basil instinct and turmeric rubs

We took a short daytrip to Boise last weekend just to see what we could see. It turns out there’s nothing much to see, especially on a Sunday, but we had a peaceful day of wandering around town admiring the architecture and walking along the greenbelt.

The highlight of the afternoon was an early dinner with just the right combination of spice and complication. Idaho has a sizeable Basque community and history, and there’s a small but charming block in downtown Boise dedicated to Basque history, culture and food. Traditional songs are carved into slabs of concrete embedded in the sidewalk, as are lists of family names – there are pictures of both below.

We ate at Bardenay, a restored and functioning distillery named for a Spanish sailors’ word for the cocktail hour. Inside, it’s one of the loveliest buildings I’ve ever seen, and the bar was exceptional. I didn’t want to keep snapping photos while people were eating and drinking, but I got one that conveys it to some extent. Not only was their drink list extensive, inventive and appealing, but the physical space of the bar was great, too. I love wood bars, and this one was wood from top to bottom, incorporating shelves for whiskies and liquors, racks for wine, refrigerated glass cabinets with taps for white wines and taps for beer. Delicious.

We ate outside in Idaho’s usual blue and cloudless clime. Faith ordered a black bean and sweet potato chimichanga with a Caesar salad, and I had red curry and turmeric chicken satay with a frisee of carrots and lemongrass. Both were outstanding – well prepared, well seasoned, delicious and unusual. By far the pinnacle of this meal was a martini over ice that we shared, a specialty drink called Basil Instinct, made with Bardenay’s own gin, Patron Citronge, fresh lemon and lime juices and muddled with a sprig of basil. It smelled like a kitchen herb garden and was striking and refreshing – a less sweet, more complicated version of a mint julep. I bought a bottle of the restaurant’s gin and am hoping to recreate this frosty wonder when I get back home. Summer has a new drink…

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