Photo: Sylvia Hollands

Who knew that in the mountain desert just north of St. George, beautiful Utah wines are being produced? Typically, when I think of wine, I think of sipping fine bottles in Napa, France, Italy or Mexico. I’ve seen and tasted a few of the local Utah wines at the liquor store, so when I heard that the wine reputation of Dionysian Cellars was one that earned some respect, I happily agreed to sip.

Dionysian Cellars is mysterious. With a one-page website displaying a bottle, a barrel and the address and contact info, you only find the storefront located in Layton at 1558 W. Hillfield Rd. The grapes are being grown in Dammeron Valley, approximately 25 minutes north of St. George. This location cools down just enough to allow the grapes to chill out after long, hot summer days. Utah is generally considered to be dry and not lending itself to grape-growing due to the extreme heat during summer nights in the south and the freezing temperatures of the winter in the north. Winemaker Darin Evans, however, is becoming known as a wine whisperer of sorts. Starting Dionysian Cellars in 2007, he has a passion to respect and honor the various grapes he blends with. As Utah becomes home to more winemakers, the words of Anthony Bourdain almost seem to manifest growth and transformation among people in our state: “I think food, culture, people and landscape are all absolutely inseparable.” 

Perhaps the quality of Dionysian Cellars’ wine is a harbinger of more wine-making possibilities for a blossoming culinary culture in Utah.

The brand name Dionysian Cellars derives from the Greek name Dionysus, the Greek god of wine. The label of the 2009 American syrah reads: “The personal attitude of one who is uninhibited, mystical, sensual, emotional and irrational and who may seek to escape from the boundaries imposed by the limits of the senses.”

Without further ado, let me introduce you to Utah’s rising-star wine, which proves the notion wrong that fine wine cannot be made in our state.

2016 Petite Sirah
This petite sirah is interesting on the pour with a darker-cherry color, along with half-fast and half-slow tannins equally spaced around the wine glass. This wine is complex, the reason it stands out. The nose consists of pepper, cinnamon and cherry. At first sip, it felt bold and unpredictable. The second sip offered a nice balance of the swagger and softness of the petite sirah grape, which is known for its high tannins and acidity. The finish offers just enough spice to leave the palate anticipating the next taste. Pair with a rich and meaty dish, as the taste on the tongue offers a massive berry-and-spice sensation.

2016 Grenache
While lighter in color, an almost infusion of amber into cherry, the Dionysian grenache is soft and smooth—suitable for any wine-indulger. Its nose reminds of the rich soil of the earth, yet also the cleanliness of fresh desert air. This wine has a smooth finish that dances on the palate as an airy, liquid-strawberry-and-soft-floral fusion. With slow, short tannins, this wine would pair well with grilled vegetables or lamb.

Both of these Utah wine styles are available through the Utah State Liquor Stores by special order.

Now, just to tease you a bit, I was lucky enough to enjoy a bottle of the 2009 American syrah. It’s called American due to the blend of grapes from the High West: Utah, Arizona and California. This wine is one that will have you reaching for another bottle—definitely one to share with friends. The personality of the grape expresses notes of cherry and oak while offering a dry finish, which I enjoy in wine. There’s no compromise of flavor, allowing you to feel the passion that went into making this a perfect vintage.

Wine selections of Dionysian Cellars can be purchased at their Layton location (558 W Hill Field Rd Suite 2, Layton, UT 84041).

As I write, I raise my glass to Dionysian Cellars. Cheers!


Editor’s note: As SLUG Magazine finalized this review, Dionysian Cellars announced their closure in mid-August, 2018.

Bangkok Terrace's spicy Pla Goong Shrimp Salad. Photo: Talyn Sherer

In Thailand, food is a reason for celebration, and Bangkok Terrace of Salt Lake City has created a menu and space to complement old-world tradition from the Southeast Asian country. Located near the Gallivan Center, Bangkok Terrace offers convenience for lunch-hour outings or dining with friends, family or coworkers. Original recipes from the homeland provide the experience of a cultural escape to what it may be like breaking bread or sharing rice in a Thai home.

Four main flavorings typically accompany any Thai dish. Salty, sweet, sour and spicy are all fused to provide the palate with a dance of exploration. Putting this theory to the test, we started with the Curry Puff ($9) on the appetizer menu. With a perfected flaky crust, there is no question that this pastry puff is made onsite. Resembling a warm apple pie, the spot-on blend of spice and sweet will leave you begging for more. We also tried a spin on a Shrimp Spring Roll from the Chef’s evening special menu, which perfectly complemented the complex spice of the puff with its delicate shell and addition of fresh veggies in a bit of sweet and salty sauce—a nice and fresh summer appetizer.

Open-air windows provide a welcoming dining experience. There is patio seating—however, if you would like to enjoy an adult beverage (alcohol), you will need to sit inside. The space itself is inviting with its purple walls and comfortable, casual setting for conversation and enjoying a Thai craft cocktail. Lychee is the basis for Bangkok Terrace’s Lychee Martini, which explodes in sweetness and offers a beautiful taste blended with the accompanying gin. I recommend ordering a Bangkok-brewed Singha beer ($5) off the menu. There is something special about blending a regional beer with traditional recipes of that region.

