Alamexo Cantina

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During his travels throughout Mexico, Matt Lake, chef/owner of Alamexo Kitchen downtown, was always struck by a certain type of restaurant. The cantinas he encountered are vibrant, lively, and most importantly, promote a sense of community and togetherness. Families, friends, strangers gather around tables sharing various dishes and libations, telling stories and laughing together.

These memories drove Matt’s vision as he put together his newest project: Alamexo Cantina, which opened this week in the 9th and 9th neighborhood. The style of service is different than at Alamexo downtown. The cantina cuisine is reminiscent of a street market in Mexico, but in a sit-down situation.

“Everything will come family style, everyone orders and you have it all at once, mixing and matching. I don’t want to take ourselves too seriously. But I do want it to be fun. It needs to be super easy and fun,” says Lake. “The best way to get at this concept is that I wish I could pick what people eat but I can’t. I felt this was the closest way to get to that experience of just letting the chef guide your dining experience. Whatever time [of the day] you come it’s the same [price]. One menu, all day long, with a wide array of shared dishes.”

The space itself is striking, with bright, vibrant colors contrasting with the dark tables and ceiling. A large glossy Adam Finkle photograph adorns the back wall, showcasing the multitude of ingredients involved in making a molé. The centerpiece of the bar area is a large mural by local artist Harry Baldwin, and depicts the iconic Espolón Blanco label. There is a gorgeous candle wall that is interesting during the bright daytime hours, but turns into something living, breathing, and very special at night. My favorite part is that most of the front wall separating the dining room from the patio breaks down, opening up completely and blurring the line between inside and out. This will be the spot to be on a warm evening. The kitchen itself is small, and is limited to a long comal (flat top griddle) and two fryers for chips. That’s it.

“We’re limited in the kitchen. But with that limitation comes clarity,” says Lake.

For those of you who haven’t been to Alamexo downtown, or his previous project, ZY, I highly suggest you try Chef Lake’s creations out. He is, in my opinion, one of the most talented chefs in the city. He won Food & Wine’s Best New Chef award in 1996 and worked at New Heights in Washington D.C. and Rosa Mexicano in New York City, one of the city’s first and foremost upscale Mexican restaurants. He graduated at the top of the class while attending the prestigious Culinary Institute of America. He, along with his team, make everything from scratch, from roasting whole chickens to making the various molé sauces.

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Chef Lake
So be sure to stop by, grab some guacamole and a drink at the bar, or dive right in to some dishes to share with some friends.

Alamexo Cantina
1059 East 900 S
Salt Lake City
(801) 658-5859

Reservations not accepted

http://www.alamexo.com/cantina

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Addendum: Johnny Slice

I’m going to keep this one brief, but I felt it merited a follow-up.

Back a few years ago (ok, maybe quite a few more than that), I was a mediocre little league basketball player. The only hot streak I ever had was the record number of consecutive games in which I would warm the bench. Of course, at the end of season awards ceremony, I was always the proud recipient of the “most improved player” award, even though technically I probably didn’t improve and even more technically it was a stretch to even classify me as a player. But they needed to award me something, and most improved was all they had left at the bottom of the trophy pile.

Anywho.

I wanted to post an addendum to my previous review of Johnny Slice and award their pizza the SLCeats Most Improved Player award. Except unlike my little league awards, this one is actually merited. It pained me in my initial review to praise the pizza place for everything except, well, the pizza. Truth be told, it wasn’t that great and I wasn’t a very big fan. But to their credit, it appears that ownership listened and made the necessary course corrections, because in the numerous times I’ve been since, their pizza has improved remarkably and is now among my favorite slices in SLC. The buffalo chicken pizza, laced with bleu cheese, is my new favorite.

Anyways, that’s it. Credit where credit is due. Johnny Slice is making some mean pizza now. Go and enjoy.

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Howdy Homemade Ice Cream

 

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Photo courtesy Howdy Homemade Ice Cream

“Come for the ice cream, but stay for the people” is a common saying of Tom Landis, founder of Howdy Homemade Ice Cream. This Dallas-based ice cream concept touts ice cream made in-house using high quality ingredients that yield unique results, such as the Dr. Pepper chocolate chip ice cream, a favorite in Dr. Pepper-obsessed Texas.

