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Boise, Idaho

19 May 2009

I had forgotten how delightful this little town is.  It’s not much bigger than Amarillo, if at all – 185,000 or so – but it has a totally different feel, especially downtown.  As a capital city in a deeply red state, it has the desirable blue-state charms.  The 8th St. pedestrian mall downtown has some great food and drink in walking distance to the capitol, and with evening temperatures in the 70s and low 80s, the sidewalk cafes are the place to be right now.  (Of course, the mall is only 2 blocks long, but again, 185k!)  The foothills to the northeast are not spectacular, but they are foothills to the higher peaks of the Sawtooth interior and the Salmon River headwaters.  The city parks are spectacular, and the overall vibe is far more relaxed than, say, Boulder or Austin.  Stray very far from 8th St., and you see the empty storefronts with the “For Lease” signs.

Boise State University is here, of course, the football stadium with the trademark blue turf.  The university itself is not terribly beautiful.  But the Boise River greenbelt lends its calming influence just south of campus, and the Crescent Rim drive gives a nice view of the parks along the waterway.

It really is a pleasant little slice of the Rockies.

BTW, in case you’re traveling to Boise, I can recommend the corned-beef Reuben at the Bittercreek Ale House on the 8th St. mall.  The grilled rye bread had an elusive hint of cardamom and was just right crispwise; the ranch dressing on my salad had an interesting herbal note but not that annoying tang of mayo.  The Devil Dog imperial IPA (from Laughing Dog Brewery, upstate in Sandpoint) was smooooooooooth and luscious and subtly powerful, with nicely integrated, assertive hops – five different varieties in a single brew?  The vegetables are locally produced, and the owner is making it a piont to eliminate all the industrially produced foods that he can.  It’s worth a stop, unless you just gotta raise your pinkie at the high-end Cottonwood Grille.  (That’s waaaay beyond per diem for Boise!)


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