This isn’t really a review because it’s not really about an eatery. It’s more of a public service announcement. I first became aware of the Boise Urban Market (née Boise Underground Market) some time ago, so long in fact that I don’t remember the specifics. I’m pretty sure I learned about them through Facebook around the time I was really getting into the blogging, and I was mightily intrigued. A clandestine, monthly, members-only gathering of foodies, where even the location is kept secret until mere days before the event? My mind reeled with possibilities. Why all the secrecy? Were they eating endangered species, or perhaps even practicing cannibalism? Yes, I know I watch too many horror movies. Anyway, the basic premise is that the vendors are not necessarily full-time food service professionals, and the stuff being offered is more or less homemade, so there is much diversity. I signed up for membership immediately, but for one reason or another have just never made it to any of the events, at least until tonight. I think what finally motivated me was the fact that a number of friendly acquaintances were peddling their wares, but I assure you I’m not pimping anybody’s stuff simply because I like them, I just wouldn’t mention them at all if I didn’t like what they were selling. There was some unusual stuff available that just didn’t grab me the right way, but I’m going to be focusing on the positive here. Now, on to the details…
I arrived at this month’s location, a downtown dance studio, about halfway through the festivities (missed the belly dancers). After filling in the sign-in sheet which effectively acts as a waiver and paying a $3 cover, I rounded a corner and was instantly stunned by the number of people crammed into the room. I did some asking around and found out that this was their smallest venue thus far, and the first time they’ve had to turn vendors away do to space constraints. I was already a little tense from the noisy, stuffy, overly-crowded room, so I immediately looked for a friendly face.
My first stop was at the table for Sassy Sadie’s Salsa, the proprietor of which is a long-term acquaintance who always has so much going on that I’m not entirely sure she hasn’t been cloned. We chatted for a bit about the market and how she was doing with it before I peeled off a few bills and bought a container of salsa. She warned me that she had been getting a lot of mixed reviews as to the spiciness of her dish, and I’m not sure if she knows how much of a wuss I am when it comes to spicy food, but I do have a weakness for fresh salsa so I gave it a shot anyway.
|Sassy Sadie’s Salsa|
I have to admit I’m a much bigger fan of pico de gallo than I am of salsa, but I’m a big dipper either way. So, within seconds Sassy Sadie’s Salsa was searing my sinuses (try that one five times fast). The flavor was amazing and the veggies fresh but yes, I’m a total wimp and it was packing too much heat for me. Even my sister was surprised, and she digs spicy stuff. I’m going to get the opinion of my resident fire-breather tomorrow, but just at the moment I can’t help but think how much a splash of that would liven up a taco. I might just have to find out…
Another friendly face awaited me at the next table. In front of her was a sign advertising her BadAss Chocolate and a number of little red boxes tied with black bows and containing hand-made candies. After informing her that she would score extra points with me by retitling her enterprise Baadasssss Chocolate (any other Blaxploitation fans around here?) and being shot down because it would require her to purchase larger labels, I chose something she calls Cafe au Lait.
|Cafe au Lait from BadAss Chocolate|
I’m not much of a chocolate expert or even a chocolate fan, but these really grabbed me. I’d describe them as espresso truffles wrapped in white chocolate, drizzled in dark chocolate and topped with a chocolate-covered coffee bean. They were so good that it makes me wish I had tried more of the available options, but I’ll definitely be pressuring her to return for the next market.
Across the room was the Korean Kitchen table, which grabbed me the way savory aromas grab cartoon characters and dragged me to its source. As curious as I was about the fresh kimchi and the spare ribs, I couldn’t pass up the chance to try the seafood pancakes.
|Seafood Pancakes from Korean Kitchen|
These things were piping hot and the smell coming from the box was unreal. I was sad that I had to put them in the bag with my other purchases for later consumption since the market was starting to wrap up for the night. I ended up eating them in my car after being lucky enough to find a pair of disposable chopsticks in my glove compartment. A squirt of good soy sauce would have made them transcendent, but they were still able to stand very well on their own. I’ve since been told that Korean Kitchen is a regular vendor, and I can’t wait to try some of their other offerings.
Let me backtrack a bit. My last stop before leaving the market was at the table of another acquaintance, Gumbo and More. I’d actually told her about the market when she mused one day about finding a way to sell some Cajun food, since the style isn’t very well-represented here. I was even given the honor of trying one of her test batches, and now she’s done a couple of the markets and seems to have really taken to it, referring to herself as an “underground chef”. I’m certainly always in the market for good gumbo, and tonight’s offering was the classic chicken and sausage variety. I got a container to go and it ended up becoming my dinner after I’d arrived home and gotten the kids settled in for the night.
|Chicken and Sausage gumbo from Gumbo and More|
I was happy just looking at this stuff once I’d poured it into a bowl. Little threads of falling-apart tender chicken, big hunks of sausage, and most importantly lots of rice. If the stuff I bought at last year’s Soul Food festival had been anything near this good, that day would have gotten off to a much more positive start. I couldn’t help but remember some of the great food I had during my all too brief time in Louisiana, and mourn that I wasn’t able to try more. This was total comfort food, and the only thing I was left wanting was a little more heat. Sadly I’m out of Louisiana hot sauce at the moment, but a couple of drops of Tabasco were an adequate stand-in.
All in all, a very successful evening’s eating and an experience I’m happy to recommend. If you’re interested, sign up at http://boiseurbanmarket.com/join/. Like any other event with food vendors, it can be a little pricey and it’s pretty much an all-cash situation so plan accordingly. In the meantime, I think I have to go have another truffle…