Nothing can beat the feeling of being asked to review a restaurant. That delight is even increased when the Owner and Executive Chef welcome you with open arms. Here is the article, courtesy of Utah Stories
The word “hidden” holds real significance here. Blue Iguana is tucked in between two buildings directly west of the Capitol Theatre. As you come through the alley and walk down the stairs, you are immediately transported into a festive atmosphere with an inviting aroma.
Kris Cappaert has been the proprietor here since shortly after Blue Iguana’s inception 19 years ago. A lifelong Utahn with a passion for food, a mind for business, and boundless energy, Kris has established a place that she long dreamed of.
She is but part of the equation here as Manuel Castillo has been her executive chef for nearly all that time. Any restaurant that has had the same owner, same chef, and nearly half the original staff for so long must be doing something right.
Both Kris & Manuel enthusiastically introduced me to Mole—a sauce made from spices, chilies, nuts, and chocolate. Blue Iguana has seven different types; the most popular being Mole Poblano: red chiles & peanuts with a dash of cinnamon and chocolate. Another, the Mole Negro, has 18 ingredients created through an intricate, step-by-step process.
Each mole is unique with a smooth, rich flavor. Moles go great as a sauce for any of the meats, or even as a dip for chips. Mix and match a specific Mole with a dish to find your perfect combination; or better yet, get a recommendation.
Before you do anything, dig into some chips and salsa. Homemade each day, the salsa is a fine-chopped blend of veggies and herbs, has an incredibly “fresh” flavor, is slightly spicy, and just may be addictive.
The menu is an encyclopedia of Mexican cuisine. I asked them to surprise me with an entree—something unique and spicy. They brought out the Puntas De Filete: grilled sirloin tips and bacon sautéed with onion & serrano chilies, served with an almond mole and topped with avocado. The ingredients combine to make the dish like a beautiful orchestra—each piece enhancing the others. The serrano peppers gave it a “slow burn of satisfaction.”
While dining at Blue Iguana, I got to meet an enthusiastic owner & chef, taste delicious food, and watch loyal customers who were familiar with the experienced staff. It is not simply a restaurant, but an experience. My last question for Chef Manuel was, “What is your secret?” He replied that there are no secrets with his food. “Everything is made from passion and love.”
Locations: 165 S. West Temple in Downtown Salt Lake and 255 Main Street in Park City.
In order to take some steps toward my BBQ goal, all it took was a heave of desperation!
Life happened last year and I thought that I would get back into cooking BBQ when things calmed down. As my friend Jon Acuff shared, “Enough time is a myth, just get going”–simple, yet profound!
BBQ is one of the most uplifting, therapeutic things that I do. The “getting going” for me was simply buying some meat, and starting up the smoker. Just like anything that we want to accomplish–getting back into shape, changing careers, traveling–the thinking and subsequent procrastination, are far worse than the actual effort involved. Once you take that step to get back in the game, there is immediate relief.
For almost 5 years now, I have been smoking meat. The past couple of years have felt stagnant–partly for “life” as I mentioned, and partly because I hadn’t learned anything knew in my craft. I know how to do ribs, chicken and pulled pork; at least I know how to do them my way. Taking things to the next level, would require getting out of my comfort zone. Now just what would that next level be?
It would be finding a mentor–somebody who creates master-level BBQ and who cooks on the competition circuit. My friend and coach Allan Dubon encouraged me to join some online BBQ groups. I didn’t know why at the time yet saw the wisdom later. The “heave of desperation” that I mentioned was placing the following ad on the Utah BBQ Association’s Facebook Page: “I’m looking to work with a BBQ team to help in anyway that I can. I have been doing backyard BBQ for 5 years now and want to take things to the next level. Will work long hours for little or no pay.”
Have you ever applied for a job where you didn’t feel qualified; they require a Master’s Degree and you technically have one? It takes really stretching your skills so they appear to fit the criteria. It also helps omitting some information–like the fact that you obtained said Master’s Degree in two hours time last evening while watching Fixer Upper. It cost you $128 and was from a supposed institution called the Advanced Learning University of East Timor. Sure you helped fund a rebel-led coup against that country’s government, but you have that piece of paper.
