Thursday, May 21, 2009

Faustina

A good strategy for eating at a restaurant you might feel is just a little out of your price range is to try that place for lunch instead of dinner. At lunch you’re bound to get the same style and quality of food – giving you a feel for what the restaurant has to offer – just at a lower, hopefully more reasonable price. I use this strategy a lot for restaurants where I feel the menu is a just a bit overpriced - and for me Faustina definitely falls into this category. I consistently have gotten good food and a great atmosphere at Faustina. I actually really like the place, but the prices are a little more than what I’m willing to pay for this type of food for dinner. But lunch, well that’s a different story – and for me the price is just right.



Having had many things on Faustina’s lunch menu, I’d highly recommend the steak sandwich. The sandwich is composed of roasted red peppers, steak (cooked to your liking), green leaf lettuce, and a garlic aioli all sandwiched between toasty marble rye bread. The roasted red peppers add a nice sweetness to the steak, which is rounded out nicely with the sharpness of red onion and the creamy, garlicky aioli. It’s a little bit of a mess to eat but it’s definitely worth it. Other standout sandwiches also include the juicy Faustina burger cooked to a perfect medium as well as the chicken cordon bleu sandwich. Although I’ve never had it, a friend of mine highly recommends the salmon sandwich (served with crispy bacon) if you’re looking for something not too heavy; the crab cake sandwich is also another sound seafood favorite. Sandwiches are served with either sweet potato chips or a mixed green salad garnished with beet chips; the serving size is generous enough for a full lunch. If you’re feeling like a bigger plate, also available are pastas from the dinner menu and a variety of salads and soup – at lunchtime sizes and prices.


If you do have an inkling to hit Faustina up for dinner, there is a definite Italian slant to the dinner menu and there are some great pasta favorites you should try like their classic pesto, acorn squash ravioli, lasagna, and pasta diavolo (if you like spicy). There are also items that take a modern twist on a few classics like salmon Wellington and mac n’ cheese. Although I wasn’t personally a fan of the salmon Wellington or the mac n’ cheese, the pasta dishes I’ve had have been quite nice. I enjoyed the hearty lasagna in particular as it has pepperoni in it which is a nice surprise amidst the layers of gooey cheese. My problem with dinner at Faustina isn’t that it isn’t good, it’s just it isn’t a good deal (at least in my eyes…and I don’t necessarily consider myself a cheapskate when it comes to food). I just think that there is a big difference between a casual eatery and a fine dining establishment – and to me Faustina clearly falls into the casual eatery category. With their hip and modern interior, young staff, and modern take on classic food – I would think that Faustina should be aimed at those interested in cool but moderately priced food. But Faustina seems fine with what they’ve got and it doesn’t look like they’re in the market to change. If this is the case, I’m just fine with Faustina being forever a lunch destination for me.


Faustina ~ Salt Lake City, Utah

454 East 300 South

Chef Jared Young

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Faustina on Urbanspoon

Saturday, May 16, 2009

La Caille

Have you ever been to a restaurant where you just think to yourself…”Is this a joke?” Having been to La Caille a few times, I must say that I’ve thought these exact words every time I’ve been. The restaurant sits atop a large 20-some-odd acre campus decorated with bush sculptures (topiaries) of swans and other animals amidst a setting of carriages and other frilly, almost fairy tale like fixtures. Honestly to me, it’s just a little weird. I’m sure there are people out there who love this kind of stuff and I’m sure this would be someone’s fairy tale wedding setting. Gag.

Speaking of gag – let’s talk a little about the food. Four of us went up for brunch at La Caille before an afternoon show. We pulled in for valet parking (no other parking available) and were then met with a seemingly pre-occupied hostess. We were seated promptly and then immediately greeted by a waitress wearing a costume of some sort. Glancing around you quickly noticed that all of the front of the house staff were wearing costumes. The guys had on these frilly white shirts with dark green or black knickers (short pants) and the women wore these green dresses that revealed much cleavage. After talking to people around town, apparently it is well known (which I didn’t know) that La Caille’s hiring code for the waitress staff is akin to the hiring practices of Hooters. Gag again.



