As you may have seen from my Instagram stories, I continue to learn how to cook with the Anova Sous Vide cooker. I was excited to receive the cooker as a Christmas gift, because I’ve been wanting one for a while. Through precise maintenance of the exact cooking temperature, sous vide enables a cook to cook meats (and veggies) at a precisely exact temperature. So, instead of cooking a ribeye on a blazing hot 500 degree flat top or grill and overcooking the outside of the steak in order to get the center up to 135 degrees, with sous vide you just set the water temp at 135, submerge the meat, and the entire steak cooks to a perfect 135. After a few hours, take it out, quickly finish it in a hot skillet to brown the outside, and you’re all set. Perfectly cooked meat, every time.
Learning, like any cooking technique, takes a bit of trial and error. But with help from one of my favorite websites, Serious Eats, I’m finally getting the hang of it.
This weekend’s experiment: sous vide carnitas. There are few foods I enjoy more in life than a taco filled with deliciously crisp, yet tender pork carnitas. The crispy bits add a contrasting texture to the unctuous meat that inches these guys towards near perfection.
For the pork recipe, I used the Serious Eats Sous Vide carnitas recipe. For those that don’t have a sous vide, they also have an oven-roasted recipe as well. If you want any leftovers, you will want to get the full four pounds the recipe calls for. I thought that was too much, and only bought two pounds from local butcher Beltex Meats, and we ended up with hardly any leftovers for two of us. There’s a lot of fat that renders out, and the pork cooks down.
Some other tweaks I made to our version: I did a quick-pickle of some carrots, which added some nice bright contrast to the rich pork. We also topped ours with avocado and some peppadew peppers from Beltex (you can also find them at Harmon’s). Next time I’ll grab some cotija and maybe some crema to throw on top as well.
High West Distillery received Distiller of the Year in Whisky Advocate’s 23rd annual awards. The award exists to recognize excellence in the world of whisky. The publication noted: “High West delivers innovative and delicious whiskeys, expands the definition of what it is to be a distiller, and pioneered a successful new paradigm for craft distilling.”
We’re speechless to receive such a great honor. It is a testament to the hard work and passion the team here at High West puts into making our endeavor successful every single day. I’d like to give a special thanks to my co-founder, Jane Perkins. We’d be nowhere without her. -High West co-founder David Perkins
You can find out more about the distiller of the year award by clicking here.
The holidays are well upon us, and many local restaurants are opening up for Christmas and New Years dining.
Christmas Eve: Open from 8am to 9pm, and will be serving special dishes including wild mushroom bisque, shrimp cocktail, and Black Forest cake.
New Years: Cafe Niche will offer a special New Years Eve dining special from 5-10pm. Cost is $60 per person. Reservations are a must, and can be made by calling the restaurant (801) 433-3380. The restaurant will also be open on New Years day at 8am.
Kyoto will be serving their regular menu, with adjusted hours. Christmas Eve: 11-2pm and 5-9pm. Christmas Day: closed. December 26: regular hours. New Years Eve: 11am-2pm, 5-9pm. New Years: closed for lunch and open for dinner 5-10pm.
Stanza will be open Christmas Eve from 5-9pm, with specials in addition to the regular menu, and will be closed all day on Christmas and New Year’s Day. Specials on Christmas Eve include veal cannelloni, wagyu bavette, and buche de noel for dessert.
The restaurant will also offer a New Year’s Eve special four course menu for $65, featuring oysters, roasted pumpkin soup, lobster farfalle, branzino, Mary’s chicken, and cannoli (among many other options). Call the restaurant for reservations at (801) 746-4441.
Current Fish & Oyster
The restaurant will be open for lunch a dinner on Christmas Eve, closing at 8pm. The restaurant will be closed on Christmas Day and New Year’s Day.
Chef Phelix Gardner is featuring customer favorites and many holiday specials for the restaurant’s New Year’s Eve celebration. The four course menu is available beginning at 4pm on December 31st. Options include oyster brie soup, grilled calamari, banana prawn videos, roasted beef loin, caramelized organic salmon, and a chocolate peanut cremeux, among other options. Guests can also choose to add a seafood tower with mussel shooters, poached lobster, oysters, shrimp, and crab legs.
Call (801) 326-3474 for reservations.
