A blog about food
Taste208 Makes a Spirited Splash
It turns out that preparing for a tasting event isn’t unlike training for a race. You need to hydrate, carbo-load and rest prior to the big day. I, in my infinite wisdom, did none of these things. Yet I still managed to make it to the finish of Taste208, the inaugural event for regional and local producers of wine, beer and spirits, held in Boise at the Riverside Inn on the eve of Mother’s Day.
Taste208 was an understated affair that featured nearly 50 vintners, brewers, distillers and the odd Food Truck, showing off their wares. Low lit and low key, set in a banquet room toward the back of the hotel, there was no misbehaving, just a trio of musicians playing softly in the background as members of the media strolled around the room, sipping everything from Sawtooth Chardonnay to American Revolution Vodka. (The event was open to the public from 6 to 10 p.m. for $25 a ticket, which included a voucher for cab fare.)
Over the course of the afternoon (yes, the sun was still out), I tasted a number of highly potable libations including handcrafted Wit Beer from Epic Brewing Company out of Salt Lake (which tasted of coriander, orange peel and grains of paradise, see www.epicbrewing.com); Koenig Cabernet Syrah from the nearby Snake River Wine Region, 44 North Vodka made from Idaho russet and Burbank potatoes, and Whiskey, my new favorite drink, from Dry Fly Distilling in Spokane. A surprising number of these hometown brews are organic and gluten free and sold at places like the Boise Co-op. I had a brief, but happy meeting with Tieton CiderWise, a Cider grown and produced from apples, cherries, pears and apricots in the Yakima Valley in Washington. Not too sweet and not too dry, cider is starting to make inroads with the beer drinking set who favor a summer drink with half the calories.
Wise is she who eats while tasting, so I stopped by the Food Truck area of the room and had a Brisket Street Taco ($3) from Calle 75 Tacos. The flavor was fantastic and the portion size just right. It was Barbecue met Mexico and got married. Delicisio! Conveniently located at the next table was Payette Brewing Company and a generous taste of Payette Pale Ale. Payette Brewing Co. has just celebrated their first birthday, but they’ve already made their mark on Boise and can be found in several bars and restaurants in McCall and Ketchum. (Locally, The Sawtooth Club, Rico’s, Whiskey’s, Smokey Mountain and Wise Guy Pizza all serve Payette's products.)
As someone who greatly appreciates a good martini, I was happy to see 44 North Vodka in the room. Certified by the Idaho Potato Commission, 44 North’s founders pride themselves on using pure local ingredient. Ken Wyatt, an owner and founder was handing out samples of all three of their vodkas—Rainier Cherry, Magic Valley Wheat and Mountain Huckleberry—all free of additives. He believes that location is everything. “Do you know where your vodka comes from?” he asked me. I do now! I tried the Magic Valley Wheat and loved the fact that it tastes good but doesn’t burn like some of the big box vodkas. Wyatt attributes this to their use of Idaho wheat, potatoes and mountain spring water, natural products with no glycerin or citric acid added. Whatever it is, it tastes really good.
I was pleasantly surprised by Dry Fly Distilling’s Washington Wheat Whiskey (Say that fast three times!). I tend to stay away from brown spirits (unless it’s beer) due to some unfortunate mishaps involving tequila, but I loved Dry Fly’s Whiskey. Based out of Spokane (you can find it at the Idaho State Liquor Store at 360 Leadville Street in Ketchum or south Main Street in Hailey), the small batch distillers pride themselves on taste, (very smooth, no burn) quality and control. Dry Fly also produces Bourbon, Vodka and Gin. The wheat is grown 30 miles from the distillery, and they call it the “farm to bottle approach,” which works for me.
I plan to train for next year’s Taste208, so that I’m still standing at the finish. I guess I better start drinking now.