Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Best Restaurants In Utah: Salt Lake Magazine's Dining Awards

The winners of Salt Lake Magazine's Dining Awards celebrated the fact that they survived, and even thrived, during the past few lean financial years. 
"I think we should give ourselves a huge round of applause for being in business right now," said Sam Neves of The Wild Grape Bistro in his acceptance speech for "Best Mixologist. Wild Grape was one of several winning restaurants that opened in 2008, just as the economy was tanking.  
Several others echoed his sentiments, including Bowman Brown and Viet Pham of Forage, who were named "Best Chefs." 
"Unbeknownst to most people, we were two college dropouts sitting on our porch two years ago with no money, and pretty much at zero," said Brown. "But we stuck with it." 
This year the Brown and Pham were regional winners of Food & Wine Magazine's Best New Chefs Award, and are currently nominated for a James Beard Foundation award. Forage specializes in local, organic ingredients, and serves one fixed-price menu each night. The menu changes daily. 
The annual dining awards, organized by Salt Lake Magazine's food and dining editor Mary Malouf, are considered the Oscars night for the local dining scene. A good share of this year's winners have only been in business a few years, such as Copper Onion, J. Wong's Bistro, Frida Bistro,  and Pago. But the event also honored veteran restaurateurs, such as Lifetime Achievement Award winner Karen Olson. Her restaurant, Metropolitan had a stellar 15-year run in downtown Salt Lake City before closing last August. Olson was credited with raising the bar for Utah dining and spearheading what has become the annual Downtown Dine O'Round. 
"The baton is passed," said Olson. "I will be here in a decade and a half after you put in your 15 years, and we can toast to you as well."
Best Restaurant in Salt Lake City (as well as best Italian restaurant) went to Fresco Italian Cafe, which has won numerous awards in the past. 
Amber Billingsley of Vinto was named best pastry chef.  Billingsley, who has worked her sweet-tooth magic in a number of Utah restaurants said, "The main reason I am standing here is because of all the chefs  I have worked with in the past who taught and inspired me."

Here's the list of award-winners : 
Best Chef: Viet Pham and Bowman Brown, Forage (370 E. 900 South, Salt Lake City) 
Best New Restaurant: Farm at Canyons (4000 Canyons Resort Dr., Park City) 
Best Restaurant in Salt Lake City and Best Italian: Fresco Italian Café (1513 S. 1500 East) 
Best Restaurant in Park City: Talisker on Main (515 Main St.) 
Best Northern Utah: Slackwater Pub and Pizzeria (1895 Washington Blvd., Ogden) 
Best Central Utah: Pizzeria 712 (320 S. State St., Ste. 185, Orem) 
Best Southwestern Utah: Whiptail Grill (445 Zion Park Blvd., Springdale) 
Best Southeastern Utah: Hell's Backbone Grill (20 N. State Hwy 12, Boulder) 
Best Pastry Chef: Amber Billingsley of Vinto (418 E. 200 South, Salt Lake City) 
Best Bakery: La Bonne Vie (Grand America Hotel, 555 S. Main St., Salt Lake City) 
Best Breakfast/Brunch: Copper Onion (111 E. Broadway, Salt Lake City) 
Best Chinese: J. Wong's Asian Bistro (163 W. 200 South, Salt Lake City) 
Best Indian: Saffron Valley (1098 W. South Jordan Parkway, Salt Lake City) 
Best Japanese: Naked Fish Bistro (67 W. 100 South, Salt Lake City) 
Food & Wine Education Award: James Santangelo, WSET (Wine Academy of Utah) 
Best Mediterranean/Middle Eastern: Aristo's (224 S. 1300 East, Salt Lake City) 
Best Mexican: Frida Bistro (545 W. 700 South, Salt Lake City) 
Best Comfort Food: Pat's Barbecue (155 W. Commonwealth Ave., Salt Lake City) Best Lunch: Left Fork Grill (68 W. 3900 South, Salt Lake City) 
Best Quick Eats: Guzzi's Vintage Burgers & Fries (180 E. 800 South, Salt Lake City) 
Best Discovery: The Garage (1199 Beck St., Salt Lake City) 
Best Design: Silver (508 Main St., Park City) 
Best Wine List: Louis Koppel of Spencer's For Steak & Chops (255 W. West Temple, Salt Lake City) 
Best Mixologist: Sean Neves, The Wild Grape (481 E. South Temple, Salt Lake City) 
Golden Spoon for Hospitality: Ali Raafati of Grand America (555 S. Main St., Salt Lake City) 
Green Fork Award: Pago (878 S. 900 East, Salt Lake City) 
Community Award: Slow Food Utah (slowfoodutah.org)
Lifetime Achievement Award: Karen Olson, Metropolitan
Several restaurants have been given Lifetime Achievement status due to their consistent quality over many years. They included MazzaRed IguanaLog HavenCucina ToscanaTakashiand Squatters Pub Brewery.

