We Olive Salt Lake City

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Step into We Olive in Trolley Square, and be prepared for an education. On a recent visit, franchise owner Stephanie Ennis and her son, co-owner Josh Garcia, took time to walk me through various olive oils, allowing me to taste and pick up on the various nuances of each one. Stop by, and they will be glad to do the same with you.

Just like cheese, wine, and chocolate, tasting olive oils properly involves a few steps. Pour a small amount into a cup. Step 1: Swirl. Cover the top to trap the aromas, and rub the cup against the palm of your other had to gradually warm the oil and release the flavors and aromas. Step 2: smell the oil. Step 3: Slurp it into your mouth, incorporate oxygen to further enhance the taste. Step 4: Swallow.

According to Josh, the three things you want to taste for with olive oil is the bitterness, the fruitiness, and the robustness (high-quality olive oils contain high levels of oleocanthals, which tend to create an urge to cough. The more “robust” the oil, the more likely you are to cough after tasting). I tasted a few different types of arbequina oils, and could instantly pick out tropical notes such as banana in one, while the other arbequina was much more mellow and one-dimensional. Thus, tasting is key.

All of We Olive’s oils are sourced from family farms in California, as opposed to other olive oil companies in Utah who source theirs from Tunisia. We Olive knows their farmers, and understand the provenance of their products.

One of the struggles of the olive oil industry is the lack of consistent regulation and certification of what makes olive oil “olive oil” and what makes extra virgin “extra virgin.” While there are rules in place, there is no international enforcement body to ensure the rules are followed. Josh and Stephanie pointed out that olive oils need to be consumed within 18 months of pressing the olives in order to preserve the taste and health benefits before the oil turns rancid. But large conglomerates of olive oil producers (those kinds that you will likely find in grocery stores) frequently hold olive oils for much longer, and have been known to blend in other types of non-olive oils into their olive oils in order to increase the shelf life. All of this done, of course, without disclosing anything to the consumer.

We Olive also has a wide selection of various balsamic vinegars; some produced in California and some in Modena, Italy. They have the straightforward balsamics, and also have some more outside the box varieties, like mission fig, peach, pear, and blackberry. No artificial flavors are used in these vinegars, rather, fresh purees are blended in. My personal favorite combination was their pineapple balsamic paired with their jalapeño olive oil. It would go perfectly on a fruit salad or as a unique vinaigrette for a salad. They sent me home with a bottle of their mission fig balsamic vinegar, which I used to make balsamic-glazed pork chops over polenta with wilted spinach.

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Venture towards the back of the store and you will find the We Olive wine bar, where you can sit at the bar or a table and taste various wines alongside some delicious food. I was able to taste their cheese and charcuterie plate, featuring Creminelli salumi and prosciutto, a dish of stuffed African peppadews, prosciutto-wrapped dates (my favorite), an orchard salad, as well as a cheese and garlic flatbread. Josh is a graduate of the French Culinary Institute in New York, and has worked in various chef roles at the New Yorker and other Gastronomy restaurants, so attention to detail with food at We Olive is a high priority. Various reds, whites, rosés, mimosas, and beers are available, including local producers Ruth Lewandowski, Proper Brewing, Mountain West Cider, and Talisman Brewing in Ogden. They plan to open their patio as soon as things warm up this summer, allowing diners to sip and dine while people-watching Trolley Square shoppers.

Josh and Stephanie are also building out a strong selection of local food producers for their grocery section, and currently carry Slide Ridge Honey, Four Sisters sauces, as well as various local pastas.

The next time you’re at Trolley Square, stop by, say hi, and ask them to take you on a tasting tour. You’ll learn more about olive oils and vinegars than you thought possible. And stay for a sip or two. And be sure to check out their events page which features various cooking demos, tastings, and other events.

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I was an invited guest of We Olive. Opinions are my own.

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Table X Opens Today (11/2/16)

Table X, a chef-owned and operated restaurant, opens its doors on Wednesday, November 2nd. Three chefs, Mike Blocher, Nick Fahs, and David Barboza have been working on the concept for two years to build a space they could call their own.

The restaurant, located at 1457 E 3350 S, in the Brickyard neighborhood, is located in a 1930’s brick storehouse and cheese factory. The three chefs aim to offer a menu that is top-shelf, but missing all of the pretense typically associated with “fine dining.”

We want to present the highest caliber of … food, wine, and service in the most casual and least pretentious environment possible. -Nick Fahs

Come as you are, but you will receive something that is totally unexpected; something that may change your philosophy on the food we eat. -Mike Blocher

We’d like it to be warm and inviting. Like you’re coming into our home and we’re inviting you back time and time again. -David Barboza

The restaurant is open Wednesdays through Sundays for dinner only. Reservations can be made at their website. They have documented their journey through a series of videos, which can be viewed here.

