Cafe Seoul: A Cafe On The Move!

Cafe Seoul Chicken Bulgogi

Tucked among the buildings of the Cedar Park office complex near Interstate 15 and 5300 South lies a cafe on the move. A few years and one owner ago, Café Seoul was located at 4500 South. And prior to that, the Korean barbecue and Japanese restaurant occupied a tiny location by the Century 16 Theaters on 3300 South and State.

Café Seoul does feature sushi, but I tried the entrees, which looked particularly enticing. The bibimbap (say that 10 times fast) and the chicken bulgogi are highly recommended as signature Korean dishes, and cheese tonkatsu as a signature Japanese dish.

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Cafe Seoul on Urbanspoon

Tarahumara: Midway Utah’s Finest

Tarahumara Sign

A much-needed long weekend to Midway was in order a couple of weeks ago. Just the 40 minute drive up there was relaxing as life had been hectic. I was looking forward to rest, relaxation, time with family, and definitely food.

We use to visit here regularly but it has been a couple years. Each time we visited, we noticed that some new restaurants are open, and others closed. On this trip we drove down Main Street to find that the former Mountain Line Restaurant, is now a funeral home. The food there was pretty good but I wouldn’t try it now. I was also excited about Fanny’s restaurant at the Homestead Resort where we were staying.

But one thing that excited me most what the chance to find new restaurants. Last year I wrote of meeting the founder of Firehouse Subs when he came to Salt Lake City. He gave each of us five $10 gift cards to promote the store. When I put that on the site, I asked for new restaurant recommendations. One of those was Tarahumara in Midway. Because of our previous challenge of knowing that many restaurants don’t last long, I wondered if it would be there.

Salsa Bar

Salsa Bar

We arrived on a Saturday afternoon and played in the pool. Venturing out for dinner, we decided to drive past Tarahumara. There were a few groups outside waiting, and it was a dogfight to park. So we left and decided to come back another day. Monday was our last full day there so it was time.

At 2:00pm, we walked up to the building and there were 3 signs for Tarahumara, all a little different but all having the name. The first door was the bar. Something about “You must be 21 to Enter” and holding a 9 month old doesn’t work well to eat there. So to the next door we went. This was a small grocery store/bakery. Those pastries looked delicious but where do patrons sit down and eat this delicious food I had heard about? The third door had to be it right? Well we entered that and it was even confusing. There was a counter there and someone found us, grabbed some menus and walked us down a hall. There was the restaurant; it looked and smelled wonderful.

Tarahumara Specials Sign

On the way to our table we walked around the salsa bar. It is the same equipment as a salad bar but loaded with about 30 salsas. You help yourself with little plastic cups. Since they bring you nachos, it’s fun to try many of them, which we did. It’s like a PhD level class lab-every concoction you can think of; and some that you can’t.

Being a Mexican Restaurant, the drink menu is larger than the food options; but the food looked good and a plenty. There was a dry erase board with 5 or 6 specials and it being 2:00pm, I wished I could try them all. A neighboring table had a large margarita glass full of ceviche. Mouth watering to the sight but they may have beat me for trying to take a photo.

Avocado Enchiladas

Avocado Enchiladas

My mind was focused on 3 things: Tacos Carnitas, Tacos Barbacoa or one of the specials–Snapper Veracruz. When I asked about the special, he wasn’t sure that they had any left but went back to check. This being America, I immediately craved what I didn’t think I could have so I desperately wanted the Snapper Veracruz. There was one left, I snapped (no pun intended) it up. Well played Mr. Waiter, well played indeed.

At this point I realized something that my wife has known for years-that I ordered it based on the name and didn’t know what was in it. Time to figure out what “Veracruz” meant in the culinary landscape. Veracruz sauce is a spicy and tangy sauce that melds the flavors of old Mexico with flavors imported from Spain: including onions, beans, chilis, peppers, olives and capers. All of this piled onto crispy red snapper. This is the epitome of healthy, exotic and fresh. The flavors were a wild explosion and a see-saw competition with each other. A competition that ended with everyone happy.

Now I realize here that I am reviewing a dish that was a special and not available everyday. But this is indicative of the flavors you will find at Tarahumara. Once, while in Roatan, Honduras, I ate a meal in a bamboo hut right on the beach. It was the fresh catch of the day mixed with local veggies and herbs. I didn’t have a care in the world then and eating here gave me the same relaxed feeling.