The other option is to simply be honest and pray for a mercy opportunity from someone. What do they have to lose? The latter was my plan, especially knowing that most people on that forum were seasoned and competed on the BBQ circuit. “I guess he could clean my dishes as long as he stays out of my way” they likely thought.
A day or so went by and I started to think that no one cared. And then I got one message back. It simply stated, “I can teach you how to scrape chicken.” Okay, I do need to learn how to do that better only having learned it once. From there, we exchanged messages and arranged a time and place. He was preparing for a competition that next weekend. My coming to his house would simply be an extension of his preparation.
I showed up to his house on a Friday night. We started about 8:00pm and the doctorate program in BBQ began. I have learned a lot over the years, but it was all the extra little things he did that made me so impressed with his BBQ. It was smoked to a quality I had never known. He cooked with an enthusiasm unknown to mankind.
From that initial chicken-scraping lesson, came another opportunity to prep pork butt, brisket and ribs. I have cooked all of these meats before, but never to this level. And from that came an opportunity to intern with his team at a BBQ Competition. The stakes were now raised.
The Competition was the Mark Miller BBQ Showdown in Salt Lake City; sanctioned by the Utah BBQ Association. I showed up after 7:00pm on Friday night. We had dinner, then went over a game plan. Some prep happened that night and it was time for a little rest around 1:30am. That rest wasn’t long as we were back at it early.
I cannot begin to describe the level of intensity, fun and even exhaustion. Turn in happens on Saturday at 12:00pm, 12:30pm 1:00pm and 1:30pm respectively; it’s like the amazing race. When it’s over, and you are waiting for the awards ceremony, you almost forget your own name. That is either because of the lack of sleep, or the near delirium from an intense BBQ aroma (not a pleasant one) now deeply infused in your skin.
In the days following the competition, I received many texts and FB messages asking about the event. My answer was the same each time: “I loved it and knew that I had to participate to take things to the next level. I knew that I would always regret not getting into the game.”
Last year I shared in a post how I have sold real estate for a decade longer than I have cooked BBQ; yet more people know me for BBQ than home sales. In those 5 years of smoking meat, many have asked me to teach them as they claim that they have always wanted to learn. I have kept an open invite. Do you know how many of those invitees have showed up over the years–just one!
This is not a condemnation of people who have feigned interest in something and then not attended when the opportunity arrived–I have been that person more than once in my life. The thought of not attending the BBQ competition even crossed my mind–“I know enough,” “it will be a late night,” “life is busy already” were temptations that I had to face. BUT I knew that when this opportunity came–from the one person who replied to my heave of desperation–that I best show-up, smile and get to work.
Where does the road of life take you–to unknown joy, but you will only find that once you start the car. Stay hungry my friends.
Special thanks to Anthony and Rick with Smoke Ain’t No Joke BBQ. Your tutelage is a gift that I treasure. To many more times of good food, BBQ competitions and watching baseball.
Last week I was reading a blog post by bestselling Author Jon Acuff. He wrote about the time he was sitting in the parking lot of his work in Atlanta, and how he hated having to go there. He wanted to write, he wanted to speak, he wanted to travel. He had done none of those things. For 25 years he had lied to himself. Essentially he said that he would do it tomorrow.
For myself, there have been plenty of “tomorrows.” The biggest one being–when am I going to get to my dream? There have been traces of it over the years–becoming a Certified BBQ judge, writing for City Weekly, being interviewed on podcasts and news publications, being invited to dine at restaurants in exchange for a review. Why I let those things die is a question that I still ask myself. Practicality seemed to be what allowed me to push that burning question to yet another day.
Back in August, I held a Cajun Shrimp Boil in my backyard. My sister came, so did a family that lives in the neighborhood. They loved the food and I reveled in the preparation and serving. Cajun food and BBQ have become my cooking focus. For a naturally impatient person such as me, to then gravitate towards a cooking process that can be 12+ hours, is a question for the universe to answer.