Friday, February 24, 2012

BIGGST LOSER RUMOR: Did Two Contestants Quit?

A few days ago TMZ reported that remaining contestants on "The Biggest Loser" had threatened to quit the show, stalling production for a week.

Now, TMZ is saying that two of the contestants who staged the walk-out have been "cut loose for good...and the show will continue without them." 

Want to take any bets on who those two contestants might be? I'd hope one was Conda, but she seems   to get everyone riled up, then let someone else take the fall.  

NBC has not commented on the situation, but TMZ posted a photo taken today at the "Biggest Loser" ranch that looked like production has resumed.

 The mass mutiny was supposedly sparked when the remaining contestants learned of a secret plot twist where some eliminated contestants had a chance to come back for a shot at the $250,000 prize. They apparently thought the twist was unfair (or maybe they didn't want to face some of those people who they dumped so mercilessly?) 

It seems that in  past seasons, there have been plot twists with eliminated contestants returning, so this shouldn't have been a big surprise.  But would anyone want to watch another painful round of the Adrian/Daphne drama? It seemed to bring out the worst in everyone.  

Matt & Suzy Hoover, a past "Biggest Loser" winner and runner-up (who met on the show and ended up marrying each other) have weighed in about the situation on You Tube -http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vQmBQm_Xt8o&feature=youtu.be. They pointed out that because the show is filmed so far in advance, whatever is happening won't be aired on the show until May. Suzy also mentioned that her friend, Vicky Vilcan, was edited as a "villain" when in real life, she's pretty nice. Coulda fooled some of us who watched that season!

It will be interesting to see if this situation becomes part of a story line, or if the two contestants will just be gone without any explanation. Then again, the story could be a ratings-boosting hoax.  

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

BIGGEST LOSER: Contestants Threatening to Quit?

Talk about throwing your weight around. TMZ is reporting that the remaining contestants on this season's "The Biggest Loser" have walked off the show and are threatening to quit completely.
The supposed reason for their discontent is a secret twist reportedly planned by producers. The move would introduce former contestants back into the mix to compete for the $250,000 grand prize.
TMX reported that the remaining "Biggest Loser" contenders decided to bolt in the middle of shooting an episode because they think the twist could hurt their chances at the big prize. Now producers have shuttered production for a week to figure things out, reports TMZ.
If this is true, I'm amazed that "The Biggest Loser" producers are letting them get away with this. Don't they sign contracts? And I wouldn't be surprised if it turned out that Conda spurred the walkout.
From what I'm reading on other blogs and message boards, most fans would be happy if the producers said, "Good riddance!" to the remaining group, most of which have shown a talent for bullying and backstabbing. You've got to wonder if Joe saw the writing on the wall and that's why he packed up and went home rather than go through the treatment they've given other players.

I wonder if they walked out because they didn't want to face the people that they treated so poorly during the season.  Roy! Nancy! Lauren! You were class acts. Bringing some of you back might actually save this season. 

The "secret plot twist" wouldn't really be so unusual. There have been past seasons where eliminated contestants were able to come back. Last season, Ramon was eliminated but because he won the marathon, he was in the finals.

The next "Biggest Loser" episode, airing Feb. 28, finds the players returning home for 18 days with a challenge to lose 5 percent of their body weight.

BIGGEST LOSER: Daphne's Disappointing Exit

  Well, this season of "The Biggest Loser" just went from bad to painful, as far as I'm concerned. Last week,  I had no respect for the remaining players on the Red Team for the way they treated newcomer Adrian and his sister Daphne.  Now I've lost all respect  for the Black Team, except for Chris, who didn't try to "play the game" and sabotage the weigh-in. I expected better from Emily and Cassandra especially.
  Last week Conda got her come-uppance when Daphne won the weigh-in against her. But Daphne shot herself — and the rest of her team — in the foot this week by trying to take control of her destiny.  After being promised anonymity, she had siblings Jeremy and Conda switch teams. That only made Conda seem like a victim instead of the bully, and it strengthened the Red team. Had Daphne let well enough alone, the Red Team would no one else to vote off except  members of their own little clique.... unless  Conda and Mark could influence Jeremy and Chism to throw the weigh-in and get rid of Daphne and Chris.. a real possibility after seeing the game-play that went on tonight. 
  Those who have watched this show for a few years might remember that whenever someone takes the "power" to switch up the teams, that person is ALWAYS resented by everyone else, no matter what choices they make. Apparently Daphne didn't remember that. She also didn't realize the immense (and mystifying) power that Conda and Jeremy seem to wield with the rest of the players. Even Cassandra, who was accused of cheating by Conda a few episodes ago, willingly threw the weigh-in.  
  But, perhaps there was nothing that Daphne could have done to save herself, except for losing enough weight each week to keep immunity. The Aqua team seemed doomed from the minute they stepped back onto the ranch and into what seems to be a junior high ruled by Mean Girls. They were given the cold shoulder and never given a chance. Who knows how they would have reacted had they been welcomed and befriended?
  To his credit, Bob tried to get the other teammates to accept Daphne. He even got talked her into admitting her blunder with the switch-up in order to try to regain her team's trust. But maybe his constant talk of "revenge" last week helped fuel the fire and kept Daphne's emotions running high. And he never called out the rest of the Black Team for throwing the weigh-in.
   Dolvett never really tried to address the toxic behavior of his team. With Conda gone to the Black team, now he won't have to!   
  I don't think I'm the only person who is finding this season difficult to watch. It reminds me of a situation when I was a new hire in a job where everyone else had been there for quite a few years. It was tough to "break in" and develop friendships. One person in the department, like Conda, constantly stirred up drama and picked on people. Nobody dared to stand up to him. They just tried to stay on his good side so they wouldn't be his next target. This seems to be what's happening with the remaining BL players who don't want to invoke the Wrath of Conda. Maybe Joe was the smart one to pack his bags and leave while he could!  

