Preview: Alamexo Cantina

During his travels throughout Mexico, Chef Matt Lake, owner of Alamexo, most enjoyed eating at the vibrant local cantinas. These open-air restaurants, some more boisterous than others, emphasize community and togetherness as friends and families gather around tables to share in various freshly-prepared dishes.

These memories have informed Matt’s latest culinary project: Alamexo Cantina, opening in May in the 9th and 9th neighborhood. The cantina will be the lower-key little brother to Alamexo, keeping the same attention to ingredients and the cooking process, but trading white tablecloths for bottles of cerveza and a six-foot comal.

I stopped by to taste some of Matt’s planned dishes for the cantina. I would expect nothing less than exceptional from Matt, and judging by these test plates, he’s well on his way towards that goal.

Alamexo Cantina, opening mid-May

1059 East, 900 South, Salt Lake City.

Fig Balsamic Glazed Pork Chops with Polenta

I have a  love/love relationship with balsamic vinegar. I can’t get enough of it. Fruity, tangy, and sweet, it is a perfect accompaniment to numerous types of food. If you’ve only tried it with bread at your local Italian restaurant, I’d encourage you to give it a try on pork, chicken, and even ice cream.

Like wine, the taste and quality of balsamic vinegars depends on the source of the ingredients and the process used to transform them into a vinegar. Balsamic vinegar (aceto balsamico tradizionale) starts its life as white grapes, which are pressed and the resulting juice is reduced down to 30% of its original volume. This reduction, called the must, is then placed into wooden barrels and left to age for a minimum of 12 years and for as long as 25 years (!!!).

I stopped by the newly-opened We Olive Store and Wine Bar in Trolley Square. I will have a profile on them later, but the short story is that they specialize in selling California olive oils and balsamic vinegars. I brought home a bottle of one of my favorites that I tried at the store: the mission fig balsamic vinegar. This vinegar is less tangy and more sweet, thanks to the addition of the mission figs, and I figured it would go perfectly with some pork chops.

Fig Balsamic-Glazed Pork Chops with Polenta Cakes and Wilted Spinach

Ingredients

1 tube of precooked polenta (I get mine from Trader Joe’s)
4 tablespoons fig balsamic vinegar
Olive oil
1 tablespoon chopped rosemary
Kosher salt
Fresh ground black pepper
4 4-ounce portions of boneless center-cut pork chops, trimmed
1 10-ounce bag of spinach

Put the balsamic vinegar into a small saucepan, bring to a boil, and let it cook down about 1/3 of the original volume to concentrate the flavors (don’t go much more than that or you will have a syrup that’s too thick). Once cooked down, reserve the vinegar for later.

Place pork chops in a baking dish, cover each chop with olive oil, rosemary, some kosher salt, and black pepper. Turn the pork chops over and repeat.

Preheat a cast iron skillet and 2 tablespoons canola oil (or other high-temperature oil like grape seed) on medium-high heat. While it’s heating up, remove the polenta from the tube and cut them into 1/2 inch thick disks.

Place the polenta cakes into the skillet and cook until browned on both sides. Once cooked, put on a paper towel to remove excess oil from the cakes.

In the same skillet, place the pork chops and cooked to your desired temperature (I generally cook my pork chops to 135-140F). About a minute before they’re done, use a spoon or pastry brush to coat the pork chops with 1/2 of the reduced balsamic vinegar.

Pull the chops out a few degrees before they hit your desired temp (they’ll keep cooking due to residual heat). I highly suggest a quick read digital thermometer like the Thermapen to gauge meat doneness. No more overcooked proteins, and no more guess work.

While the pork is resting, dump the spinach in the same skillet and cook down to your desired doneness. Throw in some salt and pepper to taste.

Place a couple polenta cakes on your plate, top with a pork chop, and put the spinach on the side. Drizzle any remaining balsamic vinegar over the pork, and garnish with fresh rosemary.

Serves four.

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Taste Utah TV Series Highlight Park City Restaurants

The Park City Area Restaurant Association (PCARA) is announcing their partnership with the Utah Restaurant Association (URA) to create twelve new episodes featuring Park City restaurants for the Taste Utah TV series.  Taste Utah is an interactive dining guide featuring innovative videos of the best restaurants in Utah. The series currently focuses on dining options in Northern, Wasatch Front, and Southern regions of the state, and will soon be joined by segments dedicated to greater Park City.

