Wednesday, December 30, 2009


My computer keyboard's a mess. Sometimes I get what I'm eating for breakfast on everything in my office. I find grease stains on papers or reports and little bits of sugar on my keyboard and mouse. I admit it. I'm a messy eater in the mornings. It's just that I find that I'm unable to restrain myself when it comes to a good morning bun from Tulie. Although I generally eat healthfully for breakfast during the week (honestly I work out at the gym each morning and then usually eat a yogurt and banana while catching up with emails first thing in the office) at least once a week I indulge in a brilliant hot beverage and a sinful pastry from a local coffee house/bakery. And for the past several months I've been on a Tulie kick.

I am a total coffee and pastry guy. I love a nice hot, slightly bitter cup of coffee after eating an indulgent, sweet, crusty on the outside-gooey on the inside kind of pastry.  I know it's so bad for me, but I revel in the smell of coffee wafting in the air and glistening sugar on that morning bun.'s just so inviting...especially in these cold winter months. The morning bun is a cross between a muffin and a cinnamon roll. It's baked till crisp on the outside and is covered in granulated sugar giving it an almost crystalline appearance. You bite into it and out comes a combination of cinnamon and orange amidst a goop of chewy bread - it's absolutely heavenly. With one bite I instantly go into starvation mode and devour the entire thing, thankfully in the privacy of my office...where by now I've gotten sugar and goo all over my computer and desk. I wash it all down with a hot cup of coffee and my day has started off well.

Being a 9th and 9th resident, I actually have quite a few options for morning coffee. However in my case the food is the high selling point of a coffeehouse for me. Weird I know. I do like my coffee, but I guess I like my food more. In addition to your standard specialty coffee treats, Tulie offers a wide variety of house made pastries, both savory and sweet. There a few lunch items as well as some specials like fresh beignets on early Friday and Saturday mornings. Some personal favorites of mine have included their pain au chocolat and chocolate bouchon (yeah okay - I like chocolate). But in their display case you'll find more than just chocolate with rows and rows of beautiful croissants, muffins, scones, tea cakes, and more. Desserts also adorn the neighboring deli case with delightful confections such as mini chocolate tortes, cream pies, and fruit tarts. The dark chocolate torte is amazing. Dense bittersweet goodness filled in a chocolate crust? Um yeah. the greatest sense possible.  Tulie. It's an absolute dream and it's right here in my neighborhood. I'm a lucky guy.

Oh - and when I get into the office on a Tulie kind of morning, I'll sometimes close my door while I voraciously engulf my morning bun and coffee at my desk. It's a private, intimate, almost savage moment of fulfillment...and the grin of satisfaction on my face doesn't get any bigger.

Tulie ~ Salt Lake City, Utah
863 East 700 South

Tulie Bakery  on Urbanspoon

Monday, December 28, 2009

Chez Betty

"Unfortunately Betty died today", we were told by host and co-owner Tom Bell as we were being seated. Apparently, some kids with a big dinner party wanted to sit next to Betty during dinner that night, but Tom quickly gave us the table next to the empty fish bowl which normally housed the mascot goldfish of the restaurant's namesake. Apparently Tom didn't have time to go the store to get a replacement before dinner service, so he told the kids that Betty was on a little vacation in the Bahamas. Oh well - no Betty tonight I thought...but at least there wasn't a mystery fish special on the menu that night.

Located inside of the Copperbottom Inn in Park City, Chez Betty is what I'd describe as somewhat of a "sleeper" restaurant. To some it's very well known as the restaurant and chef have gotten some critical acclaim in the local media in the past, but because of the restaurant's location just off of historic Main Street inside of a non-major-chain type of hotel - not too many think of Chez Betty as a destination restaurant. It's "sleeper" status however doesn't keep the locals away. The restaurant never fails to pack the crowd in giving it a vibrant, cozy energy.