During the shrimp boil, I was telling our neighbor how I have sold real estate for 13 years and have been really into cooking, especially Cajun & BBQ, for just over 4 years. To this day, I still get the question of “you sell real estate?” from someone enjoying either a plate of ribs with a side of smoked beans or devouring a simmering plate of chicken & sausage gumbo. These are often people that I have known for a while. This use to frustrate me, now I am beginning to see the meaning.
While I love the cooking, it isn’t very lucrative at present. It’s more in the hobby phase. But I am recognizing the sun is setting on the season of real estate sales in my life. I don’t reach my potential there because I am burned out. Do I force it–that is what I have done for years–in every aspect of my life.
In Mr Acuff’s referenced blog post, he talked about how overwhelming it was to think about the long term plan of what he wanted to do. He couldn’t pay off his house today, but he could work on paying a little extra on his car loan. He couldn’t leave his job and become a paid speaker today, but he could write a few hundred words by getting up a little earlier.
Well I can’t leave my job today just to chase a dream. There is something called reality that I need to acknowledge. But I can write this blog post today, I can reach out to a coach, I can join a mastermind. It’s the little things done consistently that get us a long way towards our dream. I have been looking for the grandiose shortcut. For that, I am still looking.
I’ve always wanted to have the answer–the answer to what I should do in life. Well, life will drop you plenty of clues. Faking it only gets you so far. Recently there has been a peace within myself to say that I don’t have the answer right now. I don’t exactly know what is next and I especially don’t know how to get to where I want to be. But I can do something today–something small and something meaningful.
To our dreams and beyond!
A number of years ago, I found a good way to make the budget all get spent before the end of the year. Let me clarify: I wasn’t committing white collar crime. I was in the leadership of the youth ministry of my church. We had a budget each year for activities. Whatever was left over by years end was deducted from next years budget. You really didn’t need it if there was some left over right? As practical as that may be, who wants to live with less?
That thinking led me taking the youth, right around December 28th, two years in a row to RoDizio. Fun get together, enjoy each other’s company and talk about the good times right? Well yeah but we are forgetting the most important part–food! It was all you can eat and these kids were ravenous. I told them to be careful at the salad bar as more meat will be coming to the table than they can handle.
Well that was years ago, I am no longer in that position, life gets busy and I had honestly forgotten a little about RoDizio. I was invited there to try their 2nd annual RoDizo BBQ Fest–their wonderful Brazilian grilled meat items along with some American BBQ classics. I went last year and I couldn’t resist again.
I mentioned in last year’s post about being part of the Kansas City Barbeque Society: judging events and talking classes from grand champions. I felt weird as most people at last year’s dinner loved the ribs; I didn’t. I also didn’t want to prejudge them this time. I was grateful to try a couple and RoDizio really made them well. That and some BBQ chicken, along with the traditional Brazilian favorites and you have yourselves a meal and a wonderful evening.
Restaurants come and go. I am a little embarrassed to admit that many of the places I wrote about for City Weekly are now closed. You want them to succeed and many don’t.
Even places that stay around for many years often lose their popularity. Getting good isn’t hard; it’s staying there. Places have to change things up, appeal to new tastes and keep the regulars coming back and new customers coming to. RoDizio has done just that. I was worried that when they introduced American BBQ that it was all dying; that this was a desperate attempt to stay in the game.
Oh no, the classics are still there. Honestly, the new BBQ options aren’t many and you won’t even recognize anything has been replaced. RoDizio has been wonderful, is wonderful and will continue to be for the coming years. It’s with the trip and is much more than just a meal.
Back to my story earlier of taking the Youth here: it was not only a contest (between themselves) of how much food they could eat, but how much Guarana they could drink. They asked the server not to take away the empty cans. There were over 20 on or table when they were finished.
If you think that turning in a receipt for over $300 for a youth activity isn’t awkward, it is. Yet the food, drink and time together we’re all worth it–just like my visit there last week.
Thank you RoDizio and Happy Eating.