Snapper Veracruz

Snapper Veracruz

Good thing that we did not try to go here twice during our three-day vacation. It is popular, it is busy, but it is worth it. The dessert list was long and looked wonderful. I had no room however.

As your favorite sports team knows, it’s not getting to the top that is the hard part, it’s staying there! In the restaurant world it also seems that you can go to hero to zero in no time at all. Just a hunch however that Tarahumara is here to stay and to thrive for a while. Check it out.

Happy Eating
Tarahumara on Urbanspoon

Puro Pero: Sandy eatery dishes up authentic Peruvian cuisine

Lomo Saltado

Lomo Saltado

It’s nice when a place stays around long enough to make it part of your routine.

Puro Peru in Sandy just celebrated 18 months in business in a rather obscure location where you might not expect to see an eatery. But the restaurant must be doing something right—and that something is a little taste of Peru right here in the Salt Lake Valley.

Puro Peru sports a festive atmosphere with Spanish music, soccer on TV and a stage for weekend entertainment. The restaurant’s atmosphere perfectly complements the authentic cuisine. The waitress recommended the lomo saltado (jumping beef) as a way to try some true Peruvian food. It’s a sautee of sirloin, tomatoes, onions and french fries, cooked in vinegar and spices, then dusted with fresh chopped cilantro and served with rice. The vinegar gives it some mouthwatering tang, while the red onion gives it a delectable sweetness. It’s a beautiful dish, both visually and to the palate.

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Puro Peru on Urbanspoon

Qaderi Sweetz ‘N’ Spicez Market: An International Trip Within City Limits

Qaderi Market

There’s nothing like jumping on a plane and heading to a new land. There are new sights, sounds, customs and tastes to explore.

If, however, your time, money or even courage are limited, all you need to do is travel to Qaderi Sweetz ‘n Spicez Market on Redwood Road or State Street for an international experience.

Qaderi is a family business, launched 20 years ago at the Redwood Road location, and carries foods from 25 nations to satisfy your appetite and curiosity. You’ll find a huge array of oils, sauces, rice, flours, breads, teas, chutneys, relishes and veggies, plus a vast spice collection.

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Happy Eating

Fiana Bistro: Majoring in Food!

Chefs Chaz & Brandon from Fiana Bistro

Chefs Chaz & Brandon from Fiana Bistro

What an honor to meet Chaz and Brandon and write a feature for their Bistro–Fiana at the University of Utah. Link to article here.

College memories get better with time. The fun experiences—athletic events, social activities and spontaneous road trips—are what we remember, replacing our memories of stressful project deadlines, final exams and overall anxiety. Sadly, one memory that often remains is of raiding vending machines or trying to find a meal among bad student-union options.

Well, now, more than a decade later, I’m returning to the University of Utah—not for an advanced degree or a football game, but for Fiana Bistro.

Fiana is the brainchild of Brandon Price and Chaz Costello, two creative culinary minds who opened the bistro in the Sorenson Biotechnology Building in late 2012.

This isn’t a place where you have to settle for processed options. You have your choice of freshly made pizzas, sandwiches, salads and daily specials. Get that sandwich on a baguette, brioche, French-style sourdough or whole-wheat bread studded with fennel and caraway; all breads are made in-house, even the pizza dough.

Fiana New York Doll Pizza

Fiana also gets 70 percent of its vegetables—radishes, sorrel, heirloom tomatoes, kale, chard and more—right on campus, from the Sustainability Resource Center. These veggies provide freshness that you might not typically associate with campus food. The Kale Caesar salad is packed with flavor—recently picked kale sprinkled with Parmesan in a creamy dressing—and paired well with the New York Doll pizza, with pepperoni, roasted red peppers, onions and fresh mozzarella.

Price and Costello have made Fiana a destination eatery on campus, not just something you rush through before your next class. It’s working-class gourmet: affordable, high-quality, unprocessed, from scratch and hyper-local. Even if you’ve earned your degree, it’s time to return to the U—for studies of the culinary variety.

FIANA BISTRO
36 S. Wasatch Drive
435-671-7158
Facebook.com/FianaBistro

 Fiana on Urbanspoon

I’m Doing What I’m Fearing and The Fearing is Disappearing

Since I was a little kid I have been able to Swim; at least a loose definition of the word. I could tread water, play in lakes, rivers, the ocean and swimming pools with little difficulty. Racing across a pool was fun because I often won and didn’t have to worry much about technique during short bursts.

