R&R Barbecue in Salt Lake City

There are few foods that provoke the controversy and rivalry like barbecue does.  The different styles of smoked meat have sparked deep alliances, causing many a debate over which is the authentic–and therefore best–type of barbecue.  But for those of us in Salt Lake City, the winner of the barbecue argument is an easy one: R&R has the best barbecue in Salt Lake City.

Pulled pork and sliced brisket with hush puppies and mac and cheese at R&R BBQ in Salt Lake City.

Pulled pork and sliced brisket with hush puppies and mac and cheese.

R&R Barbecue only opened a year ago, but it’s made a massive impression in that small amount of time, winning just about every barbecue award in the business–including some worldwide competitions.  In fact, owners Rod and Roger Livingston were winning awards before they opened a restaurant, which inspired them to turn their hobby into a business.

R&R Barbecue in Salt Lake City.

R&R Barbecue in Salt Lake City.

That business evolved to the little restaurant on 300 West and 600 South that smells of wonderful, glorious smoked meat inside.  The semi-sit down restaurant has an order up front atmosphere, perfect for to-go orders or when you’re short on time.  Despite the nearly constant crowds, the orders are out quickly and efficiently.  And they even serve beer.

R&R’s specialties are pulled pork and beef brisket, but they also serve pork spare ribs, smoked chicken, salads (topped with meat) and burgers.  Oh yeah, and wings–smoked and deep fried wings topped with house-made sauce.  The smoked stuff can be ordered by the pound or plate, depending on your hunger levels.

Smoked meat and Evolution beer at R&R BBQ in Salt Lake City.

Smoked meat and beer is a wonderful combination.

The plate meals come in one ($13.99), two ($14.99) or three ($15.99) meat options, with a choice of dinner roll or hush puppies and one side.  It’s tough to decide between pulled pork, beef brisket (available sliced or chopped), smoked sausage, ribs and chicken, but picking the sides isn’t easy either.  Choices include smoked baked beans, garlic smasher, red beans and rice, macaroni and cheese, potato salad, coleslaw or fried okra (for .75 cents extra).  There’s also sweet potato fries ($3.50), regular fries ($2.99), hush puppies ($2.99) and onion rings ($3.75).

Tables are lined with bottles of R&R’s house-made barbecue sauce in original, sweet or spicy form (go for the spicy, it has the perfect mix of tangy and spicy).  The two meat plate (with juicy pulled pork and smoky sliced brisket) paired with hush puppies and macaroni and cheese was a hefty-sized dinner that left me stuffed with meat to spare.

But oh my, did it go amazingly well with a glass of Wasatch Evolution beer.

Pulled pork, chopped chicken and chopped brisket at R&R BBQ in Salt Lake City.

Pulled pork, chopped chicken and chopped brisket.

R&R’s amazing smoked meat even exceeds its reputation.  So next time you’re in a meaty mood or looking to cater a bunch of meat eaters, R&R is where to go.

Go to R&R Barbecue for :: deliciously smoked meat.  Try the brisket!  Notes :: Open Monday-Saturday from 11 am-9 pm.  They are known to have lines out the door and run out of items, so get there early.  They have a build-your-own barbecue menu for large parties and cater all along the Wasatch Front and Park City as long as they have 48 hours notice.

R and R Barbeque on Urbanspoon

Terakawa Ramen in New York City

New York City had turned unseasonably cold overnight.  The Northeast’s notoriously cold air blew through the city’s buildings, making me wish I’d packed a warmer coat, just days after I’d wandered Montauk in short sleeves and walked to the opera without a jacket.  Now I was bundled in a scarf and shivering.

I’d changed hotels three nights in a row and didn’t sleep the previous night.  I was in dire need of comfort food–something familiar, something soothing, something warm. The answer was obvious: I needed ramen.

Ramen at Terakawa Ramen in New York City.

Ramen at Terakawa Ramen.

Luckily Terakawa Ramen was only a short walk away, just far enough to freeze my face and fingers.  I arrived at the tiny restaurant before the lunch crowd and picked a barside seat in the corner.  I ordered a bottle of sake and a bowl of the house specialty, Terakawa Ramen ($9) and tried to unthaw.

