Final Thoughts on SLCFoodSnob

Tags

, , , , ,

I am a snob. I am particular about what I eat, especially since we hear so much about GMO food, pesticides, how much prepared and frozen food our nation consumes, how often salmonella outbreaks occur, the common understanding and acceptance that our food is injected with hormones or stuffed with bread crumbs. The list goest on about why I care about what I eat and what our local restaurants offer: wheat is changing and affecting our bodies, people are severely overweight or obese, high-fructose corn syrup and hydrogenated foods are the norm. Should this concern you? Well, our nation is constantly reminded that there are serious implications about what food we consume and since you and I are consumers we simply have a choice about where and what we eat. Every time you eat you are making a choice about how you feel and treat your body.

I am sure that it is obvious that I certainly am not a fan of fast food establishments. It is true that I love supporting our neighbors by eating at local food establishments. And while I have been experiencing the culinary world around SLC I have been impressed by how much feedback the owners have craved, both positive and negative, so that they can evaluate what they are doing and strive to make their offerings better. I know that we all get a little shy from time to time, but I challenge you to speak up and share your honest experience when the server comes around and inquires, “How is everything?” before you leave the next place you eat at. Perhaps the server may feel awkward and not certain on how to respond to something other than, “It’s good” or “Everything is fine” or “Could I please have a refill on X or extra of Y”. But please know that you are the consumer and your opinion matters. Why do we often not tell the truth about our dining experiences?

SO, as you have noticed, I am not just particular and snobby about the caliber of the food. I am equally interested in the ambiance, cleanliness, and the customer service. In fact, customer service unfortunately is a dying art in our nation. Every time I experience great customer service it reminds me to consider going out on the town and investing into the local economy rather than staying home and cooking. I am happy to report that I have had some outstanding service in SLC: Himalayan Kitchen, Chow Truck, Sugarhouse BBQ, Forage, and Pallet certainly stand out in this category and should get an award or even your business.

It has been two years since SLC Food Snob was launched and I am grateful for all my visitors that checked my blog out and helped me get to number 15 on the Urbanspoon blogger rankings, but alas – it is time for a new adventure. But please note that for the time being you can still find me on Facebook and Google+ as I will restart posting comments or articles every once in awhile about the local restaurants around the valley, because afterall – I have something to say about the places around town and want to share my judgement and passion with others.

A heartfelt thank you to my two editors, SELF & MDK, and all of my guest who looked forward to being a food critic once or twice a year with me. Without you all – this blog wouldn’t be possible. Also, I want to extend my appreciation to Heartbeat Nosh and IRC for being guest bloggers and contributing wonderful information by promoting worthwhile and meaningful events on SLCFoodSnob.com

My parting gift for all of you food advocates out there is the list of questions that I referenced at every visit – perhaps you can be your very own food snob and uphold a certain criteria to our local food scene to ensure that they are investing into our bodies and not just their bottom line.

How would you describe what you ordered? What did it look, smell and taste like?

Did you feel that the food was fresh?

Would you order it again?

Tell me about your server. How was the service?

How did the restaurant feel to you? Was it modern and sleek, rustic and warm, etc.

Was the space clean or cluttered?

Did the ambiance make you feel a certain way?

Given the criteria below, what would you rate the restaurant?
1. Damn, somebody needs to contact the Michelin Man.
2. I would be willing to return.
3. They should be the next contestant on Kitchen Nightmares.

Cheers,
SLC Food Snob

Spice Kitchen

Tags

, , , , , , , , , , , , ,

_S9T0078Written by Genevieve Lee.
Photos credited to Brian Smith at BPD Studios.

Spice Kitchen Incubator

The Basics
Spice Kitchen Incubator is a new project of the International Rescue Committee, in partnership with Salt Lake County, for refugees and other disadvantaged community members interested in starting a full or part-time food business. Many refugees come to the U.S. having owned or operated their own food business in other countries or have food products they have been selling informally to friends or family.  However, many need assistance in learning about U.S. food industry standards and small business development to turn their food business dream into reality. Spice Kitchen Incubator aims to provide the necessary skills for new entrepreneurs to build viable food businesses while adding to the diverse food community in Salt Lake City. The food industry is the lowest barrier industry for immigrants to enter. Spice Kitchen Incubator will be a community kitchen space which brings entrepreneurs together to develop successful food businesses, preserve their culinary traditions and share their talents with Salt Lake City community.

_S9T0252The National Business Incubation Association defines a business incubator as a comprehensive-assistance program targeted to help start-up and early-stage firms, with the goal of improving their chances to grow into healthy, sustainable companies. Spice Kitchen Incubator  ensures participants have affordable access to commercial kitchen space to learn the basics in commercial kitchen operations, proper food handling procedures and steps involved in building a sustainable food business.

This program works in three stages: Pre-Incubation, Incubation and Graduation. The goals of Pre-Incubation, which lasts anywhere from 6 months to 1 year, include completing a business plan, product development, creating a brand identity and establishing a legal business. The Incubation phase provides the entrepreneur with guidance in qualifying for capital, sustaining a business and growing her profit margin. Upon Graduation, a participant will have met these and other benchmarks, moved beyond the Spice Kitchen Incubator location, and will become a member of the alumni community.

