Month: November 2005

Dong Khanh 

I’ve eaten at Dong Khanh many times and have not once been disappointed. It usually happens like this: Not wanting the usual fare for lunch, we rack our brains to come up with an option. Pizza? No. Burgers? No. Sushi? Not on a Monday. Nothing seems to sound good. So we keep thinking, mentally traveling around in our car and remembering the various restaurant signs in the two-mile radius of the office. We always smile to ourselves when we remember the little Vietnamese place on Broadway at the far eastern edge of downtown Boise. We find ourselves a little guilty for not remembering how good it was last time we ate there, and even though we promised ourselves we would not forget.

I had a solo lunch there the other day. I ate and caught up on my entertainment magazines, and watched the other diners. I overheard one older couple asking about the soups. Now why hadn’t I thought of that on such a bone-chilling day? At least I’d had the sense to get a pot of hot tea to warm my innards, and I figured that if the tea didn’t do the trick, I was going to pile the hot spicy sauce condiment all over my rice.

Lunches at Dong Khanh are always reasonable and quick. For $5 to $8, you can get one of many dishes from authentic Vietnamese to Chinese favorites. If it’s something more exotic than traditional Asian fare (which in Boise amounts to Chinese or sushi), then experiment a little with some of the less familiar dishes. Give a cha gio appetizer a try, a popular deep-fried snack served in its home country by street vendors. On my solo visit, I had some pot stickers, and though I planned to save some to take home for dinner, they were gone by the end of the meal. The Vietnamese hot and sour soup, a variation on the Chinese version with pineapple and fresh tamarind, sounded good, although I didn’t have enough of an appetite to add it to my line up.

Cooking in a clay pot is a unique style of preparing Vietnamese cuisine, and Dong Khanh’s abalone chicken, prepared that way, tempted me. I enjoy clay pot dishes because the rice in the bottom gets crispy and the dish comes out piping hot. I’m a big fan of the combination of sweet and spicy in Vietnamese hot dishes, because it’s a flavor that treats and tantalizes as it goes down. One unique item I have yet to try—but have been looking forward to on a special occasion—is Dong Khanh’s selection of lamb dishes. I’ve never seen a kung pao lamb on any menu, and served spicy, it’s bound to be good.

As far as decor, Dong Khahn won’t knock your socks off, but why are you really here anyway? It’s nothing fancy; it’s just good food.

—Bingo Barnes eats so much red chili paste on his rice that his scalp sweats and he screams “Good Morning Vietnam” the next day.

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Auction Season 

‘Tis the auction season. Beginning with the Boise Weekly cover auction, I have now been the auctioneer of at least three fundraising auctions in Boise this season. While I don’t do the typical lip-flapping–preferring to take a more art auctioneer approach–I do try to generate excitement. Why I am asked to do these things befuddles me. Perhaps it’s because I’m a quidnunc and people feel some of my quidnuncness may rub off on them by inviting me to their gala. Or maybe, it’s my ability to exist in a semi-choherent state amid the maelstrom of hands flying and people false-bidding by waving at their friends, all whilst socially lubricated.

As near as I can tell, I’ve auctioned off close to $20,000 worth of items this season–and that doesn’t count the amount of silent-auction dollars that usually accompany the live auction. My uvula needs a rest, but first I’ll be taking bids for a good neck massager.

Timeline:  The 8-and-a-half year history of the hole

November 1994–The deadline for proposals to develop the property at 8th and Main streets ends. The only one submitted is by developer Rick Peterson.

May 1997–Capitol City Development Corporation (CCDC) enters into a development and disposition agreement with Rick Peterson’s Boise Tower Associates (BTA) for the construction of a mixed-use 22-story building project on CCDC-owned property at 8th and Main streets.

January 1998–BTA and CCDC team up to allocate $150,000 worth of public art to be incorporated into or next to the Boise Tower.

August 1998–CCDC authorizes BTA to increase the tower to 23 floors.

November 1998–BTA applies for building permits with the City of Boise, then asks for a delay in issuing those permits.