“We are honored to partner with the Utah Restaurant Association and participate in the Taste Utah TV series,” said Ginger Ries, executive director of the Park City Area Restaurant Association. “It is a welcomed opportunity to showcase our region’s world-class dining among incredible company in the restaurant industry across the state.”

A new Taste Park City section of Taste Utah is now accessible on tasteUT.com and  showcases 30 PCARA and URA members in four of Park City’s distinct dining districts: Historic Main Street, the Resorts, Prospector, and Kimball Junction. Each 4-6-minute episode follows hosts Katy Sine and Jami Larson to select restaurants. The duo interviews owners and executive chefs for an insider’s view on the history and vision of the establishment, along with behind-the-scenes tours and cooking tips for signature dishes from the kitchen. The interactive dining guide gives consumers the opportunity to explore the dining culture, find new dining destinations, and see what they can expect at each restaurant. Food enthusiasts are encouraged to share their dining experiences by posting their favorite restaurant photos to Instagram using #tasteParkCity and hashtagging the restaurant’s name to be featured on the Taste Utah website.

“The Taste Utah TV series provides a unique platform to promote our state’s diverse dining scene,” said Melva Sine, executive director of the Utah Restaurant Association. “We are thrilled to feature so many of Park City’s award-winning restaurants that help elevate Utah’s reputation as a must-visit food destination.”

Episodes 1-5, featuring Tupelo, Ritual Chocolate, Shabu, Glitretind, Bakery at Windy Ridge, Riverhorse On Main and The Brass Tag, have already been filmed and will be available on tasteUT.com. Upcoming Taste Park City episodes include:

Episode 6 (March 4): The Farm

Episode 7 (March 11): Silver Star Cafe

Episode 8 (March 18): Red Rock Brewing

Episode 9 (March 25): High West Saloon

Episode 10 (March 31): Cafe Terigo

Episode 11 (April 7): Myrtle Rose

Episode 13 (April 21): Yuki Yama / Wasatch Brew Pub

Audio Interview, Chef Dana Herbert

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As part of the grand opening of their brand new store at the Fashion Place Mall, Macy’s brought in Chef Dana Herbert to give a cooking demonstration and share some recipes from his new cookbook, “Sweet and Savory Union.” Chef Dana is the winner of TLC’s show Cake Boss: The Next Great Baker.

After his demonstration, I was able to chat with Dana for a few minutes to discuss the Macy’s Culinary Council, his cookbook, and ask him if he could only have one small appliance in his kitchen, which would it be?

Hit play below to listen to the interview.

March Flight & Bite at Stanza

Stanza Flight and Bite March 2017
Photo courtesy Stanza

Stanza Italian Bistro & Wine Bar continues its “Flight & Bite” Wine Wednesdays weekly in Stanza’s lounge into March. This month Wine educator and sommelier Jimmy Santangelo is offering two flights; one of rosés for $15, and one featuring “big reds” for $16. Both include creative and well-paired bites from Stanza’s kitchen.

Santangelo hand selects wines and educates diners about the nuances of each. “Now that the days are longer, it’s a better excuse to stay downtown after work and join me in the bar as we explore some new wine regions and varietals,” says Santangelo. “While we bring in most of these selections by special order and we’ll sell them in flights in the restaurant during the entire month.”

Jimmy’s focus in March revolves around rosé and big red selections. Each includes two 2-1/2 oz. splashes of wine and two “bites” of Stanza’s Italian Bistro cuisine. Space is limited and reservations are highly recommended. These selections are served during regular business hours each Wednesday.

Stanza is located at 454 East, 300 South in Salt Lake. Reservations can be made by calling 801-746-4441info@stanzaslc.com or by visiting www.stanzaslc.com.

March 2017 Flight & Bite Options:

#1 Rose Flight & Bite – $15

  • Borgo Molino Millesimato Brut Prosecco Valdobbiadene, IT 2015*
  • Palmina Arneis, Santa Ynez Valley 2015*
  • shaved spring root vegetable with dried cherry vinaigrette
  • Chilled calamari endive salad with grapefruit vinaigrette

#2 Big Red Flight & Bite – $15

  • N2 Winery Langhe Rosso, Piedmont 2012
  • Orin Swift ‘Locations’ Italy -2
  • Homemade garganelli with porcini mushroom sauce
  • Homemade bolognese stuffed ravioli finished with pomodoro sauce

Dessert Options:

  • Cannoli alla Ricotta – Two Cannoli alla Ricottas $800
  • Pair with either Cocchi Americano $700 or Meleto Vin Santo $1200

2017 NHMU Food Lecture Series

photo Andrew Zimmern

The Natural History Museum of Utah is hosting a lecture series about food. As the population continues to increase, issues such as how we provide enough safe, nutritious food to feed the world’s inhabitants is an ever-pressing question that needs to be addressed. The museum has invited four prominent food lecturers to present about current challenges regarding the production and distribution of food. Two of the lectures have passed, however, two remain.

