Month: August 2005

Andrae’s 

Fine dining is an acquired taste. It is similar to a taste for fine wine. A $4 bottle out of the bargain bin will get you just as sloshed as a $50 special vintage, but the delicate tastes and intricacies would be lost on those of lesser refined palates. I’m not saying my palate is more refined than others, but I have had my fair share of dining experiences at restaurants that consider themselves fine.

It can be difficult for “fine” dining establishments in Boise. While Boise has a strong dining culture, and while the critical mass of those who appreciate “fine” dining is growing, there is still a learning curve for many who want to appreciate it.

What I’ve learned about fine dining over the years is that it is naturally more expensive, but in return you have an experience, not just a meal. Higher quality ingredients, exquisite and individualized service, and food of such exquisite tastes are all defining characteristics. I must say Andrae’s, a chef run restaurant, is the epitome of fine dining.

Amusés of a delicately fried rock shrimp followed by an Oregon oyster and a glass of fine Champagne greeted us before our menus. Choosing between a three-course prix fixe menu, the seasonal chef’s tasting course or individual appetizers and entrées was challenging, but do-able. My lady went with a mixed salad with green, cherry and grape tomatoes decorating the plate along with sliced infant beets and organic greens. She raved. I enjoyed the carpaccio yellowfin tuna as a starter. OK, so you might want to call this yellowfin sashimi, but it was delicately sliced, laid across a tantalizing olive oil and lightly sprinkled with rock salt … unlike any sashimi I’ve had, and perhaps better.

Our entrées consisted of a fillet of lupe de mer (a Mediterranean fish) for her and a New Zealand rack of lamb for moi, both exquisitely prepared and some of the best dishes we’ve had in Boise. After struggling with my knife and fork, however, my lady granted me permission to pick up the lamb riblets and nibble the delectable bones, salvaging every last scrap of the perfectly cooked meat liberally doused with a port wine reduction sauce. It was perhaps a little uncouth for a restaurant of this caliber, but I just had to get it all, it was that good. A modest but rich wine selection with the knowledge to back it up, provided just the right compliment to our meal.

To enjoy Andrae’s right, I’d suggest carving out a block of time. You shouldn’t rush this experience. Boise has few fine dining establishments, but Andrae’s is as fine as any I’ve experienced, even in bigger cities.

-Bingo Barnes is currently creating his own village, town and city.

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A river of trash runs through it 

While cooler weather will stop most from floating the river what people left behind will still be there next summer, unless you do something about it.

PHOTO BY: BINGO BARNES

The summertime ritual of floating the Boise River is a tradition with locals, but as their heinies dip into the chilled waters what sits on the bottom–inches from their own–may surprise and disgust some. All you have to do is put on a snorkel and mask and look. While the 15-pound carp may shock you as they sit silently despite tubers floating inches above their heads, what may be more amazing is the amount of trash. Saturated diapers, flip-flops, paddles, broken bottles and thousands of cans litter the bottom of the river. If the same amount of trash were spread on a city street it would have neighbors making midnight calls to the mayor’s office. So who is responsible for this river bottom cleanup? Apparently the public is.

Chris Nelson has a ritual, too. Every Sunday morning during the summer he drives to Boise from Nampa, eats a hearty breakfast at Denny’s near the airport and then drives down to the river take-out at Ann Morrison Park. There, he gets his wetsuit, mask, fins, snorkel, float tube and mesh bag and waits for someone to respond to his sign. which offers a $2 bounty for a ride to Barber Park. Usually by 11:30 a.m. he’s putting on his quarter-inch wetsuit, donning his mask and generating strange looks from people filling up their tubes and rafts. Then he dives in, skims across the bottom of the river and begins picking up trash. Chris works for the Nampa School District where his job responsibilities have nothing to do with the river. He spends his free time cleaning up the public’s mess.

On our own recent Sunday float, we noticed Nelson dragging a huge bag of trash secured to his tube. He filled the bag with cans and refuse from the water. At the Ann Morrison take-out he pulled the huge bag out of the water and dumped it into one of the trash bins. A cell phone, a crutch, hundreds of cans and plastic bags were among the refuse and all were filthy with algae and muck. He said he could fill a couple of rafts per trip, but he has just one bag.