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Log Haven Hosts Sadie Hawkins Dinner Dance Feb. 29

It's Leap Year, and isn't that the time that fair maidens can ask a guy to marry them?  Well what about just asking them to a Sadie Hawkins Day Dance instead? 
Log Haven in Millcreek Canyon is bringing back the dinner dance! For those of you who watch "Dancing With The Stars," and wish there was somewhere to go to dancing, here's your chance. It's a Ladies Choice dance on Feb. 29, with chef Dave Jones' dinner buffet beginning at 6:30 p.m. From 7:15-8:30 p.m., dance instructors from Ballroom Utah will show how it's done and help guests overcome those two left feet. Then you can gracefully trip the light fantastic (as they used to say) to a live band from 7-10 p.m. Cost for the event is $50 per person. 
The dinner dances are a monthly event now at Log Haven.  Jan. 15 was the first night of the series, featuring a live band, Wayne and Ike Egan. 
March 11 a Masked Ball, and April 22 is Swing Into Spring. 
Log Haven is at 6451 E. Millcreek Canyon Rd., Salt Lake City; phone(801) 272-8255

Diabetes Expo Takes Place Feb. 25

 The Diabetes Expo, sponsored by the American Diabetes Association, takes place this Saturday, Feb. 25 at the South Towne Expo Center.    Thousands of Utahns show up each year to see a variety of exhibitors including Harmons, Gold’s Gym and Optimum Clinical Research, an industry leader in diabetes research. 

Admission to the exposition is free and includes health screenings, cooking demonstrations, product and service exhibitors, and presentations from leading experts talking about diabetes management and prevention. 

Admission to the exposition is free and includes health screenings, cooking demonstrations, product and service exhibitors, and presentations from leading experts talking about diabetes management and prevention. 

Friday, February 17, 2012

"Cook The Part" Author and Designer Book Signing at King's English

"Cook The Part" author Karin Eastham and designer Traci O'Very Covey will be signing their cookbook at King's English Bookshop, 1511 S. 1500 East in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, Feb. 28 at 7 p.m. 

I'm pretty familiar with the book because when it was in the design stage, Karin and Traci had me do some minor editing on the chapter introductions. Traci, a Salt Lake City artist, was referred to me by a food writing friend, and I appreciated the opportunity.  

  I've had hundreds of cookbooks cross my desk during the 17 years I spent as a food editor.  "Cook The Part" is different from anything I've seen before. We've all seen those shows on TV where a crowd of people enjoy a fabulous dinner party. But pulling something like that together in real life is more daunting. You can spend several days making dishes, and then end up too exhausted to enjoy your own party. Or the episode shows everyone merrily helping out in the kitchen. Great, except that it often results in a lot of chaos. 
 But this book switches things up — you don't do all the cooking, your guests do. It gives you step-by-step instructions on how to host a dinner party where everyone divides into teams,  cooks part of the meal and then sits down to enjoy it together.
Karin has divided the menus and recipes into tasks for various teams to complete, and she has all the logistics organized. There's a timeline to follow so that the entree isn't going cold while you wait for the appetizer to be finished.

The recipes are global in scope, such as authentic paella loaded with seafood, handmade Italian pasta with sauces, and Baja fish tacos. But they are broken down into steps so that you don't need a lot of culinary training to make them.

The social aspect is great, too. Instead of sitting around trying to make awkward small talk, people are working together, sharing a laugh or two, and bonding. 