The next lecture, held at the Salt Lake City public library on March 23rd, will be presented by Diana Cox-Foster, a research entomologist and pollinating insects research facility located in Logan, Utah. Ms. Cox-Foster’s lecture will discuss the importance of bees to pollination, and thus, food production, and will discuss the continuing devastating rate of bee hive deaths in the past several years. Registration for this event is closed, however, standby seats may be available. Get more information here.

The final lecture will be held on April 11, 2017, with special guest Andrew Zimmern. Mr. Zimmern is an accomplished chef and three-time James Beard award winner who has made a noteworthy reputation as the guy that eats all sorts of nasty stuff on his Travel Channel show Bizarre Foods. Zimmern’s lecture topics will touch on the ways we live our lives through food, and how me might understand and make better choices for our future. Tickets are $12, or $6 with U of U I.D. More info on Zimmern’s lecture at Kingsbury Hall (and link to buy tickets) here.

 

 

 

 

 

Slapfish coming to Utah

I generally limit my coverage of chains and franchises, but when a good one pops up on my radar, I’m glad to toot their horn.

Slapfish started as a food truck serving fresh, sustainable seafood dishes such as traditional fish tacos and fish and chips to more adventurous items like chowder fries, ceviche, and lobster taquitos. Not gonna lie, looking at their photos is making me wish they were opening a bit closer to downtown, but I think I’ll make the drive. I’m excited to try out their version of the lobster roll.

“With our menu of seasonally rotating, gourmet dishes in a relaxed setting, guests experience the quality of fine dining with the cost and convenience of faster food. Also setting us apart is the fact that we only serve the freshest fish and shellfish sourced from responsible suppliers of seafood.” Chef Andrew Gruel

Slapfish intends to open up to eight locations in Utah. Grand Opening events will happen on March 10th and 11th in their Lehi location.

Slapfish
3360 N Frontage Road
Lehi

Johnny Slice on Broadway


Throw a rock in any direction from Main Street in Salt Lake City and you’re bound to hit a pizza shop. Actually, you’re bound to hit many pizza shops. Off the top of my head, I can think of Este, Eva Bakery, Pizza Studio, From Scratch, Settebello, Oak Wood Fire, Pier 49, Pie Hole, Sicilia, and Maxwell’s. No, Sbarro doesn’t count. And I’m sure I missed a couple.

Needless to say, downtown pizza choices abound, and while each shop offers very different styles of pizza, from thin crust at Pie Hole and Este to thick slices at Pier 49, I was a bit surprised to hear that a new pizza place, Johnny Slice, opened right across the street from Sicilia and down the street from Oak, Pier 49, and Maxwell’s. That said, Johnny Slice isn’t looking to be pigeonholed as just a pizza joint, as they seek to differentiate themselves with broad menu offerings. Breakfast sandwiches, coffee, pasta, salads, hot and cold sandwiches, and desserts are all served in this light and open space dominated by striking black and white tiles. The owner of Johnny Slice is also the owner of Michelangelo Ristorante on Highland Drive (but not the restaurant of the same name just up Main Street), so the breadth of Johnny Slice’s menu is not uncharted territory for these restauranteurs.

Their kitchen serves up breakfast sandwiches like a sausage and egg, bacon and egg, veggie, and ham & cheese. Breakfast is served all day, and you can wash it all down with a hot coffee or a freshly pulled espresso. At $5.75 for a sandwich, it seems a bit on the steep side for an early morning bite on the way in to the office, but the sandwiches aren’t tiny, either.

The French toast is made with house-baked focaccia, cinnamon, powdered sugar, and real maple syrup ($6.75). Add a side of warm berry sauce for another 75 cents. A dining companion reported that the French toast was tasty and was cooked well, and just what you would expect from French toast: soft on the inside and with a nicely griddled crust.