Terakawa serves seven kinds of ramen: the tonkotsu (pork bone) house specialty, shoyu (soy sauce flavor in chicken broth, $9), miso ($9), tan tan (spicy with grounded pork, $10), mayu (burned leek in garlic oil, $10), kyushu danji ($14) and a vegetable ramen (paprika, red peppers, broccoli, beets and cauliflower in soy milk, $12).

The menu at Terakawa Ramen in NYC.

Passion is listed on the menu. Luckily it’s priceless.

Extra toppings are available, like a half boiled egg ($1.50), more noodles ($1.50), mushrooms ($1), two pieces of pork ($2) or bamboo shoots ($1).  Even passion is listed as a topping, but apparently that’s priceless. (I always thought the price of passion was a fortune!)

My bowl of noodles arrived scalding hot, instantly warming me up.  It was topped with the usual slices of roasted pork, strips of crunchy bamboo shoots and gooey boiled egg.  It also had a some not-so-usual toppings: a pile of scallions, a mound of black kikurage mushrooms and little strips of red ginger.  The noodles were a little hard for my taste, but I liked the variety of toppings.

Tonkotsu ramen and sake at Terakawa Ramen in NYC.

Cold sake and warm ramen is a recipe for a good day.

I don’t know what it is about ramen that is so comforting, but slurping the fatty broth just does it for me.  Maybe the flavor transports me back to Japan, maybe it channels my love of pork, maybe it’s just so delicious it puts me in an instant food coma that distracts me from any sort of bad day I might be having.  Maybe it’s all of the above.

But it works.  And while Terakawa Ramen wasn’t the best bowl of Japanese noodles I’ve ever had in New York City, it certainly did the trick to warm me up and make my day a little bit better.

Go to Terakawa Ramen for :: a hearty bowl of ramen.  Notes :: Terakawa is cash only and doesn’t accept bills larger than $20.  Open seven days a week, 11:30 am – 10:30 pm.

Related :: Momofuku Noodle Bar in NYC, Totto Ramen in NYC, and Ramen in Paris.
Terakawa Ramen on Urbanspoon

Pig and a Jelly Jar in Salt Lake City

When I was little I was known for refusing to eat cake and ice cream if they were on the same plate together.  I liked cake and I liked ice cream, just not the two foods touching and “contaminating” each other.  Now that I think about it, I don’t eat cake and ice cream together to this day.  So it’s surprising that I eat–let alone love–chicken and waffles together.

Despite its current popularity, the chicken and waffle phenomenon is nothing new.  The sweet and savory dish dates back to the 1800s when fried chicken was a common breakfast meat.  Today it’s the culinary craze for brunch.  Or lunch.  Or even dinner.  It’s really like a catch-all dish that’s relevant at all hours of the day (and especially late night).

Chicken and waffles topped with an egg at Pig and a Jelly Jar in Salt Lake City.

Chicken and waffles topped with an egg.

To satisfy that chicken and waffle craving, Pig and a Jelly Jar in Salt Lake City serves the comfort food all day.  Their fried chicken is enveloped in a house seasoning before hitting the frier, plopped on a large waffle and then topped with an egg ($10, plus $2 for the egg).  The combination is a sweet, savory, salty comforting mess of contrasting flavors and textures that is a fast track for a food coma.  But oh is it worth it.

Chicken and waffles topped with an egg at Pig and a Jelly Jar in Salt Lake City.

Oozy egg to top off an already amazing dish.

Pig and a Jelly Jar’s motto is “fresh from scratch comfort food with a twist” and even their traditional breakfast items live up to their mission statement, like Creole Pork Belly Benedict ($12), a sour dough round topped with beans, kale, pork belly and creole sauce or the Ham Hash ($10) with ham, potatoes, peppers, onion, bacon, an egg and lemon aioli.

Three egg scramble at Pig and a Jelly Jar in Salt Lake City.

The three egg scrambles are served with jalapeno potatoes.

The less adventurous diners (and those watching their calories) will appreciate the three egg scrambles, like the Mexican ($9) with cilantro, onions, cheddar, breakfast sausage and jalapeno cream or the Kitchen Sink ($9) with sausage, bacon, tomato, caramelized onions, peppers, kale, provolone finished with a bloody mary salsa.

Pork Belly BLT at Pig and a Jelly Jar in Salt Lake City.

Pork Belly BLT.

