Dishing up local produce, meats and artisanal cheeses went from a culinary trend to a way of doing business in the last decade, and Red Feather Lounge has assertively led the movement around these parts.
Owner Dave Krick, who also owns the adjoining Bittercreek Alehouse, is kind of a pioneer in this regard.
Krick was ahead of the curve when it comes to offering a farm-to-table experience — long before it became ubiquitous at area eateries.
Even though the restaurant and bar opened in 2002, it has remained one of the top dining establishments over the years, and this mostly gets attributed to what ends up on plates.
A culinary-driven cocktail program, a huge wine list and nine tap handles of craft beer keep diners coming back as well.
Of course, Red Feather did receive a substantial remodel in 2014 to freshen things up. The most noticeable change is surely the new vestibule out front that unifies the entrances to the sister establishments. Warm wood accents of reclaimed fir and some new light fixtures were added to the main-floor dining room, with the focal point still being the wraparound bar and towering glass “wine cellar” that contains around 5,500 bottles.
Krick’s brother Dale recently moved back to Boise from Seattle to direct the culinary programs at both eateries. (Some may remember him as the original owner of the now-defunct Falcon Tavern.) He works closely with executive chef Ted Martinez, formerly of Bardenay, on the seasonal menus, which employ so much locally produced food that it would be arduous to mention everything.
Do yourself a favor, though, and start with the halloumi appetizer ($8.75), a home run of a dish that tops grilled triangles of squeaky cow’s milk cheese with chopped heirloom tomatoes, juicy watermelon and mint chiffonade in a citrusy herb vinaigrette.
Popcorn ($5.75) made with duck fat and butter? Sounds good to me. Not only is this bar snack cooked in rich duck fat, the puffy corn kernels also come riddled with bits of smoky bacon and fresh sage, served in a big bowl with a hillock of finely shredded Parmesan on top.
Red Feather always has Hagerman Valley trout on its menu in one form or another, and the restaurant’s current preparation ($17.75) certainly is a winner. Two pan-seared, rosemary-flecked fillets of trout — topped with crunchy lardons of pancetta and hard cider beurre blanc — are situated on a mound of velvety parsnip puree next to small bites of grilled squash and carrot.
A glass of bone-dry Cinder Viognier ($8/Snake River Valley), with its bright, citrusy notes and high acidity, cut right through all the earthy flavors on the ornately presented plate.
The crisp white wine also played well with the wild mushroom pizza ($14.75). This blistered, wood-fired pie, brushed with truffle oil, came draped with oyster and portobello mushrooms (which aren’t really “wild” mushrooms), cloves of chewy roasted garlic, caramelized shallot and gooey Gruyere cheese, finished with fresh arugula.
Pastry chef Jami Gott’s dessert menu is hardly an afterthought, but I found the lemon sponge cake ($7.25) to be a tad bit dry one evening. But I enjoyed the lemon-pale ale glaze and dollop of dense, hop-infused whipped cream (a turn or two away from becoming butter) that accompanied the cake.
Red Feather is currently in the process of retooling its lunch program, giving the lineup of burgers, sandwiches and salads a distinct identity from what gets dished up next door at Bittercreek.
Like at night, daytime diners also can choose from a long list of shareable plates. The poutine ($7.75) is not a bad way to get things started, especially if you like crispy, hand-cut fries smothered with pan-fried cheese curds and smooth turkey gravy redolent of rich stock.
A sweet and spicy solomo sandwich ($11.75) draws inspiration from the Basque culture, with a chewy ciabatta roll split and filled with slabs of tender, pepper-marinated pork, aromatic apple relish and grill-blistered Padron peppers. The sandwich came with a cup of delightful tomato-based chowder thickened with big pieces of halibut, potato and onion.
The lamb burger ($12.75) definitely lives up to its billing. A shiny brioche-style bun held a hand-formed, grilled lamb patty (cooked perfectly medium) topped with roasted jalapeno, crunchy fried onions and a large dab of creamy feta. A colorful quinoa salad — pocked with black beans, corn, tomato and scallion — made for a healthy alternative to fries. (Plus, I had already clogged my arteries with poutine.)
It’s impressive, to say the least, that Red Feather Lounge has shunned complacency over the years and continues to be passionate about putting such nuanced food on its plates. And service remains consistent, too.