_S9T0363Spice Kitchen Incubator will provide subsidized commercial kitchen space which members in the Incubation and Alumni phases will pay a reasonable rate to use. Participants will be presented with industry-specific technical assistance and workshops to gain knowledge in areas such as marketing, product development and managing a food business. Another benefit of being a Spice Kitchen Incubator participant is that each entrepreneur will receive access to markets and market positioning by being connected to market opportunities and utilizing co-branding techniques.

We are currently renting a space at 629 South State Street, where the Spice Kitchen Incubator commercial kitchen and teaching space will be located.

_S9T0245History of Spice
Spice Kitchen Incubator began about four years ago when a group of refugee women spoke with Salt Lake County officials of their desire to open small restaurants and shops. Ze Xiao spent multiple hours each week counseling and advising these entrepreneurs. Recognizing there was a greater demand in the community for food entrepreneurship and commercial kitchen space, the IRC and Salt Lake County started speaking to local funders about turning Ze’s efforts into a full program. We built the program based on best practices from Culinary Incubator Kitchens from San Francisco and New York City.

Salt Lake County has been instrumental in the creation of Spice Kitchen Incubator. Ze min Xiao, Refugee Services Liaison at Salt Lake County, incorporated advising aspiring food entrepreneurs into her work for the past several years, but knew more time should be dedicated to their pursuits. The International Rescue Committee joined their efforts in Summer 2012 and the two  organizations have partnered in this endeavor since.

_S9T0397Moving Forward
We are holding an orientation for our 2014 Pre-Incubation class of entrepreneurs on January 11, 2014 at 10:00 AM. It will be at 629 South State Street. We have more information on our website, including RSVPing and how to obtain an application.

Beyond the benefit of providing Salt Lake City with delicious food from more regions of the world, Spice Kitchen seeks to provide sustainable futures for refugees and low to moderate income community members. By helping them create viable and lasting food businesses, they will be able to provide themselves and their families with a strong future. Along with that, Spice Kitchen Incubator will contribute positively to economic development. Salt Lake City’s Culinary Business Incubator Study, published in August 2013, stated that a facility the size of Spice Kitchen Incubator will create an average of 26 jobs each year.

Our major focus at this point is seeking support to build the commercial kitchen space at 629 South State Street. This means we need funds as well as in-kind donations such as furniture and commercial kitchen equipment and restaurant supplies. The building is a (beautiful) shell at this point, so it requires renovation for our purposes. Community outreach is another element which is important at this time. Support and engagement from our SLC community will greatly help us succeed. We have a few developing partnerships with schools and organizations who will provide monthly workshops for our participants; anyone with food industry and/or business knowledge is invited to contact us if they are interested in this opportunity.

_S9T0287The Food
Spice Kitchen Incubator is not a catering company, though we are happy to connect interested community members with our entrepreneurs to order a catered meal. The types of food available depend on which entrepreneurs are participants and capable of catering at the time. Currently, we have three entrepreneurs who cater. Their food is influenced by Sudanese, Burmese and Jordanian cuisine. They are still in product development phase, so any orders are helpful to perfect their menu and support them while they grow. To order, contact genevieve at genevieve.lee@rescue.org.

Pago

Tags

, , , , , , , , ,

cropped-pago-header.jpg
Pago

Who would have guessed that for 5 years this little sophisticated hole-in-the-wall restaurant has been around? Tucked between Children’s Hour and Smith’s, one could easily look past this place on 9th and 9. But, after reading this, I hope that you won’t.

Upon approaching the quaint but modern establishment I noticed a reasonably packed restaurant through a few large window panes that allowed me to gaze into Pago from the street. If you were to spy this little place you would quickly see that there is an open kitchen that is enveloped in wood, wood, and more wood from the flooring, to the walls, to the tables.

Pago seems to be a perfect date location, as you could get close to your date without being obvious or awkward, plus I didn’t see any children or youth that evening – what a grown-up place. In fact, Pago was absolutely packed with hipsters, yuppies, and most people ranged from their twenties through their sixties. Glasses of wine flowed at every table. The staff was extremely attentive, contributing to the feeling that everyone at my table felt right at home…minus a small draft at our table which was the most unpleasant aspect of our evening.

After enjoying a glass of sherry and a glass of wine we got serious about ordering food I mean, how could we not, the place was surrounded by wholesome dishes that left a thick aroma in the air which tantalized our taste-buds. Did you hear that? Yup…that was my stomach grumbling.

Pago Soup of the DayOne of my guest and I ordered the soup of the day which was a smooth and velvety taste of potato and sunchoke. The garnish didn’t only add a visual component, but it added a little extra garlic/salty goodness to a few bites. Mmm, I’m actually getting a hankering for another bowl as I reflect on this starter.