Now let’s talk about what my favorite menu item (so far) is: Thom Kha Shrimp Soup ($7 or $14). It was so delicious, even Goldilocks would agree that this soup is beyond perfection. The coconut base with hints of lemongrass pairs nicely with the shrimp, Thai ginger (galangal) and additional ingredients. It is an anytime dish that could never disappoint, unless you are against coconut or shrimp in some fashion.

Now onto the mains. Hoi Pad Prik Pao ($16) is a lovely bowl of clams. The dish is salty and is served with rice to compensate. Stir-fried baby clams mixed with garlic, onion and Thai basil in a sweet chili sauce is nice; however, I am eager to try more items from the menu on my next visit. I turned up the spice in the Pla Goong Shrimp Salad ($15) by ordering it with medium heat. Now, while I enjoy some spiciness, I could not finish the dish due to the intensity, and had to order a beer to help quench the heat. The salad consistency is not traditional in the sense of greens and light dressing, and instead offers more protein and thinly sliced lemongrass, mint and shallots. I would recommend it—only next time, I will be ordering it mild.

I enjoyed tasting the recipes of Thailand, described at Bangkok Terrace as the sort of dishes they would serve guests or family visiting Thailand homes. Food from this culture is a gift meant not only to be shared and consumed, but also to be presented in a way that creates beauty. Each of the dishes was carefully thought out in terms of presentation and keeping with tradition. Thai food in general offers flavorful Indian spices, yet creates its distinction with the use of local spices and ingredients such as lemongrass, Thai ginger and Thai holy basil.

Our service was good for a Friday evening. We were presented with a mango sticky rice for dessert. Photos could never do the flavor justice. Fresh mangos surrounding a wonderful sticky rice is a matchless end to a savory meal.

Side Note: If you are located Downtown and would like takeout, Bangkok Terrace delivers from 5 p.m. to close for a delivery fee of $5.00

George Rivera and Kimberly Campa, photo by John Brandon

This is not your typical Utah happy hour. No, leave the kids at home, order a beer and sit as perplexed and entertained as I was through this intimate, close-to-home and bewildering spectacle. A guy walks into a bar … or a club, rather, and a series of events through time unfold into a myriad of irreverent jokes and stories that both make you laugh and say, “WTF?”

I’m not really sure how to put into words the creative genius or plain ’70s trippin’ of Something Really Big, the latest SB Dance production. Are you setting me up for more crap? Or is this legitimate crap that actually relates to the real-life dramas we experience everyday? A time-traveling with a German secret agent, boutique chef, cancer patient, cutthroat club owner and inspirational speaker makes for an interesting evening. The show takes the audience to World War II Germany, to the night of the United States presidential elections in 2016. It was confusing to follow without a program or reference. If you are seeking dance, this production is mostly acting, with a mix of pop music with singing included. I’m not sure that I understand the oddity of the ballroom dance captured in between scenes, however, the Spanish-lyric scene was absolutely breathtaking. 

Jahnavi Alyssa with Ischa Bee and Raffi Shahinian of MiNX, photo by Paul Christean
Jahnavi Alyssa with Ischa Bee and Raffi Shahinian of MiNX, photo by Paul Christean

Beginning with crap, and the hilarious association of all things crap, director and choreographer Stephen Brown hits the mark. What is crap? Who is crap? Why do we like crap? The play went from a motivational talk about crap to a scene in a nightclub in WWII-era Germany, and crap joined and then sang. It was captivating but perplexing—we are immediately sucked into a state of “What am I watching?” Though I wasn’t always sure what to think, ultimately, the work depicts the power of women (amid some Hillary references). But there are also subtle moments in which these powerful women are also unsupportive friends to the woman with cancer, as they don’t listen to her as she tries to tell them about her illness—and she’s never heard. Corresponding with my take on the theme—we are all searching for something big, and we all have proverbial “crap”—it’s really about our choices. 

The production put on at Rose Wagner Center for the Performing Arts will have a pop-up of the performance June 14, whose location will be announced June 12. There will then be two remaining performances on June 15 and 16 at Rose Wagner—which will be sure to entertain.

Brown pursues deep stories that illuminate a silent world of what many “know.” He characterizes himself as Utah’s alternative-arts maker, and that he is. More New York than Salt Lake City, he offers something no one else does in this town. The integration of dance, drama and story is both artistic and influential. The question remains: Is it all crap? Or is this Something Really Big? See it? For fans of SB dance, yes. And for those that appreciate creativity and art, yes. Even perplexed, it’s entertaining.

Bravo to the cast:

Music by: Minx

Starring: Jahnavi Alyssa, Ischa Bee, Stephen Brown, Christine Hasegawa, Kim Campa, Annie Kent, Dan Larrinaga, George Rivera, Nathan Shaw, Natosha Washington

Upcoming Performances: June 15, & 16th: 8:00pm Show | $20 tickets via arttix.com // 801-355-ARTS

June 14: Pop-up show at location TBA on June 12 via the email list on SBDance.com. Bring a chair and possibly refreshment (depending on location), and donate online as you wish.

