Sunday, August 23, 2015

Eating Salt Lake City (Part I)

If you have never been to Salt Lake City you probably have at least some image of what it might be like.  Most likely, your idea is wrong.  I work for 10 days each summer in SLC and confess that all my preconceived notions were wrong.  It is a fascinating city of contrasts.  It is cleaner than any American city I have ever been to.  Yes, there is a huge conservative influence, but it’s hardly a dry, passionless, sleepy, vanilla city.  In fact, some of my favorite restaurants and bars are in the Mormon capital.  This past summer I spent a few days of relaxation here on my way to Yellowstone from the West Coast.  Below are my foodie findings:

Late on the night we arrived we wandered into Martine, a Spanish place on East 100 South.  The kitchen was closing in just 15 minutes and they had just one couple still seated, yet cheerfully welcomed us and asked us to order anything we wanted.  So we did… we began with a couple wonderful mixed drinks, including the Nectar, summery, refreshing blend of Salt City vodka, Slide Ridge honey vinegar, orange blossom, fresh mint and soda.  Then we ate a late night dinner of four tapas plates, ceviche, a cold sweet pea soup with lavender and goat cheese, fried Brussel sprouts and roasted peppers.  Each dish was spectacular and of perfect proportions.  Flavors popped, textures balanced.  But the sweet pea soup is worth its own shout-out.  Creamy and bright, it was ideal for summer.  But the hint of lavender added something intangible but amazing.  Without being overbearing, it tasted like being on the slopes of the Pyrenees.  The goat cheese was almost literally the icing on the cake; it was some of the most amazing goat cheese I have ever had – creamy, subtle but bold.  Making our Martine evening even better was wonderful service that highlighted the contrasts of Salt Lake City.  Warm and friendly, and refreshingly honest, our server told us about her own experiences growing up in SLC, wanting to get out but not wanting to leave.  Open-minded, creative and truly enjoying sharing culinary experiences, our server and Martine itself flew in the face of many SLC stereotypes. 

Not ready to settle in for the night after 11 hours in the car, we hit up one of the favorite bars anywhere, Bar X on East 200 South.  Bar X is owned by Ty Burrell of Modern Family fame, and it sits alongside Beer Bar, about which I will say more later.  Bar X is dark.  No, really DARK.  Like you won’t see it all until your eyes adjust for 30 minutes DARK.  Classic speakeasy with heavy curtains, gilt mirrors, an odd chandelier, Bar X would be hip in any city in America.  We pulled up a seat at the bar and chatted with the bartender.  I ordered a favorite, the Sazerac (basically rye, bitters and absinthe), while my wife simply explained to the bartender what she liked.  He returned with a combination of cucumber and St. Germain among other elements.  Perfect!  And that’s Bar X – perfect for a cool drink, some dark, sultry atmosphere paired with cool music and an old movie on the lone television.  And you can bring in food from next door.  In fact, they’ll bring it to you.   

For breakfast the next morning (and lunch the next day) we wandered into Eva’s Boulangerie on Main Street.  From the outside, if not for its surrounding business you would sweat you were in Nice or Marseilles.  Yellow awning and bright blue trim announces Eva’s as a cheerful French cafĂ©.  White tiled walls, bins of crisp, French bread and a line will tell you that you are about to be very happy.  The food?  I could eat here every day, possibly for each meal.  Over two meals, one with and one without the kids, we ate the croquet madame, the beet salad, the beat and avocado toast, the tuna Nicoise, a croissant sandwich, a baguette sandwich, truffle cake, a bowl of fruit, and more.  Every bite had wonderful texture and flavor.  Eva’s take great care in their sourcing and prides itself on serving some of the freshest and most carefully selected ingredients you’ll find anywhere.  I can assure that the croque madame was the best I’ve had on this continent and the beet and avocado toast was inspiring.  Simply put…eat here.   

Stay tuned...the rest of my SLC reviews will be published here on September 13.  But there will be some other topics in the meantime.

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