Oh, and the other unique aspect of Howdy? The majority of their employees have special needs related to Down Syndrome or autism.

“Our main goal and hope is that people recognize exactly what our employees can do instead of what they can’t do,” Will Nielson, son of the Howdy Salt Lake store said in a recent interview with the Deseret News. “I think when a disability or a special need comes up, often our mind starts running on to what are the limitations or the disabilities instead of thinking about (how) someone with autism, they have great retention skills, and someone with Down syndrome, they’re just naturally the most happy and loving people that you come across.”

Howdy Salt Lake is located at 2670 South 2000 East, across the street from Feldman’s Deli.  Local contractor Chris Nielson, who has a son with special needs, fell in love with the Howdy concept and brought it to Utah. The store features some local flair, offering sorbettos made by Amour Cafe, as well as a Publik coffee chocolate chip. All of the other ice creams are made in-house and feature everything from your basic cookies and cream all the way to a Dr. Pepper chocolate chip.

I particularly enjoyed the cheesecake ice cream, which is everything you’d hope it would be: rich and creamy. If you’re a fan of Coldstone’s sweet cream ice cream, this is the one for you. The Dr. Pepper ice cream was unique, but I was left wishing that a bit more of the soda flavor would have shone through. But it is a fun idea, and definitely worth at least sampling. Other favorites were the cinnamon brown sugar and the orange dream.

I love everything about the concept, from the location, the smart design, the delicious ice cream, the prices, and most of all, the wonderful smiles from everybody behind the counter. It is heartwarming to see the community coming out to support the shop, as evidenced by lines out the door when we stopped by.

Howdy Salt Lake
2670 S 2000 East, Salt Lake City

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Regent Street Beat

Regent Street continues to slowly build out as broadway shows fill the Eccles Theater. Two items to mention: Pretty Bird, Viet Pham’s new spot which will serve Nashville Hot Chicken, is scheduled to open in October, according to Pham. Although I would serve that hot chicken with a side of healthy skepticism, since a recent snoop inside indicates little to no construction activity inside.

Second shop is the Last Course ice cream dessert studio. Construction has started, and I was unable to sleuth out any additional information online regarding this spot, so keep your eyes peeled for additional information later on.

Eat Local Week 9/9-9/16

From September 9th through 16th Eat Local Week Utah, a community-wide celebration of the harvest and those who labor to produce it, is scheduled. Eat Local Week promotes local agriculture and the preservation of Utah’s agricultural heritage, and brings people together around the food they eat. Through a series of activities and events around the state, Eat Local Week seeks to educate people about resources for eating locally, and increase awareness about food production, transportation and access to healthy food for all Utahns.

This year, Eat Local Week has expanded to include opportunities across the state. For example, over 10 restaurants in Moab are offering menu items with at least three local items. A documentary film, Food Chains, which tells the story of farm labor in the United States and advocated for the dignified life for farm workers and creating a more humane, transparent food system, will be screened in English and Spanish in Salt Lake. In Kaysville, farm-to-table dinners provide a unique option to experience food at the height of the harvest season.

The Liberty Park Farmers Market will launch their Double Up Food Bucks, a three-year old nutrition incentive program that helps low-income families take home affordable fresh fruits and vegetables grown by local farmers, joining the Downtown Farmers Market and farm stands across the state who have participated for three years. Both the Downtown Farmers Market and Liberty Park Farmers Market will feature events and promotions surrounding local food. Events are listed below and at:

http://www.eatlocalweek.org

https://www.facebook.com/eatlocalweekutah

“Eat Local Week” is my favorite week of the year, because it really does challenge us to learn more about where our food comes from, and how much we grow and produce right here in our own state,” says Alison Einerson, Downtown Farmers Market manager.  “From local meats to produce to dairy and cheeses, you can find virtually everything you want to eat made right here in Utah. Food is truly a resource that binds us all, and connects our state rural and urban communities.”