Sweet Lake Biscuits and Limeade

In another SLC Farmers Market success story, Sweet Lake Biscuits and Limeade has opened their very own shop at 54 W 1700 S. Sweet Lake began as a limeade stand at the Farmers Market a few years ago, and they have seen big demand for their deliciously tart drinks. The popularity has driven the owners to open a new restaurant on 17th South, with biscuits and limeade as the stars of the show.

The restaurant opened this week, and I want to caveat this review with the full knowledge that any new restaurant will invariably have some kinks to work out. So, feel free to grade this on a curve if you would like. As for me, a customer paying full price, I expect full service and great quality food, regardless of how long you’ve been open. The time to work out kinks is during your soft opening and test dinners, before you open to the public. Paying customers should not be your guinea pigs.

The actual space is well designed, with a hip, clean exterior. I was actually surprised upon entering to find that this is a full service sit-down restaurant; for some reason, I was expecting an “order and pay at the counter” arrangement. The interior is bright, simple, and cheery.

Kink #1: the servers are still figuring things out, and must not have assigned tables. This caused us to be welcomed multiple times, asked what we would like to drink multiple times, and attempted to take our order multiple times. Upon completion of our meal we were asked twice how things were and whether we would like our check. The second time, the check was already on the table. Not a big deal, but having your meal interrupted numerous times by varying servers was a bit of a distraction.

Kink #2: they were out of numerous menu items (such as the popular spoon cakes, as well as their pancakes). No problem. They were busy this morning and probably still trying to figure out what menu items are popular and which ones are not.

Kink #3: the food took a while to come out. We were told that they either 1) had a cook quit already or 2) had a cook call in sick (depending on who you talked to), and so the kitchen was in the weeds and trying desperately to dig out. No big deal, as we had nowhere to be this lazy Friday morning.

When the food arrived, there were some good and some bad. The good: the biscuits are really delicious. My wife ordered the Biscuit Bar ($6), which came with three biscuits (two biscuits and gravy, and the third with jam, honey, and butter). With a little added help of some salt and pepper the biscuits and gravy were delicious, with just the right amount of kick. This is an excellent value for the money.

My order of Spoon Bread Benedict were unfortunately less than great. They were out of the southern corn cakes spoon bread, which they substituted with biscuits (with my ok). A room-temperature biscuit topped with cold ham and a cold, tasteless tomato contributed to a dish that was room temperature at best (kink #4). I think their version of hollandaise was trickled on the plate, but was more decoration than anything helpful to the dish. A hollandaise-less Benedict. Hmmmm. Hollandaise should be the Roots to the egg’s Jimmy Fallon. But in this case, it ended up being the Mike Pence to Donald Trump (#topical #hottake #heyooooo). This dish has a ton of potential, and I think it will be amazing once they work the temperature issues out.

Upon paying, I was asked by the owner to give some honest feedback, which I did. I let her know about the cold Benedict and the multiple interruptions during our meal, which I think she took to heart, but didn’t make any effort to make it right with me via a credit on my bill or even an apology. But I was glad to hear she was asking customers for feedback.

Our mint limeade was tasty, and I look forward to trying out their lunch menu, in particular the San Anton, which is a biscuit, fried chicken breast, honey, hot sauce, cheddar, and slaw (what’s not to love about that combo?). And if there’s one thing they’ve nailed, it’s the biscuits. Except I think I’ll give them a few weeks to iron things out before I stop by again.

Sweet Lake Biscuits & Limeade
54 W 1700 S, Salt Lake City

7am – 3pm 7 days a week

Facebook page

The Haps

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Photo Courtesy Argentina’s Best Empanadas

The SLC food scene is on FIRE right now with new openings, new menus and other goodness. Here’s a rundown on the latest.

Feldman’s Deli: after a week-long vacation, the always-delicious Jewish deli is now open, and will begin serving breakfast next week from 8-10:30.

Oak Wood Fire is now open in SLC. One of my favorite restaurants in Draper, Oak Wood Fire has moved into the beleaguered space in the Peery Hotel on 300 S West Temple. The interior has been renovated, and if the menu and service is anything like that offered in Draper, this will be a welcome addition to SLC. I’ve never had a meal there short of outstanding. Their pizzas, fries, and pastas are all top-notch. Open for both lunch and dinner, seven days a week.

Sweet Lake Biscuits and Limeade is open. Sweet Lake is another Farmer’s Market success story, beginning as a small food cart, and now opening their own space at 1700 S 54 W. Their shop is open every day from 7am to 3pm, and offers your basic (but delicious) biscuits and limeade all the way up to The Pokey Joe: a biscuit sandwich featuring pulled pork, coleslaw, mint limeade salsa, and crispy onions.

