Stoneground Bakery, The Bakery Behind the Curtains

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Chances are, if you’ve ever eaten at a restaurant in Utah, you’ve eaten bread from Stoneground Bakery. Even Stevens, Market Street, Montage Deer Valley, Robin’s Nest, Grove Market, and Oh Mai are just a few examples of hundreds of local dining spots that rely on daily delivieries of freshly-baked goods from this wholesale baker. If you’ve ever had a hot dog, hamburger, or sandwich at the Vivint Arena or a Real Salt Lake game, you’ve had Stoneground bread. Temple Square? Yep, you guessed it.

 

“Under the radar” is an apt phrase to describe Stoneground. It seems to me that nine time out of ten, when I’m eating out and think to myself “this is really good bread,” I would find out it came from Stoneground. Their ability to consistently crank out some of the best-tasting bread around intrigued me, so I thought I’d give them a visit to speak with Linda Hines, their business manager, and to take a tour of their facility.

 

Stoneground got its start as a tiny bakery on Main Street in Heber City. German-born Hans Schmerse fled East Germany and opened a small European-style bakery in 1979, and the growth of Stoneground since then has been more than Hans could have ever imagined. Stoneground has over 180 employees, serves over 770 different wholesale customers, and ships their products as far as Ohio.

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Market Street sourdough loaves rest for over 24 hours to allow the loaves to fully develop their characteristic flavor

Stoneground makes all sorts of baked breads steeped in old-school European baking tradition, including dinner rolls, ciabatta, pretzel buns, brioche hamburger buns, giant sandwich loaves, bagels, rye, pumpernickel, and hot dog buns, to name a few. Their sourdough starter dates back to before 1979.

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Brioche hamburger buns destined for greatness

The bakery seeks to set itself apart by truly being a custom shop for their customers. Stoneground meets with potential customers to formulate the perfect bread for their needs. They will make a test batch, meet and taste, and repeat this process until it meets the customer’s requirements perfectly. This specialization has resulted in a recipe catalog of more than 650 items. But you’d be mistaken to think that they just focus on the big customers. In fact, the opposite is the case. Their minimum order is $25 and they encourage frequent deliveries (their delivery charge is $0.75/order, no matter the size) to make sure that their bread is as fresh as possible, and to make sure that their breads are accessible to all customers, big and small.

 

Don’t expect to be able to buy Stoneground bread at a retail location, at least under their own name. One large grocery chain is finalizing a deal to private-label Stoneground’s bread in their stores. But historically the baker has specialized in wholesaling baked goods to local food establishments.

Hans has retired, and his children Derrick and Tammy run the day-to-day operations, with Derrick over the baking operations and Tammy over everything else. The company continues to grow and just last month moved in to a second large production facility across the street from their existing bakery in order to accommodate their growth.

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The family ties in management also trickles down to the employees. Second generation employees are now working at the bakery. One administrative assistant’s parents worked at the bakery, and she remembers roaming the bakery halls as a small child.

“You’ll find that a lot of whole families work here. My assistant’s mom, dad, aunts, uncles all worked at the bakery. Her mom was pregnant with her while working at the bakery. She grew up in the bakery and started in packing, production, and has now moved up to work in the office.” Linda Hines

Employees are happy and fulfilled, with master mixer Octavio Flores having 20 years under his belt, and Jesse Farlanio in packaging at 14 years, for example.

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Master Mixer Octavio Flores
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Jesse Farlanio

The company values the community, and aims to give back by developing a refugee employee development program. Stoneground works with various refugee integration centers and gives many refugees their first job in the U.S. They teach them the job skills and language skills that are so important in order to integrate into the American culture. They additionally seek to give back to the community by supporting local flour mills and other ingredient providers, with locally-milled grains coming from Utah, Idaho, and Montana, with the majority coming from Big J Mills in Brigham City.

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While you can’t find their bread for sale in stores, you can go directly to the source. Their front office shares space with a small retail store, which sells a selection of their baked goods. The selection varies, as the store is stocked based on baking overruns, but the mainstays such as ciabatta and sandwich loaves are usually easy to find. Every now and then you can find some sweet treats like cinnamon rolls as well. The store is open Monday through Saturday from 9am to 2pm, located at 1025 South 700 West in Salt Lake City.