A cornerstone of Eat Local Week is the “Eat Local Challenge,” which challenges people to eat and drink food that is grown or produced within a 250 mile radius of their home for one week. Now in its 10th year, the Eat Local Challenge is an opportunity for Utahns to garner a closer connection to food sources. eatlocalweek.org contains several resources to where to shop for local food, as well as recipe ideas.

Utahns are encouraged to craft the challenge level of their choice: a strict option—no coffee, no chocolate, no olive oil, is one example. Alternatively, participants can choose specific food groups that are easy to obtain locally (produce, meats, dairy) and stay truly local to them for a week. Spice Kitchen will offer locally sourced pre-made meals during Eat Local Week. Spice Kitchen Incubator is a project of the International Rescue Committee IRC) in partnership with Salt Lake County.

The goal of the challenge is to engage people to discover how much food we grow and produce in our region, and to show how changing small daily habits can have a profound effect on our health, our economy, and our diet. The Eat Local Challenge is a unique opportunity to learn more about local food and to foster creativity around what and how we feed ourselves, at the height of the harvest season.

Eat Local Week events include the following:

Saturday, September 9th

Taste of the Market & Perfectly Wild Produce Contest

Downtown Farmers Market, 8 am-2 pm

Saturday, September 9th

Wasatch Community Gardens Annual Tomato Sandwich Party

Grateful Tomato Garden, 11 am-2 pm

Saturday, September 9th

Taste of Harmons Rooftop Party

Harmons City Creek, 6-10 pm

Monday, September 11th

Free “Food Chains” Film Screening. Proceeds benefit Comunidades Unidas.

Pre-Party at 6 pm (Pago), Screening at 7 pm (Tower Theater)

Tuesday, September 12th

Quickle (Quick Pickle) at the Tuesday Farmers Market

Pioneer Park, 4 pm

Tuesday, September 12th

Starting and Maintaining a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) Enterprise

Youth Garden Project, Moab, 1-5 pm

Wednesday, September 13th

Free “Food Chains” Film Screening in Spanish, followed by panel discussion with Jorge Fierro of Rico Brand

Sorenson Unity Center, 855 W California Ave, 7-9 pm

Wednesday, September 13th

Taste of the Sugar House Farmers Market

Fairmont Park, 5 pm

Thursday, September 14th

Farm to Table Dinner

USU Botanical Center, Kaysville, 6-7 pm

Friday, September 15th

Taste of the Liberty Park Farmers Market

Liberty Park, 4 pm

Saturday, September 16th

Fermentation Festival at the Downtown Farmers Market sponsored by Catalyst Magazine

Pioneer Park, 9 am-1pm

2017 Downtown Dine O’Round

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The 2017 edition of the Downtown Dine O’Round kicks off September 15th and runs through October 1st. During the Dine O’Round, over 45 downtown restaurants offer various dining specials. Participating restaurants will offer either a $5 or $10 fixed price lunch, and $15, $25, and $35 three-course dinners.

The Dine O’Round is an excellent way to try out some restaurants that perhaps aren’t in your normal rotation. New additions this year include HSL, Rib and Chop House, Fat Jack’s, and White Horse. I’m particularly interested in what White Horse’s $10 lunch will include, as I’ve been meaning to try that place.

You can find more information, check out some menus from last year, and make reservations at the Dine O’Round website.

Village Baker Downtown

I was excited when I saw that the Village Baker was moving into the main floor of the new 111 Main building in downtown Salt Lake City. I’ve been a fan of Village Baker since I lived down in Draper and frequented their West Jordan location. The new downtown shop opened a couple months ago, and has had a brisk business ever since, without a doubt helped by the continued growth of the downtown workforce and the accompanying strain this growth has placed on downtown lunch spots. I rarely venture out for lunch past about 11:45 because lines at almost every downtown dining spot will be 10-15 people deep. Maybe I’ll develop a new measure of downtown economic growth and base it on the line length at 12pm at sandwich shops.