“Someday” I will write that book or go on that vacation or try my hand at that new occupation. Someday is a thief that will swallow us whole. We have all been there and we are all there. It’s just a matter of what it is and when we are going to admit to ourselves that we aren’t getting after it.
I do this myself. “Someday” makes you feel like “someday” you will actually do something about it without having to commit. The opportunity to procrastinate is never ending and so there is no ending. I have done this with writing, cooking, traveling, work goals and the list runs on.
With my fun addiction of smoking meat, there are three that I have cooked so regularly that it is more of a routine than a challenge–ribs, chicken and pulled pork. It is fun to change up a few recipes but I am familiar with the routine. There was this little bug in the back of my head that kept telling me there was one more meat that I was avoiding. I knew it but avoiding it was a better answer. I could tell myself “someday.” Well the nagging in my head got louder and so I realized that it was time to smoke a brisket.
A couple years back, I did smoke a brisket–one time. I put it on the smoker and when the thermometer read 170, I took it off. Everyone liked it and complimented me well. After taking Rub Bagby’s Q’ School class and studying, I knew that it was much more complex than that. Nothing to do but avoid it for a time.
In March we were to get together with a couple whom we see a few times a year. She lived in Italy for a time and learned to cook fresh, authentic Italian food. It’s hard to measure up to her. I decided that that night was going to be brisket provided by us so I put it on the calendar. The Wednesday before, I purchased a prime-grade brisket. I had been studying Aaron Franklin’s method of cooking brisket for a month.
On Thursday we got a text that she was under the weather and wouldn’t be able to meet up that Saturday. It was the perfect excuse (and it was thought about) for me to put that brisket in the freezer and live to smoke it another day–someday.
I knew that this couldn’t be. If I was to learn brisket I was going to have to get in the game. I wanted it to be perfect before I started. Yet, not starting was keeping the perfection at bay. We did delay but only by one day. On Saturday I studied, trimmed, seasoned and got that brisket on the smoker. It was the epitome of an “I sure hope this works” moment.
There wasn’t much sleep that night as when it got through the stall, and hit 170 degrees, it was time to wrap it. After it hit 205, it was time for rest–both the brisket and me.
Did it turn out? Will they like it? Will they ever be back? Oh the emotional ego battle I was having. time came to carve and serve. As my swim coach would say, “it’s time to see what you’ve got.”
What a crazy article title right? Who wants to focus on their weaknesses? What a drag this would be. But the truth is, don’t we do it all the time? I’m not saying that we actually do anything about it, but we focus on it with a magnifying glass.
A couple of weeks ago, my sister-in-law went to see a neighbor who needs help with his business. He runs a hospice office and is great at getting new business and consulting. But do you know what he hates–the details like keeping the books. My sister-in-law is great at numbers; she loves the details.
For a long time in my real estate career, I have always worried about what I am not good at (and there are many things). What I do love is prospecting, meeting with people, signing up new clients and negotiating. What I am not good at are (just like my neighbor) the details. If that part is left up to me, it won’t happen. When I sign up a deal, I am excited for a minute and then back in the car I think, “now I need to order photographs, and a sign, and fill out the MLS input form, and get the home on the MLS, and open title.” It’s enough to make me want to scream. It reminds me of the time right out of college where I got a job staring at an excel spreadsheet all day. To say that I was unexcited, uninspired and unmotivated would be an understatement; more like borderline suicidal.
So what have I learned over the years (although maybe not quick enough) is to delegate. The secretary at my office can do some of these tasks. Others items have been handled by setting up a system. It helps to do something about the work to be done, rather than procrastinating–my old demon.
Now what about things where we are weak but we WANT to get better? As mentioned, some things are just not a fit and never will be. However, we all have those visions or dreams of things we keep telling ourselves that we should do. Months, years and even decades go by. All the while we seek for a calmer time–when the kids are a little older (my current excuse), or when we are financially secure, or when we just simply have more time. I started really investing time in learning to cook when I was 32 . At age 35, I took swimming lessons (INSERT LINK). A couple years into my cooking journey, I had the guts to do something I feared–I started writing about that journey; hence this blog today. Getting in the game has led to some great adventures.