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Linda Hines and Tammy Hines

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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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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

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Valentine’s Day Dining

Ah, love is in the air. Along with the inversion.

Check out some dining and celebration options for V day. Call soon–restaurants book up early.

Oasis Cafe: $40 per person, four course fixed menu featuring ahi tartare, fennel salad or shrimp bisque, halibut, beef tenderloin, or roasted chicken, and dessert. Call (801) 322-0404 for reservations.

Current Fish and Oyster: four course menu, $70 per person (drinks, tax, gratuity extra). Additionally, if you’re looking to celebrate, but don’t like the crowds on the 14th, Chef Gardner is offering dinner specials the 10th through the 13th as well. New offerings this year for the 14th include roast duck breast and a turbot and crab roulade. This is in addition to other menu options such as oysters, calamari, beef short ribs, organic cauliflower, braised salmon, and more. (801) 326-3474

Alamexo: the Mexican restaurant is celebrating el dia del amor. Valentine’s specials will be served from the 14th through the 18th, and include filet mignon with chile paste, tamale, jalapeño relleno, and salsa mocajete ($27), mahi mahi in a salsa veracruzana ($24), as well as some specialty desserts and beverages. (801) 779-4747.

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Photo courtesy Alamexo

Stanza Italian Bistro & Wine Bar: Stanza is offering a $65 per person six course dinner on the 14th. The Valentine’s menu includes buttermilk panna cotta, Alaskan king crab, black truffle spaghettini, blood orange with black olive and candied walnut, a porcini-dusted New York strip loan, and a special dessert. (801) 746-4441

Laziz Kitchen: four-course prix fixe menu. You must reserve/pay in advance. Price is $140 per couple. The menu includes stuffed roasted onions, salads, salmon, organic chicken, and chocolate cardamom ice cream. (801) 441-1228.

RYE Diner and Drinks: RYE is open for Valentine’s Day. No information on their offerings, but each entree includes a guaranteed free ticket to the Urban Lounge next door for their Valentine’s Day party. Email janavanbrocklin@gmail.com

PAGO: offering a five-course tasting menu + wine pairings. Saturday, February 11th and Tuesday, February 14th. $75 per person tasting menu, $42 wine pairings. Dinner will feature choices of chocolate-dipped strawberries, pork belly, oysters, steak tartare, braised short ribs, duck breast, curried cauliflower, triple chocolate mousse hearts, and a house ice cream tasting. (801) 532-0777.

Stoneground Italian Kitchen: offering both a three-course ($35) and five-course ($50) dining option. (801) 364-1368.

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La Caille: five-course dinner, $95 adults, $55 children. See their menu on Facebook. (801) 942-1751

Log Haven: Log Haven is completely booked on 2/14, but still has some room on 2/13 and 2/15. You can see their special menu on their site. (801) 272-8255.

Park City/Deer Valley

Stein Eriksen Lodge: the lodge is featuring special Valentine’s Day options such as a rose petal turndown service, house-made chocolates, horse-drawn sleigh rides, and flower bouquets. Call the lodge at (435) 604-2793.

The Brass Tag at the Lodges at Deer Valley: the restaurant’s raved-about dinner menu will be on offer, plus a special of porcini mushroom crusted scallops served with forbidden rice, roasted cauliflower and leek puree ($28).

Deer Valley Grocery Café: for those serving a special private meal at home, add a little something extra with the Fritto Misto for two ($14.75) from Deer Valley Grocery~Café. Enjoy rice flour battered wild sockeye salmon and shrimp, served with fennel, lemon, shiitake mushrooms, fresh sage dipping broth and preserved lemon salt.

Fireside Dining: spend an evening enjoying delectable selections beside a roaring fire. Fireside Dining at Deer Valley resort will be offering a trio of specials: seared duck breast with an elderberry and elderflower lacquer, slow-roasted tomatoes, Cipollini onions and sage polenta; roasted root vegetables with herb honey butter glaze; and a s’mores tart with house-made graham crust, bittersweet ganache and bourbon marshmallow.

