The Future

As we are still very much in the early stages of this pandemic, my heart goes out to all of those involved in the restaurant/hospitality industry. For years, I (and many others) have been touting the ever-growing food scene in Salt Lake. In the past 10 years, our dining scene has seen growth and transformation that I don’t think anybody could have fully imagined. So it pains me to think of what the state of the industry in our salty city will look like a year or two from now.

Gabrielle Hamilton

This piece in the New York Times, written by Gabrielle Hamilton, is a heartbreaking glimpse into what is going on in the industry right now. Even more disheartening is that Hamilton is an award-winning chef and author—someone who you would expect to be able to financially able to weather a financial storm such as this. And if Prune may not survive after all of this is over, what is going to happen to all of the mom-and-pop shops out there that don’t have the sizzle and star power of a James Beard award-winning chef? Here’s an excerpt from the piece:

It would be nigh impossible for me, in the context of a pandemic, to argue for the necessity of my existence. Do my sweetbreads and my Parmesan omelet count as essential at this time? In economic terms, I don’t think I could even argue that Prune matters anymore, in a neighborhood and a city now fully saturated with restaurants much like mine, many of them better than mine — some of which have expanded to employ as many as 100 people, not just cooks and servers and bartenders but also human-resource directors and cookbook ghostwriters.I am not going to suddenly start arguing the merits of my restaurant as a vital part of an “industry” or that I help to make up 2 percent of the U.S. gross domestic product or that I should be helped out by our government because I am one of those who employ nearly 12 million Americans in the work force. But those seem to be the only persuasive terms — with my banks, my insurers, my industry lobbyists and legislators. I have to hope, though, that we matter in some other alternative economy; that we are still a thread in the fabric that might unravel if you yanked us from the weave.Everybody’s saying that restaurants won’t make it back, that we won’t survive. I imagine this is at least partly true: Not all of us will make it, and not all of us will perish. But I can’t easily discern the determining factors, even though thinking about which restaurants will survive — and why — has become an obsession these past weeks. What delusional mind-set am I in that I just do not feel that this is the end, that I find myself convinced that this is only a pause, if I want it to be? I don’t carry investor debt; my vendors trust me; if my building’s co-op evicted me, they would have a beast of a time getting a new tenant to replace me.But I know few of us will come back as we were. And that doesn’t seem to me like a bad thing at all; perhaps it will be a chance for a correction, as my friend, the chef Alex Raij, calls it.

Tip Your Server Hospitality Support Fund

Salt Lake City, in conjunction with actor Ty Burrell, and the Downtown Alliance, have launched the Tip Your Server initiative, which aims to provide grant money to employees of the Salt Lake hospitality industry who have lost their jobs as a result of the pandemic.

So far the fund has raised nearly $500,000, thanks to individual donations as well as matching donations provided by various organizations.

If you’d like to donate, you can get more information here.

Free online wine pairing from Pago

Here’s a fun event that Scott Evans is putting on this Saturday. See below for more info.

Join us LIVE for a this Saturday, April 25th at 7pm on Facebook for a fun and interactive wine pairing event with Pago Restaurant Group Owner and Sommelier, Scott Evans.

Scott is pairing the Freghino wine from Agricola La Segreta in Umbria, Italy with Pago’s 3-Course Braised Short Ribs + Whipped Potatoes + Roasted Vegetables Meal.  Follow along as Scott talks about why he selected this pairing and shares his tasting notes with you.

Purchase the 3-Course Short Ribs meal from Pago – order online for curbside pickup
Purchase the Freghino wine from the DABC wine stores – search inventory here so you see how many bottles are available at each store (item #906908)

Or just grab a glass of wine of your own and join us for a fun and casual conversation. Scott will answer live questions and give insights into how he selects wine, and what he looks for in wine pairings with food.  Anyone can join in FREE (even if you don’t order a meal)!

Come hungry and with your questions about wine. Hope to see you Saturday!

The Store Opens at The Gateway

The Gateway continues to add to its unique portfolio of retailers in its quest to reinvent itself as an entertainment, event, and dining center. The latest addition is an exciting one: The Store has now opened at The Gateway, giving people who live, work, and play in SLC a grocery store option on west end of downtown. But The Store, which has been in business in the valley since 1968,  is much more than your typical grocery outlet.