You're a little thrown off as you first walk in through a door common to both the Copperbottom Inn and the restaurant. Once you find your way to Chez Betty to the left of the entrance, you quickly see that the restaurant is medium-sized with what I would describe only as a very "homey" interior. The decor isn't exactly fancy or elegant, definitely not modern or chic by any means, but the dining room tables are covered with white table cloths and the walls sport an eclectic decor of decorative plates and artwork that gives the place a nice sense of charm. The menu at Chez Betty matches its decor...what I would call eclectic American. It's a short menu, the majority of which represents classic preparations with a few modern dishes thrown in, making the dishes diverse in cuisine type and versatile in technique.

My dining companions and I sampled  a number of dishes from the a la cart menu. An amuse bouche arrived in front of us - a small slice of sausage topped off with a sundried cherry and ancho chile pesto along with a toasted pine nut. The small bite gave us a lovely sweet-heat flavor combination alongside a savoriness from the meat - absolutely delicious - somewhat aggressive for a palate starter but it made me crave for more. We next sampled the tomato-basil soup and the kurabuta pork belly lettuce cups. The soup was good but lacked a little zip rendering it somewhat non-memorable. It tasted of sweet tomato with a hint of fresh basil but somehow seemed dormant, on the verge of being great...but it lacked a little punch to wake it up; acid would have been nice - perhaps some lemon juice or vinegar - something to make it less murky. In contrast, the lettuce cups were fantastic. The braised pork belly was tender and moist; the sweet chile sauce echoed the sweet-heat flavors of the amuse bouche. The crispy lettuce and cellophane rice noodles also added some textural interest and brightness of flavor. These were a hit at our table and a nice way to get us truly ready for our entrees.

We sampled the night's dinner special - an Asian style lo mein topped off with seared sea scallops. Unfortunately I didn't find this dish particularly successful. The noodles seemed dense - drowned in the thick, rich coconut based sauce. The scallops were cooked perfectly but were a little overwhelmed both in flavor and texture by the accompanying noodles. We also tried the warm spinach salad with spicy chicken livers. The flavor of the salad was nice - smoky from the bacon with some tang from the vinaigrette and savory feta cheese but I felt like the deep fried chicken livers lacked the promised spicyness and weren't as flavorful as they could have been. The deep frying process seemed to dry out the livers somewhat so I found the dish to lack some moisture in general.

The two stars at our table came with our red meat preparations. The beef tenderloin was cooked perfectly and melted in your mouth like butter. The classic demi-glace served alongside jazzed up the meat giving it a smoky grilled onion flavor. The tenderloin was served atop a potato pancake topped off with some wilted spinach. Unfortunately the crisp pancake became soggy  due to the moisture of the spinach, although both items tasted great. The dish was topped off with a stack of onion rings which really did add some nice crunch with a nice, homey, steakhouse feel. We also tried the rack of New Zealand lamb. I must say that this dish was executed perfectly. The meat had a nice crust on it and was cooked a perfect medium-rare. The lamb was tender and juicy, not too gamey with a hint of garlic in the background and it paired nicely with some winter vegetables: roasted tourned (football shaped) potatoes, haricot verts (french green beans), baby carrots, and mashed butternut squash. The dish was executed nicely and made for a wonderful meal.

Although I do think that Chez Betty offers some nice dishes off of their regular menu, I really believe that the true value at Chez Betty's is from the chef's tasting menu. The tasting usually consists of a four course meal and I  think the liberation from the confines of the regular menu really lets the chefs' creativity shine. The menu changes every couple weeks depending on the timing and what's in season. One summertime menu example includes a tomato-coconut curry soup, frisee with duck confit, tortilla-crusted pork tenderloin, and profiteroles...all for $48.00 ($68.00 with wine pairing). Everything I've had in past tasting menus has always been superb, focused, and delicious. The tasting menu definitely gives you a feel for what the chefs' food is all about and provides a nice option for getting to know the restaurant in a more intimate setting (foodwise).

At the end of our meal, co-owner and Chef Jerry Garcia came by our table to talk with us. He asked us how our meal went and talked a little about the scallop special which his sous chef developed. Very rarely does the chef come out and interact with customers but from what I hear Chef Garcia tries to get out to the dining room to talk with customers or just to even help out filling water glasses during a busy service. This kind of attention to detail, in combination with good food, really makes for the right restaurant experience. In my intro above, I called Chez Betty a "sleeper" restaurant. I think the real "sleepers" are people who don't wake up and head on over to Chez Betty to give it a try.