Argentina’s Best Empanadas. Continuing the Farmer’s Market success theme, Argentina’s Best Empanadas has now opened their own space at 357 S 200 E, open Tuesday through Friday 8am to 2pm. This mother-daughter duo prides themselves on using local, organic ingredients, such as Morgan Valley Lamb. ABE features everything from your very traditional beef-filled empanadas to breakfast empanadas featuring scrambled eggs and bacon. I’m excited to try the Lemon Beef empanadas.

The Big O Donuts is now open at 171 E 300 S. Big O is a vegan donut shop, open from 8am to 2pm or until sold out. The donuts have been featured at Sugarhouse Coffee for a while, but now they are available at their very own storefront. My dreams of having a 24 hour donut shop in SLC are getting closer to fruition, as Big O opens late nights on some weekends for the bar crowd. At $2.95 each, these dough babies aint cheap, but I look forward to trying their Orange Cardamom, Key Lime, and Lemon Basil flavors.

Trestle Tavern, a new project by Scott Evans of the Pago Group, is opening this Monday, July 18th, in the former Fresco spot at 15th and 15th. The menu will be tavern-influenced, with a nod to Eastern Europe/Bohemia. Liberty Tap House, but with pierogies, chicken paprikash, spaetzle, and borscht? Guess we’ll find out next week!

Amour Cafe opened a few weeks ago. You can check out my post on this hot new space here.

Mollie & Ollie has opened downtown in the old Bayleaf Cafe spot on Main Street, and has been beautifully renovated. M&O features salads, noodle bowls, and grain bowls, and focuses on healthy, organic ingredients. 159 South Main Street. Monday through Saturday 10am to 9pm, Sunday (!!!) 10am to 3pm.

Have you checked out the SLCeats hashtag on IG? If not, you need to–it’s blowing up! Clicky here.

Amour Cafe is Open!

Amour Cafe, from our friends John and Casee at Amour Spreads, is open for business! Baker/gelato maker extraordinaire Amber Billingsley is behind the delicious baked goods at the cafe, which features everything from the traditional chocolate chip with Solstice chocolate to a beet root cake with walnuts and bourbon raisins. The baked goods selection varies day to day, as do the gelato flavors. 

Simple, yet beautiful decor throughout, including 120 year old salvaged church pews.

Homemade sodas are flavored using Amour’s very own homemade simple syrup. Full coffee/espresso drinks are offered, as are delicious pieces of toast with eggs, prosciutto, and of course, Amour Spreads.

Check them out at 1329 South 500 East. Open every day from 7am to 7pm. If you’re lucky you will be able to look into their kitchen from the window in the dining room and watch them work their magic in the back.

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HSL

A new restaurant has opened in the old Vinto space on 2nd South in Salt Lake. HSL is endeavor #2 for Chef Briar Handly, with #1 being his wildly successful Handle restaurant in Park City. Handly has brought Chef Craig Gerome as chef de cuisine. I don’t know Handly very well, but anybody smart enough to get someone as talented as Gerome has my respect. I’m a fan of Gerome ever since I met him when he was at the helm of Annex.

I was invited to a press preview event, and the photos that follow come from said event. “New American” seems like such an overused term, however, I love the breadth in food and presentation styles that such a category provides.

The restaurant was designed in partnership with Cody Derrick at CityHome Collective, so naturally expect your dining environment to be a bit darker and cozy, with plenty of floral print wallpaper to go around. Upon entering, you are greeted by a beautiful, bright bar, lounge area, and communal table, with regular seating throughout the remainder of the restaurant.

Mark my words: get in there now, because it’s going to get harder and harder to get a table at this place as word spreads. I’m especially thrilled as it’s only a five minute walk from my house. which is both exciting and terrifying all at once.

Expect to pay $20-$30 for an entree and $10-$20 for an appetizer. 

HSL
418 E 200 S, Salt Lake City
(801) 539-9999
website

Some activity has been spotted at the old Bayleaf Cafe spot at 159 S Main St, next to Eva Boulangerie. Mollie&Ollie is slated to open Spring 2016, and judging by the extensive construction work, they are completely gutting the place and starting from scratch.

Julie Payne is the manager of the spot, and she gave me the low-down: ordering will take place at the counter either in-person, via tablets, or through apps on your phone. The menu is being developed by Chef Ryan Lappe (formerly of Cafe Niche), and will focus on fresh and healthy (e.g. wraps, bowls, scrambles, stir fries, salads, smoothies, etc). 