December 1998–CCDC authorizes BTA to increase the tower to 25 stories. BTA’s Winter/Spring newsletter announces new unit configurations for the condos, a seventh floor tower club with indoor/outdoor swimming pool and dining, two floors of retail space on the bottom, one floor of office space and three floors of enclosed parking. It will all be topped by 18 floors of condominiums with prices ranging from $200,000 to $850,000.

March 1999–BTA again fails to begin construction by deadline date. A new deadline is set for July 30.

July 1999–BTA again fails to begin construction and CCDC authorizes open-ended deadline extensions.

December 13, 1999–CCDC is asked by several developers to halt the project and accept new proposals for the site. CCDC appoints a committee to review these requests. Rick Peterson sues one of the developers, Gary Christensen, for slander, defamation and attempting to negate the contract Peterson had with CCDC.

February 2000–CCDC’s board votes to allow Peterson to continue with the project and sets new deadlines. He must show proof of financing by November 2000 and break ground by January 31, 2001. The project is listed as costing $51 million in press reports.

November 2000–Deadline to show proof of financing passes, but CCDC staff receives documents from an undisclosed financial group showing interest.

December 2000–CCDC allows Peterson to proceed after he shows that a Los Angeles lender is interested in financing the project.

June 2001–Groundbreaking ceremonies launch the construction phase of the project, two years and three months past the original start date. The estimated completion date in press reports is Summer 2003, and the cost is reported at $62 million.

August 2001–Finance options are being worked out. The proposed lender is through Washington Capital Joint Master Trust Mortgage Investment Fund comprised of union pension plan trusts. The lender requirements include using union workers on all work for the project. The union’s Southern Idaho Master Agreement with general contractor M.A. Mortenson stipulates that it cover “all the work Mortenson has in southern Idaho.”

September 2001–BTA submits a $29 million loan application to Washington Capital Management, Inc. (WCMI).

October 2001–Rick Peterson submits a $29 million loan commitment to CCDC.

November 2001–CCDC sells the property for the Boise Tower to Rick Peterson for $265,000. CCDC originally bought the property, which then contained the Eastman building, for $528,000 in 1972. A 340-foot crane with a rental cost “in the six figures” is set up on the site to build the 299-foot tall building. BTA says all of the office spaces have been sold as well as 60 of the 100 condominium units.

February 2002–Work is halted on the site as a dispute arises between the union and general contractor. Financing by the union pension fund is stalled as well, because it is tied to using union labor on the project. Peterson says delays in construction are due to problems with excavation for the building and concerns by city officials regarding the foundations of the adjacent Eastman Parking Garage.

March 2002–Conversations and correspondence between Mortenson and the union commence. Debate centers around the union’s insistence that Mortenson use union labor in all of their southern Idaho projects. Mortenson wants the agreement to be solely for the Boise Tower Project. The parties reach an apparent impasse.

May 2002–Rick Peterson files a $12 million deed of trust against the Boise Tower Property. On May 23, Mortenson and union officials meet again and Mortenson proposes a compromise agreement.

July 15, 2002–The union rejects Mortenson’s compromise proposal. M.A. Mortenson Co. quits the project and Rick Peterson announces that he may have another financial backer. The estimated construction costs in press reports now drops to $61 million. Estimates of a fall 2003 completion date are given.

August 2002–M.A. Mortenson Co. files a $536,495 lein against the property.

November 2002–Peterson and CCDC agree to a list of 20 stipulations that must be met to restore the building permits. These include proof of financing and requiring Peterson to acquire a $59,000 bond to pay for filling in the pit.

January 2003–Peterson is given a two-week notice to come up with financing or the City of Boise will cancel his permits. If all goes well, estimated completion dates for the Boise Tower are late 2004 or early 2005.

February 2003–CCDC urges the City of Boise to “do all it can” to restore the building permits. Three days later, Boise officials reject Peterson’s financial arrangements and officially cancel the building permit due to financial problems and a lack of progress on the buliding. Press reports now label the Boise Tower a $63 million project.