However, There is one aspect of swimming that has bothered me for a while; That is the inability to swim any distance of note. I would kick my way, breath my way (which entailed bringing my whole head out of the water). It was all thrown together with how I have done things for a long time-I was on the cow path.

For a while I have been desperate to improve my swimming but I thought that since I was in my mid-30′s, then what was the point? I intended to improve but it was one of those goals that I would get to when I had time.

In early July of 2013 I took my daughter swimming at a local recreation center. I picked up a flyer for “Swimming Lessons for All Ages.” The next day I called the number. Someone called me back in a couple days and I signed up for 3 lessons; the first one being that Saturday.

To say I was nervous would be an understatement. My teacher was 13 years younger than me and was a State High School Swim Champion. He didn’t want to know much about me. Just told me to jump in the pool and show him what I got.

I practiced hard for each one of those lessons. Here I was paying $25 per half hour to have him coach me. I prayed that the 30 minutes would go by fast. I was usually exhausted after 10 minutes but found the strength to continue. After a few minutes in the pool with him giving instructions, you were afraid that you would drown. Towards the end of the lesson, you were afraid you wouldn’t drown.

Now it is 1 year later and swimming is what I often do for exercise. I love it! All those years of wanting to do this and nothing happened until I pick up the phone and took the first step.

There are some beautiful opportunities in life if we take the first step.

Vito’s: A Philly on Picturesque Main Street

It was an honor to meet Vito and write about his restaurant. Link to article here; also posted below.

Vito's Exterior

Often, it’s the simplest things in life that work their way to greatness. Vito Leone started as a Bountiful street vendor in 2007, serving meatball subs, sausage sandwiches and ravioli from a food cart. Eventually, he started appearing at farmers markets and graduated to a 20-foot trailer. Leone now has a permanent location on Bountiful’s picturesque Main Street.

But even with the brick & mortar location, Leone is still the man behind the counter, calling many of his customers by name, taking orders and cooking them up himself. He can serve you 10 different types of Philly sandwiches: blue cheese, cream cheese, deluxe, tomato, mushroom, jalapeño, garlic, Alfredo, Italian and classic. You can choose between 7-inch ($8.50) or 14-inch ($13.50); both options come with chips and a drink.

Philly Cheese at Vito's

I had the classic Philly, with thin-sliced steak, powerful peppers, onions and Swiss-blend cheese all melting onto a stoneground Tuscan roll. It was a lesson in excellence.

One other example of Leone staying true to that old-school sensibility is his low-tech cash box on the counter. There are no checks or cards taken here—it’s the Vito Leone way, which he’s followed for years because it’s worked for him. He wants to focus on food and leave the business side to us.

If you walk in and find your wallet short of cash, don’t worry. The on-site ATM is well used—because once you smell the aroma, there’s no way you are going to want to turn around and leave.

VITO’S
100 S. Main, Bountiful
801-953-8486

Vito's on Urbanspoon

Unplugged

Camping

For years now, when my wife has inquired about going camping, I told her that we didn’t develop and progress in society so that we could return to living like cavemen. We all grow up and mature however and now that I am 36, I hope she has forgiven me and that a recent camping trip renewed her faith in me.

In April we went on a trip to Southern California; this was the first trip with 2 kids. The planning, packing, organizing, getting to the airport, getting through security, getting on the plane, finding the rental car, driving to the condo, unpacking, shopping, trying to relax and turning around and doing it all again 6 days later was exhausting. My wife even said, “now I know why my Parents hated vacations.” Still fielding calls and e-mails during the trip made us feel like we weren’t even away.

Still wanting to travel more but not exactly knowing what to do, our prayers were answered when my brother-in-law and his family asked us if we wanted to go camping in late June. We were excited, and relied on them heavily. They are expert campers and without their equipment, we could not have done it. There was still packing and organizing to do but overall, much less details to handle.

From our home in Salt Lake City to the campsite it was only 55 miles. The last 11 miles was dirt road. While driving on that dirt road I illegally checked my cell phone (new law) and saw something that I had not seen in years. In the top left hand corner of the screen it read, “NO SERVICE.” What? how will I manage my life? We always recognize what we cling to as comfort when it is no longer there.

It was an enjoyable 3 days of small hikes, food, kayaking and overall relaxing. The cool summer air was refreshing. Not checking my phone every few minutes also became refreshing. There was nothing to do but let go; so I did just that.