As I look back on some of those early articles and cooking creations, I realize that they weren’t pretty. Some of you may still feel that way as you read this. There is something powerful however, about writing and hitting publish even when you feel like it’s not perfect.
Maybe by taking that one step towards what you fear, it gives it permission to move just a little further away from you.
A visit to the Sunshine State in the early months of each year, does a few beneficial things for my soul: the warm weather and sun rays brighten you both physically and emotionally. You get a change from the normal rat-race routine, and you get to go out to eat often–okay, very often. Thanks to a wonderful friend (who is also my cousin), I get to do these things each winter.
In the 5 years that I have been visiting, the Southwest Florida region gets more crowded each year. More snowbirds, more tourists and many more people who came down as snowbirds or tourists, are now there permanently. My cousin’s neighbor joked that Florida was going to start sinking into the Ocean.
Along with that development from all the money moving in to the state, comes high-rise condos, elegant homes, expensive restaurants, shiny yachts and well-manicured golf courses. So my ears perked up when my cousin’s friend suggested a restaurant just over the bridge. “It’s an old Florida place,” he said. I replied, “what is Old Florida?” He indicated that I will know as soon as we get there. Was he ever right.
We drove down the two-lane highway, past the yacht clubs and nice condos–what we know as the vacation vision of Florida. We turned left off of the highway onto a small road where my cousin said, “here it is.” The sun was going down but what you could see was an old wood porch connected to a dilapidated building. Plastic tables and mismatched chairs were outside on the ground in front of a small stage. There were dogs, beer signs, and a backyard-grill /deep-fried aroma. Some dim out-of-season Christmas lights helped you see your way around. Once inside, dollar bills autographed by proud patrons were stapled to the walls.
We sat down at a table with chairs that would make an estate sale proud. The menus were already on the table–stuffed between the paper towel roll and the ketchup. This was the Bean Depot Café. One thing was apparent here–they like their meat dead and they like it deep fried; they liked everything deep fried. We got jalapeno poppers as an appetizer. They were crisp, they were filled with cream cheese, they were deep fried and they were delicious.
You had your choice of an assortment of burgers or fish with fries, onion rings, macaroni & potato salad as sides. I had a grilled filet of some fish whose name I had never heard and may never hear again. My sides were homemade macaroni and potato salad. I actually liked the fish and the sides were doable.
What I did like was the atmosphere. It was apparent that this was the place where the tourist do not come. There was nothing to draw them in and I’m sure the cooks and wait staff could care less whether they ate here or not. Our waitress knew a few people by name and went on conversing with them about their lives.
A lone singer belted out some music on the outdoor stage. A few people were gathering out there, drinking beers, holding their dog’s leash and waiting for more music.
Bean Depot Café is tucked right against the water and not many yards from a newer condo complex. The atmosphere is down home and relaxing. Even though I was a tourist, it’s easy to feel like a local. These are places like these that hang on and stay around. They hang on to what they love, the hang on for the regulars. And most importantly, they hang on for the sheer desire of just hanging on. Just like the greatest time of your life–you know it will end eventually but that makes the moment that much better.
Up Next: Dancing with Hippies, Searching for Alligators.
Double your income in 6 months–well, doesn’t that sound like something you would see on a late night infomercial. You feel burned out and the temptation gets you so you look up the address, and for only $199.95 you can have a package that shows you how to double your income. You feel cheated, close the screen and live to dream another day.
Having listened to podcasts and keeping my nose in self-improvement books for a few years now, it becomes obvious who is genuine and who is not. The ones who peddle themselves all over social media trying to make you feel bad for your life, are the ones who die out.
So it caused me to stop and think when on the podcast that it my personal favorite, 48 Days to the work you love, Host Dan Miller said that you can double your income in 6 months. I have met this guy, followed him, believe in his material so this time I thought that it would be worth listening to.