OystersMy other guest wanted to have a lighter meal and ordered oysters in the shell, which were held in place with beautiful helpings of decorative pink salt, along with Pago’s version of a Caesar salad. The salad ditched the traditional greens and fixed up the salad with kale instead. The salad was finished with, the star ingredient of the soup of the day, sunchokes (am I sensing a Pago favorite ingredient?), fennel, and a classic dressing that anyone with an intolerance to dairy wouldn’t have to worry about digesting. The salad was satisfying and tasty.

Caesar SaladSteelhead TroutIt didn’t take my other guest long to determine what he was going to order as his main dish – the trout. To his surprise it was a healthy size portion of fish, prepared medium-rare over a bed of hearty lima beans and medium, diced butternut squash along with apple and fennel. Yes, he enjoyed every bite of it.

GnocchiI decided to order the gnocchi, because I thought it would balance out the other plates that were ordered. I am glad that I did, because it had a hearty taste to it – something that I was after on such a bitter-cold winter night. These heavenly little potato dumplings were smeared with a cornucopia of smoky onion, broccoli, mushrooms, leeks and a crown of dusted parmesan cheese. Really, if Pago wanted to evolve this vegetarian dish and offer a bit of protein I would suggest elk or even venison would be a beautiful addition to the entree.

We didn’t go with dessert, as the three choices just didn’t do it for us. One dessert sounded fabulous; until they mentioned it had “marshmallows”. Another dessert was a pie – but it wasn’t heated and just didn’t sound that great, really. The third option… bread-pudding with a funky twist of white chocolate roped into it. I felt like the options didn’t really flow with the style of the menu and I didn’t want to take a detour away from the impressively tasty meal we all just had. What could have been a great alternative, now that I’m thinking about it – since we weren’t shy about consuming glasses of wine, which the server suggested…and then the sommelier talked with us about. Oh, and then there was some wine that picked out… The server could have hinted about a cold winter’s night drink and that could have been a perfect replacement to the lacking desserts they presented. Too bad it wasn’t offered – or suggested. Baaah.

Above all, the server gave us room to roll with what we wanted. In fact, what sets Pago apart from other restaurants is how the staff looks out for each other. I did notice the entire Pago team casually sweeping through the dining room checking up on, without interrupting, their guests. Way to pay attention to details and making sure the customer service is supreme!

Overall, this restaurant seems to belong in San Francisco or Portland because it focused on local products, and presented dishes with a sophistication: simple, clean, and certainly focused on the food. Having said that, I am delighted that it is right here in Salt Lake City. Sure, other restaurants attempt to have a smaller establishment, niche menu, and farm-to-table food offerings, but I don’t see other restaurants really competing. Even their sister restaurant, Finca, that I am admittedly not fond of, doesn’t pull off what Pago does!

Rating — I would be willing to return to see what improvements they do with the dessert menu before I make it a regular go-to place.

Edited by MDK

Pago on Urbanspoon

Kyoto Restaurant

Tags

, , , , , , , , , ,

cropped-kyoto-header.jpg

Kyoto Restaurant

I felt like I was back in Japan. Upon approaching the front door to Kyoto Restaurant it would have been difficult to miss the architected landscape that is common in Japan but emulated here in Salt Lake: small shrubs, bamboo, well placed rocks, and the ever famous Japanese maple trees aligned the restaurant. It was as if the landscape greeted me and allowed me to enjoy a taste of serenity, a style that no other restaurant in Salt Lake City truly strives for. Kyoto offers unique and authentic Japanese atmosphere and dining that almost takes you away from Salt Lake as you walk through the door.

We ended up waiting for a table and therefore I would recommend calling in for a reservation, but certainly Kyoto was able to accommodate us. We were seated at a table were you had to kick off your shoes and climb into a traditional Japanese style booth that was separated by paper wall partitions, which gave my guests and me the privacy that allowed for a rather intimate dining experience. If this is not what you would be into, don’t worry – Kyoto has western style tables and a sushi bar that you can be seated at and keep your shoes on. In the booth we were surrounded by original artwork, Japanese décor including a Noren, which is a traditional curtain that was hung in the doorway, to the kitchen, and real table flowers. As I looked around, I saw couples on dates, friends and family catching up, but not many youth. In fact, I believe our table had one of the youngest patrons there, but that doesn’t mean that kids aren’t welcome here. In fact, there are children plates available.

Sushi SamplerIt was time to make a decision. What were we going to eat?! I loved the fact that the menu was a manageable length, offering those dining at Kyoto dishes that are familiar to other Japanese restaurants. The menu has tempura, varieties of teriyaki and sushi, as well as traditional entrees that you wouldn’t typically see in a Japanese restaurant, such as nabe and sukiyaki. I would have been thoroughly impressed if they had chawamushi or unagi-don, common dishes I ate while living in Japan, but already they had exceeded my expectations. All the food that we ordered had a solid presentation pleasing to the eye. For example, the sushi was plated nicely and the miso soup was served in traditional lacquerware. The nabe was served in an appropriate cast iron pot, as too was the sukiyaki. I was however surprised that the tempura wasn’t served with an oil sheet or on a different style plate. Still, everything looked appetizing.

My guests and I did not see coming what the first bite would bring.