Anyone who has visited their other location in Holladay knows that they take a unique approach to the grocery business. The Store fills a niche for high-quality, locally sourced food that’s fresh, flavorful, and healthy. The Niederhauser family, who owns The Store, takes pride in their “Miles to Market” program, which focuses on promoting local producers. Some local companies that the store prominently features are: Cutler’s Cookies, Solstice Spices, Publik Coffee, Abagails Oven, June Pies, Salsa del Diablo, Apis Hive & Honey Co., V Chocolates, and many more. I was excited to see they carry a ton of products from Stoneground Bakery, one of my favorite breadmakers in the valley. And Cutler’s Cookies are hard to beat. They truly are some of my favorite cookies around.

I appreciate that the store also produces their own grocery products under their own name, which are top-notch. Their tortilla chips and homemade salsa are fantastic. And their corn-pop churro bites are dangerously addicting. The also carry house-made cilantro lime dressing, house tri-tip, and fresh-squeezed orange juice.

The Niederhausers, who own and operate The Store, have wanted to bring the grocer’s unique environment to an urban neighborhood for years. “We looked all over the valley for the right location. Because of The Gateway’s amazing revitalization, it was a natural fit,” said Scotty Niederhauser, store director. “With The Store’s history and heavy focus on local offerings and relationships, a location downtown close to the biggest farmers market and many vendors themselves, it seemed too good to be true.”

Salt Lake Tribune and Fidelity employees must be ecstatic to finally have some additional quick lunch options in their area. The Store features a salad bar, as well as a hot food bar, both of which are by-the-pound. I was particularly impressed with the hot bar, which featured babyback ribs, macaroni and cheese, mashed potatoes, and delicious enchiladas when I popped in for a quick lunch. Chef Paul Morello leads the culinary efforts at the store. Chef Morello has spent time working in various restaurants in Miami, New York, D.C., Virginia, and South Carolina. He also spent seven years working as a chef in Turkey. He is now the Culinary Director of The Store.

I’d encourage you to swing by and check it out. It’s not your average grocery store, by any means. You can tell that the Niederhauser family and all of The Store’s leaders have a passion for creating a unique grocery store that is different than the rest.

The Store
90 South Rio Grande Street
Monday through Saturday 7 a.m. until 10 p.m., Sunday 8 a.m. until 8 p.m.

Park City Plated

The Park City Area Restaurant Association (PCARA) introduces its newest initiative, Park City Plated. Beginning in August, the program will feature a different Park City restaurant each month, offering special menu items to welcome new and returning guests to try their innovative menu creations.

“Park City Plated is a brand new way for guests to sample our community’s diverse dining scene,” said PCARA executive director Ginger Wicks. “Exclusive monthly specials from a rotating collection of some of Park City’s finest restaurants give guests the opportunity to experience new, local flavors and unique menu items all year long.”

The following PCARA member restaurants participating so far are as follows:

August 25th: Hearth and Hill

September19th: Riverhorse on Main

October18th: Stein Eriksen Lodge

November 7th: Escala Provisions Company Restaurant

November 13th: Powder at Waldorf Astoria

 

December (Dates TBD): Red Rock Brewery and High West Distillery

January (Date TBD): Deer Valley Grocery~Café

February (Date TBD): tupelo

March (Date TBD): The Brass Tag

April (Date TBD): Riverhorse Provisions

 

More restaurants and their Park City Plated menu offerings will be confirmed soon.

Ginger Street

 

Let’s get a few things established right off the bat.

  1. There is a disco ball, posters of Saved by The Bell, and a DJ station at Ginger Street
  2. There is a lot of neon
  3. The servers wear fanny packs
  4. This is not a place I will take my mother in law, who thinks the Red Iguana experience is a bit “out there”
  5. The food in incredible

In the food blogger/writer world these days, unfortunately the trend is that it’s more about speed and less about quality. She or he with the first review rules the world. I tend to shy away from that approach. Not for any reason other than I don’t like opening week crowds and I like to give the front and back of the house a little time to settle in. But Melissa and I found ourselves with an extra hour or two after a wedding reception sans kids, so we decided to pop over to Ginger Street for a quick second lunch to see what all of the fuss is about. 

The first tip: the entrance is on the 3rd South side of the building. We tried entering from the porch, but the door was locked. Then we walked along State Street. No dice. Then we found the hard-to-miss pink “red carpet” that welcomes you to the large space with tall ceilings and plenty of room. You’re greeted by a host or hostess and given a menu, and you place your initial order with them. Once paid, they then will give you a number and help you choose a table. Ours happened to be made out of an old bowling alley lane. I say “initial” order, because the intent of Ginger Street is that this is “hawker style.” Hawker stalls are prevalent in Singapore, and the idea of them is sort of like a food court where you order from the various vendors and then sit down and enjoy the varying dishes. A bit of a conundrum at Ginger Street, since there’s only one purveyor, so I’m not totally convinced they really get what hawker stalls are about. But it does follow along the hawker model in that the intent is that you order numerous different plates of dishes to share (or not) throughout your stay. I wasn’t a huge fan of feeling the pressure of walking in and feeling like you had to make a quick decision since there’s a line of people behind you, and I can’t imagine I’m the only one that feels that way. I’d much rather be able to sit down and settle in before deciding on what I want to eat. Maybe their intent is to help turn tables by eliminating that initial 10 minute “settling in” period. I don’t know. I’m curious to know if they stick with that approach or not. I’m hopeful they don’t.

