Roghani, in Eagle, places the upmost importance on using the finest wine from their family-owned vineyard and pulling vegetables from their back-patio garden.
Walking into Roghani, which is inside the Chateau des Fleurs event venue, brings you to the pristine historical sights of Europe. Spotless marble floors lead through a sunlit hallway displaying old English photos of women in renaissance inspired dresses. Soft Italian music and crystal chandeliers create an atmosphere of attention to detail and an invitation to relax. Executive Chef Richard Jimenez has traveled around the world and mastered the art of mixing global cooking techniques.
“Food is a language of love to me,” Chef Jimenez said.
He doesn’t have recipes; he cooks until he is satisfied with how the flavors mirror one another. Chef Jimenez uses an old French technique, called “confit de canard, “or duck confit, to cook traditional duck in its own fat mixed with lemon. He uses a Thai inspired mixture of one-part fish sauce, one-part lime juice and a half-part sugar in a traditional Tom Kha Gai soup to cut through the thickness of the coconut. He then mixes that with aioli, which is an authentic Mediterranean sauce made from garlic and oil.
“I want people to experience something that is not only beautiful but loaded with flavors and with multiple techniques,” Jimenez said. “I want people to stop what they’re doing and recognize what they’re eating.”
Jimenez isn’t the only chef in town who has discovered the power in mixing cultures. Locavore in Boise opened nine years ago with a French spin on the everyday soul food that is American Bistro. The restaurant’s name refers to pulling all, or the majority, of one’s diet from local sources.
Locavore Executive Chef, Christine Reid, pulls all of her produce from Global Gardens, a local farm. Global Gardens hires refugees and supports those relocating to Boise with fresh produce and education on how to grow organic produce. Reid says that she loves meeting the farmers face-to-face and learning about different African vegetables, such as a leafy green called Mchicha, an African superfood.
Locavore is serious about shopping local; they get their meat and eggs
from Malheur River Meats and fish from the Snake River in Hagerman. And Reid’s cooking techniques, just like all of the other chefs named above, are inspired by family. Her recipes, if she follows one, come from her grandfather, who owned four restaurants in California.
No matter where these restaurants hail from, or where their handwritten recipes were first written, the pleasure of a chef is to make their guests feel at home. And to wrap around the globe with one heart-warming taste of belonging.