When I was back in cell phone range on Monday, a bunch of texts appeared, a few voicemails, lots of e-mails-most of them junk and my calendar of appointments. But you know what was weird? The world was still turning; it did not end. Somehow I was still me; and I was HAPPY, actually rejuvenated. I haven’t felt that in a long time.

A friend of mine runs an insulation company. One day he inadvertently disabled his e-mail on his smartphone around 10:00am. He didn’t realize the problem until 3:00pm. When he was able to reconnect, he found out that there was a crisis, and that someone else had taken care of it.

We, or I should say I, have an addiction to being overstimulated. I feel like something is wrong if I don’t have 6 things screaming at me at once. We get smartphones to be more connected and then we become our own monsters when we condition everyone that we will be accessible 24/7. Why can’t people leave me alone? Because I taught them that I am always there.

On any other vacation, works just rolls right into it. Every few minutes, I would still check my phone. This camping trip taught me that we need boundaries. You can be accessible all the time but should you be? When we do 6 things at once, we fail at all of them. It took me living like a caveman to come to peace with myself, and only a few minutes back in cell service to let the insanity return.

Here’s to Unplugging often.

Happy Living

TOGO’S: A California Import to the Utah Sandwich Scene

TOGO'S Triple Dip

The Triple Dip

Here in the Beehive State, we are use to having people from California move to our state. Maybe they are tired of the traffic, the smog or the lack in the change of seasons back home.

Recently there has been another move, or expansion, to Utah from Southern California. It is the Sandwich Shop, TOGO’s. I had never heard of them before until they reached out and asked me to come and have a taste. Sometimes these invitations come and you go meet with them, taste one thing, they ask if you have any questions as they are obviously pre-occupied, and rush you out the door. That is a little of what I was expecting but Ben and Bart, the franchise owner and operations manager respectively, could have not have been kinder, and could not have possibly had me try more food.

At first, I asked what TOGO’s was all about. The answer was that they are known for Big, Fresh, Meaty Sandwiches but also well known for their Soups and Salads. Their goal is to be the coolest sandwich shop in town with the best ingredients. They source their produce locally and get all their bread fresh from a sourced Baker–your choice of classic white, honey wheat and sourdough.

Turkey-Avocado

Turkey-Avocado

When they told me that I would be trying 5 sandwiches that day, I thought that it would be a little sliver of each and I would still need to go get a burger after. Not the case.

At first I had the #9-Signature Pastrami. The company has sold over 40 million of these sandwiches so there must be a reason why. This thing is loaded with thin-sliced, peppery pastrami, lettuce, tomato, pickles, red onions and pepperoncinis on classic white.

That is some wonderful pastrami. It’s so incredibly tender and delicious with a kick. Mix it with the red onion and the pepperoncinis and you have some powerful flavors. It’s great that it’s on the classic white bread so that can blend into the background. No room for more flavors here.

The Clubhouse

The Clubhouse

Because a loaded 9-inch sandwich isn’t enough to fill you up, I went for round 2–The Triple Dip. This is their delicious pastrami, hot roast beef and cold turkey, with melted provolone and horseradish mayo on toasted sourdough served with their au jus dip. You can barely fit this sandwich in the frame to take a picture. The meat is reaching out for some air there is so much of it.

Round 3 was the Turkey-Avocado on honey wheat bread. This is a load of freshness with hand mashed avocadoes, shredded lettuce, tomatoes, red onions and pepperoncinis. After the Triple Dip, you switched from an ocean of meat to one almost entirely of veggies. It was quite the adjustment.

Ben & Bart corrected me when I referred to the avocadoes as guacamole. It’s not guacamole, it’s hand-mashed avocadoes. They mash about 400 of these each day and it seems that half of that is on your sandwich. The honey wheat is an artisanal bread that is very dense and packed with a healthy flavor. Other than the bread and the hand-mashed avocadoes, you don’t taste much. The turkey is almost entirely drown out by the other ingredients. If you are looking to get a couple of days worth of vegetables, this is your sandwich.  

Next up was The Clubhouse. As a self-proclaimed club sandwich junkie, this had me excited. It’s applewood smoked bacon, turkey, cheddar cheese, fat free honey Dijon, lettuce tomatoes on San Francisco style sourdough bread. You could mix all these ingredients with shredded paper and it still would taste good.