The servers were happy enough though…in fact all of them were very pleasant people who made dining at La Caille quite nice…from a service standpoint. We began with an amuse bouche provided by the chef. When it came out I just started laughing a little. It was GINORMOUS. My impression of amuse bouche is that it’s supposed to be a taste – something to wet your appetite. When this came out it literally could have been my entire breakfast. Besides the sheer size, what made me laugh was the form it came in. It was a puff pastry swan. A SWAN. The swan was filled with pastry cream and berries. Basically it was an √©clair. It was quite good - don’t get me wrong. It was just…how shall I say…a little ridiculous looking. Following the swan, we received what appeared to be a never-ending bowl of caramel croissants. The croissants were gooey and sticky – a kind of mix between a sticky bun and a standard croissant. They were really sweet, but they were delicious. They were also pretty petite so you could eat a little without feeling like a complete pig (which is how I was feeling after eating the entire swan). I began getting the feeling that when La Caille says they’re a luxury restaurant…luxury to them may translate into eating…a lot.



The touted breakfast specialty of La Caille lies within their benedict selection. At our table three of us ordered the benedict with beef filet while one ordered the sun-dried tomato benedict. Our order came out promptly which was nice. As it turned out the kitchen quickly got into the weeds (restaurant speak for getting behind on pushing out their orders). We noticed that after we were served our plates, table after table were launching verbal complaints about the wait for food. We felt a little lucky – until we started eating that is…and then we wanted to launch some complaints of our own. Amongst the filets ordered at our table, two specified medium and one specified medium rare. What we got was a hodge podge of meat cooked at different temperatures. The benedict filet plate consisted of two English muffins, atop which a small beef tenderloin filet was placed on each, which in turn was topped with a poached egg on each, which was then slathered with hollandaise sauce (technically it was a b√©arnaise - hollandaise with tarragon).

We found that the cooks had mixed up cooking temps on each filet on each plate. For example, I ordered my filet medium. When I cut into my first benedict, the cooking temperature of the meat was about medium rare…a little more pink than I was looking for since this was being served with egg and a rich sauce (I didn’t want all that blood in the steak to mix with the yolk and hollandaise). Then when I cut into the second filet, it was cooked even more rare. Unfortunately the two others at my table had similar problems. And when we heard complaints from other tables, these errors seemed to be rampant around the entire restaurant. Apparently the kitchen got our food out so fast they didn’t pay attention to the appropriate doneness we had requested. The one person who ordered the sun-dried tomato benedict had no complaints. Tasting his, I thought it was a reasonable attempt by the chef at something creative with benedict….but nothing mind blowing.

As I continued to analyze the benedicts I did notice some things that I really didn’t like.
One was that the hollandaise sauce was generally pretty bland. I think it could have used a little salt as well as some acid like lemon or vinegar to wake the taste up. The consistency was a little off too. Hollandaise should have a bright sheen, with a ribbon like consistency. The sauce here was mute in color and was a little thick. The biggest hollandaise faux pas I noticed though was that the plate temperature was so hot that the hollandaise congealed by the time it hit the table, so I saw coagulated egg on my plate and the sauce started to break…which is just gross. These may seem like nit-picky things to you but if I’m paying $37 for an eggs benedict (that is what this cost at La Caille) everything better damn be perfect. I also must disclose that I’m a little bit of a hollandaise snob. In my Skills class in culinary school the chef announced that I made the best hollandaise sauce in the class – not to toot my own horn – but it’s made me hyper critical of any hollandaise I taste…since the bar is set to surpassing expectations of my own sauce.

So how did we end the meal off? Well with dessert of course. I mean it’s 11 o’clock in the morning. Who couldn’t use a big old bar of vanilla ice cream wrapped in a crepe, decoratively covered with Hershey’s chocolate syrup? Sound weird? That’s exactly what we got – dessert is included with brunch. The crepe was kind of doughy, so I started just eating the ice cream. It was Haagen Daz vanilla so the ice cream itself was pretty good. But the combination of the swan, the caramel croissants, the benedicts, coffee, and orange juice…and then the ice cream crepe thing…it was all a bit much…and it all was starting to make me ill. It was just a weird assortment of things…being served by people in weird costumes in an old-worldly type environment straight out of some fantasy novel. Weird. That’s a good way to describe my experience at La Caille. Just plain weird.

La Caille ~ Sandy, Utah

9565 Wasatch Blvd.

Executive Chefs Matthew Anderson and Ryan Murray

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La Caille on Urbanspoon