Memorable Dishes in Salt Lake City, Utah

To experience Utah is to experience the Beehive state during the winter. The chill from the wind and the fresh scent of  fallen snow was a welcomed change, making dining and having a cup of tea that much more enjoyable. During my short work trip, I was able to eat at few great Salt Lake City staples–The Copper Onion and Red Iguana.

 

Turkish Eggs

The Copper Onion

An intriguing brunch item of two perfectly poached eggs nestled in a sweet, peppery bath of paprika butter, yogurt and mint. I anticipated the hot butter to separate the yogurt but was not at all bothered by the ricotta-like texture as a result of it. As you break open the delicately poached egg, the release of the yolk creates a decadent sauce to slather on your toast. A  chiffonade of mint added an herbaceous bite while  brightening up the dish.

 

Not your ordinary Tres Leches Cake

Red Iguana

There’s a reason why I don’t have a picture of this cake. After a single bite, I repeatedly came back for more and for more…until it was gone. The cake was as small as a muffin, thoroughly soaked in a chilled milky pool of vanilla, tres leches/3 milks of evaporated, condensed and whole milk. The unexpected addition of brandy added another dimension, bringing out the vanilla to the forefront and accenting the lightly sweetened milks.

 

Monday Inspiration

Flounder Meunieure at the girl & the fig in Sonoma

Luscious browned butter, capers, oh my!

The deceptively complex cucumber salad that glistens at Din Tai Fung

 

My go-t0 favorite when visiting the  Bay Area–the wedge + dip at The Table. Crispy potatoes are paired with a savory Tzatziki dip layered with copious amounts of fruity olive oil and nutritional yeast.

Making French onion soup just because. Topped with a round grilled cheese disk of Gruyere and Raclette–melty, bubbly and topped with bread crumbs that got a little too crunchy but were still very good!

The Best Ever Mac & Cheese

My favorite show on the Food Network is  “The Best Thing I Ever Ate” for two reasons:

  1. You discover the favorite dishes of food personalities/writers/chefs and where you can find them. It’s also cool when they’re showing something you’ve actually eaten. I.e. Claire Robinson having the vanilla cream meringue cake at Cipriani in New York (I highly recommend it).

2.  The number two reason is watching their raw passion for food as they vividly describe each dish. Just listen to Alex Guarnaschelli– her words are poetic. She calls the waiter who makes the best Caesar salad “a maestro that sprinkles a salt violin of cheese.” Alex then looks up and pauses as she recalls each element and squints in joy. Love her.

 

I‘ve only had a handful of “that was the best ever____!” moments. And I know that I’m not going to find all of them in my neighborhood. It will require a little exploration because it’s a journey. With that being said, the BEST EVER Mac & Cheese can be found at The Butcher’s Table in Seattle, Washington. Owner Kurt Dammeier and  founder of Beecher’s Cheese, serves his “world’s best” mac & cheese at his steakhouse–all hot and bubbly and right out of the oven. It’s made lovingly with their Flagship Cheddar and Just Jack cheese. Flagship is like an aged Cheddar meets Gruyere: robust yet nutty. Marry that with a buttery jack and you have “the world’s best” mac & cheese. At the Beecher’s shop in Pike Place Market, it’s served piping hot-stove top style. It’s still very tasty, but now multiply that to the 100th power with how it’s prepared at The Butcher’s Table. They take the exact same mac and cheese, add bread crumbs and finish it off in the oven to develop a brown cheesy crust and…..wait for it…….serve it with their house-made Sriracha!  Is your mouth watering yet? The cheeses balance one another; Flagship gives the sauce an edge and Just Jack adds a luscious buttery texture. As you dig in with your fork and break open the blanket of cheesy crust, the steam of the hot noodles releases, giving you a welcomed mini facial. Get a little bit of crunchy cheesy bits along with the creamy pasta, a dab of the spicy Sriracha, and you have the perfect bite. True story: I placed two orders of this as a side to my steak. It’s next level, out of this world and the BEST EVER mac & cheese.

 

Burrata: Several Ways

Oh, how I just love Burrata with all of its  luscious, creamy goodness.  It’s essentially a sack of mozzarella filled with stracciatella, a mixture of mozzarella curd and fresh cream. The straciatella is enveloped in a perfect little pouch and the cheese is traditionally knotted at the top. After a single puncture of the fork, its buttery filling oozes out. If that’s not food porn I don’t know what is. Due to its high moisture content and zero aging, it’s classified as a fresh cheese.

Burrata is amazingly decadent yet light on the palate with a refreshingly sweet cream flavor. It’s made an appearance on many restaurant menus. What’s not to like, really? It’s simply delicious and versatile. While many restaurants default to Caprese-style with tomatoes, basil, evoo and balsamic *yawn,* I enjoy what others are doing to elevate this delicious product by pairing it with out of the ordinary ingredients.