Karin is even speaking to businesses on how to use the book as a team-building experience. The one drawback is that you do need some space to accommodate one team chopping veggies for a salad, another team working at the stove, and another team mixing up the dessert and yet another team doing the appetizer. It's still tough to fit everyone into a cramped apartment.

"My advice to people with small apartments is to modify the plan as you
see fit," Karin told me. "I recently heard from one group that prepared the paella
together. Instead of preparing all of other courses in the chapter, they served the Manchego and fig appetizer with some olives, someone made a salad from one of the other chapters in advance and they served a purchased dessert (flan)."

Karin got the idea for the book through many years of participating in gourmet groups and hosting many cooking parties at her home.  Many of the themes and recipes were tried-and-true favorites of Karin and her husband, Gary.

"started making spreadsheets so that when our houseguests arrived, I could simply refer them to the spreadsheet," she said. "I'm certain that my accounting background had a lot to do with the organization of the book." 

Karin said organizational aspect of the book was the most challenging — breaking down the recipes into logical tasks, dividing the tasks among various teams, and creating a proper timeline. It required lots of testing and tweaking, "although practicing the chapters with friends was one of the most rewarding aspects of the book," she added.

Thursday, February 16, 2012


Many fans of "The Biggest Loser" reality series were disappointed, and even angered, when Roy Pickler, a.k.a. Santa Claus, was voted off by the Red Team last Tuesday night.

Message boards, blogs, and Facebook posts have denounced the Red Team for its actions and lauded Roy for his kindess and integrity. And yes, I'm one of those bloggers who has posted about the Red Team's bickering and bullying.
The guy loses 9 pounds, but is criticized by his teammates for not working as hard as the rest of the team! Yet, Buddy only lost 7 pounds, and Kimmy lost 4.
Roy made a gracious exit Tuesday night. Ever the gentleman, he posted the following statement on his Facebook page about Red Team's decision, and even asks fans to support his former teammates.

"If there is such a thing as an official statement this is it! I didn't understand why I was voted off until I watched the last two episodes of TBL, but there was a reason for my team mates vote and it was sound thinking on their part. Both my wife and I had a lot of distractions and difficulties my last two weeks at the ranch. I won't go into a lot of detail, but to name a few, her's was wanting to get more attention from Bob on the weight loss journey and being hurt by his decision to take Daffney for his private training lessons at her home, when Daffney had only been home the week before and Chris had not seen her kids in 9 weeks and had just asked Bob for more help. For me it was some behind the scenes stuff and my not being able to help Chris more with her problems. All that to say Chris and I were working out alone and off camera, while working through these interpersonal issues. When we came to the gym we were already exhausted, but our teams didn't know and we didn't think to tell them. We were just feeling good about the progress we were making on all fronts. Both Chris and I had good weight loss because of these workouts, and we both take credit for part of the miscommunication. Outside of the communication I would not do any of it differently if I had it to do over again. Again I thank all of you for your overwhelming support, and please give my team mates the benefit of your support also!"

So, Roy was apparently trying to support his wife and working out with her instead of his team, who assumed he was just being a slacker. But, the comments below Roy's post don't excuse the Red Team's actions. Many fans feel Roy was punished because he didn't join in their rudeness to newcomer Adrian, or vote to send Adrian home the week before.

One poster wrote, "Roy you are a man of class. They treated you wrong and you should of never been sent home. But we can see how well you are doing at home. Its a shame you aren't there any more cause maybe you could of taught the others how to be decent people who don't judge others." 

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Biggest Loser: The Conda/Daphne Face-Off

If last night's episode of "Biggest Loser" was supposed to help viewers empathize with player Conda Britt,  it didn't work. A member from each team had to go home for the week, with their respective trainers. Their weight would be the only one that counted for the weigh-in.  (For an update on the 2/21 episode, click here http://chewandchat.blogspot.com/2012/02/biggest-loser-daphnes-disappointing.html

Bob and Dolvett were wise to choose Daphne and Conda, to put some distance between the two warring women. Despite Conda having a two-pound advantage, she still lost the weigh-in when Daphne pulled out a 12-pound loss. Makes me a believer in Bob's stair-climbing regimen -- 103 floors in one hour! Daphne was motivated with revenge for her brother's ousting last week at the hands of the red team. At least Conda cried instead of claiming she was cheated, as she did when she lost the face-off with Cassandra.

As I predicted in my last post about "Biggest Loser," Roy was the next to be voted off. It made me even more disgusted with the Red team. In a season called "No Excuses," they should be ashamed of the silly excuses they gave about Roy "losing focus."  He lost 9 pounds! Buddy only lost 7, and Kimmy, 4.  Hearing that Mark is a youth pastor, I wonder what his congregation back home is thinking when they see his actions. To his credit, Roy was a class act, very gracious about being voted off for bogus reasons.  He's probably relieved that he doesn't have to babysit these immature back-stabbers anymore.