Chez Betty ~ Park City, Utah
1637 Short Line Drive
Chef/co-owner: Jerry Garcia
Co-owner: Tom Bell

Chez Betty on Urbanspoon

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Market Street Broiler

I once worked for a chef who demanded that our salads be plated on ice cold plates, preferably served with an ice cold fork. This tradition stems from an old food serving practice seldom followed in today's restaurants - serve hot food on hot plates, cold food on cold plates. When my side salad came to the table I immediately touched the plate and felt chills jolting up my spine...the plate was ice cold. The salad was a simple plate of mixed greens, a few cherry tomatoes, and cucumber slices. It made me smile...dinner at the Market Street Broiler tonight was going to be a flashback to old school.

When I opened the menu, I was reminded about the gamut of classic dishes the Broiler serves such as clam chowder, shrimp cocktail, and seafood Louie. These dishes have definitely stood the test of time and for whatever reason - I equate these old school classics with decadence; they give me a kind of Great Gatsby feeling and I'm not quite sure why. What's also nice about the Broiler though is that in addition to these many classics, they also offer some modern interpretations such as an Asian style salad with Ahi tuna which really balances out their classic approach quite nicely. As the kitchen proclaims itself a seafood specialist, ordering the seafood at the Broiler is a safe bet. So on this night, my dining companion and I decided to try out the early bird special which includes seafood or steak (we chose halibut as our fish), a starch (boiled, herbed potatoes, rice, or french fries), salad or soup to start, and dessert for $18.99 - a great value if you're in to dine before 7pm (this concept in and of itself is also old school - not many restaurants do such a thing anymore).

We also decided to try out the fresh catch of the day, the teriyaki glazed steelhead. Steelhead is in the trout family but its consistency and flavor is more similar to that of salmon. The fish on both plates were cooked perfectly. We requested a light breading on the halibut and it had a nice, crisp exterior with a very tender, flaky flesh. In contrast, the steelhead was glazed in a slightly sweet teriyaki sauce without being too cloyingly sweet. The steelhead was broiled to a perfect medium giving it a silky, smooth texture, which was balanced nicely with crunchy green beans and herbed rice pilaf. The dish composure wasn't fancy or modern at all - it was your basic dish: protein-starch-veg at a ratio of about 50%:25%:25% respectively (an old school ratio used for portioning food). The plating on the salmon was also quite basic. The food wasn't placed on the plate to be a modern work of art, plated in a way that makes you think a lot about wasn't extraordinary looking by any means - it was just food on a plate simply meant to be eaten and enjoyed. And that it was.

For dessert, we sampled their sabayon. Sabayon is a classic french custard-like sauce made with white wine (the Italian version is similarly tagged Zabaglione; when each is pronounced they actually sound more similar then they are spelled). At Market Street, they top off a small scoop of vanilla ice cream with their sabayon and top everything off with fresh berries and mint. The sabayon gave the ice cream a nice creaminess with an added depth of flavor from the white wine; the berries added a tart but sweet finish. It was really nice - not too overlwhelmingly sweet. Our evening was a hit, confirming the experiences I've had at the Broiler over and over for the past 10 years.

Gastronomy, the company that runs all of the Market Street restaurants, focuses their menu on heavy surf and turf options - an old school delight for sure. With fresh seafood delivered daily, Gastronomy's restaurants offer a regular menu of different seafood as described above but they also cater to heavy meat eaters as well. Their variety and quality of steaks is outstanding and their rack of ribs offers an excellent finger-licking-good option. I've been known to devour a whole rack of ribs with only a Hefeweizen in hand to wash it down. The ribs are that good. Their full service bar also offers a large variety of mixed drinks, wines, and beer - and  the restaurant decor lends itself to either a fancy dinner or a casual night out. The nautical theme around the restaurant isn't subtle as portholes and ship-style carpentry adorn everywhere. The upstairs is even shaped to look like you're eating on a ship of some sort. Although it sounds campy, it really isn't. The style maintains a modern, yet truly elegant feel...which really sums up my evaluation of the Broiler: unassuming but good food, great service, and a wonderful environment. The Broiler offers classics that take you back to when cold salad plates and basic three-part plating were in vogue, yet it still remains both modern and elegant enough to feel like I'm not actually eating through a cheesy recreation of the Love Boat. It's an old school sort of way.

