Fall is often the favorite time of year for chefs, especially in the Boise area, where there’s a profusion of locally grown produce available when the leaves start to change color.
Assuming the Treasure Valley doesn’t get a serious freeze early on, late-season tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers and eggplant are still making their way onto menus in early autumn, followed by all those fabulous tubers and colorful squashes.
It’s definitely the season to start thinking about comforting dishes made with butternut squash, aromatic sage, apples and other fall foodstuffs.
Of course, restaurants can simply order food en masse from the big food distributors, which typically get their produce from other states and possibly from out of the country. But more and more eateries across the Treasure Valley are opting to build relationships with area farmers and ranchers to put local food on the plates — much of which is organic, grass-fed and as natural as possible.
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Here’s a look at six restaurants that rise above when it comes to farm-to-table dining.
State & Lemp (2870 W. State St., Boise, stateandlemp.com) takes a modernist approach to cuisine.
Chef Kris Komori was a 2016 semifinalist for a prestigious James Beard Award in the Best Chef: Northwest category. He was given the nod for his use of local food and avant-garde creativity in the kitchen.
Owners Remi McManus and Jay Henry encourage Komori to explore his unbridled side with whimsical menus that change every three to four weeks.
State & Lemp takes this experimental belief to heart, and it’s been a hit with diners since it opened three years ago. (The restaurant celebrates its third anniversary on Oct. 17.)
Komori is a big fan of the fall bounty, yet he’s still riding the late-summer wave of produce.
“It’s definitely the best time of year,” he says.
“We are kind of catching the end of summer with lots of nightshades (tomatoes, peppers and eggplant), melons and cucumbers, and now we’re coming into the fall crops.”
Komori sources food from a multitude of local producers for his dynamic prix fixe menus, which generally have an undercurrent of themed nuance.
“We change the menu so rapidly that we are always looking for interesting and strange items to use,” he says.
Komori typically uses seasonal produce from Peaceful Belly Farm, Next Generation Organics and Fiddler’s Green Farm, to drop a few names. He favors grass-fed, pasture-raised beef and pork from Malheur River Meats and naturally raised lamb from Meadowlark Farm.
It’s all about the two-hour, communal dining experience at State & Lemp. Diners sit together at a long, wooden table and enjoy one course after another, explained meticulously by the informed servers. The restaurant serves a five-course tasting menu ($75 per person) paired to well-curated wines (for an additional $30 per person).
The current menu, which gleans inspiration from southern Mexico and Central America, will be on through the middle of October, then it will find its focus elsewhere for the coming weeks.
For now, expect to taste modernist twists on Mesoamerican dishes such as pupusa (a Salvadoran masa harina pocket filled with duck, grapes, fennel and beets) and lamb with aromatic mole, lobster mushrooms, ground cherries and red rice.
Diners also receive an amuse-bouche (small bite) to get things rolling and a midmeal intermezzo (usually seasonal sorbet) to cleanse the palate.
Make reservations online or at 208-429-6735
Hours: One seating at 7 p.m. Wednesday-Friday; seatings at 6:30 p.m. and 9 p.m. Saturday.
Richard’s Café Vicino (808 W. Fort St., cafevicino.com) in Boise’s North End has earned a loyal following over the years.
Chef and owner Richard Langston, a 2014 semifinalist for a James Beard Award, likes what he sees coming in the back door of his restaurant this time of year. “The transition from summer to fall is always a mix, just like the weather,” he says.
Langston prides himself on building strong relationships with local food producers. He typically sources seasonal produce from Waterwheel Gardens and True Roots Organics, and he gets his free-range chickens and cage-free eggs from Matthews Family Farms in Weiser.
“Last year I used their (Matthews) duck on a fall menu, and then their lamb periodically for specials. I anticipate the same for this year,” he says.
Langston will be switching gears into his fall menu by Oct. 15. Expect at least 50 percent of the lunch and dinner menu to change at this time.
How does sweet potato gnocchi ($16/dinner) with hazelnuts and mascarpone cream sound? What about cinnamon-rubbed, grilled quail ($26/dinner) with house-made harissa sauce?
Other fall inclusions will come in the form of hand-cut fresh pasta ($15/lunch and dinner) with roasted butternut squash, pancetta and rosemary. Don’t be surprised to also find pan-seared duck breast ($28/dinner) with sweet-and-sour eggplant and pomegranate syrup.
For dessert, try the brown-butter tart ($8) topped with apple and pecans.
Make reservations online or at 208-472-1463.
Hours: Lunch: 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Monday-Friday; Dinner: 5 to 9 p.m. Sunday-Thursday, 5 to 9:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday.
Later this year, Richard’s (sans the Café Vicino name) plans to move into spacious, new digs at the Inn at 500 Capitol, a nearly completed boutique hotel at the corner of Capitol Boulevard and Myrtle Street.
Capitol Cellars (110 S. 5th St., capitolcellarsllc.com) debuted in 2015 in the former Mortimer’s spot, downstairs in Old Boise’s historic Belgravia Building.
The politics-themed restaurant and wine lounge, owned by the Smyser family, goes out of the way to source local food and wine for its menus.
Chef Dave Shipley recently put the finishing touches on his fall menu, which boasts a gamut of comforting dishes.
“As a chef, this is an exciting time to get inspired for a menu change. I just walk around and get all these great ideas for dishes,” Shipley says.
And what he’s come up with are appetizers such as lamb popsicles ($13/served with chickpea salad and cumin yogurt) and forest mushroom risotto croquettes ($10.43).