Makes me wonder if the producers are paying Conda to act up.  I can only think of one person I've known who was such a bully in real life.

So Daphne had her moment against Conda, but I predict the game-playing is gonna keep coming, based on the previews.  It's pretty obvious that Conda, Mark and Kimmy can pull strings with Jeremy, Chism and Megan. Those three black team members had some suspiciously low weight losses. I suspect they were told to help give Conda the one-pound advantage, because it would be easy for them to vote off Daphne or Chris.  The preview showed someone with a weight gain, and I wouldn't be surprised if Black team members deliberately gained weight in order to get rid of someone on their team. Even if the teams get switched up, the old alliances are still there. 

It's getting painful to watch, because it seems that the meanest people are going to game-play their way to the finals.  Emily, Cassandra and Daphne don't stand a chance against the group forces, and Buddy should start watching his back as well.  A final with Conda, Jeremy, Mark, Chism or Kim wouldn't be worth watching. 

Monday, February 13, 2012

Harmons's Downtown Store is Pretty Cool!

Today I got a sneak peek at the new Harmons downtown store, at 135 E. 100 South.  It opens Wednesday morning. 

It's a very hip, happening place — stocked with a grocery selection as complete as any regular supermarket, but with many other "urban" amenities. There's a huge section of grab-and-go entrees, sandwiches, pizza, etc., with a quick express cash registers for people who are trying to get a quick bite for lunch. Like the Farmington store, there's a large salad bar and two wok stations, so you can dish yourself up a stir-fry or salad.  There are also 37 prepared fresh food items, from salads to pasta, paninis and entrees.  So on a busy night, you could easily stop in on your way home from work and get dinner-to-go for the family, as well as artisan bread, cakes or  or pastries. 
There's a mezzanine with lots of comfortable seating, snacks, fresh sushi, and a cappuccino and gelato bar. 
It has a 300-seat capacity, offering a view of the city on one side, and a view of the store below on the other side. 
The upstairs culinary classroom is beautiful and spacious, with two screens all the better to see the instructor dicing and slicing. It's headed by Adalberto Diaz, a Cuban native who is well-known in the Utah culinary scene.  He worked at Granato's for about seven years and taught in the culinary program at Utah Valley University. He also taught cooking classes at the Roth Concept Center for many years.  His first class, on Cuban cuisine, is already sold out. In fact, the classes are filling up quickly. 
"We're going to be teaching a lot of ethnic cooking classes," he said. "It's great because we offer so all the ingredients in the store so you can go home and cook it."
While I talked to Adalberto, he was busy making Asian meatballs. On opening day, he will be serving them, as well as other appetizers, to shoppers coming to check out the store.  
And next to the culinary classroom is a kitchenware boutique, where you can find pans and cooking tools. 
Spokesperson Rhonda Greenwood said the store is set up to serve the regular grocery shopping needs of residents, downtown workers who want to drop in for lunch or pick up dinner, and travelers who might want to buy a few things rather than going to a restaurant.  
"This store is six years in the making, and the  team went all over the country looking at other urban groceries to find out what works," she said. 
One thing that I especially appreciate: the parking garage.  Enter it from Social Hall Avenue (take 2nd East to get there). I often hear complaints about how difficult it can be to find parking downtown.  Yes, TRAX is nice, but not if you've got six big bags of groceries to lug around.  
During the ten years that I was the food editor at the Deseret News, I had to plan very carefully when I did test kitchen recipes, because there wasn't a nearby grocery store.  If during a photo shoot, we decided we needed a pat of butter to put on a muffin, or a sprig of mint to garnish a dessert, I would have to drive run across the street, jump into my car on the 7th floor of the parking garage, and drive to a grocery store. Just getting in and out of the parking garage took five or ten minutes.  I appreciated the chefs at Martine, the restaurant next door, who lent me items like sesame seeds or fresh parsley on occasion.  Six years ago, when I heard that Harmons was building a store, I was jubilant. But what a difference a few years makes! The Deseret News offices moved to the Triad Center, and there is no longer a test kitchen.... there's no longer a food editor, either. Since I don't go downtown very often anymore, I probably won't be shopping much at this new store. But what a boon it is for those who live and work downtown.  

Friday, February 10, 2012


I did my "comment drawing" for Dian Thomas's book, "Tipping The Scales in Your Favor," and Teslaca is the winner!  As soon as I get an email with her mailing address, I will put the book in the mail to her.

This week, I'm giving away "Big Buy Cooking: The Food Lover's Guide to Buying in Bulk and Using It All Up," by the editors of Fine Cooking Magazine (Taunton Press, $19.95).  In order to be entered into the drawing, leave me a comment on this blog post.

