Meet Indulge Boise


Indulge Boise

written by Julie Sarasqueta; photos are by Arianna Kharizz

When Angela Taylor left Idaho in the late 1980s, Idaho wasn’t exactly a food destination.

Unless you count potatoes.

“As many of us know when we travel and mention you’re from Idaho, that glazed look comes over everybody’s eyes,” she says.

After moving back to the state, she knew she wanted to do something that would change people’s perceptions while introducing them to the state she loves.

“What’s a tangible experience I can do that helps to really tell the stories of different neighborhoods, that helps people connect with themselves and others and with the community in a unique way?” she recalls thinking. “I kept coming back to the things that connect me, that are memorable for me, and it’s music. It’s food. It’s art. It’s travel.”

Her brainchild was Indulge Boise, a tour company that has been introducing out-of-towners — and locals — to the city’s delicacies since 2016. Book an Indulge Boise walking or biking tour and you’ll sample food from Boise chefs, but also heavy doses of history, architecture, and culture. It’s an idea that draws from her time in bigger cities such as New York and Washington, D.C.

“Growing up here didn’t feel like we have that same history,” she says. “But there actually is, and the architecture is here. So there’s a great way to be able to share the story with people, whether they’ve lived here their entire lives, just moved here, or are visiting. They can really understand what this whole community has to offer through food.”

‘There’s Half a Degree of Separation From Everybody’

Taylor was born and raised in Mountain Home but left Idaho for Stanford University, where she played on the hugely successful university women’s basketball team that won the ’90 and ’92 NCAA tournaments. Armed with a degree in economics, she embarked on a post-college career that centered on basketball — she was a longtime executive with the WNBA, a vice president and general manager for two WNBA teams, and a vice president of business development for a third. She also founded NetWorks, a sports consulting firm, and co-founded the DIGNITAS Agency.

Once she returned home and the idea for Indulge Boise gelled, Taylor began using her networking skills to find partners. “One of the things I love about Boise is that there’s half a degree of separation from everybody,” she says. “I just started reaching out to people via email and having coffee with them.”

One of those people was Nancy Richardson. Richardson heard about Indulge Boise when Taylor visited the Idaho Department of Tourism, where Richardson works, to pitch her vision. Richardson had previous experience running Boise Tour Train, so Taylor asked her to join the new company as a guide; she now leads two to three tours per month.

“I think she has a great product,” she says. “She's nimble, she's quick. She pivots when she needs to. She really cares to give the highest quality product and that's another reason that it's easy for me to say yes to her when she says, ‘You want to work on Sunday morning?’”

Indulge Boise has gained traction at the same time as Boise’s food scene. Newcomers may find it difficult to believe, but Boise wasn’t exactly the under-the-radar foodie gem it is today. There have always been exceptions, but for the most part, Boise was a meat-and-potatoes sort of town.

Now, the food and beverage scene is becoming more diverse. That has a lot to do with the cooperation among chefs, purveyors, winemakers, and brewers, Richardson says.

“That's what makes our Boise food scene, and throughout the state, really special for folks,” she says. “They love that camaraderie … they know that if they elevate each other, all boats rise, and so they work together on sharing best tips, best practices, and new techniques.”

The Making of a Culinary Destination

The past few decades have been transformative. The Capital City Public Market kicked off in the early ’90s and brought fresh produce and local vendors to Downtown Boise. Winemakers began experimenting with the area’s rich, volcanic soil, eventually leading to the creation of the Snake River Valley American Viticultural Area. Brewers found relatively inexpensive space, and lots of it, in Garden City. Producers began baking artisan breads, making cheese, and whipping up condiments. Small farms offered grass-fed beef and lamb and free-range eggs.

And then there were the chefs. Twenty-five years ago, fine dining in Boise was limited, at best. But just last year, Kris Komori of Kin nabbed the Oscars of the food world: a James Beard Award. That sort of recognition would have been unthinkable in the early ’00s.