Mollie&Ollie will be open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, adding some evening dining options to downtown, which will seemingly work well with the new performing arts center right next door. The space will flow through all of the way back onto Regent Street, which is currently undergoing revitalization along with the 111 building and the performing arts center construction.

This is not a franchise (yet). This is the first location for this concept, and if they are successful, they plan on expanding along the Wasatch Front.

More to come as they get closer to opening! You can sign up for their mailing list by going to their site here.

50 West Café opened its doors last week for the lunch crowd. The café is part of the new Wiseguys comedy club located at–you guessed it–50 West 300 South. The menu offers plenty of choices without being overly complicated.

Service was confused. They give each customer a number to take to their tables, and it seemed that the little number tents were pretty useless since each server came out, wandering aimlessly around the café with plates of food, not sure who they actually belonged to.

Execution was less than perfect with a really tasty chicken club and chipotle chicken salad being balanced out by undercooked fries and a medium rare steak that came out basically blue on the inside. I think with a bit more time they will be cranking out consistently great food and the kinks in the service will be ironed out.

At $12 for a sandwich, fries, and drink, I won’t be eating there too frequently, but I’m sure it will make its way into my lunch rotation from time to time.

Open 11-3pm Monday through Saturday. More info at www.50westslc.com

Spitz, a new restaurant specializing in the Döner Kebab, opened this week in the former Lenny’s Sub Shop space at 35 East Broadway.

The interior is everything you’d expect from their interior designer, CityHome Collective. Clean, welcoming, warm, and funky.

Döner meat is roasted on a spit similar to tacos al pastor, or the pastrami at Crown Burger. Surprisingly, Spitz doesn’t have their centerpiece attraction on display, instead relegated to hiding behind closed doors in the back.

Admittedly, I am a neophyte in all things Döner, so I naturally associate the Döner Kebab to something of a mishmash between a wrap and a Greek gyro. I tried the Street Cart Döner, which is a traditional sandwich or wrap with a zesty garlic aioli and fried lavash chips added. It had the right amount of meat, sauce, and lettuce, and is a generous portion. I quite liked it.

Sweet potato fries are good, but are like every other sweet potato fry you’ve had elsewhere. Don’t expect anything groundbreaking, although the aioli the fries were served with was especially delicious. The fried pita strips served with hummus are great, and I’m curious to try the crispy garbanzo beans with olives on my next visit.

Service is a bit unusual for the downtown lunch crowd. You order up front, they bring out your food and bus tables, but drink refills are also handled by the staff, which seems to be a bit clunky when they get overwhelmed with the lunch rush. But I’m sure they’ll work these glitches out over time.

Spitz adds some lunchtime diversity to a city brimming with traditional sandwich shops. And judging by the big crowd they had on day one, I think a lot of people are excited to see this new place open up.

Alamexo has recently opened in the space previously occupied by one of my favorites, ZY. In fact, Alamexo has the same owners, staff, and even the same chef: Matt Lake.

Matt moved to Utah a few years ago from New York, where he worked as chef for one of New York’s premier Mexican restaurants. After a few years operating the contemporary American restaurant, ZY, Chef Lake decided to go back to his culinary roots and switch to Mexican.

After an incredibly quick menu and restaurant decor switch (Lake didn’t want to close down for three months and have to lay off staff) which took only a few days, ZY has now transformed to Alamexo. And while I’m sad to see ZY go (Lake was adamant that we will see ZY once again in Salt Lake), Alamexo is a very welcome addition to SLC.

You won’t find any other Mexican food in Salt Lake in such a contemporary, modern environment. But don’t equate “contemporary” and “modern” to “expensive.” Entrées range from $13-$25 with sides and appetizers filling in the $3-$12 range.

Go with the guacamole, made tableside by your server in a molcajete. For $10, it’s a little on the pricey side for one avocado’s worth of guacamole, but worth the show.

My favorite side dish was the Mexican corn. Sweet, fresh corn accompanied by hints of chile, lime, and cotija. My mole poblano enchiladas were rich, complex, and the pork was cooked perfectly. Lake has always said the he doesn’t choose his signature dishes; his customers do. And I have a feeling that these will be on the menu for a while.

A dining companion’s steak dish was equally tasty and cooked spot-on.

As we went during their soft opening week, desserts were not on the menu, however, the kitchen brought out the best churros I’ve had. Don’t leave Alamexo without ordering some.

I’ve always viewed Matt Lake and ZY as a bit of a sleeper in the SLC dining community. I attribute part of this to Lake’s low-key demeanor. He is a guy that cooks because he loves to cook. He’s not in it for the fame. But if he keeps doing what he’s doing, he won’t remain a sleeper for long. Salt Lake’s lucky to have him.