This is not a "food storage" book. Rather, it has fresh recipes for using up those big containers of stuff you buy in warehouse stores. Yes, you can find amazing bargains at Costco or Sam's Club. But you usually end up filling the grocery cart with more food than you can eat in a week's time, and then start wondering what to do with all of it.
  "That flat of blueberries looked far too gorgeous to pass up; that side of salmon had 'great barbecue' written all over it; and that big bag of avocados sang out to the guacamole lover in you," is what the introduction says.  For instance, you buy a big jar of Kalamata olives. The book has recipes for Black Olive & Rosemary Vinaigrette, Swordfish with Black Olive & Mint Tapenade, spicy Penne Tossed with Chicken, Broccoli and Chopped Olives.
  Those double loaves of bread can become Warm Maple & Cinnamon Bread Pudding,  Grilled Bread Salad, or Asparagus, Ham & Mushroom Strata.
  It's organized differently than most cookbooks, by ingredients: Pantry (Kalamata olives, bread, canned tomatoes, capter, roasted red peppers, pine nuts, dried mushrooms and sun-dried tomatoes) Dairy (Grana Padano, feta, Brie, plain yogurt and cheddar) Meat & Fish (boneless leg of lamb, prosciutto, spareribs, beef top loin, Italian sausage, and salmon and Fruits & Vegetables (avocados, haricots verts, blueberries, fingerling potatoes, sugar snap peas and mangos).

Here is a recipe from the book. Instead of buying sun-dried tomatoes, I will pull some of last summer's  home-grown dried tomatoes from my freezer to use:

Sun-Dried Tomato & Feta Vinaigrette
1/3 cup drained oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, coarsely chopped, plus 1/4 cup oil from the jar
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
1 small shallot, coarsely chopped (about 3 tablespoons)
1 tablespoon loosely packed chopped fresh oregano
1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese
Put the tomatoes, vinegar, shallot, oregano, paprika, 1 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper, and 2 tablespoons water in a blender and blend to combine (don't worry if it doesn't puree, it will when you add the oil). With the blender running, pour the olive oil and the tomato oil in a slow, steady stream through the feed hole in the blender's lid. Transfer to a bowl or jar and stir in the feta. Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Makes about 1 1/2 cups

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Valentine's Day Dining in Utah Restaurants

Here's what some Utah restaurants will be serving for Valentine's Day:

Description: The Chocolate Affaire at Gardner Village

Here's a great dinner-and-a-movie deal at Chick-fil-A of Layton:  For Valentine's Day only, you and your sweetie can get two combo meals, a large shake of your choice, a beautiful rose for your sweetheart, candlelight reserved seating (!), tableside service, a small goodie bag and TWO passes to AMC Lowes Layton Hills movie theater, all for only $25.  
Since reservations are limited, contact the store through Facebook or   Dawn at dawnlynch.cfa@gmail.com or Brad at Layton.fsu.umd@gmail.com.

The Chocolate Affaire takes place at The Gathering Place at Gardner Village, Feb. 18, 5-8 p.m.  1100 West 7800 South, West Jordan.  There will be a cascading chocolate fountain for dipping, hot cocoa with a lot of fun mix-ins,and  chocolate desserts, for $15 plus tax at the door , 801.566.0917, www.gardnervillage.com.
.Log Haven, honored as as one of the top 100 restaurants in the U.S., is hosting a weekend extravaganze Feb. 10 through Feb. 14, featuring live music and romantic food.  The dinner and dancing series continues on Feb. 29, with a Sadie Hawkins dance featuring a gourmet buffet and live band with ballroom dance instruction. Visit log-haven.com for more information.

Mimi’s Cafes are capturing the color and sweetness of the season with a new Red Velvet Muffin. Guests can also treat their Valentine with a Red Velvet Muffin Sundae or Red Velvet Cheesecake. 
Mimi’s is featuring a romantic dinner for two for $26.99, Feb. 9 through Feb. 15. The three-course Valentine’s menu includes a select choice of starters, entrees and desserts. 

Cuisine Unlimited Catering and Special Events will cater your Valentine dinner for two. Select from one of Cuisine Unlimited's prepared menus, such as Peppered Beef Tenderloin Filet with Melted Gorgonzola Cheese or Grilled Salmon Filet with Balsamic Drizzle to dine at home.  Visit www.cuisineunlimited.com for more information. 