"Food has always been a family tradition." Hungry Hawaiian's Kathy Mahiai prepares some sumptuous, home-style fare. Photo: Talyn Sherer

1492 S. 800 West, Woods Cross
801.602.0844
hungryhawaiian.biz

Tuesday–Saturday 11 a.m.–2 p.m., 4–8 p.m.
Open Friday until 9 p.m.
Closed Sunday and Monday

The first thing that comes to mind when I think of Hawaiian food is attending a luau and sinking my teeth into banana-leaf-wrapped pork, slow-roasted for hours over earth fire. Hungry Hawaiian in Woods Cross embraces their aloha roots with a deep-rooted family pork recipe that is pure, yummy goodness with hints of both salty and sweet. The restaurant’s $5 bowls are perfected with balanced portions of rice, steamed broccoli and carrots, and your choice of protein (teriyaki beef, chicken or pork)—a lunchtime recharge worth driving for. I indulged in the teriyaki chicken and pork bowls, which were both equally tasty—however, I have to say that there is something special about both the succulent roasted pig. If you are feeling hungry, order a 1-Meat ($9) or 2-Meat ($11) plate. Each plate is served with meat, rice and macaroni salad.

Greeting each customer with an aloha or “hang loose” hand signal, Hawaiian island happiness takes over at this small eatery, which is filled with sunny, yellow walls and a few dining tables. Dine in, take your food to-go, or place an order with Door Dash. With plans to expand by adding a food truck in the near future, the Hungry Hawaiian owners are not only pursuing their dream of serving real, feel-good food, but also honoring and reviving owner Keni Aikau’s late father’s passion. Having catered with his dad since he was a child, it was a natural move for Aikau to start up the grill and host pop-ups as a way to help cope with his father’s passing in 2010.

 

Food has always been a family tradition. In the midst of their effort to revive dad’s 1978 original, the team almost gave up in 2014. But somehow, the pieces started falling into place with a little help from Uncle Mau Maka (Hawaiian for eyes), who told the team to be ready with a plan. Within a week, they had a deal to share space with a 5 Buck Pizza location. And after 10 months, Hungry Hawaiian knew they had something special. The timing was right, and Aikau found the location they are in now. Now reaching their first anniversary of operation, Hungry Hawaiian has continued to increase sales monthly and feel they have found the right community.

At Hungry Hawaiian, each customer is served by the owners, who hope that all will feel their love for the traditional food. Bringing this lasting dream to fruition has been a long time coming—and dad’s secret teriyaki sauce is worth a visit alone. While teriyaki has never personally been my thing, the secret sauce sold at Hungry Hawaiian is really something. It packs a bold yet subtle teriyaki flavor that does not overpower with saltiness. I recommend ordering extra sauce on the side, or purchasing a bottle to bring home. I am anxiously awaiting the teriyaki sauce to be sold in local grocery stores. (I’m rooting for you, Harmons—it is that good!)

Kathy Mahiai. Photo: Talyn Sherer
Kathy Mahiai. Photo: Talyn Sherer

The establishment is making a name for itself. With a limited menu, quality can stay in check. In addition to the bowls, plates and macaroni salad, Hungry Hawaiian’s menu offers up musubi (Spam on a bed of rice wrapped in seaweed), poi, masaludas and guava cake. (Their macaroni salad can continue to be rated No. 1 in my book.) What’s their secret? They serve what they would take to someone’s house for a potluck. Honoring their heritage and traditions with true Hawaiian cooking, and without cutting corners—kudos! Your menu selections have me singing aloha and dreaming of Maui.

Want to celebrate in their success? Hungry Hawaiian will be throwing a parking lot–style luau on Saturday, June 23—the official one-year anniversary date of this Woods Cross eatery. The party will take place from 12–4 p.m., and there will be live music, slow-roasted pork and more from the community. (And don’t forget to try the guava cake. With hints of strawberry and pear, its pink topping, creamy layer and cake base provide a unique texture and a favorite Hawaiian flavor.)

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With which Slackwater pizza would you pair a Kiitos IPA? A Certified Cicerone can lead you to the best food-and-beer pairings. Photo by Talyn Sherer.

Monday–Thursday: 11 a.m.–10 p.m.
Friday–Saturday: 11 a.m.–11 p.m.
Sunday: 10 a.m.–9 p.m.

1895 Washington Blvd., Ogden
801.399.0637
slackwaterpizzeria.com

Is it true that beer is better than wine for food pairings? Beer lovers say yes, and you would be surprised at the number of sommeliers who agree. Why? Beer and food have something in common, which complements more than hinders, creating a beautiful and naturally harmonious dance on the palate. Plus, beer is great for every occasion, affordable, easy to share and pour, and like a summer-anthem song—only it plays all year long. Proper Brewing Certified Cicerone® Eleanor (Ellie) Lewis and Slackwater General Manager Mike Lee joined me and SLUG photographer Talyn Sherer to talk beer pairings and pizza. Well, not just talk, but eat and drink: Consuming is part of the job, after all. Spring has sprung and outdoor patio drinking has begun, so what better time to enjoy a pint or two?