Oasis will be open from 8am until 3pm on Christmas Eve, offering their regular brunch menu. The restaurant will be closed on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.
The restaurant is offering a special four course prix fixe menu beginning at 5pm on New Years Eve. Offerings will include pan seared scallop, shrimp bisque, pan roasted halibut, prime rib, and dark chocolate cheesecake, among other options.
Cost is $45. Reservations are highly suggested. (801) 322-0404.
Finca has created a six course tasting menu for New Year’s Eve. Per Spaniard tradition, each dish will incorporate grapes in some way. Each course is also paired with an optional wine pairing as well.
Pago is offering a New Year’s Eve tasting menu, plus wine pairings, from 5-9pm. Price is $70 for the menu, plus $38 for the optional wine pairings. Some menu items include hamachi crude, sweet potato gnocchi, venison, diver scallops, and bread pudding. Call the restaurant at (801) 532-0777 for reservations.
HSL still has availability for their four-course prix fixe meal on Christmas Eve. Price is $65 per person, and features a selection of panna cotta, charred leek soup, ribeye steak, sea bass, chestnut risotto, and bouche de noel, among other choices. Call HSL at (801) 539-9999.
Laziz is offering a “New Year’s Eve Supper,” with two seating options: one at 7:30pm and one at 8:30pm. The menu is a four course prix fixe menu, including stuffed grape leaves, hummus, fennel salad, fish tajen, Zaatar crusted chicken, baklava bites, and assorted beverages (alcohol extra, but you can bring your own if you wish). Price is $70 per person, and must be paid for in advance by calling the restaurant at (801) 441-1228. More info on Facebook.
Avenues Bistro on Third
Avenues Bistro will host two seatings: one at 5pm and one at 7pm. The bistro will be showcasing the work of the newly-returned chef, Adam Findlay. This is a four-course meal featuring a cream of sunchoke bisque, watercress salad, ricotta gnocchi, wagyu beef, salmon, and dessert. No price was posted, but call (801) 831-5409 to inquire and make reservations.
East Liberty Tap House
East Liberty is still accepting reservations for New Year’s Eve, featuring a “tap takeover” by Red Rock Brewing. There will be other drink and food specials as well. Call them at (801) 441-2845.
Balsamic braised short ribs with tarragon demi-sauce
Farfalle with chicken and spicy sausage
We’ve all either lived this story personally, or seen it played out on the TV or movie screen: two siblings, one flashy, flamboyant, loud and exciting, and the other stable, staid, quiet and, well, at times not so exciting. Marsha, Marsha, Marsha!
The Salt Lake dining news tends to be dominated by sibling #1: new restaurants, tons of money put into stunning design, the flash, glitz and glamour of new, new, new.
But sibling #2 is the bedrock to the SLC dining scene. The Camry to our Teslas. These restaurants tend to be steady in their menu approach and not very interested in causing too many waves with their regulars via wholesale changes in menus or approach.
One of those dining mainstays in Salt Lake is Desert Edge Brewery, located in the upper level of Trolley Square. Desert Edge is owned by the same group that owns the Red Butte Cafe, Stella Grill, and Martine, and the pub has been around in one form or another since 1972, expanding into a full craft brewery in 1995.
The restaurant’s menu offers a wide selection. I remarked to my wife that this is a great place to bring family or large groups because everybody is bound to find something on the menu that interests their taste buds. For appetizers, you will find everything from bruschetta, crab cakes, and nachos, to spring rolls and asian chicken skewers. There is a wide variety of hot and cold sandwiches, with the guajillo chile pulled pork sandwich and the grilled sirloin and gorgonzola sandwich both catching my eye. Sometimes when a menu covers that much ground, execution tends to suffer, but that isn’t the case at Desert Edge, according to my recent visit.
Those interested in salads can choose from a wide range, from the basic chef to an asian salmon salad, featuring a peanut-plum vinaigrette. On a recent visit I tried the crab cakes and avocado salad ($10.95), which were executed well, with just the right amount of spice.
Pasta salads are featured prominently on the menu, with their pasta made in-house (except the farfalle). These salads are accompanied by light and tasty house-made focaccia. The house “everyday” salad, featuring zucchini, yellow squash, feta, olives, and tomatoes, didn’t blow me away, but was a decent rendition.