Grub Steak Restaurant in Park City will be featuring Salmon Wellington with King Crab Stuffing or Filet of Grilled Beef Tenderloin with Brandied Peppercorn Sauce for $39.75 per person.  Each dinner includes a 45-item salad bar. A heart-shaped Chocolate Cake will be served  Grub Steak's tray of homemade desserts. Reservations can be made by visiting www.grubsteakrestaurant.com or by calling 435-649-8060.
Buona Vita Italian restaurant on lower Main Street in Park City will offer a free special dessert with the purchase of two entrees. Call 435-649-1336 to make a reservation.
The Wasatch Brew Pub will be offering a three-course price fixe menu for $32.95, which includes three courses.  The first course includes French Onion Soup or Roasted Beet, Goat Cheeses and Pickled Egg Salad with an Intermezzo of Shrimp Avocado cocktail.  The second course includes Petite Filet Mignon with Horseradish Potato Gratin and Roasted Baby Carrots or Grilled Hawaiian Ono with Wasabi Mashed Potatoes and Baby Spinach.  The dessert of the evening will feature a New York Cheesecake or Molten Chocolate Cake.  Call 435.645.9500 for reservations.
Red Rock, Junction will be featuring several Valentines Day specials of  Shrimp Bisque, Lobster Ravioli with Sauteed Asparagus in a Lemon Tarragon Butter, Black Pepper Crusted Sirloin with a Chocolate and Black Cherry reduction with Asparagus and Mashed Potatoes, Orange Tarragon Chicken with Wilted Greens and Almond Baby Pea Rice and Farfalle in a Champagne Cream Sauce with Asparagus and Parmesan topped with Lump Crab.  For more information call 435-575-0295. 
The New Yorker in Salt Lake City is offering sautéed Alaskan King Salmon Filet steamed Hong Kong Style with Chinese Broccoli, Shiitake Mushrooms Soba Noodles and Dashi Broth. The chef also recommends Seared Sea Scallops and Spinach Goat Cheese Ravioli with Tomato-Caper-Calamata Olive Sauce and Wild Arugula. Steamed Australian Lobster Tails will also be on the Valentine’s Day Menu.

Faustina's executive chef, Billy Sotelo has created a special five-course menu for $50, from Friday, Feb. 10 through Monday, Feb. 13.  On Valentine's evening, Tuesday, Feb. 14, Chef Sotelo will offer only his set menu with expanded multiple options for each course Entrees are a choice of King Crab Stuffed Dover Sole, Tuxedo Scallops, Rosemary Marinated Chicken, or Herb-Crusted Beef Tenderloin. Reservations are highly suggested and can be made by calling 801-746-4441. Faustina is located at 454 East, 300 South in Salt Lake. / www.faustinaslc.com.  
Chef Victoria Topham of Pinon Market & Cafe is preparing a special “Valentine's Sweetheart Dinner for Two” this year. Specially packaged and ready to take home, each meal is chef prepared, and comes gift wrapped with complete heating instructions. Cost is $65 for two adults (no single orders) and must be ordered by Monday, February 13 at 10 a.m. Orders can be picked up at Pinon on Valentine's Day, Tuesday, February 14 between 5 and 7 p.m. A credit card number will be taken at time of order, but not charged until day of pickup. Entrees include Herb Crusted Game Hens with Citrus Mint Glaze, Fingerling  Potatoes and Fresh Peas or Wild Mushroom Strudel with Spinach, Almonds and Goat Cheese. It's located at 2095 East 1300 South, Salt Lake City, www.pinonmarket.com
Bambara, a Kimpton restaurant,is offering created Valentine’s specials for two, in addition to a new winter dinner menu from Friday, Feb. 10 through Tuesday, Feb. 14. Guests are urged to reserve early as the entire weekend sells out quickly. Reservations are recommended and can be made by calling (801) 363-5454 or visiting http://www.bambara-slc.com. Bambara is located at 202 South Main Street.

Bambara, together with the adjacent Hotel Monaco are asking fans to share their favorite romantic story about the restaurant and/or hotel on Twitter for a chance to win a dinner for two at Bambara along with a one-night stay at Hotel Monaco.*  From Feb. 1 until Feb. 14 at midnight, guests can tweet their favorite story to @BambaraSLC, using the hashtag #Bambaralovestories. One winner will be chosen in a random selection by an independent panel of judges and notified via Twitter.

Yuki Arashi recently featured on E! News, is offering two special Valentine's Day items: Oyster Shooters (four per order) for $12 and a Pomegranate Valentine's Day Martini for $10. The regular sushi menu will be available.
Yuki Arashi is located at 586 Main Street in Park City, Utah and offers daily lunch and dinner service from 11:30am-11pm. 
Al Dente Trattoria e Bar Park City's newest Italian eatery, will offer a four-course prix fixe menu for $55. The menu features a choice of soup (Wild Mushroom or Butternut Squash), salad (Al Dente's Classic Caesar, Arugula and Prosciutto or Mozzarella Caprese), entree (Filetto alla Piedmonte, Pollo al Mattone or Sea Bass Livornese) and dessert (Tiramisu or Olive Oil Gelato). The regular menu will also be available. 