There’s also a range of sandwiches prominently featuring chicken (chicken sandwich, $10; buffalo chicken sliders with bacon-crusted chicken, $9) or pork (pulled pork sandwich, $10; pork belly BLT, $12).  The Pork Belly BLT is packed with fried green tomatoes, leafy greens, house made pimento cheese and pork.  It’s a busy sandwich with a lot battling the attention of your tastebuds, especially the pulled pork and tangy tomatoes, which I ended up taking off.  The fries, however, were deliciously crispy.

They also serve salads, but even a pulled pork salad ($12) or the curried chicken salad ($10) isn’t a match for the chicken and waffles.  It’s really a must-order when you’re at Pig and a Jelly Jar.

Chicken and waffles at Pig and a Jelly Jar in Salt Lake City.

Comfort food at its finest.

It’s worth noting that Pig and a Jelly Jar has an affordable list of wine and beer, plus PBR “cocktails” to complete your meal.  (Seriously, what’s brunch without a mimosa?)  Their menu is served all day into the evening (Thursdays-Sundays only) to satisfy your comfort food cravings all the time.

Excuse me while I wipe the drool off my face and go find myself some chicken and waffles.

Go to Pig and a Jelly Jar for :: chicken and waffles.  Don’t forget to top it with an egg.  Notes :: They open early at 7:30 am every day of the week, closing at 3:30 pm Monday-Wednesday and 9 pm Thurday-Sunday.

Pig & a Jelly Jar on Urbanspoon

Casa Mono in New York City

There are pros and cons to restaurants that base their menus around small plates.  Small plates are a great way to try a wide range of dishes at once, truly getting a feel for the chef’s culinary point of view.  Plus they allow diners to create a meal sized to their mood with the option of ordering two dishes or twelve.

The downside to small plates is that sometimes picking dishes that complement each other can be difficult and if you chose wrong, you’re left with a bad survey of the restaurant.  Then there’s the issue of party size.  Too many people and you have to share a tiny plate six ways.  Not enough people and you’re limited on how many dishes you can try.  So maybe going to a small plates place alone wasn’t the best idea.

But I’d heard about Casa Mono in New York City from several different sources and I was aching for food that reminded me of my trip to Spain.  So I bellied up to the bar at Casa Mono ready to eat my weight in small plates.

Casa Mono in New York City.

Casa Mono in New York City.

Casa Mono is not new in the food scene; the restaurant and its next-door bar, Bar Jamon, have been around for a decade–that’s like a century in New York City restaurant years.  Part of the Mario Batali restaurant empire, Casa Mono was awarded a Michelin star in 2010 and has maintained it ever since (including for 2015).

The tiny restaurant is cramped and loud, with a brightly lit open kitchen only adding to the orchestrated chaos.  I forgot that New Yorkers regularly eat dinner at 10 pm, so I was shocked to see the place packed when I arrived.  The only availability was at the bar, so I got a front row seat to the several chefs making each dish as it was ordered.  It was fascinating.

The open kitchen at Casa Mono in New York City.

Front row to Casa Mono’s (tiny) open kitchen.

Once I looked at the menu, I quickly abandoned my plan to recreate dishes I had in Spain (like pan con tomate, $5, jamon iberico, $30, razor clams, $17 and croquetas, $9), intrigued by the creative dishes I wouldn’t be able to have anywhere else.  I was overwhelmed on what to order, but eventually settled on three dishes.

Scallops with pears in a spicy pomegranate salad at Casa Mono in New York City.

Scallops with pears in a spicy pomegranate salad.

I started with Scallops with apple membrillo butter and spiced pomegranate salad ($17), recommended by my server.  The scallops were seared perfectly, where the edges have a slight crunch and a hint of sweetness to them while the centers stay soft and juicy.  The texture contrasted well with the crispy apples but the pomegranate salad compounded the sweetness of the dish to an almost detrimental level.

Sweetbreads in a marcona almond vinaigrette at Casa Mono in New York City.

Sweetbreads in a marcona almond vinaigrette.

Next came Sweetbreads with fennel al mono in a marcona almond vinaigrette ($19).  Crunchy and crispy, the sweetbreads had a fried chicken-like essence and were just as greasy.  Had the dish arrived at the same time as the scallops, the two probably would have balanced each other well.  But a salt-intense dish was tough after the sugar explosion of the scallops.

Pork belly and chanterelles at Casa Mono in New York City.