Breakfast sandwiches, coffee, soups, salads, pizza, sandwiches, a variety of sweets and pastries–you name it, and this place will likely have it. As opposed to Kneaders, Village Baker’s bread selection is less rustic and artisan and centers more squarely on traditional American bread pan breads: honey wheat, honey white, French, and sourdough, with other specialty breads such as sunflower whole wheat, raisin, multigrains, and cinnaburst loaves produced on a rotating weekly schedule.

One popular sandwich is the turkey cranberry ($3.74 for half, about $7 for whole). The turkey, which was somewhat clumsily and unevenly placed in the sandwich, mayonnaise and cranberry sauce were contained by two thick slices of honey wheat bread. This sandwich is one of their more popular menu items, and I can see why: it’s delicious. I wasn’t initially sold on cranberry on my sandwiches, but once I tried it, there was no going back. For an extra $2.50 you can make your sandwich a combo and get a beverage and your choice of either chips or a large cookie. Sorry Lays, but I’m going for the homemade peanut butter chocolate chip cookie every time.

On another visit I tried the turkey, provolone, and avocado sandwich ($4.32 for a half sandwich and I think around $7 for the whole). This one came served with thin slices of bread despite my request for the thicker slices, and was, simply put, anemic and a little bit sad. It lacked the filling robustness I’m accustomed to at Village Baker. This sandwich was a boring dud.

The pizza is delicious, and extremely well priced at about $2 per slice. At that price I have to imagine they will give some other downtown pizza places a run for their money. The slices are generous, sauce well balanced, cheese is perfectly stretchy and gooey, and the thicker crust has the perfect chew. I’m a fan.

Their cookies are good, but sadly not as good as those that I remember from the West Jordan location. At West Jordan, the cookies are thick and chewy, whereas at the downtown spot they are much thinner. This results in a crisper, drier cookie that makes me yearn for their more robust southern brethren.

For breakfast, I was impressed by their savory breakfast roll ($3.59), which features hash browns, red and green peppers, mozzarella and bacon. The rolls are packaged for a quick to-go option, but the kitchen is more than happy to warm it up for you, which I would highly recommend if you have the time.

The space itself is bright, cheery, and well decorated. During the warmer months, patio tables are placed outside on the sidewalk, greatly expanding their capacity. During the colder times, diners are restricted to limited seating on the main floor, but Village Baker anticipated this and came up with a brilliant solution: they build a mezzanine floor above the kitchen, where I imagine 30+ hungry diners can fit at any given time.

Service is of the “order at the counter and take a number to your table” variety. I’ve always been helped by cheerful people at the order counter as well as those delivering my food. I’ve had them ask me how things are as they walk by delivering orders to other tables, which is greatly appreciated and shows me they care.

Does downtown seriously need another soup and sandwich place? Yes. While I’d love to see a bit more variety hit downtown dining spots, demand for noontime noshing continues to strain eateries, so it’s nice to have another sandwich spot to help relieve some of the lunch rush pressure. Village Baker is a top-notch addition, and I’m glad they chose to come downtown. Judging by their crowds, I think they’ll do just fine.

MidiCi, The Neapolitan Pizza Company joins The Gateway

From a recent press release:

In its ongoing effort to transform itself into a social and entertainment hub distilling all the best that downtown Salt Lake City has to offer, The Gateway has announced that they’re adding MidiCi, The Neapolitan Pizza Company, to its growing tenant roster.

“We’re so in love with everything MidiCi is about,” says Jenny Cushing, Vice President of Leasing at Vestar. “They put people at the center of what they do, and they’re particular about their food quality, service, affordability and the kind of atmosphere and experience they want to create. And that’s hand-in-hand with what we’re trying to create here at The Gateway. This is just the start.”

MidiCi has made a name for itself by offering authentic Neapolitan thin crust pizza, baked in handmade wood-fired ovens imported from Italy—right in the center of its restaurants—so that patrons can see exactly what goes into everything they make. From an extensive menu full of fresh and natural ingredients to a robust wine, beer, dessert and espresso selection, it’s all part of an authenticity and care that they bring to everything they offer.