Al Dente Trattoria e Bar is located at 136 Heber Avenue in Park City, Utah and offers daily dinner service from 5-10pm. 

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

BIGGEST LOSER: Conda Strikes Again

Conda Britt may go down as the worst villain in the history of the NBC reality series, "The Biggest Loser." Her antics so far this season has topped even those of "Icky" Vicky Vilcan and Heba Saloma of Season 6.

What's surprising, though, is that instead of discouraging her bullying, her teammates are being sucked in, and it's leading them on a downward spiral. As much as I like trainer Dolvett Quince, his Red team (except "Santa Claus" Roy) deserves to be sent home, which will surely keep happening if they don't shake off the Conda Curse. (For an update on that prediction see http://chewandchat.blogspot.com/2012/02/biggest-loser-condadaphne-face-off.html)

Every week, Conda relentlessly picks on someone.  First it was Mike, who she bad-mouthed to get him eliminated. He seemed somewhat of a loner, and his tobacco-chewing habit didn't endear him to the team, but she went after him like a dog with a bone. The next week, she accused Cassandra of cheating. Next, she disrepected trainer Dolvett. Last week the target was her new team member, Adrian. He and his sister Daphne were on the Aqua team that didn't make it on to the ranch. But, if they lost at least 50 pounds by week four, they could come back — and they nailed it.  Instead of a welcoming the new team mates as in past seasons (remember Sunshine and O'Neal Hampton?), the players gave Adrian and Daphne a cold shoulder.

Yes, Adrian's brashness could rub people the wrong way. But had the Red Team stopped acting like a junior high clique, Adrian likely would have been less defensive and outspoken. He proved during the workouts that he could keep up with the rest of the team, but was never given credit simply because he had missed the bonding process that the others had been through.

I'm especially disappointed in Kim and Mark, who have taken on the "leadership" roles in the group.  They have joined in the bullying rather than nipping it in the bud. Their criticisms of Adrian were hypocritical. In the first-episode challenge that sent Aqua team home, Pink (Kim's team) and Green (Conda's team) were at the very bottom too, and could have easily been the ones sent home. When Adrian returned, he had lost 34 pounds to Conda's 27 and Kim's 32 -- and Adrian had done it at home on his own; while Kim and Conda had four weeks with a gym, trainer and supervised diet. 
Kim carped about Adrian's remark that he had worked out 14 hours a day, but she (and one of the other red team) was unable to work out on the monkey bars the way Adrian could. 
Mark confronted Adrian about not losing more during the weigh-in, saying he was a "big guy" and should have put up more than two pounds.  Um, what about Mark's own son, Chism, who is also a "big guy" and only put up two pounds at the same weigh-in?  What about Conda, who also only lost 2 pounds?  
During the challenge to try to keep Dolvett from being dumped into the swimming pool, Mark was one of the first to let go of his rope, while Adrian and Roy (the oldest guy in the group!) hung on the longest. 
When Dolvett brought out the long list of all Conda's backbiting remarks that he had overheard, why didn't the Red Team wise up? Why didn't the "leaders," Mark and Kim, tell her she was hurting the team? It seems that they, too, are afraid of her wrath.  

Last week the Red team blew the perfect opportunity to get rid of the back-biting and bad feelings by sending Conda home. Would have made sense, since she only lost two pounds.  But instead,  they voted off Nancy, who dared called out Conda and Kim about their constant griping.  

Last night Conda miraculously lost the most weight and had immunity. It was obvious that Conda's Crew was looking for any excuse to send Adrian home— a really stupid move.  Adrian is a tough, strong guy who could have helped win challenges and put up big numbers. Had he been welcomed and treated as part of the team, he could have been an asset. Roy showed some integrity by not voting to send Adrian home; and he'll probably pay for that by being voted off next week. Buddy's been my Red Team favorite so far, but his lecture about Adrian making "excuses" seemed to be a big excuse itself. 

Of course, viewers aren't seeing everything that went on 24/7, and perhaps there's more to the story than what we're seeing. Maybe Conda is really just a nice, sweet girl when she's not spewing venom. Maybe Kim and Mark had more justification for the way they treated Adrian.  I wonder what they are thinking when they watch these episode and see their actions.  They may claim they were edited to look bad.  In past seasons, Vicky Vilcan and Heather Hansen (of Bountiful, Utah) said they didn't even realize that they were being portrayed as "villains" until they started watching the episodes as they aired.

It's true that things can be edited out; but you can't edit words that someone actually said. 

I've heard from some viewers who say they don't like the nastiness and will quit watching. I hope the producers take note of this.  Yes, conflict and controversy often raise viewership, but "The Biggest Loser" doesn't really need a "villain." There's a ready-made villain — weight — that all the players are fighting against. That's what makes the show so watchable, not the ugliness that's erupted this season.