Pork belly and chanterelles.

Pork belly and chanterelles with swiss chard puree in an anchovy vinaigrette ($19) followed.  It was another salty dish but more balanced.  The relish was cold, a refreshingly unexpected element that went well with the crunchy pork belly and savory chanterelles.  It was definitely the highlight of dinner.

Olive oil ice cream with pears at Casa Mono in New York City.

Olive oil ice cream with pears in a sweet wine sauce.

I couldn’t leave without dessert, despite how full I was, so I picked a light dish to end the night: olive oil ice cream with pears in sweet wine ($9).  I loved the mellowness of the olive oil ice cream but the pears made the blood orange vanilla sauce distractingly sweet unless it was in the same bite as the sesame seed cracker.  Apparently I was not in a sweet mood that night!

The bad thing about sitting at the bar is I watched the chefs create amazing dish after amazing dish, making me second-guess my choices.  Next time I’ll order differently and hopefully have someone to share my dishes—and decision-making—with.

The service at Casa Mono is rumored to be stuffy but the numerous guys that served me that night made me feel more than welcome, which is something I desperately needed after a long day.

Go to Casa Mono for :: electric small plates inspired by Spanish tapas.  Notes :: Reservations are recommended and accepted one month in advance.  (They can be made online here.)  They host wine-tasting events every month that sound awesome.

Casa Mono on Urbanspoon

Save Our Banksy Fundraiser with GD Garner

I’m going to let you in on a secret: The Vault at Hotel Monaco is an awesome place to have a drink in downtown Salt Lake City.  It’s especially convenient if you’re heading to a performance across the street at The Capitol Theater.  One of its perks?  I tend to run into the most interesting people there.  For example…

Last month I stopped at the Vault for some whiskey before heading to the opera.  I noticed a man at the bar creating the most amazing drawing.  It was bright and abstract, creatively confusing yet completely compelling.  I tried to get a glimpse of it, but couldn’t get a good view without looking like a creep.

Right before I left, I dropped my purse and the artist teased me for having one too many drinks (I promise I only had one!).  I asked about his drawing and he showed me the most incredible masterpiece–done on the restaurant’s menu.  He told me he was considering moving to Park City so I told him about my blog (shameless self promotion, I know) and he said I might be able to help him with an upcoming project.

Menu art by GD Garner.

Menu art by GD Garner.

GD Garner

The artist was GD Garner, known among celebrities and art-lovers alike for his vibrant drawings inspired by whatever is around him.  His work has been featured on the red carpet of the Academy Awards, the Grammys, the Emmys, even Sundance events.  Its made its way onto several TV shows, major films and the homes of several celebrities.  And its easy to see why.

GD spent five years traveling the world, making his way to nearly 70 countries and all seven continents.  He wrote a book on the expedition, but he truly chronicled his experience in his “journals,” hand-made books with pages of leather, canvas, restaurant menus, scraps found on the street and trinkets of all sorts.

The journals are his most prized possession and they are seriously stunning.  He recently gave me the opportunity to flip through one and every page stopped me speechless.  They rarely make it into the public, unless he’s at a private event.  Which brings me to my next point: Banksy.

Art by GD Garner on Silver's menu.

Art by GD Garner on Silver’s menu.

Save Our Banksy

You’ve probably heard of the British street artist known as Banksy, who is as famous for his graffiti as he is for being completely anonymous and pranking the public.  His graffiti often sends a message, whether political or philosophical, and sells for millions of dollars–when it’s painted on places able to sell to the public.

Park City, Utah has several Banksy stamps from when the artist debuted a documentary at the Sundance Film Festival in 2010.  Unfortunately, the Banksy graffiti was recently vandalized, prompting local theater and Sundance icon The Egyptian Theater to start the Save Our Banksy Fund.

The Save Our Banksy Fund not only preserves the Banksy art in Park City, it also benefits the Egyptian Theater’s youth theater that was lost to make room for condominiums.  So why am I on an art tangent, you ask?

Art by GD Garner on Silver's menu.
Art by GD Garner on Silver’s menu.

GD Garner + Save Our Banksy Park City Event

GD Garner heard about the Save the Banksy fund and immediately wanted to help.  So an event was created in collaboration with Silver (one of my favorite Park City restaurants), Ruth’s Chris Park City and the Egyptian Theater.  The event is Saturday, November 15, 2014, and there are two places to eat to support the cause.