The attention isn’t reserved to tablecloth establishments, either. Head to Bar Gernika or Westside Drive-In or Big Jud’s and you’ll encounter out-of-town visitors who first learned about these restaurants on the Food Network. Combine all of that attention with an influx of first-time visitors and out-of-state newcomers and you can see why the timing has been right for a project like Indulge Boise.

“One of the things we emphasize is locally-owned restaurants,” Taylor says. “We want to make sure that these are not necessarily the big, corporate chain restaurants, but folks that have grown up in this community and chefs that are coming back to this community who are sourcing locally.”

The Tour Experience

Every Indulge Boise tour combines the memorable elements Taylor mentioned: history, food, architecture, and culture. The company’s tour offerings change year to year, but last year’s included a Capital City Culinary and Cultural Tour, a BoDo on the Greenbelt Savor and Sip Tour, a Downtown Boise Brunch and Arts Tour, and a Tater Tour de Boise Potatoes and Bicycle Food Tour.

That last tour was designed to highlight the one thing everyone knows about Idaho — but in a new, elevated way. “We’re no longer running away from only being known as a potato state,” Taylor says.

The list of restaurant participants is long: Coa de Jima, Ansot’s, The Lively, Chocolat, The Wylder, The Stil, Smoke & Thyme, Guru Donuts, Stardust, Bardenay, BACON, Lemon Tree, and many more. Taylor says the feedback from participating restaurants has been positive — and that’s the point.

“We want to be an economic driver for the different neighborhoods,” she says. “We want to be one of (restaurants’) largest customers and make sure that our guests not just experience them on our tour. If guests feel like VIPs after they’re on a tour, they’re going to go back to that restaurant, or that bar or that winery. If they had a great experience, they’re going to bring friends and it’s going to be a multiplier effect.”

This year’s tours haven’t been announced yet, but Taylor says new offerings usually kick off in late May or early June. In the meantime, Taylor and her team are doing their homework. “Usually during this time of year — Q1 and early Q2 — we come up with and curate new tour experiences,” she says. “And because there’s so many new restaurants, we’re constantly looking at new restaurants that are coming online to see if we can create a new experience in a new neighborhood, or add a new flavor or taste to our current tours.”

The tours aren’t just for out-of-town visitors, either. Taylor says excursions often include people looking for a fun staycation activity, locals entertaining visiting family, retired folks looking for a weekday activity, and business people on outings with clients or co-workers.

Helping locals engage in a deeper way with their city is especially rewarding, she says. At the end of one tour, a guest told her he had lived in Boise for more than 30 years and didn’t realize the depth of the city’s history.

“We get that a lot,” she says. “Maybe they haven't been to a specific restaurant or haven’t tried a signature dish at a restaurant. Or maybe they didn’t know about this architectural, iconic site or the public art that’s on display or Basque culture and how rich it is.”

Guests aren’t required to stick to a listed tour, either. Indulge Boise has a private tours option and will create a customized experience for groups of 6 to over 100. She’s hoping to offer more tours in other Idaho cities, like Ketchum/Sun Valley and McCall.

She’s also looking for people who are passionate about Boise to lead tours.

“The best part about our tours is our tour partners and our tour guides,” she says. “We’re so blessed to have so many interesting personalities and tour guides, and so we constantly — year-round — are looking for individuals who love food, love Boise, love history, and love telling stories.”

If you’re interested in becoming a guide or booking a tour, visit indulgeboise.com. Look for the new slate of 2024 tours on the website in late May or early June. Tours are between 2.5-3.5 hours and cost about $100 per person.

Thanks for reading!

With love from Boise,

Marissa

This story was written by Julie Sarasqueta, a writer and tarot reader who lives in Boise. The photos were taken by Arianna Kharizz, you can see more of her photos on Instagram.

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A weekly newsletter & podcast about what's going on in Boise, Idaho. Every week we share stories about people, places, history, and happenings in Boise.

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