The décor generated accents at every table for the event. Photo: Martin Rivero
The Leonardo is known for exhibiting a wide variety of creative and innovative treasures—but the staff gets really pissed if you try to eat any of them. SLC Bites is known for organizing dining events for the citizens of Salt Lake City—but they get really pissed when you throw their food all over the walls and call it “art.” Last Sunday, May 5, a happy medium has been forged as SLC Bites teamed up with The Leonardo to bring Salt Lake “Bitters and Bites,” a culinary event in which local chefs and mixologists bring their A-game products to a crowd of hungry Utah foodies.
It’s no surprise that “bitters” got first billing in tonight’s festivities. The event celebrates some of Salt Lake’s finest mixologists and the almost fanatical dedication that they pour—pun intended—into their craft. In addition to their bright and alluring cocktails, each mixologist’s table was adorned with baskets of fresh-baked bread from Eva’s Boulangerie, one of my favorite additions to Main Street. Now, on to the booze.
Scott Gardner from Finca was slinging a cocktail dubbed “Already Dead,” which is a variation on a traditional Zombie Cocktail. The drink contained two kinds of rum—Jamaican and 151—along with Green Chartreuse with fruity pops of pineapple and lime. For something a bit more sweet and sour, Amy Eldredge from Bar-X was dispensing an original concoction called “Kentucky Roselle,” which was composed of Buffalo Trace Bourbon, a Hibiscus-Infused Simple Syrup, Angostura Bitters and a bit of fresh lemon. According to the buzzed attendee buzz, the show-stealers of the evening came from Matt Pfohl of Pallet and Jimmy Santangelo from Copper Onion. Pfohl was mixing a Cinco De Mayo-friendly “Parral,” made up of Vida Tequila Anejo, Punt e Mes, Aperol and Orange Blossom Water. Santangelo, on the other hand, could be found doling out “Pickles ‘n’ Pimm’s” which had Hendrick’s Gin, Pimm’s No.1, and a Dill Simple Syrup—garnished with a lovely baby dill pickle. It was hard to spot a hand in the crowd that was without one or both of these creative cocktails.
Complementing the pantheon of mixologists were chefs from Japanese favorite Naked Fish and the Middle Eastern Mazza, along with smaller bites of Beehive Cheese and cured meats from Creminelli. Giant bowls of popcorn from Pop Art! served as centerpieces for the various dining tables that were scattered across the elegant backdrop of Leonardo’s third floor conference center.
Mazza was serving up a delicious plate of dried figs stuffed with Labneh, which is a soft, yogurt-based cheese, and then dusted with ground pistachios, herbs and peppers. Not only were these little guys bite-size and fun to eat, the complexity of flavors that were captured in their tiny shapes was astounding. The figs were perfectly ripe and sweet, which went well with the labneh, but every so often I bit down on a coarsely ground peppercorn, which served as a reminder to grab a few more figs—a vicious cycle indeed.
The folks from Naked Fish prepared a beautiful and disarmingly simple looking dish of Hamachi Tataki, which consists of sliced Yellowtail that had been lovingly tossed in a Miso Ai, and topped with a shallot-like Negi, cucumber and jalapeño. It had a surprisingly citrus flavor, and nothing quite beats the refreshing taste of Yellowtail that has been prepared with a deft and experienced hand. The Tataki was paired with a beautiful Salmon Battera, which was topped with thinly sliced scallions, jalapeño, spicy aioli and chili sauce. Though the heat of the pepper and chili sauce was nicely balanced with the silky-cool texture of fresh salmon, I enjoyed adding a bit of Wasabi for a true sinus cleansing experience.
Overall, the Bitters and Bites experience was a success. Assembling great chefs and mixologists to treat locals to their special brand of deliciousness always makes for a good time. To keep updated with information about other food-centric events happening around Utah, make sure to check out SLC Bites on Facebook