Lunch at Ruth’s Chris Park City :: Saturday, November 15, 2014, 1-3 pm.  Diners get 2 for 1 entrees, plus a chance to meet GD and see his art.  Ruth’s Chris Park City will donate $1 to the Save Our Banksy for every entree sold, plus every one of GD’s signature cocktail sold (called “the Spicy Garner” with vodka, muddled jalapenos, cucumber and soda water).  GD will also donate $1 for every cocktail.

Cocktail Hour at Silver :: Saturday, November 15, 2014, 5-7 pm.  There will be a live DJ, an art auction of GD’s original art, plus meet the artist himself.  There will be passed appetizers (compliments of Silver) like endive cups, short rib sliders, mini goat pot pies and baccala mantecato.  Silver and GD will each donate $1 for every special cocktail sold–the Scribbler (Benedictine, Apple Jack Brandy, Buffalo Trace, Cocchi Americano and chocolate tincture) and the Paint by Numbers (Milagro Reposado, yellow chartreuse and bell pepper puree).

For those that attend both events, you’ll receive a signed postcard at Ruth’s to take to Silver that doubles as a passport to see GD’s personal journals full of art.  Again, it’s rare that these are ever seen by the public so it’s an awesome opportunity.

Art by GD Garner on Ruth's Chris's menu.

Art by GD Garner on Ruth’s Chris’s menu.

Come support art, drink good cocktails and eat delicious food.  It’s a great excuse to try Ruth’s Chris for lunch (I went last week and it was amazing; proof is here) and Silver’s incredible cuisine for dinner.  See you there!

Fork Photos :: Eva’s Bakery Dinner

Eva’s Boulganerie, better known as Eva’s Bakery, is well-known around Salt Lake City for its breakfast, lunch and unbelievably delicious bread (among other baked goodies).  Earlier this year they started serving dinner and I recently returned to check out their new fall menu.  I was surprised that the food was a complete improvement from my first dinner experience.

Eva's Boulangerie on Main Street in Salt Lake City.

Eva’s Boulangerie on Main Street in Salt Lake City.

Eva’s Bakery’s menu is very petite, especially compared to its sister restaurant, Eva, a Mediterranean small plates restaurant with extensive offerings.  The dinner menu at Eva’s Bakery includes the regular lunch items plus a few entrees that change frequently.

Green salad with plums and cheddar at Eva's Bakery in Salt Lake City.

Green salad with plums and cheddar.

For starters, the fall dinner menu offers Roasted Duck Chowder ($7), a creamy, comforting chowder, and Organic Green Salad ($7) with fresh plums and local cheddar in a red wine vinaigrette–simple but satisfying.

Braised pork roast with potato gnocchi at Eva's Bakery in Salt Lake City.

Braised pork roast with potato gnocchi.

The mains include a Pecan-Crusted Chicken Breast ($16), served with local vegetables topped with a currant-tomato chutney and Braised Local Pork Roast ($15) with potato gnocchi.  The roasted duck was a delicious take on comfort food.  The slow-cooked texture and fresh vegetables gave it the essence of a pot roast, with the delicious gnocchi pillows creating a pasta-like vibe.  It was hearty, it was familiar, it was perfect for fall.

Pecan-crusted chicken at Eva's Bakery in Salt Lake City.

Pecan-crusted chicken.

The Pecan-Crusted Chicken was full of contrasting flavors, with the slightly sweet tomato chutney being the icing on the cake.  Like the duck, it was perfectly suited for cold weather.

Lemon Chiffon Cake with macerated berries and vanilla ice cream at Eva's Bakery.

Lemon Chiffon Cake with macerated berries and vanilla ice cream.

And, of course, their desserts are always a hit.  (After all, it is a bakery.)  The Lemon Chiffon Cake ($5) was a light way to end a meal full of heavier dishes.

Eva’s Bakery is a charming, quiet spot for dinner.  Or even stop in for a glass of wine and some dessert.  For 20% off any dinner item, mention #EvasBakery4Dinner (valid until Thanksgiving).

Related :: Full Review on Dinner at Eva’s Bakery, Breakfast & Lunch at Eva’s Bakery
Disclaimer :: I was graciously treated to this event by Eva’s Bakery.  All opinions are my own. 

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