First off, Slackwater is cool, and they are currently scouting to open a new location in Salt Lake. With their outdoor seating and garage doors that open to the patio, they offer one of the most extensive beer lists in Utah, along with damn-good pizza. The trick is that they add a little bit of honey to the dough, creating a savory crust, but the power is in the ingredient pairings. Before we get too far into the pies, I need to talk all things appetizers. Nachos and wings—both perfect starters with a beer to dive in. “Locally, a beer such as 2 Row Shorter Porter makes a nice pairing,” Lewis says. Let’s be real: We all know nachos, wings and beer go together better than peas and carrots ever could.

Finding a great local pint is easier than finding a nice, enjoyable local wine. With the beer scene exploding in Utah, Slackwater knows a thing or two about the subject, and what they have done by supporting the local craft brewing scene is commendable. “We offer a nice selection of beers, something for everyone, as well as a family-friendly environment,” says Lee, “which is a bonus. Our pizza dough is made in-house, and we take pride in chopping, cooking and roasting the ingredients right here in our small kitchen.” Lee took the liberty to order some of his favorite pies for us to taste and for Lewis to pair: The Hulk, Iron Horse, California Sunrise and the Piper Pesto. Happily enjoying all four slices, I’d like to say that no bellies were harmed in the making of this article …

The Hulk: Packing a little heat with its topped jalapeño slices, this pie is the combination of a fresh spring day and spring break in Cancún. Ripe tomatoes and avocado provide a delicate freshness, and the pepper brings the in-your-face flavor. “If you love spicy food, try a hoppy beer, as it will make the spice more intense,” says Lewis. “However, if you want to quench the thirst, a nice wheat beer will do the trick.”

Iron Horse: This is a combination style that resembles the meat-and-cheese pizza you know and love from television commercials. However, this is not an ordinary pie. The smoked red peppers atop the three-cheese blend, house marinara, pepperoni, sausage and red onion offer some sort of cosmic-power flavor, taking it beyond the everyday flavor, to “Mmm, wow.” This is paired nicely with an IPA or triple IPA. Ellie offers her favorite pairing: “a gose, which is both salty and sour, and complements nicely.”

Piper Pesto: Starting with a pesto cream base and topped with pine nuts and feta, this vegetarian option pairs with a saison, such as those from Proper or Red Rock. “Other nice beers include Dangereux Farmhouse Ale by 2 Row, or Tank 7 by Boulevard,” says Lewis.

California Sunrise: This pizza had me California dreaming, ready to drive my convertible along the coast and feel the warm breeze blow through my hair. This fresh, green-goddess-dressed pie is the flavor freshness of the first spring, top-down kind of day. The recommended pairing is a solid, crisp and carbonated beer to stand up against the flavor combinations of dressing, spinach, sun-dried tomatoes, roasted chicken and peppered bacon.

I asked Lewis why beer pairings are fun, as Avenues Proper offers a beer-pairing dinner once a month. She says, “The combination of beer and food cleanses the palate, as they are grain-based. There is a reason we love eating burgers and beers, or pizza and beer—they just work together. Whenever you are in doubt about pairings, Belgian-style is an easy go-to.”

Fluid Art brings together the best of Utah's contemporary art and craft beer. Photo: Talyn Sherer.

After first challenging herself to try the 75 beers on tap at her college town’s local bar, Cassie Slattery, Executive Director of the Utah Brewers Guild (UBG), is jonesing to make an impact on the already awesome beer scene in Utah. The nonprofit protects and promotes Utah’s craft beer industry. As its first full-time employee, Slattery is eager to increase Utah beer’s current $450 million local-economy contribution in order to educate on the state’s liquid craft art, and liaise for the public and other organizations. She provided us behind-the-scenes craft brew details and intrigued us with details on Fluid Art, the beer-and-art pairing event at the Utah Museum of Contemporary Art taking place this fall.


SLUG: Cassie, why is the Executive Director position with UBG perfect for you?
Cassie Slattery: I come from the nonprofit world, with experience in advocacy, fundraising, event planning and nonprofit organization. I really love bringing people and groups together to focus on how we can solve a problem or make something better, and there are so many opportunities for that with the UBG, and this provides an outlet for my competitiveness.

SLUG: How does UBG grow the local beer scene in Utah?
CS: Our goal is to show the economic impact of the craft beer industry and the positive benefits we are making on the local economy. Utah’s 27 breweries (either operating or in the planning stages) employ thousands of people who receive a living wage. Brewers of all levels and experience are coming to Utah to create excellent craft beer, and there is still room for more.

SLUG: What makes the UBG and UMOCA’s Fluid Art fundraiser such a success?
CS: Craft beer and contemporary art are natural pairs, creating something bucking old traditions in favor of innovations and the pursuit of something new and great. Craft brewers tend to have a strong renegade spirit, which connects them to contemporary artists who push the boundaries of the old standbys. Innovation, creativity and the rejection of the norm are terms that can define both brewers and artists, making Fluid Art a perfect union between the two. … No [Fluid Art] event is ever the same—the art, participating brewers and beer poured at each event changes, allowing the opportunity to expand our reach to new audiences.