The restaurant has recently rolled out a new rotating specials menu. They have given creative control over to their head chef, who sets a two week menu that features ingredients that are more seasonal in nature. Right now as we enter the cold winter their specials feature deliciously rich balsamic braised short ribs with a tarragon demi sauce ($16.95), an italian meatloaf with onion demi sauce, and a spicy pasta dish featuring chicken and spicy italian sausage ($11.95).
Of course, there is plenty of selection when it comes to alcohol. Pilsners, hefeweizens, pale ales, and stouts are all on offer. Many of these can be found as a nitro version, and some are available cask-aged as well. The brewery crafts their beers to be a bit more aggressive in terms of hops, but they try to maintain an appropriate balance for the many different styles of brews. There is also much deeper wine selection than is typically available at brew pubs, with Desert Edge offering a selection of cabernet, malbec, merlot, syrah, and a nice selection of whites (chardonnay, sauvignon blanc, pinot grigio, rose) as well. The servers know their stuff, so ask them and they will be happy to guide you in the right direction.
Prices, especially for the rotating menu specials, are beyond reasonable, in my opinion. I’m not sure where else you could find an herb-rubbed new york steak in a red-wine shallot pan sauce for $17.
We have been guided by the belief that we can do it our way, break some of the rules and give our customers a great experience. We are a ‘regulars’ establishment. We provide excellent food value by design. No corporate operation could sustain our high food costs. We just don’t have to answer to the bean counters, so we don’t. -Desert Edge website
I was struck by the high quality of ingredients, the care that went into the preparation and presentation of the food, the breadth of the menu, and the prices. In a day and age where the flashy, brash sibling gets all of the attention, sometimes it’s nice to get to know the low-key counterpart. Desert Edge may be low-key when it comes to marketing budget, but is definitely not low-key when it comes to food.
Located in Trolley Square, 551 S 600 E, Salt Lake City. (801) 521-8917.
Kitchen hours Monday through Thursday, 11am to 11pm; Saturday 11:30am to 11pm; Sunday 12pm to 10pm.
Disclaimer: I was treated to a complimentary dinner by Desert Edge in order to try their new rotating specials menu.
Beltex Meats in Salt Lake City is a rarity along the Wasatch Front. In a world where the majority of consumers get their meats from grocery stores who focus more on their profit and loss statements than they do on the provenance of their products they sell, Beltex meats stands alone as a diamond in the rough.
Beltex is a whole animal butchery, which means they utilize every part of the animal in order to promote responsible consumption and minimize waste. The owners of Beltex saw that as residents in the area become more interested in purchasing humanely-raised, sustainable products, existing suppliers weren’t necessarily able to accommodate the demand. So Beltex stepped in to fill the gap, first at farmers’ markets, and now at their own shop. What does humanely raised mean? According to Beltex it means that their animals are pasture raised, with lots of room. Their products are never treated with antibiotics or hormones. They know each of their suppliers personally.
Beltex was founded by a chef, Philip Grubisa, which makes sense when you see that their cases not only feature meat, but also meat pies, charcuterie platters, sandwiches (Saturdays only), sauces, ready-to-cook meals, and other items not typically found in a butcher shop. Philip cut his butchery teeth while working at Spruce in the Waldorf Astoria in Park City, then moving on to open Talisker on Main with Briar Handly. Prior to opening Beltex, Philip trained at the Rocky Mountain Institute of Meat in Denver to certify in professional butchery.
I stopped by on a Saturday morning while the crew was preparing one of their surprising successes: sandwiches. Beltex offered a cuban sandwich one day, and it was so popular, they now offer a rotation of sandwiches on Saturday only. Despite their sandwich success, they limit their production to 50 sandwiches, and once they sell out, they’re out. “We’re not a sandwich shop. We’re a butcher shop that happens to sell a sandwich,” Grubisa says.
Philip has taken care to create a unique space to sell Beltex products. Their shop is located in a renovated house just across the street from Liberty Park on 9th South. Prior to the renovation, this house was a dilapidated mess, and Grubisa hired Brach Design Architecture to update the space to what you see now.
Beltex is open Monday through Saturday, 10am to 6pm.
