Bee's Knees Cocktail, Eat Drink SLC

Eat Drink SLC 2015: Salt Lake’s Finest Bites and Beverages

Food Festivals & Events

Stoneground Grape Gazpacho, Eat Drink SLC
Stoneground’s grape gazpacho was phenomenal all around. Photo: Talyn Sherer

Storm clouds on the horizon created a cool atmosphere in the lush surroundings of Tracy Aviary on July 9. The fates smiled down on Eat Drink SLC’s inaugural event—there was no rain that night, only a cool breeze. The winding walkways of the aviary hosted popular restaurants, wineries, local distilleries and breweries, each offering generous samples.

Eat Drink SLC, the organization, is a combined effort of Salt Lake’s food and beverage industry to show off our burgeoning gastronomic scene while raising funds for local non-profits. For their first event, they joined forces with Tracy Aviary and SB Dance to organize this summer soiree. Funds were raised for the two organizing partners, as well as Comunidades Unidas, whose mission is to “provide crucial health information and improve access to quality health care services for minority communities throughout the state.” Raising over $10,000 for the three non-profits, Eat Drink SLC’s first event was an astounding success.

The $75 ticket price proved to be a fantastic value. A special keepsake wine glass, etched with a bird and wine glass logo, was gifted to each guest. A punch card (with a helpful map of the venue) was good for 10 samples of wine, beer or mini-cocktails. There were a mind-boggling 80 bottles of wine to taste. The food samples were ridiculously generous—I only wish I could have sampled everything before getting stuffed! There were plenty of tables and benches, allowing guests to relax and enjoy the evening. The event sold out at 500 people, which sounds like a lot but allowed for plenty of samples, quickly moving lines and a leisurely flow of traffic.

“It was the best wine event I’ve been to in Utah, bar none.” said Robert Angelilli, local chef. At Eat Drink SLC, the beverages were just as important as the food. Each winery, brewery and distillery had their own table, encouraging everyone to sample and learn more about the product. Guests received a handy tasting booklet with information about each wine served, which proved invaluable to me after the event. I tried a bunch of new wines and wanted to make sure I could find them again!

I made a valiant effort to sample all the rosé wines offered. Lorenza Rosé caught my eye with a stunning black-and-white label against the beautiful pink rosé with a “delicate perfume of flowers and fruits,” as noted in the tasting booklet. My favorite rosé of the evening was Rotari Sparkling Rosé from northern Italy. This wine had a delightful strawberry and peach scent with “a cooling freshness and a touch of spice on the finish.” It was a happy surprise to find out this bottle sells for $13.99. The only Salt Lake–based winery participating that evening, Ruth Lewandowski Wines, made quite an impression on the crowd. I especially loved the Chilion, a happy, orange-colored wine with hints of baking spice and quince.

Other locals included Sugar House Distillery, who make vodka, rum and whiskey in South Salt Lake. “The main drive behind Sugar House Distillery was making a company that supports the local community,” said James Fowler, owner and president. “It is so important for all of us to work together to build a strong network. I think that Eat Drink SLC is the perfect event to showcase the craft movement Utah has to offer. Sugar House Distillery is very proud to be a part of Eat Drink SLC, bringing recognition and growth to the local craft food and beverage industry.”

Bee's Knees Cocktail, Eat Drink SLC
The Bee’s Knees Cocktail is part Jack Rabbit Gin, part Bottle & Bee lavender honey syrup and with a perfume-like lavender spring to class up the joint, it’s all parts amazing. Photo: Talyn Sherer

Beehive Distilling teamed up with Bottle & Bee Artisan Syrups to present the Bee’s Knees Cocktail featuring Jack Rabbit gin, Lavender Honey Syrup and fresh lemonade. The fragrant lavender mingled with sweet and tart lemonade to create a delightful cocktail perfect for summer nights.

While the drink options were plentiful, the food options were also over the top. The Frida Bistro taco truck served both duck and salmon tacos on blue corn tortillas. “Frida Bistro appreciates the community involvement and loves to participate in a community that has always supported my endeavors,” said Jorge Fierro, owner of Frida Bistro and Rico.

Another crowd favorite was Oak Wood Fire Kitchen’s pizza. The scent of wood-fired pizza wafted through the night, making mouths water. Wood-roasted mushrooms topped one pizza.The other option was a margherita pizza with the colors of the Italian flag: white mozzarella cheese, red tomato sauce and fresh green basil. Both pizzas were delicious and ideal to pair with the many tasty beer options.

The Annex by Epic Brewery represented with the evening’s most colorful dish: a dollop of burrata, cured ham, sizeable red and yellow shrimp chips and a Summer Fruit Velouté topped with white truffle. Chef Craig Germome made me a special ham-less version, piled high with extra truffle (maybe because I gave them a raving review in June’s Beer Issue?). This dish was outstanding paired with a rosé. Another of my favorite bites was the Grape Gazpacho from Stoneground. Refreshing and sweet, I wish I would have gone back for seconds and thirds!

3 Cups Coffee offered a petite Almond Ricotta Cake with a generous drizzle of house-made blackberry jam. “I would like to swim in this jam,” declared SLUG photographer Talyn Sherer. It was a lovely bite constructed by their talented pastry chef, Amber Billingsley—the sweetness carefully balanced with almond and the tart jam.

“We’re over the moon with the success of our Eat Drink SLC summer social,” said Tracey Thompson, the Chairperson of the Organizing Committee. “We wanted the event to feel like an intimate, relaxed garden party, and it did—for 500 people! Mother Nature smiled on us, and the vibe at the Tracy Aviary—which is truly one of Salt Lake’s crown jewels—was amazing. We could not be more grateful to all our talented restaurant and drink partners, to our sponsoring partners, and to the community who came out to cheer on our brilliant culinary scene. Because we’re a 100-percent volunteer committee, we’re able to donate 100-percent of net proceeds to the participating non-profits: Comunidades Unidas, SB Dance and Tracy Aviary. It’s just going to get better and better—and we can’t wait to bring it to back next year.”

Check out Talyn Sherer’s complete gallery of Eat Drink SLC!