SaladMy guests declared that the sushi sampler, that consisted of tuna, salmon, and California rolls, were “first rate, authentic Japanese ingredients, fresh-as-can-be sushi.” That’s right folks, even though Salt Lake City is landlocked, you can still find fresh seafood. Unbelievable. In addition, the tofu in the miso soup wasn’t little dehydrated cubes. The mini size Japanese salad was crisp. Indeed this salad is what one ought to expect from a Japanese restaurant. Don’t know what I’m talking about? Check out the photo, mina-san.

The beef sukiyaki, lite tempura, and nabe dishes all came out of the kitchen hot. The flavors had the perfect combination of mirin and soy sauce, and the correct dipping sauces. And of course, a small bowl of rice balanced out the meals perfectly.

NabeOne of my guest describes the nabe that he ordered, “[It was] very hot initially, the broth was a light miso style but needed soy sauce to taste (a good thing) as too much soy would have overpowered [the] delicate fish flavors. [It] was excellent, served in a traditional iron pot with many delicious things added from egg, seaweed, fish roll, tempura, and there were several unique/tasty morsels which were new to me. The noodles appeared fresh and had a wonderful consistency.”

My other guest didn’t have any feedback on the lite tempura meal, as she was too busy enjoying her meal. (picture below)

Lite Tempura DinnerBeef SukiyakiI ended up ordering the beef sukiyaki because I haven’t had that since I went back to Japan last year. Sukiyaki is a very popular dish in Japan and one that I don’t see on too many menus here – I had to dive in. It really is one of the best dishes to share with friends and family. For this reason alone, it warmed my soul to order this. I had the pleasure to have some konnyaku, which is like clear spaghetti made from potatoes, which I am sure would surprise many people. I have always heard that one has to eat the konnyaku in small pieces otherwise it would get stuck in your intestines. Is this a myth? I haven’t found out. Whew. I was somewhat disappointed that I didn’t get treated to enoki or some other variety of Japanese mushrooms, but I had to munch on some plain ol’ American mushrooms. Booooring. Then I needed to remember that I was eating in America, because something was missing: traditionally speaking you would dip all of these cooked goodies hanging out in the cast iron pot into a small dipping tray of raw egg before consuming what you picked up with your chopsticks. But alas, we are in America and are prone to be terrified of salmonella and just haven’t warmed up to that idea. It was this missing piece to approach perfection.

Green Tea IcecreamAs we all shared some green tea ice-cream we noticed how all the servers were wearing traditional kimonos and talked about how delightful our server was: she was formal yet warm and friendly. She was attentive and offered wooden chopsticks, as opposed to lacquerware chopsticks, too make it so the nabe was easier to eat. I also noticed the assistant manager walking around the restaurant from the main door to the sushi bar a number of times while we dined there. He wasn’t a hawk, but you could tell that things were running smoothly under his supervision.

This is the pinnacle of Japanese restaurants in Salt Lake. People should go out of their way to dine here and escape into the land of the rising sun without having to board a plane.

Damn, somebody needs to contact the Michelin Man.

Edited by MDK

Kyoto Japanese on Urbanspoon

Wild Grape

Tags

, , , , , ,

cropped-wild-grape-header.jpg
Wild Grape

Wild Grape. It is the kind of place you could spend hours at just enjoying the food and company. The space was comfortable and the ambiance was fun and casual. The art on the walls gave the restaurant a nice touch. The open ceiling gave it a quasi-modern feeling. The open kitchen wasn’t “on-stage” but we were able to see the food being prepared. Of course we noticed the grapes growing outside on the patio: how appropriate.

When we sat down at our table I noticed a dirty coffee mug greeting us. This was kind of a bummer. I mean who was the person who left it on the table for a customer to use?! This did not present any major set-back, but small details could certainly add up. Fortunately everything else seemed to be crystal clean.

Our server approached our table and seemed a bit disinterested in serving us and therefore didn’t really put any effort into us. I wish he would have cared more about my guests and me. Was he distracted? I know we all have those days, but what a pity. Our interactions with him didn’t really take away from our experience at Wild Grape, but it certainly didn’t add to it either. Nevertheless, we didn’t have to wait long to order or to get our food and the plates were cleared away quickly. Am I expecting too much?

I bet you are wondering what we ordered, no? We came at a time when we were able to order breakfast and lunch items, which included huevos rancheros, brioche French toast, and a wood grilled spiced lamb burger. Overall the freshness depended upon the dish that was ordered.

RancherosThe huevos rancheros wasn’t exceptionally fresh. I mean, let’s be honest – it was a dish that had canned or smashed up beans, eggs, and tortillas with an after-thought of cheese sprinkled over it. When I inquired about getting some avocado or guacamole, they did provide fresh avocados that made up slightly for being a less than desirable dish. There wasn’t anything fancy about this Wild Grape specialty. It was just a plate stacked with eggs and fried tortillas. It didn’t even look appetizing – there wasn’t any color on the plate – no salsa, no sour cream, no avocados. It was not impressive. What was so special about this specialty? Something could be spruced up more to add more dimension to the dish, because it was just bland. Maaan, it had so much potential. I am hoping that Wild Grape can take a look at what they are offering and ask themselves, “How can we make this even better?” They have a good foundation, but they aren’t grasping it. Bummer. I hate being disappointed.