SLUG: As the UBG’s first paid employee, how do you anticipate growing the nonprofit over the next five years?
CS: So many ways! There are certainly a lot of challenges facing brewers here, but I am working hard to show all Utahns that the craft beer industry provides a multitude of benefits to the local economy and the cultural fabric here. I’ll be working with the legislature on molding smart alcohol policy that makes sense and creates positive change—one of the big things I’ll be working on is to legalize beer flights next session. I want to continue to support new breweries that open their doors, making sure they have the resources and support to be successful.

SLUG: How do you feel the community embraces local brewers?
CS: One of the many things I love about Utah is our incredible support for all things local, and the craft brewers are no different. The community is incredibly supportive of new breweries. It says a lot about the local scene that new breweries can open up and pretty quickly find success while brewing quality, amazing beer. While the scene in Utah is growing, I don’t think we are near the saturation point affecting other craft brewery centers like Portland, Asheville or my home state of Michigan. There is still a ton of opportunity for new breweries to find their niche. It is one of my goals that Utah is seen as a craft beer destination, and with the immense amount of tourism here, Utah breweries really have a chance to show the world the incredible brews available here. Within the national craft beer community, Utah brewers are consistently recognized for the quality of their beer, and many breweries here win numerous awards while up against some of the powerhouses in the industry. I think that shows the strength of the quality of beer being produced here.

SLUG: Do you have a favorite style of beer?
CS: Picking a favorite style of beer is like picking a favorite child! My drinking styles really vary with the weather and seasons—the heat of the summer definitely calls for a pilsner, I’m always up for a rye, and hefeweizen was the first craft beer style I really remember loving. There are days when I crave something big and hoppy, and days when I snuggle up with a stout. One style that I wasn’t familiar with before moving to Utah is gose, which I find to be a pretty perfect Utah beer for the outdoor lifestyle here. There’s nothing like cracking open a gose after hiking Grandeur Peak or at the end of a ski day.


Indulge in Fluid Art’s art-and-beer pairings at UMOCA this fall. Visit utahmoca.org/fluid-art for tickets and more upcoming information concerning specific dates and times. To follow the UBG’s latest events and more, follow them on Instagram (@utahbrewers) or Facebook. And remember, there is always something great on tap!


Editor’s note: Since the publication of this article, UMOCA and UBG have pushed the Fluid Art event back until the fall. The article has been updated with necessary changes. 

Tuesday–Friday: 12 p.m.–9 p.m.
Saturday–Sunday: 1 p.m.–9 p.m.
Closed Mondays
3142 Main Street
385.229.4155
afghan-kitchen.com

As we arrived to the South Salt Lake restaurant Afghan Kitchen, located just off State Street and 3300 South, I knew that it could possibly be one of the best off-the-beaten-path meals I have had in Salt Lake. I imagined what it may be like to enter a traditional restaurant in Afghanistan—the sights, sounds and aromas one would experience—as I entered the plain building, with lettering spelling out Afghan Kitchen, smiling faces in consumption of food and the restaurant’s windows revealing guests happily conversing. I just knew that this would be good.

The decor is simple—a few framed photos of Afghan figures and cultural scenes and dining tables. I had never experienced culinary samplings from this part of the world, and was excited for the new tastes to dance upon my palate as the hint of spice tickled my nose.

First up was our appetizer, Mantu. You can find this served as street food or in busy markets in Afghanistan. This traditional dish consists of ground beef and lamb accompanied by onion and traditional Afghan spices, wrapped in a homemade, flour pastry dough and steamed in a multi-layer steamer. It was my favorite dish of our meal at Afghan Kitchen. The dumpling-style starter was a perfect balance of spice, meat and pastry coated with a yogurt sauce and split peas. Mantu is well-rounded and balanced in boastful yet subtle flavor, making it easy to recognize why it is a rich part of the country’s culinary heritage. You’ll finish wanting more.

Keep reading to hear about the main dishes, but Mantu was my favorite, if I had to pick only one. That said, I would recommend anything I ordered on the menu, and I would definitely recommend stepping out of your comfort zone for a unique experience at Afghan Kitchen. Next up, Lamb Qurma. It’s no secret: I love lamb. For some, it is an acquired taste, but for me, it’s heaven. Served with rice, the boneless lamb was the second table favorite. I enjoyed the hints of ginger in the tomato-based sauce atop the meat, with flavor enhancements provided by the cilantro/mint and yogurt side sauces.

Their naan is light and airy due to the baking process in extremely high heat, a technique used for over 100 years. I personally enjoyed this clay-oven-baked garlic naan because of its delicate texture and savory garlic taste. It disappeared instantly from its basket.

Our table consisted of a medical student, a marine, a yoga instructor and a writer, spanning three generations. Of the four, two love all things wine and culinary, and the others are in the “reach for a bag of Doritos” phase of life while attending college. I wanted all to experience authentic Afghanistan cuisine, so I could secretly watch their body language. Up to this point in our meal, everyone was all smiles and no food was left on the table. Three for three!