Note: For those who haven’t had Burrata, you will soon after reading this post.- I apologize in advance if you are now addicted to this cheese.

Burrata with roasted grapes and poppy seeds

Animal Restaurant  //  435 North Fairfax, Los Angeles

The flesh of grapes are transformed when roasted–delicate, almost jam-like and homogenous in texture with the cheese. The subdued sweetness of the grapes bring out the natural sweetness of the cheese. A generous topping of poppy seeds provides the necessary texture this dish needs. Because it’s soo good,  you’ll probably forget that there are a bunch of poppy seeds stuck in your teeth.

Burrata with Plum, duck prosciutto, Oregon hazelnuts, chocolate sour dough

Red Bird  //  114 East Second St, Downtown Los Angeles

A mélange of ingredients that  come together in perfect harmony. The choice of a duck prosciutto lends the perfect amount of salty flavor against the refreshing fluff of Burrata. The aerated and crisp chocolate sour dough are unexpected but play well with others–absorbing the vinaigrette from the greens and glossy fat of the prosciutto. A vibrant salad of bitter frisée, water cress and tart green apples impart freshness and enliven the entire dish. The hazelnuts are buttery and pleasantly crunchy.

 

Burrata lettuce wrap with bib lettuce and crispy guanciale (pork cheek)

Volpi 

This Burrata guanciale lettuce wrap snack was created by a member of the Volpi team at my work’s kitchen during a charcuterie class. What a creation! The sizzling hot-out-of-the-pan guanciale against the Burrata and crisp lettuce leaf was incredibly refreshing. Forget the calories. It counts as a salad.

 

Burrata with fried green tomatoes and crispy Serrano, hazelnut Romesco

Ironwood  //  25250 La Paz Rd, Laguna Hills

An impressive rendition of a Burrata “salad.”  It was warm, comforting and wonderfully savory. With each bite  was a textural crunch from the crispy Serrano and fried tomatoes. The earthiness and zesty spice of the Romesco lifted the Burrata. A briny bite of pickled red onions offset the richness of the dish.

 

Beekeeper’s Burrata with berries, honeycomb and marcona almonds

Foremost Wine Co.  //  570 Higuera St, San Luis Obispo

While most restaurants serve Burrata as an appetizer, Foremost Wine Co. serves it for dessert. Here, Burrata’s fresh and delicate flavors are highlighted with tart berries and local honeycomb–a symphony of gentle, soft flavors coalesced into one.

 

Monday Inspiration

 “Monday Inspiration”  is a new series I will be introducing where I will be recapping my week with images of anything and everything that has inspired me.  I’m trying to make it a habit to recognize the beauty and creativity of my surroundings.

There is so much to be appreciated. Sometimes you just have to stop and smell the roses!

I spent the last week in Sonoma, my happy place. I visit Sonoma every  year to recharge my batteries, enjoy glasses of wine, catch up with friends and explore the cuisine of the land. I can’t explain how gorgeous it was during my visit. The lush green landscape with patches of yellow mustard flowers (that grew in abundance) was just simply captivating.

Although it was quite chilly, you get forget how freaking cold you are when you’re enjoying good wine and conversation. Already looking forward to my next visit in Sonoma.

 

Wheel barrel turned bicycle rack. Only in Sonoma!

Bounty of Bries at Marin French Cheese. Met up with some cheese friends and enjoyed a cheese tasting at this great picnicking spot.

Jewelry merchandised in terrariums at a cute boutique on W. Napa St.

Bok choy gets a makeover at Orchard City Kitchen in Campbell, CA. Warm, tender leaves are dressed in a sauce of crispy shallots, lemongrass and  bell peppers. Burst of wasabi roasted grapes for garnish.

The view of Silver Oak, a producer of excellent reds.

Fun Find: Aplat Pain Tote or what I like to call ‘BAG-uette’

I love the discovery of the unexpected, such as this culinary tote designed by Aplat–convenient and ideal for both picnics and trips to the grocery store. The oblong design secures your baguette and minimizes the potential of falling out, something that I struggle with when using a traditional reusable bag. This tote is much more than a carrier of bread, it can also hold two wine bottles and flowers. This was one of those “Oh, I have to have that!” purchases. I look forward to toting it around in wine country.

For more creative designs, Check out Aplat‘s website.

One in a Trillium

I first learned of Tulip Tree Creamery two years back during an ACS test prep session at the Sheraton in Iowa (I was studying for a rigorous cheese exam held during the American Cheese Society Conference). The Tulip duo sat right behind me, friendly as can be!