Nelson began his weekly ritual as a result of losing his glasses while on a float trip of his own. Being a diver he returned the next day and was looking for them in the river and noticed all the stuff on the bottom. A treasure hunter at heart, he began floating the river looking for such “goodies” as sunglasses, fishing lures, wallets, paddles–whatever people carelessly dropped and lost in the river. He wasn’t the only one. He knows of other divers who do the same, collecting cans or searching for goodies. After doing that for a short while he became disgusted with the amount of trash he saw and began picking up everything.

“Sometimes you can’t help but lose things in the rapids,” he said. He’s returned three wallets and many ID cards to their owners. “One Japanese tourist wanted to pay me to go find their car keys. They weren’t sure where in the river they were. I’ve found a drowned ferret and wondered who would bring their pet on a float trip. The most tragic was finding some kid’s prescription glasses.” A few weekends ago he found a fishing rod and a bag of algae-covered diving equipment.

Nelson, who is an experienced diver, does not recommend donning your snorkel and mask for a leisurely float. He warns there are some dangerous parts of the river, such as deep vortexes in some of the rapids that can hold divers down.

Nelson volunteers to clean the river because he is disgusted with all the debris. He is not paid for his efforts, nor is it his responsibility. So who is officially responsible for keeping the river clean?

Eight agencies oversee four jurisdictions as one floats along the Boise River. Ada County Parks and Waterways deals with trash everyday along the river. Director Pat Beale said on a busy day they sometimes empty the trash bins at Ann Morrison five times. This year they put in two recycle stations and because of demand and usage, have requested two more.

The Boise Parks and Recreation Department maintains the cleanup of trashcans and trash in the parks and along the river. Jerry Pugh, volunteer coordinator with Boise Parks and Recreation, says he and his Greenbelt staff continually check for trash along the river but they coordinate and rely on volunteers to help out with the effort. Established in 1995 the Adopt-a-River Program allows groups and individuals to adopt a section of riverbank to keep clean. The program has had some success but it’s a Sisyphean effort.

So while the city and county make sure trash is picked up from the streets, parks and the banks of the river–trash visible to the naked eye–who is responsible for the river itself? Basically the state of Idaho is. Technically, the riverbeds of all navigable waterways in the state of Idaho are part of the public trust and are managed by the Idaho Department of State Lands. But they don’t have any trash cleanup responsibilities. The Department of Environmental Quality monitors rivers for problems and reports to the Environmental Protection Agency. Idaho Rivers United, a nonprofit conservation organization isn’t certain who would be responsible for cleanup. Our efforts to find the agency or department responsible resulted not in finger pointing, but in bewilderment. It seems no state department or agency is responsible for cleanup of the river bottoms, nor has there ever been. It is an issue none of the departments have had to deal with.

That is not to say you won’t find any governmental agencies in the river managing it at all. Jerry Stallsmith, city forester for the Boise Community Forestry Department of the Boise Parks and Recreation, says that with the assistance of the fire department dive team, his staff clears out major hazards liked downed trees in the river every spring. But that doesn’t mean they make it completely safe. Nor are they after any trash.

The City of Boise and Ada County agencies do work with volunteer groups and cleanups. One such event is the Boise River Sweep (see info box on next page). For three years the annual river cleanup in September has picked up trash in the river. A Boise Water Sports dive team sweeps across the river and volunteers scour the riverbanks. In 2002, 350 people picked up 30 cubic yards of trash including 120 pounds of aluminum and 40 pounds of plastic. In 2003, 450 people filled 10 dumpsters’ worth of trash.

So it seems that cleanup of the riverbed is left up to the citizens. When we first witnessed Chris Nelson about a month ago he seemed angry as someone asked him what he was doing. He had every right. He’s mad that people trash the river, but at least he’s doing something about it. While he is collecting trash from the bottom he says people actually try to hand him their empty cans while floating the river. He reminds them of the trashcans at the takeout and wants to hand them his trash so he can pick up more. Others notice and praise his efforts. Last year he was awarded a citizen’s commendation from the Boise Police Department for his volunteerism and occasionally someone will give him money as a thank you after seeing him pull out his big bag of trash. But he doesn’t do it for fame or money. He does it because he’s disgusted with the amount of trash on the bottom of the river. And with increased parking at Barber Park and more and more people using the river, he doesn’t expect the trash situation to improve.