Mix Tandoori Kabob was up next: a skewer of ground beef and a skewer of boneless chicken. The chicken appeared a painted-orange color (most likely due to the use of saffron), making the students at the table believe it was a vegetable and afraid to dive in. They gasped as they realized it was chicken, perfectly cooked at that. Too often, kabobs can be overcooked and chicken becomes rubbery. The Tandoor char-broil-oven cooking process provided a melt-in-your-mouth flavor to the mix kabob, a dish unique to Afghanistan.

Last, we enjoyed Burani Banjan, another traditional recipe of eggplant in a tomato-based sauce. I have come to love eggplant in the past year, and this was extremely tasty; however, my only complaint is the eggplant was slightly soggy. The spice of the sauce offered cardamom, cumin and turmeric. I find the spice from Afghanistan to be milder than that in Indian cuisine, with a heartiness through to the last bite.

Afghanistan has a history of expertise in cooking and hospitality, along with a passion to serve guests a spread of food. Afghan Kitchen lives up to its heritage. The restaurant is unassuming from the street, but don’t let that fool you. There is something to be said for simplicity. Afghan Kitchen is a place welcoming all walks of life to share a passion for their traditional cuisine deeply rooted in their soul. Breaking bread and experiencing culture in the form of culinary discovery is something we should all do more of. And of course, always say yes to Afghan breads.

Pallet allures with offerings that range from its visionary and decadent cocktail menu to its elegant, farm-fresh dishes (pictured: Elk). Photo: Talyn Sherer

237 S. 400 W., SLC | 801.935.4431
Monday–Saturday: 5 p.m.–Close
Closed Sundays

Currently rated No. 28 out of 1,205 restaurants in Salt Lake City on TripAdvisor, Pallet is extremely underrated when it comes to its online popularity. This cozy restaurant is filled with ambience, including a retro typewriter begging for an inspired message from your fingertips. Its homegrown feel is embraced by Edison light bulbs and reclaimed wood decor that transports customers to a nostalgic daydream of what visiting the dining table of your grandparents’ farm may be like as your adult self. Pallet is cozy, conversational and a food critic’s dream.

Starting with the Farmer’s Salad ($8), I was mesmerized by farm-fresh vegetables and greens, complemented by a basil buttermilk salad dressing that appeared and tasted more like a salad rub than a creamy dressing. It was divine, and officially on the top of current “must-have” salads across the country. I was sucked in from the beginning—and then I had Gloria’s Meatballs ($11). I wanted to find something wrong with the the red sauce soup that accompanied the meat and parmesan deliciousness, but I couldn’t. In the interest of not letting anything go to waste, we ordered some bread to help soak up the leftover sauce, a perfect combination of sweet and spicy.

I was tempted to order the Pig Latin cocktail ($65), which comprises Whistle Pig 15-year Rye Whiskey, Grahams 20-year port, Amaro Nonino and Abotts Bitters—however, my mood was enticed by a Spanish red wine, 2014 El Chaparral DeVega Sindoa, while my husband, Scott, enjoyed their take on an Old Fashioned, River Boat Joe ($13), keeping in line with the restaurant’s early-1900s vibe. Pallet’s bar reminds me of the Buckhorn Bar & Parlor in Laramie, Wyoming (established in 1900), due to its wood-framed mirror and small-town feel that could easily be the set of a Wild Wild West bar action scene. The cocktails are visionary and full of surprise in regard to ingredient pairings and liquor choice. Bar Manager Bijan Ghai uniquely named each one. For instance, Shore Enough ($16) pays homage to Chile with its Pisco base, taking deeper roots with lime, spiced pineapple shrub, grapefruit bitters, orange curacao, turmeric and guava.

I sensed that chicken was not going to cut it for my meal, so I jumped right in for the Elk ($32). Executive Chef Zachary “Buzz” Wiley knew what he was doing when he adorned the dish with carrot-stem leaves atop a combination of sunchokes (a root vegetable), black olives, baby heirloom carrots and perfectly cooked elk meat. This was an extraordinary dish full of flavor and tenderness, something I would go back for. The sultry allure of the big game meat was a perfect match for the savory taste of the vegetables, which provided a sense of artichoke and potato flavor with a slight bitterness from the leafy carrot top. The elk was not gamey and served in the perfect portion.

Lucky for me, I was able to taste Scott’s order of Lamb Ribs ($27), which were equally delicious. The New Zealand lamb is put through a steaming process to remove the fat, flavored with Moroccan spice, and served with couscous, cauliflower and radish, and topped with edible flowers. The flavor packs a little punch, carrying hints of turmeric, garlic, cumin, cinnamon, paprika, nutmeg and ginger. It’s something I would highly recommend.

Pallet is a unique space. With attention to detail and communal tables offering a sort of casual, Great Gatsby gathering vibe, it is refreshing in its style and culinary tastes.  With artwork commissioned to resemble true 1900s portraits and an exploration of farm-to-table creations beyond the imagination, the space is suitable for a date, a party, or company gathering. Only open for dinner, the restaurant allures with options for early-evening craft cocktails or after-dinner nightcaps.