Flanagan’s on Main: the Irish pub is serving classic surf-and-turf for Valentine’s Day. The “Lovebirds” special ($98 total) features fresh house salad, a sumptuous grilled 28-ounce ribeye, two 6-ounce lobster tails, mixed vegetables and dessert.

Grub Steak: Park City’s longtime locals-favorite steakhouse will be serving a delicious three-course prix fixe. The Valentine’s Day menu ($59.75 per person) starts with a choice of hearts of romaine Caesar salad, wild rice and mushroom soup, or Grub Steak’s 45-item fresh salad bar. Then enjoy beef wellington, featuring tenderloin of beef and mushroom duxelle baked in puff pastry, served alongside steam asparagus and citrus hollandaise. Chocolate lava cake and fresh raspberries and Haagen Dazs vanilla ice cream caps the evening for dessert.

Tupelo: Park City’s home for globally inspired, artisanally sourced and stunningly prepared food is serving an a la carte menu and a five-course tasting menu for Valentine’s Day.

The tasting menu ($95, with an optional $65 wine pairing), starts with barbecue octopus with red bean stew, red pepper vinegar, kale and pickled lemon, followed by whiskey glazed Niman Ranch pork belly with apple butter, pickled beets and smoked maple; pan roasted bass with squash caponata, herb broth, lemon and smoked soy; and sous vide wagyu ribeye with wild mushroom, roasted marrow and truffles. Enjoy a tasting of artisanal chocolates for dessert. The a la carte selections draw from Tupelo’s regular dinner menu, with selections such as buttermilk biscuits, house-made ricotta, and Utah trout.

If you can’t find something in here that you like, then I’m afraid I’m of no use to you!

Current Fish & Oyster Offers Theater Specials

In celebration of the opening of the new Eccles Theater in SLC, Chef Phelix Gardner is offering a new special at Current. On evenings of a Broadway show at the Eccles, Current is offering a three course special, including an appetizer, main course, and dessert. The meal is $35 and will be offered from 4-7pm the evenings of every performance.

Additionally, bring in your ticket stub for a two-for-one brunch special for Saturday and Sunday brunch. Just go in and show them your ticket stub.

Reservations highly encouraged.

Current Fish & Oyster
279 E 300 S, Salt Lake City
(801) 326-3474

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Photo courtesy Current Fish & Oyster

Laziz Kitchen

Laziz Kitchen opened this week. The restaurant, located just off 9th South on Jefferson (next to Jade Market), is the next culinary step for Moudi Sbeity and Derek Kitchen, the brains behind the popular Laziz Foods (specializing in hummus, muhammara, and toum spreads). Moudi and Derek have always strived to be active participants in their communities. Their new Middle Eastern-focused restaurant is their next step to further their community involvement.

Over the years we’ve found ourselves in a unique position of bridging our passion for food with community engagement. Whether it’s advocating for social justice, or our involvement in local political office, or to early mornings with our neighbors at the farmers market, we’re driven by our love for the community. We’ve knocked on doors, talked to strangers, and told our story, and now we invite you into our kitchen – to gather around our table. We hope you feel at home. -Moudi and Derek

The space itself is beautiful. As a side note, I am so thrilled with all of the new restaurants popping up that understand the importance of a cohesive dining experience: atmosphere, service, and food. You need all three, and it seems like many of the newcomers get it.

Back to the space. Nice and open, but not too loud. Beautiful copper chairs provide nice contrast to the white, gold, and green found throughout the space. Servers bustle about in beautiful green aprons. Upon entering, you will be greeted by a small area dedicated to selling middle eastern products as well as some products from our very own local producers. Their small marketplace offers specialty olive oils from the West Bank, unique spice blends such as zaatar, and orange blossom water.

They were busy, but not overwhelmed. Our server was very friendly and very happy to explain different menu items to us.

