After enduring a crash diet during the summer, I’ve made a solid effort to keep my girth at a reasonable level. After spending an evening at Celebrate the Bounty, Local First’s annual food-centric fundraiser, I found that my poundage had veered dangerously into the red. The delicious, delicious red.

It was a sacrifice I was more than willing to make. It’s not often that representatives from some of the finest local eateries are gathered in one place for the express purpose of doing what they do best. Around 25 restaurants were present, each one touting something unique and appetizing. In addition to treating attendees to their culinary talents, each restaurant was competing for different awards in recognition of their presentation and overall taste. SLC Pop took home the award for best presentation, Hell’s Backbone Grill was awarded best taste, and Caputo’s was given the Hardcore Locavore Award.

I’ve had the pleasure of attending one of SLC Pop’s dinner events, and they definitely know how to present food in a creative and artistic way. This evening, they were serving Sri Lankan Beet Curry, a beautiful medley of earthy cooked beets marinated in a warming curry sauce. Hell’s Backbone had baskets of homemade scones that went extremely well with their squash soup, earning them the award for best taste. If you’re ever visiting Capitol Reef, I strongly suggest a sunset dinner at Hell’s Backbone—it will not disappoint. The Hardcore Locavore award is given to restaurants who have made the best use of local vendors and ingredients, and I can’t think of a more appropriate winner than Caputo’s Market and Deli. While they provided some excellent charcuterie—pickled okra wrapped in house-made speck is quite amazing—I was completely floored by their pastrami sandwich. It had the elements of a proper Reuben—pastrami and sauerkraut on rye with a swatch of Russian dressing—but there was something transcendental happening with this particular sandwich. The pastrami was smooth and buttery while the dressing provided a spicy kick that I felt in my chest. Despite its small size, this may have earned a place on my top ten sandwich list.

Although I would love to include descriptions of every single morsel that passed between my lips, I will abstain in the interest of bandwidth. What follows is a list of the foods that caught my attention and lured me back for seconds—and thirds.

Place: Black Sheep Cafe 
Dish: Posole and Smoked Chicken Tacos
One of the very best reasons to visit Provo is Black Sheep Cafe, and I was very happy to see that they had come to Salt Lake for this event. All of their offerings were able to capture that alchemy between soul food and fine dining that the restaurant has tried so hard to maintain. Posole is a traditional Mexican stew that comes in many varieties. Black Sheep ladled their posole over a beautiful cube of slow-cooked beef—perfect food for a wet autumn evening as it warmed me up from inside out. During my second visit to their table, I tried one of their smoked chicken tacos. Based on many years of eating underseasoned chicken in tacos and burritos, I was subconsciously expecting the same experience here. But, this is Black Sheep, after all. The chicken was smoked using peach wood and was then topped with a beautiful and fresh-tasting assortment of peach and guajillo salsa.