A new restaurant looks to be just about ready to open up near Main Street and Broadway (12 West 300 South). There is not a ton of information available, it appears they will be a pizza-centric quick-stop restaurant, with hot sandwiches (pulled pork, sausage and peppers, and turkey) on the menu as well. Johnny Slice will also serve coffee, breakfast, salads, and pasta. Prices seem reasonable and priced for the downtown lunch crowd. $3.25 per slice, $8 for sandwiches.
Pork buns, pasties, kolaches, pirozhkis, bierocks, the list goes on and on. Every culture, it seems, has their own version of meat contained within bread, all contained in a neat hand-held, portable package.
They are cheap, portable, and filling. Perfect for people who are on the go. I spent a few years living in Buenos Aires, and Argentinean empanadas were my go-to for a quick, delicious meal. Savory meat is enveloped in a flaky, tender crust.
Below you will find my go-to recipe for empanadas. You can find the empanada shells (“tapas”) at any latin market. Make sure you take note when buying: there are tapas for frying and tapas for baking. Be sure to pick the corresponding type depending on how you’re going to cook them. I prefer baking.
2 lbs hamburger (85/15)
2 large onions
5 tablespoons paprika
2 tablespoons salt
2 tablespoons onion powder
1 tablespoon sugar
2 tablespoons cumin
2 teaspoons white pepper (black works as well if you don’t have white)
3 tablespoons whole oregano
6 hard boiled eggs, chopped
1 cup green olives, chopped
Tapas (you will want around three to four dozen tapas). If they are frozen, put in fridge and allow to thaw.
Cook onions over medium heat with some oil for three minutes, then add hamburger and brown the meat. Add paprika, salt, onion powder, sugar, cumin, pepper, and oregano. Cook until onions are translucent. Remove from heat and chill. Once chilled, add olives and chopped eggs.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees
Take a tapa and fill it with a couple spoonfuls of the meat filling. Fold the tapa in half over the meat filling, line up the edges and pinch closed with fingers. Take a fork, press down along the edges to form a strong seal between the two edges.
Place the filled empanadas on a baking sheet, and be sure they don’t touch. Either use parchment or a Silpat to prevent sticking. Brush each empanada with egg white. Bake for around 20 minutes or until brown.
These are great to eat fresh out of the oven, or throw them in the freezer to reheat for a quick snack later.
Salt Lake City’s restaurant scene has never been brighter or more vibrant. And not only are our lovely local restauranteurs taking their food seriously, but many restaurant owners understand the importance that design plays in their guests’ overall dining experience. A restaurant’s design begins to mold a guest’s experience and perceptions long before a plate of food even hits the table. Design is a visual appetizer.
Heirloom, fresh, clean, organic, simple, local. I wouldn’t blame you for thinking that these words are used to describe food. You’re not wrong. But these are the same words being used in the context of restaurant design throughout Salt Lake.
I remember the first time I walked into Bambara restaurant: striking black and white was balanced by warm browns. Contrasting tiles and stonework, textured houndstooth seats, and beautiful fixtures evoke a sense of class, and hearkens back to the “good old days” of downtown metropolitan business and banking. The restaurant’s design pays homage to the building’s heritage as the Continental Bank, before it was converted to the Hotel Monaco. Staff circulate efficiently through and around the large, open kitchen (before open kitchens were really even a thing). Bambara’s design is contemporary, classy, and all business. Just like its food. This restaurant has been around for a while, but they knocked it out of the park with the design, and it is just as fresh as day one, in my opinion.
A restaurant’s design, when done right, complements the food. Andrea Beecher of M3LD designed the striking new Table X restaurant, which used to be a cheese factory in Brickyard. Beecher and the Table X owners were able to preserve much of the original elements of the building in order to preserve character and pay homage to the building’s history. When asked about her design inspiration for this unique space, she said:
After having eaten the chef’s food and being inspired by how bright, fresh and vibrant it was, how much of a piece of art every dish was, I thought about a trip to Iceland that I took a couple years ago. I was there in summer where layered on top of what is typically a barren landscape of black, grays and browns, there are colorful wild flowers of all kind and the greens of grasses and moss. The monochromatic landscape allowed these seasonal touches to pop in a huge way. I thought of their food as that foliage and wanted the restaurant to mimic Iceland’s landscape so their food would pop just the same. So their food could be the art in the space. Be the highlight it should be.
I.e. restrained design focuses attention where it should be: on the food. Design sometimes needs to know when to get out of the way.