Dona Horan, a fisheries biologist by day and volunteer coordinator for the Idaho Rivers United in her spare time, has been collecting aluminum cans in one particular eddy in a side channel of the Boise River near Parkcenter Bridge for almost three years. Three years ago she picked up 450 cans during one summer month. This year, she plucked 1,100 cans from the same eddy during the same month. “More people are using the river, so we’ll see an increase in trash,” she said. You might see the result of her volunteer efforts around town at events. She and students from Boise State have built a giant Can Man out of what she has collected and display it to remind people to pack out their own trash when they float the river.

In retrospect, the Boise River today is perhaps the cleanest it has been in 50 years, but it’s far from pristine. Sixty years ago meat packers dumped blood and guts into the river. Heavy metals and raw sewage made their way downstream because historically people thought of rivers as giant conveyor belts provided by nature to whisk away trash, sewage and unwanted things. During the 1960s, after Lucky Peak Dam sealed the river, there were massive fish kills every summer when the water flows were low, a result of concentrated pollutants.

Then Congress passed the Clean Water Act and Boise began to pay serious attention to its namesake river. In 1973 the bacterial concentration was 10 percent of the amount just seven years earlier. Over the last 30 years conservation efforts, river cleanups and an attention to the health of the river have brought back the wild rainbow trout population and returned brown trout and whitefish populations to healthy levels despite intense fishing pressure. Humans have returned to the river, too, the numbers increasing every year. Efforts in recent years to keep the river clean through annual clean-ups like Boise Parks and Recreation’s Adopt-a-River Program, groups that regularly dive the river to gather trash, and citizen volunteers such as Chris Nelson have made progress, but ongoing education and public awareness of the need to protect the precious resource that is the Boise River is important.

Jessica Hixson, development director for Idaho Rivers United says IRU is coming up with ideas on how to keep the river clean. These include summer education programs, providing mesh trash bags with every rental at Barber Park, adding trash cans at targeted rest stops along the six-mile section that people float, and more public education of the increasing trash problem may stem the tide of increased usage. In the end, it’s left up to the people that use it. If you take it on the river, take it out.

Wild Protected Pussy to be Impounded 

Gas rising, roam closer 

With gas prices soaring higher than the buzzards looking for carrion, it might be smarter to plan your recreation trips a little closer to home. Regardless, you’ll want to fill up in Boise, where it will be cheaper. A handy tool to find the cheapest gas in town is www.boisegasprices.com. In the last 72 hours, the cheapest gas could be found for $2.38 per gallon at Costco (Cole & Overland). Then you jump up to $2.41 per gallon at Fred Meyer and Albertsons at 5 Mile and Overland, Maverick at Franklin and Maple Grove and another Maverick on Federal Way. The highest gas prices in the area averaging $2.55 per gallon seem to be along State Street from downtown to Pierce Park and among most Chevron stations.

Big Nasty Mounted 

Riders in both pro classes on Sunday topped out the previously unclimbed 460-foot, 62-degree incline monster hill in New Plymouth this past weekend. The Big Nasty hill was the only one of the six in the North American Hillclimb Tour that had still been unclimbed. Dirt flew, riders crashed and many did not make it trying to conquer the Big Nasty using a line to the left, made slightly easier from the day before when volunteers chipped away at a ledge that proved unsurmountable to Saturday’s riders. In the end, though, during the five rider shootout for first, four of the top five riders in the open 701+CC class topped the hill. The line favored by most who got to the top veered to the right up a small draw, avoiding the killer ledge. Dusty Beer-an appropriate name for the dirty sport of hillclimbing-kept his No. 1 ranking with an amazing 10-second ride up the beast. He literally flew up the hill as if chased by demons, which were busy melting the spectators with oppressive heat on the field below.

Quake 4 

Sometime this fall, Quake 4 is set to hit PCs and the new XBox 360 machine. The hype is already getting gamers excited and if the preview of gameplay (www.gamespot.com/promos/quake4/play.html) gives any clue to how the game will actually look and feel, well, this is a new evolution in gaming.