Lamb BurgerAs for the lamb burger the ingredients were fresh and were of high-quality. One of my guests reports on the lamb burger: “The red onion, lettuce and tomato were flavorful and fresh. The French fries were hot and perfectly crisp. I ordered the lamb burger well-done. It was flavorful and moist, not dry. The spiced lamb went nicely with the tzatziki (a Greek yogurt base) sauce. I would have liked it to be a bit spicier. The gluten-free bun had impressively great flavor, but became flat half way through eating my burger which made it difficult to hold (I ended up having to use my fork to finish my burger). It is worth trying, as it’s hard to find GF bread that actually tastes good. The presentation of the burger was simple. The flavors complemented each other well, especially the spiced lamb with the cool tzatziki. The fries and the fry sauce were also a nice pair. Some sliced avocados would be a perfect addition to this dish.”

French ToastMy other guest didn’t know what to expect upon ordering the brioche French toast, but she figured it was a safe bet to order since her school cafeteria makes a decent French toast. Therefore, she thought the Wild Grape ought to be able to pull it off even better. In the end she thought it tasted pretty great. Great enough, in fact, that she would like the recipe. Although, if she were to make it herself she would add more spices, perhaps to make the flavors more seasonal. For example, right now a dash more of nutmeg, cinnamon, and cloves could be the secret weapon and come summer lemon zest would be an appropriate addition to the egg batter. Beyond that, it was suggested that Wild Grape ought to provide enough syrup where she could pour it on without having to be stingy.

To recap, the food overall was decent, but everything has room for improvement. There is so much potential looming. What is the issue? Everybody we met was friendly enough: hostess, server, kitchen manager, but I didn’t see the spark in anyone’s eyes. Maybe that spark is the missing secret ingredient.

Rating – I would be willing to return to see if they reach their potential some time down the road.

Edited by MDK

Wild Grape Bistro on Urbanspoon

Ruth’s Diner

Tags

, , , , , , , , ,

cropped-ruths-diner-header.jpg

Ruth’s Diner

When I first moved to Salt Lake I heard about Ruth’s. I heard countless tidbits about the location and how amazingly beautiful it is there, without ever hearing anything about the food. Now, I have a feeling that most Salt Lakers would say that they like Ruth’s and after visiting I feel that most people indeed venture up the canyon for the ambiance and for the patio. The atmosphere is unbelievable, and yes, perhaps, worthwhile to venture up the canyon if you need an excuse to dine out at a location that isn’t outrageously expense. Still, given my experience, I have hopes that Ruth’s can nail breakfast, because this is the kind of joint that should pull that off without any disappointments.

Pot RoastMy guest ordered the pot roast and mashed potatoes, which were covered with gravy, but not too much gravy. In fact, he would have liked a little bit more. Still, the dish was presented simply without any flair or garnish. If dishing up a healthy dollop of mashed potatoes though, why not dress them up a bit with grated cheese or bacon? In fact, why not offer some funeral potatoes as a side instead of what was presented? My guest sums up his experience by stating, “I would say most family style restaurants could make this dish. It is not unique. It is traditional. Comfort food. That’s why I wanted it. Because I was stressed out at the time! And it did make me feel better.” Finally, with the amount of food that was served he didn’t feel like he was getting shortchanged.

Kids Mac n CheeseI concur: I didn’t feel shortchanged with the amount of food that I received. In fact, I was overloaded with food. Because I couldn’t decide what to order, our server suggested starting with a kid’s order of mac-n-cheese. It was decent, nothing abnormal or questionable about this dish. I probably wouldn’t crave it, as it was not the creamiest or richest version I ever had, but it was a respectful dish.

Vegetarian ChiliI had to make a tough decision between a salad and soup. Since my guest went in for the salad I was happy to taste the vegetarian chili; after all it is autumn and this is theoretically the perfect food for the season. In short it reminded me of so many canned homemade chilies that I have received over the years that included a thick sauce and white button mushrooms. I can’t say I expected more than what this dish offered, but I ask you to recall that I am indeed a snob … and my feeling is that I would rather head to Harmon’s and pick up some canned good instead of going out for a cup of this.

Raspberry ChickenAnd then there was the raspberry chicken. I am confident to say that I am an adventurous eater and like to think that I give most kitchen staff the benefit of the doubt when it comes to their own menu creation, but I can’t say I was a fan of the raspberry and chicken combination. I didn’t like the sauce. I didn’t like the flavor. I didn’t really like the dish.

Our server did a good job of being attentive without being overwhelming. The food came out of the kitchen quickly. I just wish that I would have ordered a burger with a root beer float. Drats. My guest looks forward to returning, but hopes that the benches at the booths wouldn’t feel off balanced. As for me, there is a saying that hindsight is 20/20, but if I find myself up at Ruth’s Diner I hope to be pedaling by it or ordering breakfast.