I loved the flavor profiles of the bacon, cheddar cheese and honey Dijon on that warm-tosted sourdough bread. Each one complimented the other quite well. The Dijon is house made each day, sweet and nearly addictive.

The Pastrami

The Pastrami

This sandwich doesn’t seem to be piled high, but that is because it was placed in the press to toast it. But is it ever loaded? There is enough veggies and meat to feel like you got a three-course meal. This was a great sandwich and if I could have snuck out the door with a jar of honey-dijon, I would have.  

The final sandwich to squeeze into my overloaded tummy was the Wasatch Club. What? Didn’t I just have a club? Yes I did, but this being the first TOGO’S in Utah, they were allowed to create their own sandwich for our unique taste buds. It includes bacon, ranch, turkey, avocado, provolone cheese, tomatoes, red onion and lettuce on classic white.

The item that is unique—Ranch dressing. I wasn’t aware of it but apparently that is a Utah thing. This sandwich was stacked high. How did all those flavors go together—really well actually? The ranch mixed with the bacon quite well and the avocadoes were a nice compliment, not a tidal wave. The classic white was the perfect choice of bread for it as it didn’t compete with anything else.  

Any of these sandwiches can be made as a wrap-spinach or wheat if you don’t want the classic white, sourdough or honey wheat. You can also raid the soup and salad menu. There was no room for me to have those on this visit but here is a list of soups that will be on their rotation: broccoli-cheddar, garden-vegetable, southwest chicken and clam chowder. They also have been selling out of the chunky chicken salad each day so get their early for that. Each sandwich can be 6” or 9.” That doesn’t sound like much until you get one. Each day you can feed your kids for $4.00 at TOGO’s: drink, sandwich and choice of chips or a cookie.

The Wasatch Club

The Wasatch Club

I especially love the delicious sandwiches of Caputo’s and Firehouse. If the question “will another sandwich shop make it” rings in your mind, then here is some information that I found out. TOGO’s has gone through 1200 pounds of meat in the first few weeks they were open. One customer had been there 16 times in the first 3 weeks it was open. He was likely a California transplant but nonetheless. This is the first of 14 locations in Utah. The next one will be open in 4 months. Locations to come are Murray, Sugarhouse, Lehi, South Jordan and Downtown Salt Lake.

Bart and Ben want TOGO’s to not be just another sandwich shop but for it to be an experience for you. Your sandwich maker is the same for the full 1 ½ from order to payment. You can have it done any which way you want. They also put ipad and iphone charging stations at each table. A good sandwich, refillable drink and a charging station may just consume your afternoon. Their enthusiasm is contagious, the sandwiches are good. Overall they should be a nice addition to the sandwich scene.

TOGO’s
74 West 11400 South
Sandy, Utah, 84070
(801) 456-9922

Togo's Sandwiches on Urbanspoon

Fernando’s Cafe Guanaco: Tasty Salvadoran Fare

I had the great opportunity to write this feature of Café Guanaco for City Weekly. Link here; or article also below.

Pupusas

Pupusas

It may be a rare day when one says, “We should go out for Salvadorian food,” but that could change if you’re stopped at the light at 500 East while driving west on 2700 South. Glance out the window and you’ll see a distracting sight: a building on the corner with a banner for Fernando’s Cafe Guanaco proclaiming “Salvadorian Food,” along with some hunger-inducing pictures.

Cafe Guanaco’s specialty is pupusas—a traditional Salvadorian dish made of a thick, handmade corn tortilla filled with a mixture of beans, meat and cheese—and you will find them here in abundance.

At $2.15 each, you may think that you will need a few pupusas—until you take your first bite. The dense tortilla is loaded with your chosen ingredients (pork, chicken, shrimp, steak and zucchini are available as the main filling); top it with a spicy slaw and some hot sauce, and you’ll be full. One is a meal; two is a feast. Appetizers, entrees and soups are also available. For desert, the fried plantains are soft, sweet, caramelized bites of deliciousness.

Fernando’s Cafe Guanaco may be the textbook example of hole-in-the-wall. There are four tables inside and three outside, with mismatched chairs. The décor doesn’t matter, as all the attention has been given to making amazing food and a great experience for the customer.

FERNANDO’S CAFE GUANACO
499 E. 2700 South
801-484-6584
CafeGuanacoUtah.com

Cafe Guanaco on Urbanspoon

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