Taste of the Wasatch: Food, Fun and Fundraising

Posted August 8, 2014 in ,
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Solitude Ski Resort provided the perfect backdrop for Utah’s culinary activists. Photo: Amanda Rock

Everybody loves to eat. Unfortunately not everyone gets to. A whopping 22.2% of households in Salt Lake City face food hardship, meaning they don’t know where their next meal is coming from. Taste of the Wasatch is changing that sad fact. This popular fundraiser brings together some of Utah’s best restaurants, breweries and people. It’s a fun event held at scenic Solitude Ski Resort, a gorgeous twenty-minute drive up Big Cottonwood Canyon from Salt Lake City. Every last cent of the proceeds support hard working organizations that ensure everyone has access to food. Beneficiaries include Utahns Against Hunger, Utah Food Bank and Ogden Weber Community Action Program. Longtime volunteer (and originator of the fundraiser) Virginia Nell Rainey says, “I think Taste of the Wasatch is unique as a fundraiser because you can wear shorts and flip flops, the food is outstanding (unlike rubber chicken at some nameless hotel ballroom) and it’s in an open meadow. And of course, the great causes it supports.”

You can’t help but feel you’re someplace special when you walk up the hill and spot the pristine white tents amid the lush green meadow. Inside each tent, the restaurants served sample-sized versions of their finest dishes. Upon entry guests were given six drink tickets; wine and local beer was available for one ticket. I left with unused tickets, which is normally unthinkable!

There are two ways to party at Taste of the Wasatch. Reserved seating is great if you have the extra money or friends to share the cost of a table. General Admission is the other option. Guests brought tents, chairs and blankets to relax upon while feasting and drinking. Last year my husband and I were totally unprepared. We awkwardly balanced our wine glasses and food, sometimes taking turns holding wine and eating! The investment of two comfy camping chairs helped immensely. We set up near a small pond and relaxed as we dug into our plates, enjoying the scenery, cool mountain air, and Wasatch Brewery’s Jalapeno Cream Ale.

The Daniel Day Trio played jazzy versions of everything from Nirvana to Cyndi Lauper, while folks visited each tent and mingled, comparing how much they ate. Later in the day, the live auction got under way, which was hosted by Ted Scheffler, food critic for City Weekly. He even played with the band! “Since it’s inception as Taste of the Nation, I’ve been emceeing the annual fundraiser to help feed the hungry and homeless, now called Taste of the Wasatch,” says Sheffler. “And, as nerve-wracking as hosting the live auction and such are, nothing has made my knees knock more than getting up and playing ukulele with the Daniel Day Trio in front of a thousand or so people with wine glasses in their hands.”

And now the best part (sorry Ted!), the food. There wasn’t anything we didn’t love, but here’s a few favorites. The Aerie Restaurant at Snowbird served bites of Honey and Rosemary Cured Gravlax with lemon cream cheese atop a brioche toast point. The sweet salmon melted in your mouth with a smack of bright lemon. I went back for a few of these. And then a few more.

Log Haven served pickled heirloom carrots with a scoop of burrata cheese, dressed with walnut pesto and pickled onions in a dramatic presentation. The carrots were pretty shades of red and orange and just tender enough. Creamy and mild burrata cheese, a softer more unctuous version of fresh mozzarella, balanced the dish against the tart veggies.

Luna Blanca Taqueria impressed me with a tasty goat cheese tostada topped with crunchy pepitas. They also made the most adorable shots of Tequila Lime popsicles made with creamy coconut milk. Vegetarian food blogger Letty Flatt called the popsicles “not too sweet and refreshing.” I’m hoping these become available in their Holladay location.

OAK Wood Fire Kitchen served two pizzas from their portable wood oven, the first was savory with goat cheese, beet and arugula. The second was a sweet ricotta mixed with a berry compote. It’s worth mentioning that they use produce from Wasatch Front Farmer’s Market in their delicious wood-fired pizza.

The desserts were housed under one magical tent. The gelato from Vinto was amazing. Amber Billingsley is madly talented at making decadent gelato with delicate flavors. Our favorites were the Earl Grey and Lavender. Letty Flatt provided Chocolate Chia pudding made with almond milk, cocoa, and chia seeds and only sweetened with dates. Very tasty! Another memorable dessert was the Balsamic Cotton Candy from Stein Ericksen Lodge. As you can imagine, the cotton candy dissolved in your mouth, and the flavor was tart and sweet.

From my informal social media research, the best dishes of the day were tied. Red Iguana won many compliments with their Ahi Tuna Tostadita—darling portions of lime-crusted yellow fin tuna, which was very pink and lightly seared with a pepita emulsion, pico de gallo and avocado puree. They were so incredibly flavorful! The other favorite was a classic Peruvian dish, Anticuchos, a grilled beef heart on a skewer, served by Del Mar al Lago. My husband loved it, and so did everyone else. I did not have the heart (heh) to try this bite, as a most-of-the-time-vegetarian. “For a perfect dish, I’d pair it with the ridiculously tasty deep fried funeral spuds from The Garage on Beck.” said Ted Scheffler. Those deep fried funeral potatoes were damn good—everything you love about cheesy, comforting potatoes and fried things in a ball of goodness.

Do yourself a favor and make plans to attend Taste of the Wasatch next year. It’s the most fun and the best food you’ll eat at a fundraiser. Keep in touch with Taste of the Wasatch by following them on Facebook and Twitter.

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