Rating I would be willing to return if someone else took me there for breakfast only.
Edited by MDK
Ruth's Diner on Urbanspoon

Sugarhouse BBQ

Tags

, , , , , , , , , , , , ,

cropped-sugarhouse-bbq1.jpg

Sugarhouse BBQ

CornbreadSummer is behind us. It’s sad, but true. No longer are most of us going to be firing up the grill and basting those sticky-icky-ooey-gooey ribs in some saucy concoction while the coals cook up dinner to perfection. No more barbeque sauce covered fingers where you have to use your sleeve to wipe off your mouth while trying to manage eating a mouthful of food. No more heaping mounds of corn bread, slaw, and collard greens in the backyard. And ya know – I am absolutely ok with that, ‘cause someone else can spend that energy on my lunch or dinner.

What was once a destination restaurant has now transformed into a hot spot that is drawing crowds of people in the doors of Sugarhouse BBQ as the aromas draw individuals off of 2100 South. To my surprise this joint is veeery clean. What the heck did I expect?! A dirty dive?! Perhaps secretly I wished it was not so bright and spotless. I felt that I had to be lady-like and that I couldn’t really dump the BBQ sauce on my food and make a mess.

There seem to be too many tables set in the room my guest and I were eating in, as my personal bubble kinda felt invaded. But, I still managed to have a drink and good conversation with my guest and … well, let’s be honest – we didn’t have to worry about laughing too loud or censoring what we were talking about, because other people around us were being equally loud and were absorbed into their conversation. When we weren’t chatting it up, it was a great place to be able to gaze outside the window and check out the cars driving by and partake in some people watching when folks were getting on and off the nearby bus stop.

Our server was very charismatic, personable, and gave honest recommendations. He kept us entertained, which is probably outside of his job description. He certainly tapped into our demanding and playful mood at our table and was able to keep up with what we gave him. Stellar.

I started with a spicy Bloody Mary ‘cause I thought that it would go perfectly well with whatever upcoming collection of BBQ grub that I had coming my way. But, I was so confused. What was I going to order? The turkey salad sandwich sounded amazing. But, alas…it sounded like more of a lunch item to me than a sit down – let’s gnaw on some bones kinda meal that I was looking forward to. Lucky for me that I got help from our friendly and playful server: when I asked him if he had a coin to flip to make my decision easier he actually reached into his pocket and left a quarter for me at the table.

Signature Memphis Style Ribs and Caribbean Jerked Chicken via Sugarhouse Smoked Platter 2I got a side order of the Caribbean jerked chicken. Now…for all of you who like jerked goods…then perhaps this is for you. The flavors where bold, not spicy, and surprisingly didn’t leave me with a dry taste in my mouth. However, I couldn’t finish the side because the flavor was just not what I was after. Now, if I was smart and ordered a side of mashed potatoes then I would have made my mama proud and finished my plate, because I think I could have swung that combo. Too bad, so sad. This just didn’t happen. I had to move on. Too much jerk for me.

Instead, I devoured the 1/3 slab of their signature Memphis style ribs. The ribs looked like they came out of a photo: nice smooth straight lines without any globs of BBQ sauce pouring over them. These babies were smoked to perfection and were placed on the table next to an assortment of sauces to douse them with at my table. The trouble now was deciding what sauce I wanted: a Carolina based vinegar sauce, brown sugar mustard, the Sugarhouse BBQ sauce…and what was the other?! So many options! How could I possibly go wrong?! At the end of the meal I proved that I am a carnivore. All in all, the dishes were nice and clean which surprised me because apparently I was expecting some gristle or amazingly charred BBQ protein – instead of being just smoked.

Texas Beef Brisket and Carolina PUlled Pork via the Sugarhouse Smoked PlatterMy guest reports that, “The brisket was a little too dry for me. Good thing I love BBQ sauce and their recipe was just my style. I would definitely order the pulled pork again and the sides I had were definitely awesome. Especially the Greek potatoes!!”

But, it didn’t stop there. I was allowed a couple of side dishes. I went for the barbeque beans and macaroni and cheese. The barbeque beans were just as one would expect. However, something seemed amok with the mac and cheese. Was that Velveeta?! Or was that just my taste buds pulling a prank on me? But, how unique…spiral macaroni…Sugarhouse BBQ, you are keeping it unique: you guys get kudos for that.

Pecan Pie ala modeAnd then there was dessert. I’m a fan of bread pudding, but I didn’t see what kind of sauce was offered with it and I certainly didn’t want to heckle our server any more, so in the end one piece of pecan pie (heated up) served ala mode was on its way. I was glad we ordered it, as it wrapped up the dinner perfectly.

Perhaps another restaurant could hook me up with a messier finger-licking-good barbeque experience, however since I roll by the digs often, Sugarhouse BBQ has grabbed my attention and I’ll be heading over there when I just don’t wanna mess around with the smoky joe or green egg.