Even at 2 pm, the dining room was steadily busy. Michael McHenry, one of the owners of Ginger Street, mentioned that within the first day or two of them opening, they had a line of 140 people waiting for lunch. I’d say there’s a bit of hype with this one. And after our meal, I’d say the hype is very well justified.

Varying textures are prevalent throughout your experience at Ginger Street. Textures in music (yes, they have a DJ booth and a disco ball), décor (they have posters featuring Saved By The Bell and pillows with a distinct Indian flair), and tastes. I have a feeling that this spot will be a bit of a chameleon as the day and week progresses. Downtown white collar workers will find it suited well for a quick lunch, but as the night progresses and the bar crowd emerges, I have a hunch that this place will get a bit crazy. In a good way. But maybe not a 40-year-old-with-two-kids-in-diapers good way. I’ll likely stick to lunchtime or early dinner.

Ginger Street is in a good location, centrally located between the Main Street bar scene, Gallivan, and Broadway theater. They are also in the late stages of opening a walk-up dessert and small bites window, where you will be able to order a quick bowl of rotating soft serve flavors, ice cream sandwiches, and on late nights during the weekend, small hot bites of pork buns and other items. The window is expected to open in the next two weeks. I find it interesting that two similar concepts (walk-up Asian-inspired food) are launching at nearly the exact same time, within a block of each other. Ginger Street’s window, and Ryan Lowder’s latest idea: a walk-up window named @hotbunsnfun on the side of Copper Common, where you can get noodle dishes as well as various steamed buns.

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Future Dessert and Hot Bites Walk-Up Window

We ordered a starter of pork dumplings, perfectly cooked and filled with napa cabbage, garlic chive, and accompanied by a very nice chili soy sauce. The Crispy Fish Cha Ca La Vong was a standout dish: pieces of white fish breaded in their version of a panko coating with a hint of citrus, laid on a bed of cold rice vermicelli, peanuts, scallion, and topped by a hearty helping of dill. The fish was accompanied by the best sauce I’ve had in a while: a pineapple nam prik, laced with bird’s eye chili for a bit of heat. This dish had sweet, sour, warm, cold, crunchy, soft. Chef Tyler Stokes understands textures and contrasts.

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Ginger Noodles

The Ginger Noodles dish was perhaps my favorite dish. It’s a simple dish, and screams “humble,” but it was so good in so many ways. Ramen noodles are accompanied with a salty scallion relish as wells as pickled cucumbers and sauteed baby spinach and topped with peanuts. The dish had great balance and the noodles were perfectly cooked. Just an all-around great dish, and a bargain at $13. 

At this point in our lunch I was spotted by Ginger Street co-owner Michael McHenry. McHenry, who has formerly worked at Blue Lemon, cofounded Even Stevens sandwiches, and recently took over Oak Wood Fire Kitchen in Draper, has a track record of establishing unique concepts backed by solid operations and excellent service. After speaking with him, you begin to understand how each of his concepts are able to execute his vision so well, and each one so uniquely. He gets it, and is passionate about bringing a new type of culinary experience to Salt Lake. McHenry sent out a few other dishes for us to try. The steamed Snake River Farms pork belly buns were pillowy soft, and the hoisin, pickled cucumbers, and scallions provided a nice counter balance to the rich pork. 

 

The crispy duck rolls were a hit. Tender duck is wrapped up and fried, then wrapped with Thai basil and finally an outer casing of rice paper to provide the perfect contrast of crunchy and soft. Wrapping the basil outside of the cooked portion of the roll allows the basil to really shine through and retain its texture and punch. 

The green curry has the right amount of spice (if you’re more brave than I with spice, get the red curry). The sauce features charred eggplant, cauliflower, red bell pepper and basil. Again, a steal at $10. Other items I can’t wait to come back and try include the fried spicy chicken sandwich and the caramelized lemongrass shrimp. 