March 2003–BTA files a lawsuit in Idaho State Court against WCMI and the union under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO).

April 2003–M.A. Mortenson Co. files a second $768,890 lein against the property for unpaid construction. CCDC begins to take steps to acquire the property back from Rick Peterson. Peterson threatens to sue the City of Boise. The City Council votes four to one to reinstate the building permits on April 9.

May 2003–Rick Peterson establishes his right to sue the City of Boise by filing a $10 million tort claim against the City of Boise for revoking his building permit. He has one year to file suit. Peterson claims he has spent $11 million of his own money on the project in press reports. According to CCDC board minutes of May 12, Rick Peterson requests that CCDC and BTA enter into an agreement to allow him to fix the defaulting conditions, assign the project to another developer or voluntarily surrender the site to CCDC. CCDC also claims it has become aware of past due property taxes on the site. In the board meeting it is announced that Rick Peterson has 60 days to cure the default.

June 2003–CCDC board finds Rick Peterson in default of his agreement.

July 2003–Rick Peterson files another $10 million tort claim alleging conspiracy between CCDC and the City of Boise over the revocation of his permits.

August 2003–CCDC sends a letter to Rick Peterson demanding he hand over the property. Rick Peterson is granted sole ownership of the deed of trust of the property from Columbia Bank.

September 2003–CCDC files a notice of exercise of right of reentry.

December 2003–BTA voluntarily dismisses its RICO lawsuit.

February 2004–CCDC files a complaint and demand for jury trial against BTA, requesting return of the ownership to CCDC and compensation of damages as a result of BTA’s breach of the original development and disposition agreement.

April 2004–Rick Peterson responds to CCDC, claiming the failure of the project was due to CCDC and the City of Boise officials behaving illegally. Peterson requests a jury trial. Price tag on the project now officially listed as $63 million.

AUgust 2004–CCDC Board votes unanimously to authorize a request for qualifications for the Boise Tower site.

November 22, 2005–A hearing before 4th District Court Judge Katheryn Stricklen commences between the Urban Renewal (CCDC) and Boise Tower Associates. The judge hears both plantiff and defendant and adjourns with requests for more briefs. The case goes to a jury trial slated for April 2006. At question is Peterson’s personal investment of approximately $12 million and whether or not he should be named as part of the trial.

Did anyone ever think it would take this long?

CCDC Board member and City of Boise City Councilman David Eberly says, “From what I knew then (when he wasn’t on the board) and what I know now it’s a little bit different. There are a number of steps now we’re [CCDC] doing in our agreements with developers that weren’t done with the Peterson contract. I think the previous board was very optimistic about the project, but it just kept not starting and not starting. When I looked at it as an outsider prior to being on the [CCDC] board, other developers were going forward with their other projects. So it made you question why this one was unable to go. CCDC transferred the property over at a discounted rate. It should have given him a competitive advantage in the market. I think the new-term strategy is that we’re at an impasse and we’re going to let the courts decide. As frustrating as it is, with all the delays, let’s just get it decided so we can get the property back on the market.”

Compiled from CCDC Board meeting minutes, press releases from companies, agencies and organizations involved, legal filings and press reports in the Idaho Business Review, Idaho Statesman and Boise Weekly.

Banter 

In the newsroom, statistics get bunted around like questions on a quiz show. “Bush’s approval rating is 39 percent nationwide. Someone guess what Bush’s aproval rating is in Idaho … Go ahead. Guess,” someone shouts. Then, around The Cave (because advertising already has dibs on calling their area The Pit) we’ll shout out our guesses. People guess in rapid fire succession … “45,” “53,” “59,” “63” (my guess), “85.” The answer was actually 60. We don’t play by Price is Right rules in the Cave, so even the closest to the correct answer without going over wins nothing more than pride.

This week, we’re talking about the hole in downtown again. I know some may be tired of the discussion and embarrassed by it to some degree, but we’ve got to keep it in mind when talking to those in power who can make a difference. Stop by our offices and get a “Fill Boise’s Hole” sticker. Then visit www.theboisehole.com. It’s sure to give you a good laugh. Here’s a statistic you should know: How many days has the downtown hole sat empty?