Rating — I would be willing to return when I am craving some protein.
Edited by MDK
Sugarhouse Barbeque Company on Urbanspoon

Pinon Market and Cafe

Tags

, , , , , , , , , ,

cropped-pinon-header.jpg

Piñon Market and Cafe

Piñon has a pleasant approach, a suitable parking area, and a relaxing patio. After ordering our meals, my guest and I decided to sit outside on the patio which had a natural canvas of overhanging ivy that shaded us, and pups, from the blazing sun. Every once in a while Piñon employees would check up on us, but mostly left us to enjoy the surroundings and each other’s company.

You wouldn’t know it; the new owners have not skipped a beat in what Piñon has to offer. The sandwiches have great girth to them, desserts and salads looked equally appetizing, and everything in Piñon‘s cases looked fresh. When I inquired more into the scones, desserts, salads and sandwiches I was told that they are made daily.

The man behind the counter was incredibly helpful in making sure our quest for a good meal was met. He was playful, knowledgeable, and gave us wonderful customer service with a genuine smile tattooed to his face. He certainly seemed to believe in the quality of the food he was offering. This went a long way for me, because when I see employees who are that dedicated to what they are doing, I feel that it speaks volumes about the restaurant through and through. However, I did wish he would have pointed out the “other” dessert bars and brownies that were in the cold case, as opposed to only the fancy fruit tart, key lime pie, and cakes.

Pinon VegetarianI got the Piñon vegetarian sandwich, because it is one of their best-selling sandwiches. It had stacked itself with tasty ingredients: grilled veggies, tomatoes, and greens. The focaccia bread gave the sandwich a great balance between the veggies and robust flavor of the balsamic vinegar. However, I do think the veggies could have been sliced thinner. In addition, I would have preferred that the green lettuce would have been replaced with either spinach or arugula, as those greens are heartier and they would take on the generous drizzle of balsamic and oil from the veggies a bit better.

BLT Sandwich IIMy guest ordered the bacon avocado sandwich – two ingredients that she is rather fond of – and informed me that it was nice and fresh and that the bacon was of high quality. Score. One could say that it didn’t have an entire pig or the whole fruit harvest, so it was well designed. Touchdown! Still, after some consideration she noted that this sandwich is, ”what I would expect in this kind of establishment. It looked like I expected it to look, except the bread I ordered had been swapped out for focaccia.” Fumble. Any restaurant could make this sandwich. In fact, many do. So what is so special about Piñon‘s bacon avocado sandwich? Not much. What could the new owners do to make it stand out a bit better? Piñon could enhance the sandwich by liberating the flavor and treating the palate a bit more: “The sandwich was lacking in sauce – there was some, but not enough to balance the avocado and bacon. Felt a little dry.”

Key Lime Pie SliceWe were on to dessert. I ordered the key lime pie, which was perfect. I loved the whipped cream topping as opposed to a traditional meringue one typically sees. I loved the walnut pieces in the crust especially. Crust for key lime pie always seems to stump many restaurants: either it has a graham cracker crust that crumbles or a crust that is so hard that one could use it as a frisbee. Piñon nailed this dessert. Way to go!

Fruit TartAs for the fruit tart that my guest selected, it looked nice, but it wasn’t as fresh tasting as one would think. To be honest, my guest reported that “the strawberries were a little sad, not very flavorful [and that] something indefinable was missing: perhaps a dash of some spice that could highlight the fruit and offset the sweetness.”

Above all, the sandwiches and salads are gourmet, which didn’t match their drink selection. I was jonesing for a hoity toity beverage, but alas, they offered only a mainstream selection. Perhaps this works with their regular clientele, but I certainly wanted something a little off the beaten path. One idea might be something that I may find at Whole Foods or some chic marketplace in Malibu, California. Still, even with all of my snobby suggestions, if I had to pick between Subway, Jimmy-John’s, and Piñon, com’on people – say it with me…pleeeease – there is no choice. At Piñon you can enjoy a pleasant ambiance, dog friendly outside seating, and a nice meal; all while supporting a local stomping ground!

Rating — I would be willing to return and see how things are looking after the new owners have had some time to make it their own.

Edited by MDK
Pinon on Urbanspoon

Layla’s

Tags

, , , , , , , , ,

cropped-layla-header.jpg

Layla

What has been one of your favorite restaurants to take a date to in Salt Lake City? Is Layla’s on that list? If you haven’t been, imagine a place that isn’t lavish, but simple and unique. Imagine a contemporarily styled place where tea lit candles decorate the back wall accented by a light blue hue. Can you picture it? Do you see the delicate curtains draping down from the wall? Now imagine unique and handmade wooden benches that outline the seating area. In short, this could be a perfect place for date night, although not exclusive to couples; family and friends ought to enjoy the scenery, service, and atmosphere too.

Caprese SaladIntrigued by the fact that the tomatoes and basil came from Layla’s own garden, my guests and I decided to start with an order of Caprese salad. It was served napoleon style and drizzled with a smooth balsamic, making it a good choice for a hot night. It was exactly what one should expect in such a salad.