We finished our meal with dessert, of course. What kind of food critic would I be if I did not dive into Comments from the Peanut Gallery ($9)? It’s a beautiful smoked chocolate ice cream with graham cracker, peanut nougat and edible flowers expressing hints of a s’more campfire minus the marshmallow. I posted a photo of this dessert on my Instagram feed, and comments came in from several friends about how much they all loved Pallet, including a fellow traveler and tour guide who named it “Best Eats in Salt Lake City.”

What’s the good word? Find the wall of wisdom above the typewriter on the way to the restroom. You may recall memories of your grandparents’ home one more time by rubbing your finger prints on the keys or with the Borax soap. No attention to detail is spared at this fine Downtown dining establishment.

Jeremy Rawle of Black Feather Whiskey. Photo: Andy Fitzgerrell

Three childhood-turned-lifelong best friends never imagined they would start a whiskey company in their home state of Utah, yet here they are, producing a nostalgia for simpler-times whiskey that calls to mind what the American spirit is all about. Jeremy Rawle, Jay Williams and Matthew Seegmiller are the heart and soul of Black Feather Whiskey, a true American spirit, now available in your local Utah State Liquor Store.

Approximately four years ago, the idea of a brand was born. Rawle was in the entertainment business as the CEO of Nitro Circus. He had a passion for whiskey—to him, whiskey always went hand-in-hand with entertainment. He found himself saying goodbye to Nitro Circus to start a new brainchild. Rawle, Williams and Seegmiller put their heads together, and the Featherhood movement began. “Creating the Featherhood was equally important,” says Williams, “to what we wanted to accomplish.”

Over our dinner conversation at HSL, Williams may have said it best: “We wanted a brand that proclaimed fierce independence and a sense of always belonging.” Not only is this an emotion that they want to evoke in their followers and loyal fans, but this is also an accurate description of the American bourbon spirit. Its American roots span the Midwest with handpicked allotments from Indiana, a bottling plant in Houston, Texas and headquarters right here in Salt Lake City. Symbolizing the backbone of the hardworking, fun-loving and determined go-getter that stays true to his or her roots, it is the “get back to what really matters in life” spirit. Whether sipping on the rocks, in a cocktail or neat, this whiskey pleases the bourbon virgin or connoisseur and everyone in between. “Many have their favorite beer brand,” says Rawle. “We want to be their go-to whiskey brand.”

As a whole, Rawle, Williams and Seegmiller feel that Utah is underrated and wanted to create a homegrown company to pay homage to friendship, hard work and their roots. Salt Lake City has always been home for the three of them, which lends to the appeal of tapping into Utah’s uniqueness and opportunity by opening up headquarters in SLC. They incorporate the mountains and outdoor landscape as inspiration in Black Feather’s messaging, keeping the fire within lit and not letting family, friends and conversation go by the wayside.

Black Feather Whiskey’s top-shelf smoothness does not discriminate, offering its one-time Christmas-splurge-purchase taste at a price ($30) that you can afford year-round. As Rawle reasons, “It is premium, not precious.”

Besides producing a great product, it is equally important for the three friends to keep the brand meaningful. In such trying times in the world, they aspire to keep the grassroots vibe and inclusive acceptance of all individuals who just enjoy whiskey, back-porch sitting or a good jam. They are inclusive versus exclusive, so you will never see a VIP zone at one of their events. They want to engage their audience with compelling content, such as their partnership with The State Room for The State of Music series. Whether it is through social media, videos, events or telling the stories of artists, craftsmen and everyday people like you and me, the brand is forging ahead in the world to create a culture of people who live by the “work hard, play hard, love all and live simply” attitude.

Though Black Feather is available here in Utah, the company is also in Texas, becoming entrenched in Austin. With a great indie music scene and nightlife, it was a natural fit to connect to Texas pride and test themselves as a bourbon contender in the South. The results—a steady workhorse pace that continues to grow and expand, with boots on the ground to get the spirit into bars, restaurants, clubs and more, both in Texas and Utah. The company hopes to head into Nashville, Tennessee and New Orleans, Louisiana in the coming months, with Southern California in the works. Online purchasing to states that allow inbound liquor shipments will soon be available.

Black Feather can be enjoyed at various locations in Salt Lake City. One is at one of my favorite restaurants, HSL, where Bar Manager Clif Reagle has created a selection of incredible bourbon cocktails that complement the 86-proof kick and sugar-char finish. I particularly enjoyed the take on the Manhattan and traditional whiskey sour. However, I hear Manoli’s serves up an incredible coffee surprise with this new-to-the-market whiskey. Other local hot spots to find the liquor include: Club Try-Angles, Garage on Beck, Tinwell, Water Witch and Squatters Brew Pub, to name a few.

The greatest news is that Black Feather is here to stay and has a strong desire to become a product Utahns are proud of. Their headquarters is not open to the public, but they hope that as they grow, that may change. On the shelves, Black Feather is hard to miss—their labeling pulls you in with a mysterious blackbird that somehow begs you to give it a try. Once you do, you might just get sucked into the Featherhood.