After seeing some photos online, I knew we had to try the fried cauliflower florets, which arrived perfectly golden and cooked just right. The cauliflower was accompanied by a tahini dressing topped with parsley, which could have used a bit more punch. Lemon juice and maybe a hit of salt would have helped boost it up enough to stand up to the cauliflower. I ended up dipping the cauliflower in some toum (an absolutely wonderful garlic sauce), and it seemed a better match.

Laziz offers many different small plate/appetizer options, including hummus (of course), Baba Ghannouj (eggplant), grilled Halloumi cheese, fries, and an olive and pickle plate, among many other dishes.

Entrees range from hummus wraps to Man’Oushe Zaatar, a stone fired flatbread stuffed with zaatar, olive oil, cucumbers, tomatoes, olives, and mint.

My entree of Shish Tawook ($11) was a very nice portion of chicken, rice, and a basic (and forgettable) tomato, cucumber, and lettuce salad. The chicken was perhaps the best cooked chicken I have ever had–perfectly moist, which just the right amount of char and flavor. The rice was cooked well, but needed something else along with it to make it not so one dimensional. The toum, once again, saved the day. You can order the Shish Tawook as a sandwich as well ($10) if you aren’t interested in the rice and salad. I would go that route next time.

A kafta wrap (beef and parsley skewers with onions, tomatoes, pickles and hummus) also found itself lacking a bit in flavor. When mentioned, the server quickly went and consulted with the kitchen, and brought out a sauce that rounded out the dish very nicely. I’m excited to return to try their Clifford Farm Egg wrap, the Pepper Tajen, as well as some delicious desserts.

Laziz is a fantastic addition to the SLC dining scene. Derek and Moudi have always created deliciously vibrant and flavorful spreads and dips which have been so very popular, and I think with a bit of time, that same focus on bright, contrasting flavors found in their muhammara, for example, will make their way into the dishes offered at Laziz Kitchen as well.

Laziz Kitchen
Tuesday through Friday 8am-6pm
Saturday through Sunday 9am-4pm
912 South Jefferson Street, Salt Lake City
(801) 441-1228

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

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Visiting Les Madeleines

“Siri, set the timer for 19 minutes.” No, this is not an Apple commercial featuring Cookie Monster. I’m at Les Madeleines bakery in downtown Salt Lake, visiting with Romina Rasmussen, owner and chef.

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It’s a sleepy Salt Lake Sunday morning, and Romina is experimenting with different yeasts in her croissants, testing and testing again to see if the new stuff yields the same results as her old stuff. Not quite yet, she says. Back to the old stuff for now.

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Romina hasn’t always been a baker. She spent her first chunk of post-college years in D.C, then teaching English in Taiwan, and then on to Hong Kong, working in employee communications and then as the speechwriter for AT&T’s CEO. Romina explained that expats hit a point at about year four of being abroad, in which they start to lose touch with their home culture enough that most have to decide at that point to stay or go home. Romina decided to come home, where she worked for another telecom in Miami, before deciding it was time to take a step out of the corporate world and focus on something else. Next stop: the French Culinary Institute in New York. 

After graduating the FCI and working as pastry cook at the Mandarin Oriental, her brother called with a proposition. He was the owner of Shaggy’s on State Street, and he had a spot two doors down that would be perfect for a bakery. And so began her next adventure: transitioning from hotel-scale baking to now owning and self-funding her own tiny bakery in downtown Salt Lake.

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It started with a rotating menu of baked goods, and then about her croissants from the Trib. But then the Kouign Amann (pronounced “queen amahn”) happened. She was the only employee at the time, baking, running the cash register, etc. So when someone approached her and asked if she had ever made them, she replied that she didn’t have time to experiment. “Well, what if I special-ordered some?” the persistent customer asked. “I guess I’d make some, then” was Romina’s reply. So out went the first special order, and from then on Les Madeleines featured Kouign Amann’s one day per week, which slowly turned into two times, then three, and on until she was making them on a daily basis.

The kouigns were hard to come by, and difficult and time-consuming to make. At first they were in scarce supply and limits to how many one customer could buy. When people came in to buy some, they would “act suspicious, without making eye contact, and would ask for the Kouign Amann.” So the Kouign quickly earned the nickname “crack,” and Romina became “the lady on State Street that sells crack.”

