Texas Chili At Grand America 555 S. Main Street, SLC, 801-304-8696 Generations of dedicated range cookies and cocineros perfected the transformation of tough trail beef into a complex, cult-worthy dish. Argue all you want, but it takes a Texan to tease the soul into a bowl of red, and Lone Star transplant Chef Phillip Yates has got the touch, down to the homemade Fritos.
Banana Cream Pie At Ruth's Chris 275 S. West Temple, SLC, 801-363-2000 Ruth's Chris's business model is based on raising the simple to the sublime - witness the apotheosis of meat and potatoes. So it's no wonder that when this Southern-based restaurant group turned its attention to a Dixie classic, it emerged with a burnt-sugar halo.
Pork Rinds At Metropolitan 173 W. 300 South, SLC, 801-364-3472 Fried pork rinds are right up there with Moon Pies in terms of what is politically incorrectly called white-trash food. But with the recent elevation of the pig to most revered meat status, Metropolitan decided to take another look and fry, fry again. Voila! A light, crisp, rich cocktail snack.
Chicken Hash At Pago 878 S. 900 East, SLC, 801-532-0777 Hash is a word that conjures up Mom's leftovers, but chef Michael Richey's carefully constructed crusted patty of roast chicken meat, goat cheese and sweet onions deserves pride of place. We mean plate.
Lobster Corn Dogs At Talisker on Main 515 Main Street, Park City, 435-658-5479 Not to get all Lone Star-centric, but it's a fact that corny dogs were invented at the Texas State Fair by a family named Fletcher, so in Utah I consider myself somewhat of an authority. Chef Murcko's corndogs combine the sweet nuttiness of corn with the sweet meat of lobster, with butter as the flavor bridge.
Meat of the year: THE PIG
Best whole pig: Served at Rico's 2010 Dia de los Muertos party 545 W. 700 South, SLC, 801-983-6692
Best pork chop: Grand America's Ballard Farms chop, braised in cider 555 S. Main St., SLC, 800- 304-8696
Best selection of pork extremities: Viva Mexican Market sells feet, ears, etc. 900 W. North Temple, 801-961-0751
Best pork belly: Chow Truck's slider created by Chef Ryan Lowder of Copper Onion chowtruck.com, Copper Onion, 111 E. Broadway, SLC, 801- 355-3282
Best ribs: Kurobuta baby backs with marmalade, scallion pancakes and butterscotched nuts, at Goldener Hirsch 7570 Royal St., Park City, 435- 649-7770
Best use of bacon: Bacon jam at Metropolitan 173 W. Broadway, SLC, 801-364-3472
Best pork shoulder: Tomato-braised, Panko-crusted, Communal's tender/juicy/fat meat is prime pork. 102 N. University Ave., Provo, 801-373-8000
A Week of Eating Well
Monday Margarita Monday at Frida Bistro 545 W. 700 South, SLC, 801-983-6692, fridabistro.com Reward yourself for making it through Monday with $5 margaritas at Frida Bistro. Choose any margarita on the regular menu, except the El Jefe, plus two new recipes.
Tuesday Taco Tuesday at Windy Ridge Cafe 1250 Iron Horse Drive, Park City,435-647-0880, windyridgefoods.com Windy Ridge Cafe says "thank you" to locals every Tuesday. Beef, chicken and fish tacos, not included on their regular menu, are just $3. Margaritas are only $5.
Wednesday Sushi roll specials at Ahh Sushi 22 E. 100 South, SLC, 801-359-6770 Yes, it's jam-packed, but if you're on a budget, it's worth the wait for things like $3 California rolls
Thursday Thirsty Thursdays at a Bees game at Spring Mobile Ballpark 77 W. 1300 South, SLC, 801-350-6900, slbees.com It's a little piece of Utah heaven: a cheap(er) cold beer, Colosimo's on a bun, the sunset reflecting on the Wasatch and the Bees slugging it out on the field.
Friday Burnt End Fridays at Pat's BBQ 155 W. Commonwealth Ave., South Salt Lake, 801-484-5963, patsbbq.com By the time Friday comes around, the cut-off caps from Thursday's beef briskets have been re-smoked for 20 hours. Pat's Friday lunch special includes a plate of Burnt Ends with cornbread and your choice of a side dish for $11.59.
Saturday Steak and Lobster at Log Haven 6451 E. Millcreek Canyon Road, SLC, 801-272-8255, log-haven.com Enjoy sirloin and lobster with salad and side any night of the week for $35. Place your Saturday night order before 6:30 and pay just $25.
Sunday Dim Sum at Red Maple 3361 S. Redwood Road, West Valley, 801-747-2888, redmaplesaltlake.com Limited dim sum is served daily; on weekends, choose from a full cart-delivered array.
