Joined: 31 Jul 2005 Posts: 39 Location: Athens, Georgia, USA
Posted: Wed Nov 02, 2005 4:56 am Post subject: Salt Lake City
Have you every visited someplace expecting uninteresting food and been pleasantly surprised? A couple of weeks ago I had such an experience, attended a geology conference in Salt Lake City, Utah. I had spent much time in Utah, although none of it was in the city. As expected, the scenery was spectacular (the worlds largest open-pit mine not withstanding). Salt Lake City is built on the western flank of the Wasatch Mountains and has amazing views in all directions. Other than its natural beauty, the citys claim to fame is that its home to the Mormon Church (Temple Square), which is also quite beautiful. My expectations for food, however, were rather low. My impressions of Salt Lake City before visiting were that it was primarily a city of white, affluent, conservative Christians, and although my 4 days there didnt dispel the demographic stereotypes, I was quite pleasantly surprised by the quantity and quality of the food offerings. I didnt eat a single bland meal, except for Sunday lunch at the mall because everything else was closed.
The most surprising finds were the brewpubs. Utah has very restrictive laws regarding the sale of alcohol. There are no bars, only private clubs, which require the purchase of a membership. Despite this, there were quite a few brewpubs, and they made quite tasty beer. My favorite was Squatters, which has a huge selection of microbrews. The food at Squatters was quite good too. Its all organic and environmentally conscious and they have a nice selection of vegetarian fare.
In addition to the brewpubs, there were also some very good restaurants. My favorite was a Middle Eastern restaurant called Cedars of Lebanon. I actually discovered this place because it was across the street from an Indian restaurant I wanted to eat at, but was closed for remodeling. From the outside, I certainly did not expect the culinary delights I found inside. The menu was large and all the food was absolutely fabulous. They actually have two menus. One for the dining room with tables and chairs (individual entrees) and one for the floor-seating room, which served family style meals on a single platter. I was with two friends so we opted for the floor seating. The hummus appetizer was spectacular and followed by a large tray of couscous with spiced vegetables, garbanzo beans and very tasty lentil soup. The crowning jewel of the meal, however, was the baklava, made the traditional way with rose water, yummm. My only regret is that I didnt discover Cedars of Lebanon on a Friday or Saturday, when they have live belly dancing.
For a quick lunch The Chilean Deli, which had excellent empanadas, hit the spot. As a vegetarian, I only partook in the cheese varieties, but my carnivorous friends assured me the beef was equally scrumptious. Of course, I also had a Chilean dessert. Unfortunately I dont remember the name of what I ate, but it was a flakey pastry horn filled with caramel and dusted with powdered sugar. Very delicious!
Salt Lake City was quite an unexpected culinary delight and Im interested to hear any stories C&Zers may have about making unexpectedly tasty food finds away from home.
And to think my parents went there (Salt Lake) without me! I don't recall any specific restaurants they visited, just that my mom kept sending me photos of their plates! She'd just gotten a camera-phone and I'd get so jealous at all these great meals they enjoyed!
After reading your post, I have such a taste for the meal I had in a FL Ethiopian restaurant - also served on a huge tray and with lots of lentil and potato, also meat stews. Who knew Jacksonville could put up any ethnic delights? (OK, not nice of me!)
I don't know the name of the Chilean dessert, or remember any specific dessert I liked while in Chile. There were a lot of German influences I think, tarts and fruit pastries. As for caramel from south of the border, though, I love Coronado Cajeta Quemada. It's a burnt-goats-milk caramel, truly yummy dulce de leche. I can eat it off a spoon. I bet you can find some in an Atlanta grocers, and maybe get 'empty' horns from a baker to try to re-create the dessert.
Joined: 29 Nov 2004 Posts: 32 Location: Salt Lake City, UT
Posted: Sun Nov 13, 2005 7:32 pm Post subject: Re: Salt Lake City
Glad to hear you ate well while in town.
When friends come to visit, they expect the scenery, but always leave with a much better impression about the food. You're lucky that you were downtown (I remember seeing a boatload of very scientific looking folks walking up and down West Temple)--most of the best food is there.
I LOVE Squatters--a good friend of mine is the chef there. I can tell you that he is certifiably crazy. And there, it translates to good food with a conscience. If you like Lebanese food, there's a place in the Sugar House neighborhood called Mazza.
In general, there are great places to eat in town. You just need to dig a little. If you're ever back in town for the conference, feel free to holler and I can send along a list of places you should check out next.
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