Words & Deeds

Gourmet food, Happy Meal prices: Top chefs to cook in Boise

As Snake River Farms’ director of marketing, ecommerce, Dave Yasuda pulls up a chair at lots of ridiculously expensive dinners.

“I can’t believe people spend that much to go to these dinners,” admits Yasuda, co-director of this weekend’s Foodfort festival in Downtown Boise. “But as a high-end food producer, we supply the food. I mean, I go to dinners with Michelin-starred chefs all the time.”

Yasuda isn’t bragging. He’s just pointing out that in 2017, his “single best meal” was co-created by popular Portland chef Carlo Lamagna. “The enthusiasm, the quality of the food, and just what was prepared was just off-the-charts amazing,” Yasuda raves.

Equally mind-blowing? Lamagna will be in Boise this weekend, serving gourmet food for the price of a Chicken McNuggets meal.

It’s part of the mouthwatering magic of Foodfort, which offers tastes inside the Alefort tent at Treefort Music Fest. Celebrating Idaho ingredients and cuisine, chefs will serve haute bites in exchange for one or two $3 Alefort tokens. Entry is free; no Treefort wristband is required. Notable names besides Lamagna include two-time James Beard Award winner Hugh Acheson (known as a judge on reality TV show “Top Chef”) and three-time James Beard Award semifinalist Kris Komori of creative Boise restaurant State & Lemp.

Foodfort and Alefort are separate events joined at the hip. Foodfort is all-ages. But Alefort revelers will be able to bring beer over to Foodfort, and vice-versa.

Just don’t expect to find chefs serving pretzel necklaces at Foodfort.

“You’re not putting a token down and getting some tortilla chips with cheese sauce,” Yasuda says. “There’s some really great things going on.”

“The idea is that it’s a sampling portion,” Yasuda says. “But, man, some of those chefs get pretty generous. And you can eyeball it. That’s what’s fun. You go down, and there’s going to be at least six dishes you can look at and go, ‘Oh, that looks really good to me,’ or ‘That’s really weird. I need to try that!’ At any given time, there’s something to check out.”

MIchelle Kwak by Matthew Wordell
Pastry chef Michelle Kwak of Boise restaurant State & Lemp will serve a Lemon Chèvre Tart from 4 to 8 p.m. Friday at Foodfort. It will cost one token, or $3. Matthew Wordell

It’s hard work, but the crew at State & Lemp looks forward to Foodfort. Pastry chef Michelle Kwak has masterminded a Lemon Chèvre Tart to be served from 4 to 8 p.m. Friday for a single token: Lemon curd, chèvre cremeux (chèvre coming from Eden Creamery), kumquat marmalade, brandied Concorde pears, huckleberries (from Sweet Valley Organics), meringue and rosemary blossoms (from Purple Sage Farms). Chef de cuisine Kris Komori will dish up Sprouted Lentil Salad from noon to 4 p.m. Saturday for two tokens: Challis-raised shrimp (from Garden Creek Farms), quinoa (from Zürsun Idaho Heirloom Beans, same with the lentils), wild greens (Sweet Valley Organics), radish kimchi (Global Gardens) and fried egg aioli (McIntyre Farms).

Acheson, a chef and author based in Athens, Georgia, will offer Hugh’s Pho from 4 to 8 p.m. Friday. For two tokens, the pho includes basil, shaved Vidalia onion, radish, carrot, Snake River Farms seared deckle steak, rice noodles and bean sprouts. That deckle steak — cap of rib eye — is Snake River Farms’ most expensive cut of beef. “It’s very playful, the way Hugh does things,” Yasuda says. “You’re going to have a bowl of pho, but it’s going to be topped with the cap of ribeye. It’s going to be an amazing bite.”

Lamagna, whose passion is Filipino food, will serve from 4 to 8 p.m. Friday. He’s cooking up Pancit Bihon, made with rice noodles, chicken, chicken skin chicharon, cabbage, carrots and scallions. It will cost two tokens.

Looking for something crazier? Check out the one-token Wild Weed Shots from chef Christian Phernetton of Boise North End newcomer Camel’s Crossing. They will be served from 4 to 8 p.m. Saturday and 1 to 5 p.m. Sunday. Wild Weed Shots are a hit of quick-pickled local vegetables, a shot of stinging nettle tea, then a chaser chunk of quick-pickled tomato. Expect a super-nutrient-dense burst of flavors, Camel’s Crossing co-owner Caitlin McCoy says, delivered like a tequila shot. “One of the things we’re really passionate about as a restaurant is local farms and farmers, and local produce,” she says. “That vegetables can be culinary and delicious. We’re trying to do the same thing with our dish here at Foodfort.”

Small-bites aren’t the only thing happening at Foodfort. Events officially kick off Thursday with a $40, flesh-focused Foodfort Meat Up meal with Acheson, Lamagna and Boise barbecue pitmaster Brad Taylor of BBQ4Life.

There are also free Foodfort Talks on Friday open to the public at The Owyhee, 1109 W. Main St. Highlights include “Explore the Evolution of Filipino Food” with Lamagna (3 to 3:45 p.m.) and “Eat Your Heart Out” (5 p.m.), a beef-heart cooking demonstration with Acheson. Both include free samples. “You can meet the chefs, and you can try their stuff, and it’s zero charge,” Yasuda says.

But if you’re just looking to plunk down a token and pretend to be a Boise food snob, the Foodfort tent is where to hang.

“We try to celebrate local,” Yasuda says. “We want people, both as consumers and restaurateurs, to be thinking about local ingredients.”

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Foodfort tastes

Where: Alefort tent, 11th and Grove streets, Boise

Hours: 4 to 8 p.m. Friday, noon to 8 p.m. Saturday, 1 to 5 p.m. Sunday

Cost: Free to enter, no wristband required. Tokens are $3. All ages welcome.

Online: treefortmusicfest.com/forts/foodfort

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