Fantasy potluck Dinner The key to a great dinner party is great conversation about food, yes, but also art, life and everything. Here's our guest list.
The Winer & The Dancer Tracey Thompson & Stephen brown Tracey is with local wine brokerage Vinelore, representing select wine and spirit companies. Obviously, a great choice for a potluck guest. She brought a couple of wines from Utah's first "Urban Winery," Kiler Grove. "They make a beautiful Trebbiano and a killer Zinfandel blend called "Zinergy" as well as "what I always bring," a rosé - this one from Sicily. Why these wines: "The Trebbiano is a beautiful crisp white, so versatile with food. The Zin is super with anything coming off that grill. Good rosé is the perfect summer wine." Stephen, Tracey's husband, is the imagination and legs behind SBDance. A vegetarian "forever," his tried and true potluck dish is curried lentils, which his family has learned to love, and he has learned not to hard boil because it breaks the skins. Why this dish: "There has to be something for vegetarians at a potluck, besides the chips and salsa."
The Framer Foodie M. Scott Gardner Gardner owns The Second Artist, a fine art framing business featuring frames custom built, gilded and finished by Scott's hand. He's also an avid foodie whose training is pure experience. "We seek out good food whenever we travel," he says. He believes art and food go together. "As a framer, my job is not to compete, it's to complement subtly. Food is similar," he says. "The plate is the frame." Why this dish: "A friend who's a personal chef, Mandy Hicks, shared the recipe with me - leaves of Belgian endive filled with a mixture of spiced pecans, dried cranberries, red onion and a mild blue cheese. (Nature Valley crumbles work fine.) It's finger food, keeps well and is served at room temp. Plus it's versatile - you can serve it as a first course, a salad, a cocktail tidbit."
The Arty Intellects Adam & Dessi Price The attorney turned art patron in a spectacular way when he conceived of 337, a downtown building painted by local artists before its demolition. Now he's left the law altogether and is the director of our main contemporary art venue, Salt Lake Art Center. Adam and his wife Dessi are equally into the art of food. Why this dish: Bread pudding with bourbon sauce is a recipe Adam's family has been enjoying for years, and not just at holiday season, either. Art director and Adam's wife, Dessi is a seriously dedicated cook whose repertoire ranges far outside her native Eastern European cuisine and whose natural attention to detail pays off in the kitchen like it does in the studio. She's also the main family cook. Why this dish: This Bulgarian feta and egg pastry is Dessi's specialty. "It's good at room temperature or hot, so you don't have to do a lot right before you serve it."
The Maven Entrpreneur Kathie Chadbourne The food talent behind Ninth South Deli, Kathie Chadbourne has a long food resumé in SLC, including the original Avenues Bakery and Broadway Pharmacy Market. When retired engineer Randy Harmsen wanted to fulfill his dream of a real deli in Utah, he chose Chadbourne to make it come true. She found authentic boiled bagels, pastrami, pumpernickel, and fills the case with all kinds of knishes: Yukon potato knish, sweet potato knish, broccoli fontina knish, corned beef and Emmenthaler knish. Why this dish: "You can just reheat knish in a 350-degree oven for about seven minutes and they're easy to serve (no forks or plates required)."
The Local Gourmands Robert Angellili & Amber Billingsley Currently chef at Vinto, Angellili is known as the "Mushroom Man" because he sells wild mushrooms to chefs and at the Farmers Market. Previously, he was a skier and dancer. That's when he became friends with Stephen Brown. ("What's Stephen bringing to the potluck? Lentils?" he asked.) Angellili brings chicken cacciatore - with plenty of wild mushrooms. Why this dish: "You can make it in a crockpot - dredge and fry the chicken, then cook it for two or three hours, hold it and reheat." Pastry chef extraordinaire and Angellili's wife, Amber's resumé includes her own line of Italian-style cakes, Farina. She makes all the sweets for Vinto - gelato, apple crostata, and sweet specials - making the café a dessert destination. Why this dish: "Butterscotch budino (Italian for pudding) with salted caramel sauce, whipped cream and hazelnut praline can all be made ahead." Amber added a buttery hazelnut praline sable, or cookie.
When foodies used to refer to Salt Lake as a desert, they didn't mean the climate. They meant the grocery-shopping scene. But no more. Cali's is one of the best organic local foods stores anywhere; the Whole Foods Market in Trolley Square is the latest model from the giant chain; Viva Market recognizes the great food of our Mexican population; Sunflower Market has a fresh side that makes regular grocery stores' produce look used; Harmons Emigration revives a classic.
