Food & Drink

Grilled cheese galore? AND beer? This new Boise festival will fill you with goodness

B-Town Bistro will be one of the businesses participating in the first Boise Grilled Cheese and Beer Festival this fall.
B-Town Bistro will be one of the businesses participating in the first Boise Grilled Cheese and Beer Festival this fall. For the Idaho Statesman

The Boise Grilled Cheese and Beer Festival is more than two months away, but the city is already having a meltdown.

Around two dozen local chefs and a handful of local breweries are expected to gather in Cecil D. Andrus Park on Saturday, Oct. 26, to celebrate two of America’s favorite things. Because of the readily available beer, the event is for those 21 and older only.

Early bird tickets went on sale Aug. 1, and you can still buy tickets for both the early (12:30-3:30 p.m.) and late sessions (4:30-7:30 p.m.). A $44 general admission ticket gets you samples of beer and unlimited bite-sized samples of grilled cheese. An $84 “Big Cheese” ticket gets you all of that and access to the exclusive Big Cheese Lounge, which will boast private seating, restrooms and an open bar. No additional purchases are required once you enter the event.

Before you complain about bite-sized samples, remember that every chef will be offering their own take on grilled cheese. With 20 to 30 chefs expected, you’ll have your work cut out for you.

Another fun wrinkle: People will vote for the chefs who make the “most creative” and “best tasting” grilled cheese sandwiches. Bragging rights are on the line.

At launch, five local restaurants and food trucks had committed to the event: Bistro Babe, CRISP, Franz Bakery, B-Town Bistro and Zee’s Rooftop. The rest of the chefs will be unveiled on Facebook and Instagram as the event gets closer.

Chefs are given complete freedom to realize their culinary vision, so there’s no guarantee that gluten-free and vegan options will be available.

The festival is owned and operated by Denver-based events production company 11 Creative. After founding the highly successful Mile High Grilled Cheese and Beer Festival in Denver, the group decided to take the show on the road.

“It’s a great way to try a bunch of restaurants and see what all the local chef talent has to offer and mingle with other foodies,” said Lacey Spruce, a partner at 11 Creative.

This year, they’re giving the gift of grilled cheese to Minneapolis, Phoenix and Houston in addition to Boise.

Why does the City of Trees appear alongside those huge cities on the roster? “It seems like a very community-focused city,” Spruce said. “People are very friendly and neighborly, and I think that that lends itself well to a food festival.”

In each city, 11 Creative does extensive research to find the right group of local chefs, and many chefs are enthusiastic about the opportunity, the group says.

“They get really into it, I think, especially with the creativity portion,” said Spruce. “They don’t have to think about what will sell well on a menu. They just think about, How can I be most creative and showcase my take on a grilled cheese?”

A portion of the proceeds from the event will go to The Good Samaritan Home, as 11 Creative partners with a nonprofit for each stop on the grilled cheese tour.

The Boise festival exploded on social media. According to Facebook, 1,900 people already plan to attend. Perhaps no one explained the mania better than this Facebook commenter: “If ‘cheese festival’ is in the title of anything within 30 miles of us, I’m in.”

Other people were more hesitant, as a critically important question remained unanswered:

Would there be tomato soup?

Spruce said that is in the hands of the chefs.

“It really just comes down to the chef’s creativity,” she said. “If they want to have soup, they’ll probably have soup.”

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