She moved into her new space (the old Urban Bistro space at 216 E 500 S), which had a full kitchen. Romina never intended to offer a full hot menu, but “it would be a shame” to not use the kitchen. About this time, the Food Network called, and featured the Kouign on an episode of “The Best Thing I Ever Ate.” Romina’s phone battery died from the amount of online orders placed the night the show aired. Despite that this episode aired originally in 2009, it is still her most popular product.

But don’t look past her other creations, as her wall of accolades attests to her broad range of baking prowess.

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I stopped by and tried her Madmuffin breakfast sandwich without regrets (well, one regret–should have ordered two). Housemade English muffin, boar bacon, eggs, micro chives ensured I got my morning off to the right start.

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Ro is humble, and doesn’t feel the need to tout that she makes her own jams from produce she grows herself, or that her gelato doesn’t come pre-mixed in a bag from the factory. She believes that people will see and taste the quality, which is all the touting that she needs. Romina exhibits the entrepreneurial spirit, willing to take risks, jump out of the nest, and do something that others might perceive as risky to pursue her dream. And Salt Lake City is the lucky benefactor of this entrepreneurial spirit. We’re lucky to have her here.

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For some reason, RYE has been on my “must try” list for a while now, but it seems like every time we tried to swing by and grab a bite, we hit the few hours of the day they are actually closed: between 2 and 6 pm. But the stars aligned a few weeks ago, and we checked out RYE for the first time. 

RYE is in a unique setting: it shares a building with the Urban Lounge, and in fact the restaurant is owned by the same owners as UL. The owners had always wanted a place where they could grab early morning bites and late night food, so when the space next to UL opened up, they snatched it up and opened their own restaurant. Another unique feature is that when you’re enjoying a concert at Urban Lounge and go next door for a drink or some grub, they have TV’s streaming the concert next door so you don’t miss a beat. Pretty great idea.

As you might expect based on the current dining trends in SLC, upon entering RYE you will be greeted by Edison bulbs and plentiful beards–during our visit, I counted 11 dudes and 10 beards. I’ll let you guess which diner can’t grow one didn’t have one. So, while the atmosphere is plentiful in hipsterness, the restaurant is also plentiful in delicious food.

A friend recommended the pickled quail eggs to start, and they were indeed unique. At $3, it’s definitely worth giving them a shot. I love pickled anything, and these were right up my alley, although my wife was not interested in them at all.

For our entrees I went with the shoyu fried chicken with fresh corn grits and pickled peaches. My wife had the RYE burger with roasted jalapeños, caramelized onions, and avocado creme, all sandwiched between a lovely Eva Bakery bun.

Flying in the face of most new restaurants, the serving sizes at RYE are plentiful. The ½ chicken meal was easily enough for two meals. And while I was a bit disappointed in the toughness of the chicken, the breading was deliciously crisp, and the fresh corn grits were perfect. And let’s not talk about the pickled peaches, because they were so good, so in-season, so perfectly balanced between sweet and tart, that I am salivating right now and may need to run down there and get an order if I keep writing about them. So let’s just move on.

The burger was also fantastic. Well cooked, with buns that are hearty enough to withstand the juicy drippings of this fabulous burger. And I loved the fries. Get the burger and you won’t be disappointed. 

Service was really good. Attentive, responsive, but not too intrusive. Exactly how it should be.

So there you have it. The kitchen is currently being run by Erik Daniels (formerly of Avenues Bistro and Copper Onion. Erik has gradually added some more American flare to the menu to complement former chef Tommy Nguyen’s emphasis on Asian flavors.

I’d also be remiss to not mention that RYE offers a very solid breakfast/brunch menu as well. I have not had the chance to try it, but look forward to being able to in the near future.

That’s it. I’d give RYE 8 pickled quail eggs out of 10, with a half egg deduction for chicken that was a bit too chewy. Definitely go check it out, and stick around for a show next door as well.

RYE Diner and Drinks
239 S 500 E, Salt Lake City
(801) 364-4655