Photo Courtesy Table X
Photo Courtesy Table X
One common denominator amongst restaurants leading down the design path is a focus on textures, and the impact that different materials have. A reinvigorated design focus around various textures complements many chefs’ approaches to a multi-faceted dining experience.
Even hot dog places understand the interplay of restaurant design and the overall guest experience. For those unfamiliar, J Dawgs is a hot dog shop that started as a tiny little shack on the south end of the BYU campus. It has since grown to five locations (four in Utah County, one in downtown SLC).
Immediately upon entering the space, one recognizes the thoughtful approach that the owners took in designing the space. In fact, J Dawgs hired Rapt Studio, a design firm that has worked on projects for Adobe, Google, Apple Youtube, and HBO. Rapt worked with J Dawgs to redesign their brand, and to design their Salt Lake City location with the goal of creating a space that was reminiscent of the original hot dog shack in Provo, but with a more grown-up angle.
Communal tables are intermixed with single seats, counter seating, and a lounge-type area with a TV towards the back of the shop. A giant wall installation utilizing bottles of their signature sauce form a giant American flag. Corrugated steel is tastefully installed to hearken back to the original shack. And the centerpiece of it all is an open kitchen, where guests are afforded a 360 degree view of the entire cooking and dog-building process.
Photo courtesy Rapt Studio
Photo courtesy Rapt Studio
Photo courtesy Rapt Studio
Photo courtesy Rapt Studio
Mollie & Ollie‘s clean design, while it may be viewed as overly sterile or antiseptic by some, also reinforces their focus on “clean” foods–those that are simple, organic, and responsibly sourced. M&O owners invested a small fortune to completely renovate the very long but skinny footprint that stores on SLC Main Street are famous for. I personally enjoy the clean, simple nature of the space that allows diners to focus on what really matters: the food, and the people you are enjoying the food with. I also applaud Mollie & Ollie for realizing that it’s ok to be brave with design (and yes–white is brave). It’s refreshing to walk into a space and not be bombarded with Edison bulbs as far as the eye can see. But I wouldn’t blame you if you felt like you were in an operating room.
Photo courtesy Mollie & Ollie
Photo courtesy Mollie & Ollie
Photo courtesy Mollie & Ollie
The LaSalle Group took things down to very core (literally) with their renovation of the old Baker Motors building on 3rd South in Salt Lake in order to house the new Current Fish & Oyster. The old car dealership building was in serious need of updating, so the owners went in, gutted the place, and started with a clean slate, while preserving the exterior of the building. LaSalle did a similar gut-job renovation on the old Faustina place in order to create the deliciously clean Stanza Italian Bistro.
Current’s interior. Photo courtesy Current.
Stanza’s interior. Photo courtesy Stanza.
Rich, vibrant greens cast a striking, yet comfortable contrast with the grays and whites in the newly-opened HSL. HSL, the second restaurant venture of Chef/co-owner Briar Handly, partnered with real estate and design heavyweight cityhomeCOLLECTIVE, who were involved in designing numerous striking restaurants in the city, including Pallet and Finca. When you enter HSL, you are immediately hit with the impression of life, warmth, and vibrance.
“Melissa (HSL co-owner of HSL) and I talked for a long time about what we wanted HSL to feel like. Where would the magic be? We knew that we wanted patrons to walk into a space that felt alive and conscious…like it had a soul of its own.” -Cody Derrick, cityhomeCOLLECTIVE
So much of Handly’s expertise lies in his ability to raise vegetables to be on par (or many times, exceed) that of the protein, typically the star of the show. HSL’s design, centered around vibrant green plants, complements his approach.
“We tried to create a space that feels the way Briar’s food tastes. We wanted the design to be interesting, calming and comfortable. To evoke a sense of nature. Design is a critical component to the guest experience. We believe that for us to be successful we need to have a equal balance of food, service and ambiance. That being said, it doesn’t matter how good your design is if your service and food aren’t exceptional as well.” -Melissa Gray, co-owner
Design is a seemingly endless proposition, framed by finite resources. Budgets limit choices, restaurant layouts limit designs, and city codes can restrict design freedoms. But that challenge brings opportunities.