Located in Indianapolis, Tulip Tree Creamery defines artisan cheese. Their award winning cheeses are lovingly handmade using traditional European recipes with a modern twist. I’m a fan of their products, notably Trillium, a 2017 Good Food Award winner. Two French classics, Camembert and Brie, inspired the creation of this divine Triple Cream. Trillium’s fresh cream flavor is harmonized with a gentle lactic edge, rounded out with hints of oyster mushroom. When ripe, the delectable paste nearly escapes from the rind–waiting to be sopped up with a crusty baguette.

Trillium is one in a million and instantly becomes the highlight on any cheese board. When I’m able to get my hands on this cheese, I like to serve it with a chilled glass of Rosé wine and fennel salami.

Crackers Suited for Cheese

With much enthusiasm, my cousin insisted I try Smoked Gouda flavored Triscuits. It was accurately smoky, generically cheesy and processed just like Smoked Gouda . The cracker was a snack in itself and would be overpowering to pair with anything–cheese especially, which is my point of this post. When enjoying cheese it’s important that it takes center stage. Your cracker of choice should not be intensely flavored, but neutral. The subtleties and nuances are highlighted when using such a cracker. That is why, I am sharing crackers that pair best with cheese.

34 degree crackers are my go-to. They are delightfully airy and crisp,  showcasing any cheese or accompaniment you top it with. 34 degree crackers contrast with the richness of  creamier varieties such as soft-ripened/delicate triple cremes. Too minimize any cracker breakage,  serve cheese at room temperature and do not apply much pressure when spreading. 

Neither too thick or too thin, the original La Panzanella Croccantini complements all kinds of cheeses and spreads.

 

Beecher’s, the company that makes my one of my favorite cheeses, also makes a pretty mean cracker. Beecher’s original crackers are  buttery with a nutty, cornmeal-sweetness. Its hearty texture works well with a robust cheddar (such as Flagship, of course) and husky blues.

 

Raincoast crisps are a cheese’s best friend. The added ingredients of nuts and dried fruit accentuate whatever cheese you serve it with. The brittle texture provides a pleasing crunch. I enjoy pairing Humboldt Fog with cranberry hazelnut crisps. The tartness of the cranberries harmoniously pairs with the acidity of the goat’s cheese.

 

 

The Most Interesting Thing I ate during the Holidays and Pretty Much this Year

What kind of cake do you this may be? Your guess might be that it’s an edgy tropical layer cake with toasted coconut flakes embellished with glazed apricots and fresh herbs. Not quite.

This confection combines sweet sponge cake with  savory salt-cured egg yolks and dried pork–ingredients that are typically eaten with jook, a rice porridge. When my cousin’s fiancée brought this for Christmas dinner, I had mixed feelings. I was intrigued, weirded out but inspired. “How could this be good?” I thought; but, “how could this be bad?” I enjoy all these ingredients individually and I’m sucker for salted eggs. After a few bites and some major pondering, it was neither good or bad, a hodge podge of ingredients that lacked contrast and depth. The cream was unsweetened and flat, the dried pork was bland and the egg yolks were just not salty enough. The textural components of this cake did not coalesce and I found myself coughing on the dried pork bits.

Interesting? Yes. But, probably not something that I would dig my fork into again!

 

 

 

What Makes a Great Sandwich?

What makes a sandwich great? Is it the quality of the bread, the assembly, the ratio of high quality ingredients, or the range of textures and flavors?

I believe it is all of the above. A great sandwich is in the engineering and the cohesion of flavors that come together in one delicious bite. It could be as simple as a BLT, but done right, is extraordinary. I  can count the times I’ve eaten a knock your socks off sandwich on one hand. Most recently, I experienced sandwich bliss at Larchmont Village Wine, Spirits  & Cheese.

#3 Sandwich at Larchmont Village Wine & Cheese

223 N. Larchmont Blvd

Los Angeles, 9004

Larchmont Village Wine & Cheese is much more than a retail store that sells alcohol and cheese. The folks know at Larchmont know how to make a proper sandwich (and in a jiffy). Out of their selection of 7 sandwiches, #3 sandwich caught my attention: a rustic baguette layered with Soppressata salami, Manchego cheese, and mixed greens. Umm, yes?! The baguette was the perfect vehicle, with its crackly- exterior and spongy interior that was copiously lubricated with a sweet sundried tomato spread. Paper thin slices of robust Soppressata were laid out with shavings of nutty Spanish Manchego. A handful of vibrant greens dressed in fruity extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar finished the sandwich. They possess the magic sandwich touch and achieved balance with their attention to the ratio of ingredients. Each component was harmoniously represented and did not outshine the other. That’s a great sandwich, my friends.