I honestly expected a long, complicated process with multiple meetings and interventions. What I heard was anything but. Dan very simply shared that the quickest way to double your income was to fill your mind with uplifting and inspirational material. He long has been a fan of the timeless classic, “Think and Grow Rich” by Earl Nightingale. In this book, Mr Nightingale talks about how we become What we think about, and we think about what we put into our minds.
If we fill our minds with news, gossip and rumors, that is what we believe is going on in the world and that is what we expect. Years ago, I would listen to talk radio for a few hours each day. I would watch both the national and local evening news. You don’t realize how hooked you are on something until you get away from it. I started eliminating those things one by one. Initially I felt withdrawal as there was a void. How was I going to fill that time? What will I do if I don’t know what is going on all the time?
Slowly a void began to be filled. I started reading more biographies and self-improvement material. I turned off the radio and checked out books on CD from the library. I joined automobile university as Dan Miller would say. After a while, I noticed the cravings for news & gossip diminish. I deleted the news apps from my phone.
So I was improving but how was this going to increase my income? The authors of the books I was reading were not going to send me a check; they didn’t even know I had their book. I expected the increase in revenue to come from my writing. I had been food writing for 4 years and just assumed that it would happen here; maybe I just wanted it to happen there without knowing how. I know how un-lucrative that can be as blogging is not necessarily a business.
Well it did happen, in real estate. How did it happen–from all the self-improvement and success tips from the books, podcasts, magazines and CD’s. I couldn’t believe how much more efficient I was. There was less time being spent on things that were not productive. I began to understand being busyness vs productivity. I began to understand myself better and where my gifts lie.
It was amazing and still is. Yes it can be done. Decide what you are going to invest your time in and get a foot in the door. Regardless of your industry and if you want to make a transition or not, fill your mind with positive uplifting things and you may just look back after a while and say, “WOW.”
The infatuation of my soul with Cajun food continues. I love getting books that include not only recipes, but stories of people’s lives and their connection to food. “In a Cajun Kitchen” does just that: a multi-generational history of a family living off the land in Louisiana. The crawfish in the bayou, the corn in the field, the chickens plucking at the ground–it’s like a very elongated version of my own short visit to Cajun Country; a place in which I have longed to return.
In reading through the book, there were certain recipes that just had to be made. Whether it was something that I had tried a different version of before, or a page that made your mouth water just by reading it, it had to be done. That was the case with Mama’s Sweet Stuffed Peppers on Page 101.
As I mentioned, much of what the family in the book ate, came from what they grew and raised. I love a roasted bell pepper and the chance to have that be a big part of a Cajun meal was tantalizing. You slice the peppers in two, cut out the seeds and ribs, and boil for a few minutes to soften them up. While the peppers are cooking, you make the rice, ground beef, tomato and onion mixture.
The book is mouth-watering just to read, but after a couple of recipes, you realize that some of the food is dry. That is what they did back then. There were no sauces that they added to the dishes. It was whatever fresh ingredients were included that provided the flavor.
As I made the rice, onion and ground beef mixture, I could tell that it was a little dry. Rachel is rolling her eyes here as I often try to add something to the food; I can’t just leave it alone. For better or for worse, this is a lot of fun. In this case, I felt that some seasoned tomato sauce to the rice mixture. This worked out beautifully. We also melted some cheese on top when we stuffed the peppers with the mixture.
The word “stuffed” in the recipes, just doesn’t refer to the peppers, it refers to how you will feel when you have finished one. It is a blissful full however as you have found a new kind of peace in your life.
Wow, the freshness and the simplicity here are wonderful. Much of Cajun cooking is a one-pot stew–a loose term. They added the ingredients and let them flavor each other. Nothing really fancy here–no hard to pronounce sauces or special cooking methods; just tried and true country food.
In our current busy lives, many dishes are meant to be eaten quick and soon forgotten about; it’s a utility to get you on with your day. Some however, like this dish, are a near romantic transformation to another time and another place–one which I could happily return to, early and often–sitting on the back porch of Bayou Cabins in Breaux Bridge, Louisiana. It’s on the banks of Bayou Teche. Somehow sitting there, time stands still and all your worries melt away. Cajun food isn’t just a utility, it’s a social way of life.