“We like to create a place where people can put down their phones and enjoy the moment that they’re in,” says Amit Kleinberger, CEO of MidiCi. “And that’s why we’re so excited to be a part of the resurgence at The Gateway—because they’re building the kind of place where people can come and just enjoy themselves, and be present to the moment. This is a really exciting step for MidiCi, and we’re excited to play a role in what The Gateway is becoming.”

MidiCi will be opening in late 2017 as part of The Gateway’s new “restaurant row,” on the south end of the property.

Brunch at Fireside on Regent Begins June 3rd

Fireside on Regent is off to a solid start, and now that they have their feet under them, Chef Richey is opening for brunch on Saturdays and Sundays from 10:30-2pm beginning June 3rd. Richey is no brunch novice, having previously expanded Pago’s menu to include brunch as well. Expect to see French toast, croque madam, burgers, hash, salads, and special brunch-only pizzas on the menu.

Fireside on Regent
126 South Regent Street, Salt Lake City

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“Slice of Ice” Iceberg lettuce, sundered tomato aioli, “landshark” ham, poached egg, chives

 

7th Annual Tastemakers at The Gateway

Tastemakers is back for its 7th year, this time at The Gateway in SLC on June 8th and 9th from 5pm to 10pm. This is one of my favorite food events of the year in SLC–food purveyors from across the spectrum (restaurants, chocolatiers, cheese makers) are all in attendance, giving out tastes of their signature dishes.

The VIP pavilion will feature additional food producers as well as plenty of alcohol providers. In addition to wine and craft beers, there will be five signature Tastemakers cocktails available at the event.

Hop-on-hop-off busses will also circulate through the city, dropping ticket holders at various participating restaurants in Salt Lake.

The general pass is $30 per person and gives guests access to the venue and tastings from all participating restaurants. Alcohol is not included, but can be purchased on site. The VIP pass is $85 per person and includes access to the VIP pavilion, exclusive VIP tastings and a five-drink passes. Tickets are now on sale at tastemakersutah.com.

Guests receive a Tastemakers Passport, to be stamped after each sampling. The Passports are valid for both nights of the event and are later redeemable for exclusive discounts and coupons at participating restaurants throughout the summer. Instructions and a stroll area map will be available online and on the Tastemakers mobile site.

A portion of all proceeds will benefit Head Start Utah, a program that promotes school readiness for young children from low-income families.

In addition to The Gateway, Tastemakers is also sponsored by Nicholas & Co., Bulleit Bourbon, Don Julio, Spark Solutions Group, Wasatch Brewery, Ketel One Vodka, Squatters Craft Beers, Presto Print, Southern Wine & Spirits and Kostizi.

Participants include:

BEEHIVE CHEESE COMPANY

FINCA

CACHE TOFFEE COLLECTION

FLEMING’S STEAKHOUSE

CHIP COOKIES

FRIDA BISTRO

CHOCOLATE CONSPIRACY

HARMONS

CREMINELLI FINE MEATS

HIMALAYAN KITCHEN

MICHELANGELO RISTORANTE

HUGO COFFEE

MOUNTAIN TOWN

LAZIZ KITCHEN

OLIVE OIL COMPANY

MARKET STREET GRILL

NEW YORKER

ROCKY MOUNTAIN CHOCOLATE FACTORY

PARK CITY CULINARY

RODIZIO GRILL

CUMMINGS STUDIO CHOCOLATE

RUTH’S CHRIS

REDSTONE OLIVE OIL

SPENCER’S FOR STEAKS & CHOPS

THE EKLEKTIK

TEXAS DE BRAZIL

EVA’S

STONEGROUND

SQUATTERS

SUGARHOUSE DISTILLERY

PROPER BREWING CO

350 MAIN

PROVISIONS

PROHIBITION

LA CAILLE

CUISINE UNLIMITED

R & R BBQ

DISTILLERY 36

HARBOR SEAFOOD & STEAK CO.

KETEL ONE

DON JULIO

BULLEIT BOURBON