Mediterranean Crab CakesFrom there one of my guests ordered the Mediterranean crab cakes that looked perfectly cooked and were accompanied by a house-made remoulade, a fancy way to call an egg-based sauce made specifically for seafood, that just about wanted me to like crab enough to dig in. The presentation was nice and the kitchen got the dish out promptly. However, my guest reports: “As for taste, it was not very flavorful. It was not bland, but it did not have any “wow” factor for me. It was good, and it was filling, it just wasn’t amazing.”

TabboulehMy other guest is a big fan of small plates, because she wants to try a variety of items on the menu instead of committing to one entree, and decided to order the tabbouleh. She reports: “I was looking for a healthy option on the menu and this fit the bill! It was crisp, clean and fresh. It came with an abundance of parsley which was blended with tomato, onion, mint and cracked wheat. It was a very colorful salad! I felt the parsley was a little overpowering, and that the dish, although as healthy as it is, could use some extra flavor. I ended up squeezing some fresh lemon juice and salt/pepper on top to give it an extra punch.”

KibbehShe then got adventurous from the tabbouleh and went in for the kibbeh – something she has never tried before. The presentation was a bit lacking, as it was just two meatballs on the plate (or rather ground beef croquettes) served with a steel ramekin of sauce. Sadly it was not so appealing. But you have heard the saying, don’t judge a book by its cover, right? So, she dismissed the plain boring plate and noted that “the taste was different than meatballs. It was light and slightly dense. I thought the flavor was a bit bland, but with the cucumber mint yogurt it helped bring out the flavor a bit and added some much needed moisture.”

Moroccan Lamb ShankI ordered the lamb shank, because it was the most recommended item on the menu. I was stunned when I got my entree. The plate was packed with under cooked Brussels sprouts, so much rice that I thought it was invading my plate, and a bone-in lamb shank. The protein was absolutely tender: I was able to separate it with a gentle tug of my fork. The flavor was spot on as it was loaded up with complimentary flavors of garlic, apricots, and exotic spices. However the size of the dish was ridiculous. I ended up having to share it with everyone at the table. Perhaps I shouldn’t have gone in for the rolls that they offered to us before our appetizer. I suppose there are always trade-offs.

Our server was friendly, knowledgeable, and was able to give suggestions with conviction. He clearly enjoyed working there and added a pleasant dimension to our meal.

Rating – I would be willing to return and have dinner in the bar or on the patio.

Edited by MDK
Layla Grill and Mezze on Urbanspoon

Eva’s Bakery

Tags

, , , , , , , , , , ,

cropped-boulangerie-evas-bakery-header1.jpg

Eva’s Bakery

As I approached Eva’s Bakery I noticed a couple of people beginning their morning and savoring the flavors of their coffee and pastries outside on patio furniture. When I crossed the threshold I was greeted by staff available to help. There was a comforting feeling and pleasant aroma that enveloped me as I walked into a space perfectly balanced between wood and blue and white tiled work. Beyond various pictures and photos of France, there was a mirror which covered one of the walls that made the seating area seem less restrictive.

Here is the thing; Eva’s Bakery has a specialized menu and offerings. For this reason, everything seemed sophisticated and classy…they placed pride in what they create. In fact, everything that was in the display case or stored on the walls looked appetizing and were made this morning.

I thought we would be able to get something from their menu, but since we were there before the kitchen officially opened that wasn’t an option. Sigh. I wanted to sink my teeth into a breakfast and not just a (fancy) pastry. Or so I thought. With a little help my guest and I were ordering and placing the decision into the hands of the man behind the counter. He was very helpful in making recommendations and providing product descriptions.

Stuff French ToastMy guest ordered the stuffed French toast. She informed me that she “felt that they used high-quality ingredients – the ricotta cheese filling and the blueberries both seemed very nice. The flavors meshed well, although I felt that they could have played up the lemon of the French toast filling more.”

DSC_0016As for me, I ordered one Tortillas Espanola (Spanish Omelet), a chocolate croissant, and chai tea. The Tortillas Espanola didn’t look all that appealing. The layers of thinly sliced spuds, onion, and egg looked visually boring, but in reality this dish turned out to be a diamond in the rough. The bold savory flavors were certainly a delightful surprise! I suppose if Eva’s wanted to spruce up the presentation they could add a dash of paprika or sell mini Espanolas instead of a wedged slice. Still, this little breakfast item is absolutely recommended. In fact, between that and my chai I ended up having to keep the chocolate croissant for an elevenses…

Chocolate CroissantAs we were sitting at a table, I kept seeing baked goods departing from the kitchen. It was like sugar to my soul. What can I say? I crave expertly crafted baked treats because they have an ability to unite people together, bring distant memories from childhood to the present, and allow me to drool as an adult. The best thing about Eva’s Bakery is that they are the experts in what they do. They have high standards and hold to them. I doubt anybody would be dissatisfied upon their visit. Why? I think the question really comes down to the quality of the butter. People please; you can’t get quality flaky goodness and flavors without quality butter. Eva’s is a worthwhile boulangerie to visit. Really, no other restaurant could have made these dishes. Eva’s Bakery is where it is at.

Rating — Damn, somebody needs to contact the Michelin Man.

Edited by MDK

Eva's Bakery on Urbanspoon

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 76 other followers