“There is something I’ve learned to be true in all aspects of design: convenience kills creativity. When you’re given the world–too many choices, an endless budget, no timeline–some key part of the process inevitably gets lost. Perhaps it’s our innate desire to be problem solvers, or our constant inability to be satisfied, but designers and artists in most any capacity seem to thrive in an environment laden with obstacles.” -Lauren Bald, cityhomeCOLLECTIVE, regarding the challenging FINCA design project
Cody Derrick continues:
“We’ve gotten to create a space where we’re inspired to be. It’s something that’s never been done before; something that’s inspired by the space itself. It’s inspired by the food and the chef, the owner, the locals. It’s inspired by all of that, but it’s still here. It’s in Utah. Which is why we have mountains on the walls, and locals in the photos. It’s not trying to be anything other than what it is. Finca is a Spanish restaurant in Salt Lake City, so let’s just celebrate that.”
Indeed, that’s what proper design should be about. It should be inspired by (and should celebrate) the surroundings. Reflect the nuances, talents, and quirks of the chef as well as the food itself. A properly designed restaurant should not distract guests from the meal, and should in fact be the platform upon which the food is allowed to truly shine. Design should be a quiet element of the dining experience, shaping, but not intruding on a guest’s experience. Design should celebrate the personalities of the staff and guests, and make all feel welcome and free to enjoy themselves.
Usually about this time of the year, Utahns are seeking shelter and warmth. With this year’s unseasonably warm November, we may not exactly be feeling that way, but things are about to change.
In anticipation of the imminent colder weather, Alamexo is holding the November Chile Festival from Thursday November 17th through Saturday November 19th. Chef Matt Lake wants to share his love of piquant peppers with inhabitants of SLC by offering numerous dinner and drink specials.
The main event of the festival will be a cooking class and three course lunch. The class is titled “Cooking with the Chiles of Mexico” and Chef Lake plans to show attendees just how versatile chiles can be.
Call to reserve a seat in the class: (801) 779-4747. Cost is $35 (including lunch!)
Numerous restaurants are offering Thanksgiving Day meals in Salt Lake. Here are a few that I have been made aware of:
Bambara, located in the Hotel Monaco downtown, will offer a Thanksgiving Day buffet dinner, offering a classic carving station, whole New York strip, oysters, shrimp, salads, and soup. Additionally, an array of desserts will be offered.
Thanksgiving is such a warm, wonderful holiday for people to come together, but it can be so stressful to host, too. Leave the kitchen and preparation and the dishes behind, and bring your friends and family, and join us for a really special dinner this holiday. -Executive Chef Nathan Powers
Cost is $75 per adult, $55 for children 6-16, and $65 for seniors.
Call Bambara for reservations. (801) 363-5454
Cafe Niche will host a four-course Thanksgiving dinner featuring executive chef Andy Morrison’s creative take on holiday fare. This dinner will be offered from noon until 8pm.
The menu includes a choice of grilled vegetables with balsamic and parsley sauce on ciabatta; signature Niche salad or sausage and fall vegetable soup; entrée selections of traditional turkey dinner, cherry thyme tenderloin or crispy tai snapper; and dessert of homemade pumpkin and vanilla gelato with graham cracker crust. Wine pairings will be hand selected and are available at an additional cost.
Cost is $35 per person, gratuity and tax not included. Call the restaurant at (801) 433-3380 for reservations.
Oasis will be open for Thanksgiving Day brunch from 9am to 3pm. The brunch offers traditional breakfast dishes, soups, salads and sandwiches. Guest favorites include the German buttermilk pancake with blueberry compote or the eggs Benedict Florentine, Chef Efren’s breakfast burrito; the toasted Brie sandwich or a traditional Reuben sandwich
“Once the turkey is in the oven, families can pop over for a leisurely brunch before returning to their kitchens,” said Will Keesen, general manager. “Honestly, this is really self-serving – I just need a place to eat that morning,” he laughs.
Call this family-owned and -run restaurant at (801) 322-0404 for reservations.
Finca is offering a Thanksgiving Day buffet from 10am until 2pm. Finca’s buffet will offer traditional Thanksgiving dishes with their own little spin, such as roasted turkey, harissa baked yams, honey and sherry glazed ham, chestnut and sage dressing, mashed yukon gold potatoes and gravy, as well as house made bread, pastries, and confections.
Large groups are welcome. Cost is $45/person. Call Finca at (801) 487-0699 to reserve your spot.