Pizza can be ordered by the slice, or whole pies can also be ordered. By the slice pizzas are waiting and ready to be warmed upon order. I think the pizzas are good. Not great, but good. Pizzas range from your standard cheese, pepperoni, and Hawaiian, and branch out into more creative territory with their Mediterranean (white sauce, bacon, garlic, spinach, feta, tomatoes, red onion, kalamata olives, and roasted red peppers) and PP&J (pepperoni, pineapple, and jalapeño). I tried a variety of slices and found the sauce to be a bit one-dimensional and too acidic for my tastes, while the pizza crust was decent, but a bit too reminiscent of a bagel in the chewiness department. At the end of two pieces my jaw feels like it just completed a set of bench presses. A little crunchier and a little less chewy would work wonders.


Their version of the roast beef sandwich was a real standout. Thin-sliced deli roast beef is heaped onto a fresh hoagie roll, topped with a generous portion of roasted peppers, caramelized onions, Swiss cheese, and parmesan cheese, and placed into the oven to get all melty and crispy. The sandwich ($8.50) is served alongside a pickle and a delicious cup of au jus that is a perfectly salty, beefy accompaniment to the rich and hearty sandwich. You can also jazz the sandwich up further by topping it with an assortment of peppers and giardiniera from their condiment bar. A combo option for $2.50 adds a bag of chips and a soda, but unless you just returned from a Strongman competition you’re not going to have room. This sandwich is hearty, and packs a deliciously agonizing gut-punch that will have you questioning your life decisions for a few hours after. I recommend it 100%.


I have only visited during lunch hours, but they seem to understand the importance of quick turnarounds during the crazy downtown lunch rush. Every time I have stopped by, the kitchen has been staffed with no less than 5-7 employees, a kitchen manager expediting, and an extremely friendly and helpful restaurant manager running food and bussing tables. Pizza slices and sandwiches show up within five minutes. Prior restaurant experience shines through in their service during the lunch rush. Unfortunately, dining buddies have reported this same prompt service to not quite be the case on nights and weekends, where an order of French toast and an egg sandwich took about 30 minutes to arrive, and an order of spaghetti and meatballs on another night took about the same amount of time.

Johnny Slice is serious about being open when it counts, opening at 7:30 during the week, closing at 11pm and remaining open until 2am on the weekends. Capturing the after-bar crowd will allow them to shine long after other pizza joints have closed up shop for the night.

Some serious money seems to be invested into the remodel of the old Pepper’s sandwich shop, showcasing a brand new kitchen, a large, open, bright dining room, and beautiful hand-lettered signage on the windows. I really love the black and while tiles throughout, as it makes me feel like I’m in an old-school pizza parlor. The dining area is spacious, and could easily accommodate a band for some extra weekend fun. Additionally, you can reserve a private dining room for parties, which seats 12. It’s obvious through the quality and details in the remodel that the owners care about the space, care about downtown and intend to be here for a long time.

With pizza and dining choices abounding in downtown Salt Lake City, Johnny Slice is a delicious and worthy addition.

Johnny Slice
12 W Broadway, Salt Lake City

(385) 415-2924

johnnyslice.com

1484973108313

Park City Food and Wine Classic Tickets on Sale

Tickets are now available for the 13th annual Park City Food & Wine Classic from July 6 – 9. Utah’s Wasatch Mountains will welcome internationally-known chefs, vintners, sommeliers, brewers, and distillers to offer an unforgettable experience of food and wine tastings, cooking demonstrations, and live music paired with access to world-class mountain recreation including hiking, mountain biking, cycling, fly fishing, and more.

The Classic kicks off July 6 with Wine on the Mountain, an exclusive event to sample exquisite culinary creations, spend one-on-one time with wine experts, and enjoy live music in an intimate setting at Montage Deer Valley. Historic Main Street’s Stroll of Park City takes place July 7 with offerings from Park City’s extensive collection of award-winning restaurants and local retailers. Stroll VIP tickets allow guests to enjoy 30 extra minutes and skip the lines. The Toast of Park City on July 8 features an impressive selection of premium wines, beer, spirits, and gourmet food purveyors, along with live music on the lawn of the DeJoria Event Center near the Uinta foothills. Toast tickets include complimentary round-trip transportation from Park City.

Tickets can be purchased online at parkcityfoodandwineclassic.com. Be sure to check the website frequently for updates on additional culinary events as they are confirmed for this year’s Classic.

Event proceeds benefit the People’s Health Clinic, a nonprofit healthcare provider that serves uninsured individuals and families in Utah’s Summit and Wasatch counties.