Market Street Broiler ~ Salt Lake City, Utah
260 South 1300 East
Chef Hans Cluff

Market Street Grill on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, December 2, 2009


The tapas - or small plate - trend began in the U.S. some twenty-some odd years ago. This style of eating, largely based off of Spanish tradition, has been transformed over many years to incorporate influences not only from traditional Spanish dishes but from food all over the world. For some reason, Salt Lake City has not seen a huge interest from local chefs and restaurateurs venturing into the small plate concept. In the last several years Salt Lake has only seen a sparse number of tapas places...some coming and going so quietly you'd never know they were ever open. Late 2009 has since seen the introduction of a few new tapas bars...marking some truly exciting additions to our local culinary scene. Meditrina is located in a quiet residential area of Salt Lake City. The space is highlighted by an outside patio for dining in warm weather and marked by a quaint interior dining room with lots of charm. The chefs have put together a menu of many small plates, some taken directly from traditional Spanish tapas while others are fused with multiple international influences.

The patatas bravas are a traditional Spanish tapa which are fried and served with a spicy sauce. Meditrina puts their own spin on this classic by grilling the potatoes, accompanying them with a spicy tomato aioli and sweet caramelized onions. The dish emits a nice heat from a scant amount of chili sauce and the potatoes serve as a great canvass for this sweet-heat sensation. Mushrooms and brie, served with crostini are the most popular tapa at Meditrina - and it's no wonder why. Mushrooms sauteed in the chef's secret sauce (when I asked her about the contents of the sauce, she said she could tell me but then would have to kill me) had a really sweet, deep flavor which nicely complemented the woody flavor of the mushrooms. To be honest, the taste of the brie in the dish was a little overpowered by the strong flavor of the mushrooms but the gooey cheese was a welcome addition to the overall texture of the dish.

The Asian-marinated flank steak had a nice sweet flavor with accents of ginger. The steak itself was grilled perfectly medium rare with a juicy, tender texture and the meat had a slightly smoky scent. The steak paired nicely with the Chinese broccoli which offered texture, taste, and a nice contrast of color. The stalks of the broccoli were nice and firm while the tops were soft - the broccoli had a nice bitter bite to it...a great foil to the sweetness of the steak. I didn't even need the garlic mashed potatoes it was served alongside - the stars to me were the steak and broccoli.

The chefs also offered a dish which they were testing for future menu placement. They came up with a bacon and panko crusted pork tenderloin. The pork had a nice crust and was very flavorful, served with two garnishes - carmelized okra and a butter bean, turnip, and corn puree. Unfortunately the okra didn't work for me. When okra is cooked for a long time, it develops this (excuse me) snotty consistency and it just grossed me out. However, the corn puree was absolutely wonderful with a hummus like texture, very sweet and delicious. We ended our night with Meditrina's drunken oreos - oreo cookies drenched in red wine served under creamy vanilla ice cream over which a port reduction is poured. Crunchy, gooey, creamy, and chocolately all in a few small cookies. Very unique and really good - a great way to end an evening of many small plates.

To be honest, I'm a hearty eater. I love to eat my entree, savoring my food, and I usually horde it all to my attendance at tapas bars is not so frequent. But I do think it's nice every once and again to eat many smaller plates and get a taste of something different in two or three dishes. A variety of tapas offers many different options for the varied tastes around any given table. I also love the idea of sharing food with others and talking about what you've just eaten. The tapas atmosphere is perfect for that....and the atmosphere at Meditrina really does facilitate good food, sharing, and conversation...over many small plates. At Meditrina, good things do indeed come in small packages.

Meditrina ~ Salt Lake City, Utah
1394 South West Temple
Chef/co-owner: Amy Britt
Chef/co-owner: Jennifer Gilroy

Meditrina on Urbanspoon