Frida Bistro prepping their Tacos de Bufalo. Photo courtesy KUER
It is a truth that is universally acknowledged: the best way to encourage people to listen to public radio is to wine and dine them with personal service from some of the finest eateries in town. For their second annual Savory Salt Lake event, the folks at KUER assembled a pantheon of talented chefs and mixologists for a celebration of local food, drink and radio. Not only was this an excellent opportunity to mingle with interesting people while eating delicious food, each restaurant that participated was competing for a Golden Spoon trophy and bragging rights. Each attendee was given three coins that they could use to show their love for their favorite dishes, and each dish was sampled by a panel of local celebrity judges—KUER reporter Doug Fabrizio, Salt Lake Magazine’s food connoisseur Mary Malouf and food writer/educator Vanessa Chang. Before revealing the winner of this year’s event, let’s take a look at the competitors and their unique edible offerings.
Frida Bistro – Tacos de Bufalo: I’m a huge fan of anyone that puts something other than ground beef or shredded chicken inside a taco. Buffalo isn’t something that I would immediately consider for a taco filling, but it makes perfect sense. Marinate that stuff and put a good braise on it—which is exactly what Frida’s chefs did—makes for a deliciously lean and juicy base to a street taco. The buffalo was topped with a salsa made of pineapple, jalapeño, onion and cilantro, which was a nice complement to the citrus and Achiote marinade.
High West Distillery and Saloon – Steelhead Trout Market Salad: In addition to slinging their trademark cocktails, Park City’s famous watering hole prepared a light salad that was packed with local goodies. The star of this dish was the Koosharem Valley trout—it was perfectly cooked and the Whiskey Lemon Balm Vinaigrette really brought out the trout’s natural flavors.
Tin Angel – Achiote Pork Belly w/ Candied Pecans on Polenta Cake: There was something very autumnal about Tin Angel’s dish. The smoky pork belly and the candied pecans reminded me of a lovely glazed ham on Thanksgiving, and the polenta cake was a lot like having corn pancakes for breakfast the day after. Everything in this dish worked very well together, and it evoked a definite seasonal vibe that I really enjoyed.
Eva – Spicy Braised Pork Banh Mi w/ Sweet Potato Chips: The Banh Mi has long been at the top of my sandwich list, and it’s great to see someone handle it with care. Eva’s rendition of the Vietnamese sandwich combined the knockout combination of apple slaw and braised pork with thinly sliced jalapeño stuffed inside of a homemade baguette. It successfully merged the sloppy goodness of a pulled pork sandwich with a Vietnamese tradition that has become near to my heart.
Avenues Bistro – Arugula Salad w/ Pickled Beets, Strawberry Peak Cheese & White Balsamic Honey Vinaigrette: This one caught me totally off guard—which is why it got my vote for the evening. At first glance, you see a simple arugula salad, but as I combined some of the beet, greens and cheese, I was unprepared for the flavors that I experienced. It was this sublime mixture of the arugula’s slight bitterness, the sweetness of the honey vinaigrette and the saltiness of the homemade cheese. Its deceptively simple appearance disguised a very thoughtfully composed dish.
R&R Barbeque – Brisket Tacos w/ Coleslaw & Avocado Tomatillo Salsa: It’s tough to compete with Frida when it comes to making delicious and creative tacos, but the boys at one of Salt Lake’s newest restaurants delivered a bit of competition. I loved the brisket—probably because smoking brisket over oak is an amazing process. I also really enjoyed their Avocado Tomatillo Salsa—it was light, creamy and packed a nice punch. The one item that I felt could have been omitted was the coleslaw. With the creamy salsa and creamy queso fresco, the creamy coleslaw was a bit too much.
Eva’s Bakery – Tahini Cheesecake w/ Lemon Cream and Black Sesame Crumble: I’ve been to Eva’s Bakery a few times since it opened, and I am always pleasantly surprised. Their dessert offering at Savory Salt Lake floored me, however. Even though I like my cheesecake a bit more firm than theirs was, the black sesame crumble and lemon cream made this cloudlike dish completely soar. Eva’s Bakery is slowly becoming one of my favorites when on the lookout for something bad for me.
Deciding who provided the best food was a difficult choice. I had a difficult time deciding how to cast my two other votes, and I’m sure the judges were just as conflicted as I was. There were two awards to be had this evening: The People’s Choice Award and the Celebrity Judge Award. I was surprised—but not unpleasantly so—to see that both awards went to R&R Barbeque. As they graciously accepted both awards, I couldn’t help but respect the fact that these SLC food newbies came in and dominated. It definitely made me curious to see how their everyday food compares. Thanks to KUER and all the participating restaurants for creating a memorable and delicious evening.