BOISE (Idaho Statesman) — No matter where you go or whom you ask, most people will associate Idaho with one thing: potatoes.
It’s no joke.
Insider said potatoes are what Idaho is best known for. USA Today noted that the local soil is excellent for growing potatoes. The Food Network went one step further and said the Gem State’s most iconic food is a Jim Spud Baked Potato, a Ketchum special in which an Idaho potato is loaded with teriyaki steak, caramelized onions, butter, sour cream and melted cheddar cheese.
Fortunately, Idahoans aren’t just spec-taters to this phenomenon — we’ve fully dug in, planted roots and embraced our state’s love of spuds. Here are some examples of Idaho’s weird and wonderful love of potatoes.
CHEF LOU’S WORLD FAMOUS IDAHO ICE CREAM POTATO
“Chef Lou’s World Famous Idaho Ice Cream Potato” is a staple at the Westside Drive-In, an Idaho chain with two locations in Boise. Founded by Chef Lou Aaron in 1994, it has been featured on Guy Fieri’s “Diners, Drive-ins and Dives.“ | Darin Oswald, Idaho Statesman
Leave it to Idaho to create a dessert that resembles a potato.
Westside Drive-in in Boise is home to the ice cream potato, an invention of owner and chef Lou Aaron, who purchased the neon-lit restaurant in 1994. Aaron invented the ice cream shortly after, and it’s been a staple at Westside Drive-In’s two locations — 1929 W. State St. and 1113 E. Parkcenter Blvd. — ever since.
The dessert is a vanilla ice cream ball shaped like a potato covered in cocoa powder and topped with whipped cream and crushed nuts. Chocolate sauce is drizzled over the top to complete the iconic Idaho dessert.
BIG IDAHO POTATO HOTEL
The hollow interior of the six-ton potato in which guests will stay in. | Courtesy: Big Idaho Potato Hotel
Have you really lived in Idaho if you haven’t slept inside a giant potato at least once? Fortunately, the Big Idaho Potato Hotel has made this a possibility.
Located south of Boise, just off Interstate 84, this Airbnb unit was created from a former 6-ton potato replica hauled across the country for seven years as part of the Idaho Potato Commission’s Big Idaho Potato Tour.
But the giant potato has now found a permanent home. Although small inside, it has a custom-built two-person bed, furniture, a record player and electricity. Visitors can stay in the potato for $207 per night.
NEW YEAR’S POTATO DROP
In New York City, a giant ball drops to ring in the new year. In New Orleans, they drop a giant Fleur de Lis. In Atlanta, they drop a peach. In Boise, we drop a giant potato.
Kind of makes sense.
Since 2013, thousands of people have gathered near the Idaho Capitol in downtown Boise to watch a 17-foot potato with wings and billowing smoke slowly get lowered by a crane to ring in the new year in Mountain time.
College football fans will be familiar with Spuddy Buddy, the humanoid potato in a red sweater that can be seen on the sidelines of the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl every season.
Spuddy Buddy is the mascot of the Idaho Potato Commission, which sponsors the postseason game at Albertsons Stadium in Boise. The over-excited potato often finds itself in the middle of the action, such as when it joined the University of Wyoming’s celebrations following its victory over Kent State in 2021.
Fans of Spuddy Buddy (and, honestly, who isn’t a fan?) can purchase a miniature stuffed version of him from the Idaho Candy Company or Idaho Potato Commission for $9.
IDAHO SPUD BAR
The Idaho Spud Bar is marshmallow encased with dark chocolate and a heavy layer of coconut bits. | Idaho Candy Company
We wish we could say the Idaho Spud Bar was a potato-themed restaurant or pub. No. It’s a chocolate bar.
Don’t worry, though; it’s not actually made out of potatoes. Reminiscent of Westside Drive-In’s ice cream potato, the Idaho Spud Bar is a soft marshmallow coated in dark chocolate and topped with a thick layer of sprinkled coconut. The final result is a very spud-looking chocolate bar that’ll have you second-guessing taking a bite.
The Idaho Spud Bar was first manufactured by the Idaho Candy Company in 1918 and has remained the company’s best-selling candy, according to the company’s website. The Idaho Candy Company is located at 412 S. 8th St. in downtown Boise and Idaho Spud Bars cost just $1.50.
IDAHO POTATO MUSEUM & POTATO STATION CAFE
Idaho’s close-knit bond with potatoes didn’t just appear out of thin air. Naturally, the Gem State has a long history of growing potatoes, and it’s all documented in the Idaho Potato Museum.
Located in the middle of downtown Blackfoot in Eastern Idaho, the museum was established in 1988 and guides visitors through the history of the potato, from the 1570s to the 1800s-invented machines used to cultivate potatoes in Idaho. The museum notably has the world’s largest collection of mashers and the largest potato crisp ever made.
The Potato Station Cafe is connected to the museum and serves various potato-related meals, including loaded baked potatoes, potato soup, and potato cupcakes made with potato flour.
Ore-Ida is one of the biggest brands in the country for potato products. The company was founded in Ontario, Oregon, in 1949 and uses potatoes from Oregon and Idaho (hence the name) for all its products. The company makes about half a billion dollars in sales every year.
While this isn’t too odd of a fact by itself, the company now stands in the middle of two states that have made the potato their state vegetable.
The Gem State produces nearly a third of all U.S. potatoes yearly and made the potato the official state vegetable in 2002. Idaho is potatoes, and potatoes are Idaho. But earlier this month, Oregon came out swinging by announcing the potato as its state vegetable.
Oregon state Sen. Bill Hansell declared in a statement that Oregon is responsible for 25% of all french fries exported from the U.S. and that only three states produce more potatoes than Oregon (no points for guessing which state is No. 1).
Idaho Gov. Brad Little is, fortunately, sending out the reinforcements, jokingly announcing in a tweet that he is “directing the Idaho Potato Commission to deploy the Big Idaho Potato Truck across the region to defend the honor of our Famous Idaho Potatoes.”
The post Ice cream potato, spud hotel: Idaho’s most iconic attractions for our famous vegetable appeared first on East Idaho News.