You might also want to try the warm Brussels sprout salad ($11) with apple and roasted shallot-white balsamic vinaigrette.
Larger plates include pan-seared duck breast ($29, served on Ferranti Pasta with hand-foraged mushrooms, chestnut cream and cranberry-ginger sauce) and a braised Lava Lake Lamb shank ($34) with Parmesan polenta and pan-sauce jus.
Make reservations online or at 208-344-9463.
Hours: 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday-Friday, 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday.
The Modern Hotel and Bar (1314 W. Grove St., themodernhotel.com) in Boise’s Linen District may have a diminutive dining area, yet the food that comes out of the kitchen here is as modern as the name suggests.
Chef Nate Whitley, a 2015 semifinalist for a James Beard Award, culls food from various area producers for his cocktail-friendly menu that gets tweaked throughout the year — versus complete seasonal overhauls.
“We kind of change it one bit at a time,” Whitley says.
“We are small and different, so we can get away with it.”
During October, this typically means a poached fish roulade (rockfish or petrale sole; market price) served with fall foodstuffs such as tomatillos, butternut squash and roasted cipollini onions.
Autumn-inspired small plates include mixed greens with roasted beets and goat cheese ($9) and grilled halloumi cheese ($11) with bright carrot romesco, tomato and bread salad. Or go big with a succulent pork chop ($19) served with smoked tomato sauce, balsamic-steeped onions and heirloom polenta.
“We use tomatoes and peppers as far into the season as we can,” Whitley says.
Don’t be surprised to see seasonal gnocchi on the menu as well, in addition to some form of smoked Hagerman Valley trout.
The Modern Hotel and Bar doesn’t take reservations. It’s on a first-come, first-served basis.
Hours: 5 to 10 p.m. Sunday-Wednesday, 5 to 11 p.m. Thursday-Saturday; Brunch: 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.
Grit American Cuisine (360 S. Eagle Road, gritcuisine.com) debuted in 2015 near downtown Eagle.
Porterhouse Market owner Dave Faulk teamed up with chef Paul Faucher for this dining concept that culls inspiration from various regions around the country.
Faucher recently added some autumn-tinged dishes to his mainstay lunch and dinner menu.
“We have more cold-weather items back on, like pot pies and other dishes with big flavors that people like this time of year,” he says.
Besides regular menu hits such as alder-plank shrimp and spicy Nashville fried chicken, expect to find a crusty chicken pot pie ($13) made with local sweet onions and Yukon Gold potatoes.
Other good choices include a panzanella salad ($9; charred Acme Bakeshop ciabatta with butternut squash, arugula and balsamic-roasted onion vinaigrette) and a hybrid French dip sandwich ($13) made on a minibaguette with smoked Snake River Farms Kobe beef, relish and house-cured bacon, served with chipotle au jus for dipping.
A brown butter-basted steak will also get added to the menu soon, Faucher says.
The bottom of the menu lists the area producers that Faucher sources to create his cuisine, a shoutout, if you will, to the people who work the land.
“We like the fresh aspect of using local food and working directly with the farmers,” he says.
“We love having those relationships.”
For reservations, call 208-576-6666.
Hours: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday (brunch only).
Le Coq d’Or at the opulent Chateau des Fleurs (176 Rosebud Lane, chateaueagle.com) in Eagle takes its farm-to-table cuisine seriously — considering the sprawling property at this new venture boasts vegetable gardens and a mature fruit orchard.
Chef David Williams uses the impeccably fresh bounty well on his seasonal, dinner-only menus, which draw inspiration from Europe while boasting Idaho inroads.
“I enjoy the process of seeing all this food being grown,” Williams says.
For starters, the fall menu includes eggplant Parmesan ($12) and flaky Brie en croute ($16) with fruit chutney. And you can’t go wrong with a plate of truffle ravioli ($16) drizzled with sage-perfumed butter.
Taste the harvest with a pear and Gorgonzola mixed greens salad ($16) tossed with blue cheese dressing and spicy roasted walnuts.
Comfort yourself with main courses such as scallops Dijon ($35), Basque-style sautéed rockfish ($32) and a slow-cooked pork chop ($30) plated with poached pears and braised red cabbage. Another good pick is the elk Bourguignon ($32), an Idaho riff on the classic Burgundian beef dish.
Seasonal desserts include fruit cobbler and velvety pumpkin cheesecake with maple-walnut glaze.
Make reservations online or call 208-947-2840.
Hours: 5 to 9 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday, 5 to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday.
Email James Patrick Kelly: firstname.lastname@example.org.
More farm-to-table dining standouts
Red Feather Lounge/Bittercreek Alehouse, 246 N. 8th St., Boise, (208) 429-6340, bcrfl.com.
Juniper, 211 N. 8th St., Boise, (208) 342-1142, juniperon8th.com.
Wild Root Café, 276 N. 8th St., Boise, (208) 856-8956, wildrootcafe.com.
Fork, 199 N. 8th St., Boise, (208) 287-1700, boisefork.com.
Grant’s Neighborhood Grill, 1835 W. Cherry Lane, Meridian, (208) 884-4278, grantsgrill.com.
Barrel 55, 3004 N. Eagle Road, Meridian, (208) 514-4620, facebook.com/barrel55.
Brick 29 Bistro, 320 11th Ave. S., Nampa, (208) 468-0029, brick29.com.
Horsewood’s Kitchen, 212 S. Kimball Ave., Caldwell, (208) 453-8900, facebook.com/horsewoodskitchen.