Cali's Natural Foods 389 W. 1700 South, SLC, 801- 483-2254, calisnaturalfoods.com
Whole Foods Trolley Square 544 S. 700 East, SLC, 801-924-9060
Sunflower Farmers Market 656 E. 200 South SLC, 801-364-1602, sfmarkets.com/locations/utah
Emigration Market by Harmons 1706 E. 1300 South, SLC, harmonsgrocery.com
Viva Mexican Market 900 W. North Temple, 801-961-0751
Best Swordplay Every evening, the St. Regis kicks off the cocktail hour by sabering a bottle of champagne. 2300 Deer Valley Drive, Park City, 435-940-5700, stregisdeervalley.com
Best Tacos al Pastor "Al pastor" means "shepherd style" which implies lamb, but D.F. Chunga's fave tacos are made with pork, pineapple, onion and plenty of cilantro, just like in Mexico. 180 S. 900 West, SLC, 801-953-1840
Best New "Made in Utah" Food Here's the difference: Nu Nooz Artisan Pasta is made from all local ingredients - Utah Hard Red Wheat, locally-milled Durum Semolina, Redmond Real Salt, even (in some pastas) fresh eggs from free-range heritage chickens. It's slow-dried, giving a rough texture that captures all the flavor of sauce and olive oil. Find it at Cali's, the Downtown Farmers Market and the Sugar House Farmers Market. nunooz.net
Best Iced Tea Bay Leaf Cafe Iced tea is as essential to Southern cuisine as wine is to French. But few places outside the South know how to serve it. It should be strong - a deep, clear amber color - and plentiful - iced tea glasses hold a pint. 159 S. Main St. SLC, 801-359-8490
Best Water Communal filters its water through a Japanese-made Kangen filter that adjusts its pH to a perfect 8.5. 102 N. University Avenue Provo, 801-373-8000
Best Coca-Cola Viva Mexican Market Mexican-made Coke has attained cult status because it's so often made with cane sugar instead of corn syrup. Get some at Viva Mexican Market. 900 W. North Temple, SLC, 801-961-0751
Best New Soft Drink Dr. Brownâ€™s Cel-Ray has been popular in East Coast delis for over a century, but it's new to SLC at Ninth South Deli. 931 E. 900 South, SLC, 801-517-3663
Best Soda Made in SLC Red Rock Brewing Company The, um, crème de la crème of nonalcoholic brews is Redrock Cream Soda. Made with Madagascar vanilla and cane sugar - imagine it with a scoop of chocolate ice cream. 254 S. 200 West, SLC, 801-521-7446
Best Milkshake Tonyburgers A real milkshake, made of scooped ice cream and milk - not extruded sludge - is hard to find, but Tonyburgers is dedicated to blending to order. 613 E. 400 South, SLC, 801-419-0531; 331 Parrish Lane, Centerville, 801-298-3644
Best Root Beer Big H Root Beer Extract from Hires Local brewpubs make their own root beer, but the best is made by you, using a base available on Hires' Web site, along with a simple recipe. 40hiresbig.com/homemade-rootbeer-recipe
Best Local Beer List Sage's Café and Vertical Diner feature lists of all-local beers. And why not? The whole world knows now that Utahns are great brewers. Sage's Cafe, 473 E. 300 South, South, SLC, 801-322-3790; Vertical Diner, 2280 S. West Temple SLC, 801-484-8378
Best Bowls for 8 Days a Week
Ramen At Dojo 423 W. 300 South, SLC, 801-328-3333 Strong, clear pork broth unifies the meat, noodles and veg into a single entity that sings in the mouth.
Tomato Soup with Coconut At Alpine House at Canyons Resort Village, Sundial Building (north of the cabriolet), Park City, 435-615-4828. When you remember that the tomato is a fruit, the addition of chewy-sweet coconut makes perfect sense. Or you could skip the intellectual exercise and trust your taste buds.
Roasted Kabocha Squash Soup At Shabu 442 Main Street, Park City, 435-645-7253. Squash soup is so popular it verges on boring, but not this version. Its velvety texture is spiked with candied pecans, five-spice squash seeds and Chantilly cream.
Borscht At the Paris 1500 S. 1500 East, SLC, 435-486-5585. This borscht tastes as beautiful as it looks.
Corn Bisque At Bambara 202 S. Main Street, SLC, 801-363-5454 So silky smooth you kind of want to wear it instead of eat it. Not advisable. Just take the time to savor it and love how this soup slides down your throat.
Chilled Melon Soup with Cilantro Cream At 350 Main 350 Main Street, Park City, 435-649-3140 Cold soups are often underachievers, lacking intensity and a sense of purpose, but Michael DeClerc's melon soup has backbone and even dash, thanks to the pungency of cilantro.
Zuppa Cotta At Cucina Toscana 307 W. Pierpont Avenue, SLC, 801-328-3463 Restaurant impresario Valter Nassi calls this his "best recipe." It figures, since Nassi was born in Tuscany, land of bean-eaters. This soup makes a meal, full of cannellini beans, fresh vegetables and porcini, finished with a glamorous swirl of truffle oil.