There is an extensive drink menu, both alcoholic and non-alcoholic. We had the Naam Manao, a fresh-squeezed Thai limeade that was tart and punchy in all of the right ways. Desserts are provided by Jane Anne, formerly of Vinto, Stanza, and Normal Ice Cream. Ginger Street features a rotating menu of soft serve flavors, and we tried the curry vanilla, which was rich and delicious, and had just the right amount of curry flavor to get the point across but not make you feel weird about eating curry for dessert. An ice cream sandwich with a cocoa almond crust and passionfruit ice cream, as well as a rich “G Bar” with a gingersnap crust, were both top-notch delicious. 

I really like Ginger Street. I like that they’re trying something different that what we’re used to. They’re bringing a level of quirkiness and character that the city doesn’t have enough of. But it’s not a gimmick, either. They’re backing this innovation up with a solid menu and excellent execution from the kitchen. I look forward to seeing what they accomplish, and am optimistic that they’ll do very well.

Park City Provisions by Riverhorse

Picture of Provisions by Riverhorse restaurant, with tables and menus

Head up to the very top of Park City’s main street and you will find Park City Provisions, a project of dining mainstay Riverhorse on Main. The building is an interesting setup, with the restaurant on the bottom level, a grocery market and grab-and-go deli on the second level, and the beautiful Imperial House on the top levels. Recently Provisions unveiled their new dinner menu for the restaurant.

“We’re excited to unveil our refreshed focus on Provisions by Riverhorse’s full-service restaurant experience,” says Executive Chef Seth Adams. “The addition of our dinner service gives our guests a chance to enjoy our casual take on a sit-down dinner menu without sacrificing the exceptional service our guests come to expect at any of our Riverhorse establishments.”

The menu offers a nice selection of options, with dishes like fries with parmesan, garlic, herbs, and fry sauce, and other selections like nachos, wild game chili, and crispy Buffalo chicken bites.

 

For the main entrées, diners have the choice of halibut tacos, smoked BBQ baby back ribs with a delicious apple fennel slaw, Provisions burger on a brioche bun with a truffle mustard aioli, goat cheese stuffed chicken breast, and my favorite dish: the super-rich buffalo short rib stroganoff, with cognac cream and wild mushrooms.

Provisions could be a place where locals go to get away from the crowds and enjoy a nice low-key dinner without paying Main Street prices.

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Park City Provisions by Riverhorse is open 7:30 am – 9:00 pm daily. The “Provisions after
Dark” dinner menu is available nightly to guests from 4:00 pm – 9:00 pm.

 

 

 

Alamexo Cantina Closing Its Doors

After 18 months, Alamexo Cantina, the sister project of Matt Lake’s Alamexo downtown, is shutting its doors. I am personally very sad about this, since I admire Matt’s passion to create a neighborhood gathering place and his devotion to innovative dishes, and scratch cooking using only the best ingredients. Sadly, it seemed like the Cantina could never gain the traction necessary to succeed.

Their announcement, posted to Instagram, says in part: “With the months of upcoming construction that will surround our restaurant and the tight margin that all restauranteurs operate on, we can no longer continue on in this space. We have made every accommodation to insure the jobs of our staff members, who are like family, and they will all be joining us at our location on 268 South State.”

RIP, Alamexo Cantina.

 

Alton Brown/Toll House Chocolate Chip Cookies

A photo of chocolate chip cookies stacked on top of each other next to a glass of milk

You really just can’t go wrong with any chocolate chip cookie recipe. Crispy, thin and crunchy, or thick and bready, I’ll take all comers. But that said, my favorite chocolate chip cookies are those that have a crispy exterior and are dense, rich, sweet and salty.

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SLC Eatery

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There’s something really cool happening in an old stucco’d building at 10th South and Main Street. The building that houses newly-opened SLC Eatery was formerly a rock shop. Apparently you could go in and buy rocks of all shapes and sizes, in varying colors, and from pretty basic to very fancy. Who knew.

The building is situated right between a motel and a used car dealership, in a (what should I call it) unique part of town for a restaurant. The area is slowly filling in with dining and drinking options, such as Proper Burger, Tinwell, and Fisher Brewery, but there is a way to go before this area is thought of as a culinary stronghold in SLC. At the restaurant there isn’t much in the way of parking (just plan to park on the street) and the restaurant’s website isn’t even done yet. Yet this quirky little spot has managed to generate more buzz in the few short weeks it’s been open that just about any other restaurant in my recent memory. And for good reason, because co-chefs and business partners Paul Chamberlain and Logan Crew are putting out some of the most unique, boundary-pushing food that we’ve seen in the city since the going-away of Forage. And did I mention they have a dim sum cart?

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