Tepanyaki Steak House 

When I told the Spawn we were going to a Japanese steak house they were excited. When they realized they wouldn’t be eating any sushi—yes, we’ve trained them to eat stuff that most boring steak and tater adults won’t—they threw a little snit fit. But it was only a little one. They were reluctant to try something new, slow to really “accept” this family style, sit-around-the-pancake-grill kind of place. But we’ve only steered them wrong a couple times.

Immediately attracted to the sound of running water, they wanted to splash in the pond. Some stern looks and warning sounds by Pop put them back in line and in their seats. Who was this guy in the funny hat bringing out a tray full of stuff? What is he doing? What is he putting on the grill? Why is he lighting that match? It’s hot already. POOOFFF! A huge ball of flames shoots up into the ventilation hood and the Spawn almost fall over backwards in their chairs trying to escape the heat. From then on, it was all smiles and excitement. What was going to happen next?

Perched in the no-man’s land between the Boise River and the Connector—not quite Main Street, but not yet Fairview Avenue—sits Tepanyaki Japanese Steak House. We’ve driven by it many times. It wasn’t very busy when we went, but if it had been, you’d never know it, since the parking in the back provides plenty of space for plenty of cars.

Before sushi made its crazy fad-like invasion of the American heartland, most Americans were familiar with the Benny Hana style grill with the knife and spatula juggling, the food tossing and the traditional onion volcano. This is classic style Japanese grill stuff—great for the Spawn and fun for adults, too.

We passed on the kids menu and ordered two combos for the three of us, a steak-chicken and a shrimp-scallop. Onion soup and a small salad started the meal. Fried rice prepared on the grill with eggs spun like a top and tossed in the air added to the entertainment. Drum like percussion of the two-pronged fork and big metal spatula let you know our chef was cooking up a storm. The spice can made a nice rattle, and when tossed into the top of his hat, it made the kiddos grin. Traditional ketchup and mustard bottles held a variety of sauces and when the chef reached across the table to squirt the boy Spawn with one, a shriek followed by laughter erupted as he realized it was a fake bottle with a red string.

Good quality steak, chicken, shrimp and scallops, a big helping of fresh vegetables and fried rice, all at a reasonable price for a night out with the family.

–Bingo Barnes is in training to be an urban food ninja.

2005 Cover Auction 

This past weekend, we held the 4th Annual Boise Weekly Cover Auction. It was another smashing success. The beneficiary was ArtFaire, a local organization that assists young folks with art education. The more young artists we create and inspire in our community, the stronger its soul will be. And this year we’ve inspired young artists with over $10,000 of support raised. We had a record this year, too. Surel Mitchell’s piece “Imperfect Circles” broke the four figure mark. Congratulations.

But there may have been some confusion as well. For those of you who attended the auction, we want to clarify that Boise Weekly wanted to own the “5”, “2” and “3” covers for ourselves. We commissioned these covers to represent the address of our new offices. Because we hold true to our word, however, we put these covers up for auction and everyone had an opportunity to bid on them. As auctioneer, I wrote down a dollar figure for each of the paintings and if the bidding did not exceed that dollar amount, we would pay more than the final bid. It made sense in my mind, but I think I confused everyone when I tried to explain it. Anyway, nobody bid higher than our set price but instead of paying $25 over the top bid, the BW Publisher and super-CPA has authorized me to say we’ll pay our top dollar for the “5” painting (“fiVE: Lost Senses”) by Mike Flinn, the “2” painting (“The Inverse of the Second Universe”) by Amy Westover and the “3” painting (“Penchant for Pop Music”) by Erin Ruiz. That top dollar is $500 each. I hope this hasn’t confused you. It has me.

Four years into our auction, I am amazed that so many of Boise’s best artists have participated in our cover auction program. I expect to see many more local artists, some who’ve never participated before, submit their work. Perhaps they will be among the lucky ones to grace one of our 52 covers.

