Thursday, April 15, 2010

Basques in Idaho!!! (Yes – I’m serious)

Hola Bloggies:

Last we left off the Fiancé and I had finally arrived in Boise! Happily we discovered a beautiful and impeccably clean city with some fantastic places to hang out!

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Having done my research ahead of time, one of the things that most drew me to Boise was it’s large Basque population. Surely that meant there were good eats to be had!!! Plus maybe a funky shop or too. Enter the Basque Block. That’s right – it’s largely a block now but it takes up the spot where the Basques originally lived in Boise.

The Basque Block is downtown in old Boise and is wonderfully maintained. According to the people we spoke to, and the Basque Museum we visited, the Basques arrived in the area fleeing the discrimination and economic conditions that existed in their home lands (some from France but most from Spain). Quickly they settled into the sheep herding business and became known for their hard work ethic. Slowly more members of the family emigrated and the population of Basques in Boise blossomed. Even today there is a population in the tends of thousands!

At one time the block was full of rooming houses that were home to the largely male population of sheep herders. Of course there were also restaurants, pubs, and social clubs on the street. Today, those buildings still stand and even to this day house similar establishments. One of the most well known businesses on the block is the Basque Market – a tiny but absolutely lovely store filled with imported delights!

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Browsing around the store I had to restrain myself from spending too much money. Mostly, I stocked up on presents for the gentleman who was kind enough to look after Daisy and my parents. I did get one or two things for us but not much. No worries though – I definitely got to experience the Basque Market – through tapas!!!! Happy

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Don’t let their appearance fool you! Those humble looking pieces of food provided a veritable taste explosion in my mouth!!!! The Fiancé had the plate on top and declared everything wonderful. I had the second plate – featuring a piece of French bread with a Spanish cheese and a quince paste (the Fiancé loved this combo so much we bought all the requisite ingredients to buy it at home), a chicken croquette (delish!), and stuffed mushroom caps. I particularly fell in love with the mushroom caps (filled with a mixture of Spanish cheeses and Serrano ham)!! When describing them to my mother I said “If you were to stuff heaven into a mushroom they would taste like that!” lol I meant it!!

Since we hadn’t eaten since breakfast and it was about 4PM at this point we decided to order a glass of wine and a soup to make our snack more of a meal.

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I think it’s plain to see that we were both feeling absolutely content with our Boise experience at that point. What a fantastic market and restaurant. It really was a highlight of our trip.

Eventually we headed back to our hotel area to take a walk around Boise’s fantastic greenbelt (more on that in an upcoming post). Happily we discovered that our hotel had a shuttle to downtown – so we took advantage of that service and went back to the Basque block for a late dinner. This time we hit up a very old establishment (think turn of the 20th century) called Gernika. If the name seems familiar to you it’s likely due to the famous Picasso piece by the same name. Gernika, in Boise, is really a post stamp sized pub. They are known for serving up some yummy uncomplicated Basque dishes.

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I decided to order a glass of white wine with a half chorizo (served in a piece of baguette) and the Fiancé ordered a lamb stew with salad. To start we both shared the cheese platter and oh my!!! It was so inexpensive (under $9) and I’m convinced I couldn’t have assembled the dishes for such low a price. It came chock full of sliced apples, baguettes, and three different kinds of Spanish cheeses. I was loving it!!!

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Honestly, sitting in that pub surrounded by people of all ages having fun, sipping on my white wine, and munching on baguettes and cheese, I felt like I was back living in Europe. Le sigh. Happy

Once we were finished with our dinner we left and spent some time walking around the downtown core of Boise. I was so impressed with how clean and safe everything was in Idaho’s capital. As an added bonus the city is full of cute dining establishments right up my alley. For our night cap and for (the Fiancé's) dessert we popped into a wine bar steps from the State Capitol.

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The wine was perfect. The atmosphere elegant and laid back at the same time. The bread pudding (I had a bite) was rich and lovely. I still had another full day in Boise at this point and I was already singing it’s praises! Our impromptu vacation had been a definite hit!

Does your city have any small establishments that just ooze character? I still can’t get over how cool that Gernika place was – they even had numbered ceramic cups hanging above the bar. Those dated back from the days when all of the local Basque workers had their own cups. An institution in it’s own right!

4 comments:

lmcconnell said...

Laurie McConnell here, from the Boise Convention & Visitors Bureau... Loved your post! So glad you enjoyed your time in Boise and I'll keep and eye out for your next one. Boise is a great place with lots of hidden gems. Thanks for sharing your experience!

Laurie

Amber (Girl with the red hair) said...

Oooh it's very pretty down there! I will have to visit one day!

A Toronto girl out West said...

Laurie,

Thank-you so much for stopping by! I absolutely loved your city and I'm looking forward to making a return trip in June!

A Toronto girl out West said...

Amber,

It's lovely! You'd totally enjoy Boise! :o)