Psst. Want some crickets with your fries?
Boise Fry Co. already offers customers a choice of several seasoning-salt mixtures to sprinkle on their french fries: Cajun spice, rosemary, jalapeno, salt and vinegar.
Now, add crickets to the list.
On Tuesday, the locally owned restaurant chain debuted four new salt blends that include pulverized crickets at its three locations in Boise and one each in Meridian and Nampa, the Idaho Statesman reported.
The response has been overwhelming, with reactions mostly positive, though some people are a little skittish, says Brad Walker, Boise Fry Co.’s CEO.
“Some have been ‘this is icky’ and others have been ‘this is awesome,” Walker said in an interview at the State Street restaurant. “It’s exciting to do something different.”
The crickets come from Orchestra Provisions, a small business in Carmen, a hamlet north of Salmon, that produces eight spice mixtures with crickets that it sells at retail. They range from curry powder to a Mexican-inspired mix, from a chai spice to a Sichuan pepper.
Andrew Hanebutt, Boise Fry Co.’s marketing director, met Orchestra Provisions’ owner, Kate Stoddard, last fall during the fourth annual Boise Startup Week. Orchestra Provisions — so named because a group of crickets is known as an orchestra — won the Trailmix competition, beating 49 other entrants to claim $20,000 and a spot on the shelf at Albertsons’ gourmet-oriented Broadway Avenue store.
“I saw her cricket seasoning booth and immediately thought how they would taste on fries and knew this could be something special,” Hanebutt said in an email. “It just seemed fun and such a unique idea, plus we are always looking to push the limits with fries.”
The two companies collaborated to come up with the four new flavors offered at Boise Fry Co.: Cajun; Sichuan pepper; Za’atar, a Middle Eastern mixture made from ground dried thyme, oregano, marjoram, toasted sesame seeds and sumac; and Togarashi, a Japanese seasoning with chile peppers, orange peel, sesame seeds, Japanese pepper, ginger and seaweed.
After the conference, Stoddard mixed up several sample batches for Boise Fry Co. employees and customers to try.
“The reception was amazing,” Hanebutt wrote. “People loved it.”
On Wednesday, friends Tom Racine and Brandon Gardiner tried the cricket salts at the State Street restaurant. The mixtures were smooth, and Racine and Gardiner said they wouldn’t have known the crickets were present if no one had told them.
“It was really good,” said Racine, who topped his fries with a sprinkling of the Togarashi salt. “It’s fun to mix it up.”
Gardiner said he had a brother who spent time in Jordan, where Za’atar is a staple. His brother brought him some, and Gardiner said the Boise Fry Co. version was comparable.
“There’s not a lot of adventurous food in Boise, so it’s great to see them put it out here,” he said.
Stoddard, a Boise native who now lives in the small hamlet of Carmen, outside Salmon, promotes the use of crickets as a way to confront food-security issues and global health problems.
While studying for a master’s degree in nutrition at the National University of Natural Medicine in Portland, Stoddard looked into iron deficiency anemia. She learned that a tribe in Africa that does not eat meat has no history of anemia, a condition caused by a deficiency of healthy red blood cells to carry oxygen to body tissues.
“Most of the undeveloped countries in the world never stopped eating insects,” she told the Idaho Statesman for a story published in October. “What we really need to do is get the leading economies and the Western world on board with it.”
Dried crickets are considered a superfood, loaded with protein, iron and calcium. Getting people in the United States to eat them, however, requires getting over the ick factor. Using crickets in spice blends and seasoned salts gives people an easy way to take advantage of the health benefits of crickets without biting a crunchy bug.
“It’s a great introduction for people,” Stoddard said by phone on Wednesday. “My product line is all about a baby steps approach to normalizing the practice of eating bugs and showing it can be an ingredient rather than whole. This is a lot more approachable for people.”
Walker agrees. Adding the seasoned salt to French fries couldn’t be any easier, he said.
“You could try it on one fry to see if you like it,” he said.
Orchestra Provisions’ spice blends are available at the Broadway Avenue Albertsons, Albertsons Market Street in Meridian, the Boise Co-op and Roots Zero Waste Market in Garden City. They’re also available online, from $10.