Tara Morgan worked in partnership with Visit Idaho to create this Travel Tip.
Cheese plates are for sharing—a snack between friends while you debate dinner or prolong the post happy hour slog home through a snarl of traffic. It’s a tactile ritual—the slow carve off a wedge of sharp cheddar or the soft smear of a ripe blue on a slice of chewy bread or a seedy cracker. Add in a drizzle of sweet, a lick of tart or a nutty crunch for contrast. And don’t forget the wine. It’s the perfect excuse to let the conversation amble and linger a little longer than you’d planned. So grab some friends and while away the evening at one of these six Boise spots that specialize in excellent wine and cheese.
Housed in the revamped Watercooler Building, the tongue-twisting Txikiteo (pronounced chee-kee-tay-o) is Boise’s newest Basque cafe. Focusing on Spanish-influenced snack fare, Txikiteo slings small plates from morning to night, with options like chorizo and polenta for breakfast and an array of bite-sized pintxos—like lemon-kissed sardines on toast—in the evening. The airy spot also boasts a killer European-leaning wine list, with Spanish favorites like Albarino, Txakoli and Garnacha, alongside interesting French and Italian picks, most of which hover in the reasonable $7-$9 a glass range. The cheese board comes with three moderate hunks of cheese and an assortment of seasonal housemade accouterments, including pickled golden beets, carrots and onions; spiced squash puree; sliced apples; and a dried fruit chutney. It’s a colorful spread perfect for a leisurely late afternoon snack.
Boasting Boise’s most extensive by-the-glass list, Bodovino offers 144 rotating wines housed in “Wineemotion” machines that dispense tastes in 1 oz., 3 oz. or 5 oz. pours. The machines keep wines from oxidizing and allow oenophiles to sample their way through New and Old World wines at the push of a button. Appropriately, patrons can also choose from a menu of new and old world cheese boards, including American, French and Italian options. Served on a rustic slate board, the French plate comes with Petite Basque, Saint-André triple cream and semi-soft Port Salut, along with a sprinkling of salty Marcona almonds, a cluster of red grapes and a fan of crackers.
While not a cheese board in the traditional sense, The Wylder’s Housemade Ricotta deserves a spot on the list of cheesy plates meant for sharing. Served in a flip top jar, the rich, curd-studded ricotta is magic smeared on a slice of Acme’s crisp walnut bread. Add a dollop of spicy poblano-jalapeno pepper jelly or a swipe of tart strawberry preserves and you’ve got a hearty snack that’ll keep the conversation flowing as you sip on that second glass of French rose. Looking to keep the ricotta party going? Don’t skip The Wylder’s dreamy Honey Badger pizza, loaded with Italian sausage, ricotta, caramelized onion and spicy honey.
Famous for its pepper-draped solomo sandwiches and crispy croquetas, Bar Gernika’s cheese plate is an astoundingly ample yet somehow under-the-radar option. Loaded with wedges of Manchego, Idiazabal and goat cheese, Gernika’s reasonably priced platter keeps the sides simple with granny smith slices and a hunk of toasty bread. It’s a cheese plate for folks who aren’t afraid to put down some serious cheese. And it pairs great with a glass of Spanish wine or one of the Basque pub’s dark and malty microbrews, like the North Coast classic Old Rasputin.
Looking to people watch while you nibble your cheese plate? Saddle up to a window-side wooden table at Juniper and gaze at the throngs ambling down Eighth Street. Juniper’s smallish cheese board includes a rotating assortment of artisanal options like Ossau-Iraty, a Franco-Basque sheep’s cheese, or Point Reyes Bay Blue from California. Served with a fragrant pear chutney, roasted grapes, a puddle of honeycomb and a skewer of sliced bread, Juniper’s cheese board goes great with one of the restaurant’s local wines, like Split Rail’s dry rose.
The Modern Hotel and Bar
The Modern recently changed up its cheese plate game. For years, the boutique hotel’s seasonally focused kitchen served up an assortment of three-to-five imported cheeses and house-spiced nuts. But now, Chef Nate Whitley only offers a single cheese—the excellent Orchard Blue from Brush Creek Creamery in North Idaho. Served with delicately pickled local peaches, cinnamon-y poached pears and a mix of spicy-salty pecans and almonds, the Modern’s paired-down cheese plate is a step forward in the flavor department, and it’s one of only a few spots in town to feature Brush Creek’s award-winning cheese.
Tara Morgan is a freelance food + booze writer and co-owner of Wild Plum Events. She loves an epic dinner party, good design, bad puns and pretty much every French rosé ever made. Follow her on Instagram at @boisefeed.
Feature image credited to Tara Morgan.
Published on November 6, 2018