The story of Quake 4 picks up where Quake 2 left off in 1997. Although defeating the Strogg enemy leader, his army of mutated cyborgs continue threatening humanity. It’s your job to try to take out a few-not as a leader of a squad, but as one of the grunts taking orders.

Based on the Doom III engine, the game includes added features like the ability to drive vehicles such as the “hovertank,” the “walker” and increased artificial intelligence not only from the foes, but from allies as well.

Unlike the recently released Halo 2, in Quake 4 you’ll be able to carry every single weapon you’ve encountered. “Mods” will be available for your weapons not only from your mates, but salvaged from the hearts of your enemies. Shotgun not splattering those Stroggs like it should? Switch over to the rocketlauncher and blast those creepy crawlers away.

During the course of the game, of course, you’ll be captured. No good game these days lets you blow through everything without some hardship. But instead of escaping, you’ll be turned into a Strogg yourself. Who knows what’ll happen.

Unveiled in early August at QuakeCon, an annual gathering of Quake fans in the Dallas metroplex,Quake 4 is generating a buzz not heard since Halo 2 came out last year. What’s more, making it an XBox 360 game, one of the first for the upgraded system, is sure to make it an instant classic.

It’s no wonder the game looks so advanced. Id software, the creators of the original Doom (1993) and Quake (1996) have been setting the bar in the first-person shooter video games from the get-go.

New Doo 

El Gallo Giro 

Growing up in small towns across the West, there is one thing you’ll notice. Just about every small town has a local Mexican restaurant as sure as they have a post office. Most of them are your average chicken enchiladas/chimichanga joints with baskets of warm chips, salsa and big glasses of iced tea, but occasionally you’ll come across true gems of Mexicana-Americana cuisine.

I have been lucky to enjoy scrumptious chorizo and bean burritos smothered in extra-hot green chile sauce at The Armadillo in La Salle, Colorado. I worked as a busboy at El Sombrero in Commerce, Texas, where after hours we’d take over the kitchen and make burritos as big as footballs. At Los Nortenos, in Bryan, Texas, my Sunday ritual was to enjoy three chicken enchiladas smothered in brown gravy. Mexican food has always been a staple in my life. A bowl of green chile would duke it out with a pizza for my last meal.

So when the opportunity came to make the journey to Kuna to try El Gallo Giro, I jumped at the chance. Salsa and chips showed up as fast as I did and I was presented with a menu surprising in its complexity and depth, yet approachable for the average Idaho country bumpkin. Authentic favorites tempted me like Lengua en chile verde (beef tounge in a tomatillo green sauce), zope (handmade tortillas with beans, steak, salsa de tomatillo and cojita cheese), menudo (tripe chile) pozole, caldo vuelve a la vida (shrimp, fish and octopus soup) and molcajete sauces.

I decided on an appetizer, a half-stuffed avocado filled with shrimp and crab. It was fresh and light to contrast the carb-fest to come. I also had to have a couple of their “famous” tacos, small double-tortilla treats for $1 each in a variety of meat flavors including asada (steak), adobda (pork), cabrito, chorizo, cabeza (cheek), lengua (tongue), pollo (chicken), tripitas (tripe) and tinga (shredded beef). The waitstaff was attentive to my water glass and quickly brought the taco-treats-two to three are perfect for the ninos. But a great Mexican restaurant is nothing without a good enchilada, and I ordered a pair of chicken enchiladas smothered in the house sauce. If they can’t get this right, they wouldn’t deserve a return visit. Needless to say, I’ll probably be going back next weekend.

-Bingo Barnes lassos armadillos for entertainment purposes only.

King of the Hill 

Jerry Williams is building a motorcycle for one purpose: to get to the top

Drive along Chinden Boulevard in Garden City and you’ll see a slice of Americana, a fast food joint here, an adult video store there, tattoo parlors, Army/Navy surplus, new and used RV lots and motorcycle businesses. At one of the many garages that front the boulevard, owner Jerry Williams is building a motorcycle designed for one mission, to climb a hill. More specifically, he is building it to compete in the Big Nasty Hillclimb this weekend.

Like some mad scientist taking a part from there, a fender from here, a brain from that cadaver, Williams-like Dr. Frankenstein-is creating something from scratch. The body of a CR 125 motocross bike has been disassembled and modified into a custom frame has practically been rebuilt to take the engine of a XS650 Yamaha road bike. The two-stroke engine-a monster heart inside a fragile and lightweight body-has tons of torque, producing an extremely loud, long stroke, hopefully giving the right amount of power to push this bike up the 460-foot hill.

