Monday, November 12, 2007

Mortimer's: Boise's Best Dining Experience

This weekend we ate at Mortimer's, a lovely restaurant in the lower level of the Belgravia building at 5th & Main in downtown Boise. We only go there about once a year, and every time we do I am impressed. It's the only truly fine dining experience I've found in Boise. While there are many other nice "white tablecloth" restaurants, when you really want to celebrate a special occasion, there is nothing quite like Mortimer's. The setting and decor are excellent, the service is always good, and the dining experience is one you simply can't get elsewhere in Boise.

I highly recommend the Chef's Tasting Menu. It is quite frustrating that they never seem to update this online so that you can see their current offerings. The last few times I considered going there it appeared the tasting menu hadn't changed, so I went somewhere else. This weekend I learned that it actually changes several times a week, they just don't update the website. Bummer.

The Tasting Menu offers just a few small bites of a variety of different things, in a lovely progression, complete with palate cleansers, bread and dessert. We don't drink, but it is possible to get wine paired with the menu offerings as well. This weekend the menu included a shitake cappuccino, a beet salad, swordfish, bread, strawberry sorbet, beef tenderloin, blue cheese with spiced carrots and candied cabbage, and chocolate soup. Although it sounds like a tremendous amount of food, since you only have a few bites of each thing, you leave feeling full but not overstuffed, and having had the chance to sample a lot of wonderful cuisine. It's a lot more fun than getting a traditional entree, though they do offer that option as well. The tasting menu gives you the chance to try some things you wouldn't ordinarily want to order a large portion of. Also, there are some lovely fine touches on every dish, whether shaved and crisped leeks, or Norweigan smoked sea salt (my favorite little finesse of this particular meal).

At the moment, while I am trying to get back to eating primarily vegan, we are not there yet, so we could enjoy the meat and dairy involved in this meal. I do wish that the chef would provide more information on where the meat comes from and some additional information about the other ingredients. My impression is that he aims for local and organic, but I don't think he does grass fed beef, which is a shame. (I can't believe local chef's aren't scrambling to get Alderspring Ranch beef, available at the co-op or online, or Home On the Range Beef, available online or seasonally at Farmer's Market. Aside from the fact that it is humane raised and grass fed, it tastes fantastic. Alderspring is the best, 100% grass fed, while Home on the Range is a close second with mostly grass fed but grain finished.) At least the waiter did know where all the meats I inquired about came from, and they were local.

Too expensive to be a regular dining option for most people, Mortimer's can still be affordable for the special occasion if you plan ahead. If you do the tasting menu and no wine, expect to pay about $100 for two people for dinner. I don't think that's out of line for this market, particularly given the quality of the dining experience. When you want to get dressed up and have a night out, this is a great choice. I've never seen kids there, which to me is a huge plus when you are out for a high class dining experience. You also don't have to contend with "live music" or other entertainment options; the focus is on the food. (In fact, the only slight detractor from the experience this weekend was a bad background music soundtrack and I was sitting under the speaker).

While I would love for a local chef to put some time and thought into some vegetarian and/or vegan offerings, I can understand that the market just isn't really there yet. However, I think more people would be open to trying to go vegetarian or vegan a few meals a week if they had some exposure to tasty dishes in those categories. It seems that chefs sort of scorn rather than embrace vegetarian/vegan lifestyles, and I suppose if you're in love with food and dedicating your life to it, it would be hard to give up the taste options of meat and dairy. I suppose we are decades away from a vegan tasting menu in downtown Boise...but it sure would be nice.

Until then, once in awhile we will have to succumb to Mortimer's.


Caryl Elzinga said...

Thanks so much for saying good things about us (Alderspring Ranch Grass Fed Beef). I wanted to tell you that Jon Mortimer is/was a great supporter. He tried our beef when we were "nobodies" and served it in Mortimer's for about 2 years. We have nothing but good things to say about our time with him. That he doesn't serve our beef now is our fault, not his--demand has simply outpaced our supply for now. Perhaps we'll be back sometime! Anyway, Jon is a great supporter of locally produced food, and a great guy all around.
On another note, your grass fed beef link goes to someone that "stole" our name. We're simply (not someone thinks we'll be really famous someday and be willing to pay big bucks for that domain!).
Again, thanks for mentioning us, and glad you like our beef!
Caryl Elzinga; Alderspring Ranch Grass Fed Beef in May, Idaho

Esmae said...

That's wonderful to know and thank you for commenting! I am glad to hear Chef Mortimer offered your beef and just sorry I missed his preparation of it! I appreciate you pointing out the link issue also, and it has been fixed. Because of the care you take with your animals, we do have an option when it comes to eating beef that we can feel okay about, and we are really grateful! Keep up the good work!

Roe said...

I wasn't sure if you heard, but it sounds like Mortimer's is closing it's doors later this month.