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

My Love of Smoking!

Nearly 8 pounds of Brisket at 7:45am. Not a bad start to the day.

Nearly 8 pounds of Brisket at 7:45am. Not a bad start to the day.

In June 2012, my wife got me a smoker for my birthday. I definitely loved BBQ and smoked meat–hence the reason for the gift. Did I know how to cook it myself at the time, not so much! We had a rack of beef ribs from my in-laws. They had bought a half cow of meat so beef was a plenty. I don’t even think that I put a rub on it. I simply placed it on the smoker and when I felt it was done, took it off. Those ribs were nasty. It could have been the quality of the meat, but my process, or lack thereof, didn’t help.

Now it’s almost 2 years later and there is so much you can do with a smoker. You can make good to great; and great to better. That first Thanksgiving since getting the smoker, it was my job along with Sous Chefs Sam & Jesse to cook the turkey. We brined them for 3 days and smoked them Thanksgiving morning. Wow! The culinary scale had been raised. Lately it was been a weekly event of cooking either ribs, chicken, pork shoulder, brisket; or a combination. My wife never thought that she liked BBQ, but she is now a convert.

It has also been a great experience to find some places around Salt Lake where they are almost deity in the smoking world. Here are just 3:

Pat’s BBQ: Pat is a legend around these parts. For 28 years now, he has been smoking meat. He started on the street by towing his Oklahoma Joe’s trailer around and catering for people. He then got a just a small space in his current location where people could walk up and order food. Now you can enjoy live music and any number of great smoked delights. Try the smoked meatloaf. I have cooked with Pat and the man has a PHD in BBQ.

Charlotte Rose’s Carolina BBQ: When I wrote this article, a couple of people gave me some grief. They went there and weren’t impressed. This reminds me of a lesson my wife taught me. Last summer I was working with 10 real estate clients. 8 were moving forward and 2 were not; yet those 2 were taking all my time. I wanted to throw it all away. She told me to get rid of the 2 and keep the 8. Don’t get rid of all because just a small portion are not moving along. I did just that.

Same idea applies to Charlotte Rose’s Carolina BBQ. Far more people love this than not. Trae makes some delicious food, much of it with copious amounts of butter and sugar. You can’t just get out of here with a meal, you will have a new friend.

Pig Out BBQ: This was a recent article that I wrote for City Weekly. Meeting the owner, Toko, was a wonderful experience. He has had a lifelong passion for food and only after an injury in his previous profession, did he turn to cooking full time. They make some delicious Island and Southern BBQ at Pig Out. They also have one of the most addictive sauces around.

Looking for things to smoke may have a bad connotation, but I do it daily. Seeking out those who have smoked for years, only encourages me more. As they say, “once is one too many, and one more is never enough” may also apply to meat.

Here is to the next mouth-watering creation.

Happy Eating.

Pig Out BBQ on Urbanspoon

 

I Had a Second Child and Got Depressed!

Photo 3

In addition to “where have you been?” I have also heard “I haven’t seen much from you lately” and “Are you still doing food reviews?” In the book that I am writing, I share the experience of getting a call from a restaurant regarding a review that I had posted. Honestly, I didn’t even know how many people were following the blog–analytics were never my strong suit. Lately I have heard from people wondering where I have been.

In 2011, I started the blog as an online journal. In that year and also 2012 I posted 3 times a week and was extremely dedicated. 2013 turned out to be a busy year for work and also I had a 3 year old and a pregnant wife who was sick almost every day. I told myself that I didn’t have time to post that often so I would just do my weekly columns with the local paper. Our son was born in November of 2013 and if I thought that I didn’t have much time before his birth, now it was even worse.

Then a funny thing happened: I got depressed. Not because I don’t love my family or enjoy spending time with them, but because I took away one of the things that brings me joy. In Jon Acuff’s book, START, he shares the story of seeing a band playing to 13,000 people in a large arena. It was a phenomenal concert he shared. Then a few weeks later a friend invited him to hear the same band at a house party. They were going to play in someone’s living room. He expected it to be a toned down event but the band played with the same energy and enthusiasm to 30 people in a living room that they did to 13,000 in an arena. They did their “awesome” and it didn’t matter how many heard them.

When I got away from writing regularly because I didn’t have time, the joy in life started to disappear. Sure it sounds nice to sacrifice yourself because of other’s needs and I do that. But when then tank is empty, you have nothing left to give; no help to offer. If I don’t manage my time, it manages me. When I make time to write, then I have time for everything else that needs to be done. When I don’t make the time, everything collects into one depressed mass.

I am making the needed changes because Writing is my “awesome.” Some readers comment on my stories with excitement, others threaten me with libel. And many, if not most, I only hear from when I disappear. They need a restaurant recommendation and I have not posted anything lately. They want to hear about my last adventure but there isn’t one to read. I write because I love it and it lights me up. I am so grateful for those that have reminded me of that lately.

Thank You

Food Truck Pavilions: For all your Hunger Pains

Better Burger Truck

It’s a terrible feeling when hunger pains are calling and the food truck you desire is not within a
reasonable distance.

But, thankfully, there are some places where you know you can find certain trucks on a regular basis: The Chow Truck can often be found at 9th & 9th in the afternoons and evenings; Better Burger has a presence at Red Moose Coffee on 1700 S. 900 East on evenings during the warmer months; and Gravy Train Poutinerie catches the office lunch crowd a couple of times per week at 120 S. Main.

But the best time and place to catch the food trucks is Thursday—every Thursday—at Gallivan Plaza from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. You can pick and choose from a bevy of trucks, all within a few feet of one another—no spending money on gas to get an appetizer at one truck, a main course at another and finally dessert at a different truck. OK, maybe that is just me, but you get my drift.

Continue Reading Here

Myung Ga Ramen: Not Your Childhood Ramen

Myung Ga Ramen Tonkotsu Ramen

Mention the word “ramen,” and many of us will instantly have anxiety-filled memories of 10-for-$1 noodle packages at the grocery store. Your parents might have even bought a case for less than what a fast-food kid’s meal would cost.

But real ramen can be found at Japanese- or Korean-style noodle houses, like Myung Ga Ramen. It opened in February and is operated by the family behind the space’s former restaurant, Myung Ga Korean BBQ & Tofu House, which moved around the corner in late 2013.

Traditionally, ramen refers to both a dish and a process. It all starts with the delicious housemade broth. Then, a large batch of noodles is cooked and added to the broth. Veggies, meats and spices top it all off, and the final product is served to you in a steaming cauldron.

Continue Reading Here

 

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