“A custom like this is a unique creation,” said Williams who referred to the competition as one with “no rules, no guidelines… whatever works.”

Looking at a bike customized for hill climbing, you wouldn’t necessarily imagine you could ride it on a horizontal surface. Picture a motocross bike with a huge engine stuffed inside. The back wheel isn’t where it is supposed to be, swing arms from where once was the rear axle stretch the length of the bike about two feet. This lowers the center of gravity, a necessity for optimum hill climbing.

Even the back wheel looks a little different. On a hill like the Big Nasty, with lots of soft dirt, a paddlewheel is important to get traction. It literally scoops the dirt and soft sand and propels the bike forward. Watching riders go up a steep hill, it looks as if they are barely hanging on, the bike threatening to launch itself into orbit from underneath them. The bikes are loud, mufflers removed to conserve weight, and the dirt flies in great arching clouds, scooped by the paddlewheels.

It is a spectator sport for sure. Sometimes the riders can hang on, other times the bike veers off and crashes. If the safety crews don’t hook the bike to prevent it from tumbling back down, spectators get to watch a crash. While it seems very dangerous-and it is somewhat-hill climbing is less injury prone than motocross racing because of the safety crews, similar to rodeo clowns who are there to protect the riders by getting the rampaging bulls away from them. “When a bike falls,” says Williams, “the number one thing is to get away from the bike.”

Williams has been working on the hill bike for quite some time, getting it ready for the race. He said he has about three to four months of labor into it already and, when interviewed by BW, still had three weeks to go before the race. The bike was still in pieces around the garage at that time and, predictably, quite a few more hours would be needed to get it ready.

He knew what he was getting into. He bought a bunch of equipment-careful not to let on exactly how much when his wife walked into the garage-just to build this bike. He’s been stripping the frame down, a piece here, a piece there, to lighten the whole bike. Weight is very important. A hill climber has to be strong enough to push the rider up the hill, but light enough to ride on top of the dirt and not sink. So exactly how much does a custom job like this cost? While you can build it cheaper if you do the labor, Williams said that you could do it for between $5,000 and $7,000.

Although he has ridden competitively before (and won a few too), Williams said he isn’t building the bike for himself. He’s going to have his grandson Jason Ambroz ride it. “It’s a little too big for me,” Williams said. “It’s a bike that will tax you and we need someone who can handle it.”

Jason just might be the right young man for the job, albeit a little nervous about riding a bike with a swing arm (extended axle), which he has never done before. Although he has competed in hill climbs-having won one of his first competitions-he’s not sure what this bike will do. He hopes to have it ready to practice a little with it and is concerned about the rock ledges and deep powder at the top of the hill last year. He understands that this bike may take a couple years to get used to but hopes this year to at least qualify and make a little money to build another bike.

A Word on Rall 

One advantage of being an editor is having the last word. In the case of Ted Rall’s column, I do not presume to have the last word on this subject, but I can respond to what he has to say. While he primarily speaks of the bigger alternative weekly papers, some of what he says is true. Craigslist has changed how people think about classifieds. We, too, have had to make changes in this new world.

Papers like BW survive by putting out good stories each and every week. We corral useful information together such as event listings, restaurant reviews and news the daily won’t touch, all with irreverence and attitude. We support issues that are not necessarily mainstream, but are important to the community. We represent the opposite of the mainstream. Our role is important and our readers show us their loyalty and desire for this information every week by picking us up. Our advertisers know that people read us, spend time with us and don’t just look at the pretty color photos. And they know that our readers actually shop with businesses that support a free and independent press. These things are what makes a successful paper.

But we can’t ignore a change in classified advertising revenue. We are in the process of engineering our own expanded free classifieds in print and online. You can see for yourself on our Web site. But some people don’t want to wade through hundreds of ads to find what they’re looking for. Some still want to be able to find the best things from other like-minded people. That we can provide.

Would we consider charging a price for our paper? Not now, probably not ever. We’re just trying to figure out how to pay for a cheap way to home deliver. How much would you pay?