I’d like to thank Stewart Gallery, who has not only hosted the cover art auction for the third year in a row, but did quite a bit of the framing as well, Jackson Fine Art and Frame (for framing other works), Le Poulet Rouge for catering the event, and all the BW staff and volunteers that helped us out. Without them, we couldn’t have helped our younglings explore the beauty of creation.

Auction Fever 

The last time I’d gone to an auction at a farm, I was a boy living on a small farm in Colorado during an era when family farms were shutting down. I learned some valuable lessons from my father. Go in with a price in your head and don’t get caught up in auction fever. When bidding gets above your price, move on. Otherwise, your own farm may end up like this one.

I tried my darndest to follow these words of wisdom this past weekend at the Hoffman Nursury liquidation auction. Mr. Hoffman died earlier this year and the family decided to sell off the 60-plus years of plants, equipment and junk that had gathered at the place. Everything, even the soil and rocks, were for sale.

Curious, I decided to go and check out a small, innocuous item mentioned in the auction list. As a newspaperman, I have always fancied the idea of collecting lead type, and the printing press and lead letter cabinets mentioned held some nostalgia of the old ways for me. There were five big cabinets, a nonfunctioning press, a paper shear and numerous boxes filled with wood type, lead, printing blocks, spiders and probably Hantavirus. All had been pulled out of the corner of the back barn where it looked as if it had sat for at least 20 years, gnawed on by farm rats and gophers. It was in bad shape, but some of it could be salvaged. Maybe.

Listening to the antique dealers talk about the cabinets, each with numerous skinny drawers holding complete sets of lead type, I was encouraged. They wanted the drawers. I wanted the lead type. But if I worked a deal for the type, where would I put it? I needed the drawers, too, and I was damned if I was going to let them melt all those letters down for fishing weights, as I heard one bidder mention.

The bidding was tough. I let the first two cabinets go, unwilling to pay the top price. But I wasn’t going to let the next two, or the big double-wide cabinet in the barn, slip by. Now I have almost a ton of lead type and no press to print it on. So, if you have an old press in the garage–or the barn–let me know. I just might bid on it. I’ve got a price in mind, but I warn you, it isn’t much.

Candy Conundrum 

As a kid, I loved Halloween. The costumes, the decorations, the pumpkin carving–it was really all for the sake of hauling in a huge bag of candy that would last until Christmas (when another mother lode of goodies arrived). As a parent of two spawn smack dab in the middle of the Halloween (read: candy) obsession, I revert back to the tricks for the treats my own parents taught me.

First, on Halloween night, it’s important that only a few pieces of candy be eaten by the Spawn. You don’t want them whacked-out on sugar and getting the jump on you. You’ll never get them to bed. Just give ’em a taste, one or two pieces perhaps, but no more.

You should also force them to combine their bags of candy loot together and then take turns picking out their selections. As the parent, it is your right–nay, your duty–to tax the Halloween candy haul. This teaches the Spawn a valuable lesson in life: every bit of their hard labor will be heartily taxed by an overlord.

Second, when you tuck the little sugarplums into bed that night, slide your hand underneath their pillows. If they are angels you won’t find anything. However, what kids–fueled by the temptations of all that candy–will be angels on a night of demons, witches and goblins? Most likely they will have sneaked some pieces to bed to eat after dark. You must be vigilant. Exorcise those demons.

Third, once they’re sound asleep, it’s time to raid their candy bags. Only take a few pieces and make sure it’s second and third tier candy. If they question where a specific piece went the next day, tell them that you did all you could to fight off the ghosts and goblins, but they wanted some too, and, well, who were you to argue?

Finally, it is important to let them have a candy feast. Plan ahead as the next few hours and next day will bring a sugar high with the inevitable detoxification. Let them eat as much as they can, with the rule that the rest gets put away and maybe even thrown out. You don’t want old candy sitting around until Christmas.

Besides, if your own spawn are anything like mine, they’ve taken the precaution of hiding a few caches of candy around the house in preparation for the purge.