Blackbird Sour: The Original Black Feather Cocktail
Created by Clif Reagle of HSL

Ingredients:
1.5 oz Black Feather Whiskey
¾ oz fresh-squeezed lemon
½ oz peach simple syrup
¼ oz Fernet Branca
6-8 mint leaves
3 drops of salt water

Shake, fine strain, and garnish with mint sprig. This cocktail is a twist on the classic Rye Grin.

Frida Bistro’s menu flourishes with sophisticated Mexican gastronomy, boasting dishes like the Ensalada de Octopus and Salmon Malinche. Photo: Talyn Sherer

Frida Bistro

545 W. 700 S. SLC | 801.983.6692

Lunch: Monday – Friday, 11:30 a.m.–3 p.m.
Dinner: Monday –Thursday, 5 p.m.–9 p.m.
Friday–Saturday, 5 p.m.–10 p.m. Closed Sundays
fridabistro.com

Trending in the international food scene of Mexico City is Mexican-fusion cuisine. Fresh, local ingredients mixed with Mexican spice and prepared proteins resting upon a bed of lentils and veggies to create distinctive flavor is the undeniable progression of authentic Mexican cuisine. Here in Salt Lake, the off-the-beaten-path Frida Bistro delivers the subtle yet powerful essence your taste buds crave. Cuisine this lovely is similar to Mexico’s fusion gastronomy that is beginning to take the world by storm.

This downtown restaurant is named after the passionate Mexican artist Frida Kahlo, an emblematic figure who painted her life stories and became an icon of patience, endurance and strength. Perhaps her most famous quote, “Nothing is absolute. Everything changes, everything moves, everything revolves, everything flies and goes away,” is symbolic of the nurturing, modern and joyous atmosphere that Frida Bistro has established.

Putting passion and art to the test at Frida Bistro, I naturally started with the soup the day: the margarita menu. Sticking with a classic, I ordered the El Jefe ($12), prepared with tequila and Grand Marnier with a salted rim—it was smooth and refreshing. My husband, Scott, decided to spice it up with the Papaya Habanero ($10). It’s tasty—however, it’s too much heat for me at once. If you love tequila, you may enjoy sipping on one of the few mezcals on the menu.

To accompany our tequila elixirs, we jumped right into the Calamar Azul ($11): calamari dusted with blue corn, paired with an amazing lemon-and-jalapeño aioli. The flavor was absolutely delightful, and the tenderness and slight crunch was spot on. If you love ceviche, the Ceviche Atun ($12) was an interesting twist on a traditional staple. The sophistication of the dish is fully expressed with the apple flavor that enhances the sushi-grade tuna and arugula base that remind of freshly caught tuna off the shores of a Mexican beach.

My favorite dish of the night was the Ensalada de Octopus ($11). Resting upon a bed of arugula, the marinated octopus and shrimp paired with sliced peppers, onion and a lemon dressing. The dish explores a fresh and light temptation of boldness. Grilled proteins pop with a hint of spice from garden-fresh jalapeño, far surpassing a standard house salad prior to a main course.

By the time we were on to our main dish, we were ordering a second round of drinks. Switching it up, Scott chose the La Paloma ($13), a blend of Añejo tequila and grapefruit juice with a sugared rim. I was skeptical about the sugar rim—however, it surprisingly complemented the drink, though it was a little too sweet for Scott’s liking. I chose to enjoy a glass of Tempranillo. As a wine lover, I enjoy seeing several Spanish wine options on a menu.

For my main course, the Salmon Malinche ($18) melted in my mouth. Salmon cooked to fall- apart-at-the-touch-of-a-fork perfection, with a base of light corn tamal, avocado and pineapple salsa was the perfect end-of-summer fare. Scott enjoyed Pork Carnitas ($20), a fall-off-the-bone braised pork tenderloin. 

True to Mexican style, the dessert menu was filled with cordials, dessert wines and tasty pastries. The café is roasted exclusively for Frida Bistro by SLC’s Rimini Coffee. I chose to sip a black coffee while tasting the the Pastel de Mole Negro ($10) for dessert. I thought that the chocolate-mole cake, dark-chocolate ganache, honey-chocolate mousse, tequila-pickled cherries and housemade black-pepper ice cream would send me into a food coma, and it did (in a good way). If heaven had a taste, this could be it. Sharing the dessert after an evening of food and drinks was the way to go. Every morsel was worth the taste, and the black pepper ice cream added an interesting twist to the mix of flavors.

The pride of coming together to enjoy a meal in Mexico is a daily tradition, and dining at Frida Bistro provides the warmth of dining with family. It reminded me of enjoying a meal and conversation at the Santa Lucia Square in the culinary destination of Mérida, Mexico.

Beyond the food, Frida Bistro has something special planned for the Mexican celebration of Día de Los Muertos, or Day of the Dead. On Wednesday, Nov. 1, Rico Brand and Frida Bistro will revive their Día de los Muertos Celebration. The celebration will take place at the Rico/Frida warehouse at 545 W. 700 South, from 6 to 11 p.m., and will feature Mexican cuisine, live music, a cash bar, a Mexican market and kids’ activities.The entrance fee for adults is 15 cans of food or $15; for kids, it’s 10 cans of food or $10.