Upcoming Events :: Caymus Wine, Farmers Market Kick Off Party & Habit Burger

Summer is in full swing in Salt Lake City and with that brings lots of great food-related events. These are not to be missed!

Caymus Vineyards Wine Events

Caymus Vineyards is one of California’s most iconic vineyards and the only winery to ever win Wine Spectator’s prestigious “Wine of the Year” twice.  In celebration of its 40th Anniversary in 2012, the vineyard bottled an epic Napa Valley Cabernet that is being debuted in Utah.  Join Francis Fecteau of Libation LLC and Mike Gioia of Caymus to talk about the winery and taste several bottles of the winery’s wine at the following events:

  • BTG Wine Bar :: Tuesday, June 3 @ 6:30 :: wine with passed hors d’oeurves, $20 food + $30 wine.  Call 801-359-2814 for reservations.
  • Fresco Italian Café :: Wednesday, June 4th @ 6:00 p.m. :: wine pairing dinner, $50 food + $35 wine + gratuity.  Call 801-486-1300 for reservations.
Fresh vegetables at the Downtown Farmers Market in Pioneer Park.

Fresh vegetables at the Downtown Farmers Market in Pioneer Park.

The Downtown Farmers Market Kick-Off Party

The Downtown Farmers Market starts on June 14th at Pioneer Park and continues every Tuesday and Saturday throughout the summer.  In celebration, the Downtown Market Kick Off Party is next week featuring live music, local food and drinks, and a silent auction.  The fundraiser event is a chance to preview the market, eat great food, mingle with your fellow SLCers and support a wonderful asset to our community.

  • Downtown Farmers Market Kick Off Party :: Tuesday, June 3 @ 5:30, Squatters Downtown :: tickets are $40 in advance, $50 at the door. Click here to purchase.

Habit Burger Opens in South Jordan

Habit Burger Grill is opening its fifth Utah location on June 5th following the popularity of its first Sugarhouse location.  Now the south end of the valley can get their Habit fix at the District Shopping Center, near the northeast entrance, at 11428 S. Parkway Plaza Drive.  Habit Burger will be open Monday-Saturday, 10:30 a.m.-10 p.m. and Sundays 11 a.m.-9 p.m.  Prior to the opening day, several Habit Burger will host several charity events where a portion of proceeds will be donated to the following charities:

  • Tuesday, June 3 :: Share Our Strength Charity, 11:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m. and Bingham High Cheerleaders, 5-7 p.m.
  • Wednesday, June 4 :: The Utah 1033 Foundation, 11:30-1:30 p.m.

First Look :: Rye in Salt Lake City

Coffee and cocktails.  Whiskey and waffles.  Diner and drinks.  These are some of the catchphrases surrounding Rye, the newest addition to Salt Lake City’s dining scene.  The restaurant is a combination of several well-loved spots :: it’s part coffee shop, part diner, part restaurant, part late-night eatery, making it a whole new concept by itself.

Rye is located next to and shares owners with Urban Lounge in Salt Lake City.

Rye is located next to and shares owners with Urban Lounge.

Rye is also a combination of several well-known—and well-loved—people in Salt Lake City’s food scene.  Owned by the same people of Urban Lounge (located next door), the menu is a mix of diner food with an Asian flair created by Tommy Nguyen, formerly of Takashi.  The dessert menu is the brainchild of Alexa Norlin, known for her baked goods at The Rose Establishment.  Ryan Manning, of Bar-X fame, took care of the craft cocktails and design of the restaurant, while anyone who frequented Mazza will recognize manager Samantha Starr.

If you think that that much talent in one small restaurant can only lead to disaster, think again.  Rye is like the superhero offspring created from a team of amazing people.

The counter and semi-open kitchen at Rye in Salt Lake City.

The counter and semi-open kitchen at Rye.

The diner atmosphere is strong at Rye, with tiny tables throughout the space and a communal table peeking over the open kitchen near the back.  I love the look and feel of the open kitchen and only wish that it wasn’t hiding in the back, but the front is prioritized by the coffee shop identity with a walk-up bar for quick caffeine fixes.  Although an awkward addition to the layout of the space, I understand why they have a designated coffee area.

The daytime menu starts serving at 7 a.m., focused on breakfast favorites but with a twist.  There is a variety of soft egg scrambles with house potatoes and toast, with choices of chive and creme fraiche ($7), tofu and tomatoes ($8), bacon and gruyere ($8) and chorizo and tomatillo ($10), to name a few.

The Death in the Afternoon, a refreshing blend of absinthe, bubbly and lemon twist.

The Death in the Afternoon, a refreshing blend of absinthe, bubbly and lemon twist.

Other daytime breakfast items include a breakfast bowl of rice, pork belly, housemade kimchi and an egg ($11), broice french toast ($9), vegan hash ($8) and the one I’m dying to try: waffle and whiskey ($8) with an optional side of pork belly (+$4).  A daytime cocktail menu of bloody marys, mimosas and more complete the menu.

The Street Dumplings at Rye in Salt Lake City.

Dumplings are surprisingly amazing bar food.

The evening menu follows the same pattern of slightly familiar favorites combined with an Asian flair you won’t find anywhere else: shishito peppers ($7), shaved asparagus with soft egg ($9) and kale salad ($6) round out the smaller plates.  We tried the Street Dumplings stuffed with shrimp, pork and garlic chives in a soy vinaigrette ($7), the recipe rumored to be a a family favorite from Chef Tommy’s.  They were awesome.

Fried chicken with a hint of shoyu = excellent.

Fried chicken with a hint of shoyu = excellent.

Pork belly tacos with daikon ($11), hanger steak and fries ($18), truffled mac and cheese ($10) and mushroom toast ($9) are some of the items on the larger side.  We ordered the Shoyu Fried Chicken with slaw, available in the half ($15) or quarter size ($10).  It was phenomenal.  I loved the Goldilocks ratio of the batter (not too thick, not too greasy, not too crunchy) and really appreciated the flavor of soy sauce was still evident.

Spicy, sweet and full of meat :: the Rye burger is a fine-tuned classic.

Spicy, sweet and full of meat :: the Rye burger is a fine-tuned classic.

We also went with the Rye Burger ($13), packed with roasted jalapeño for a spicy kick, caramelized onions for a dash of sweetness, avocado creme for creamy goodness and a thick slice of swiss cheese to top it all off.  Served with a choice of garlic herb, truffle herb or spicy togarashi fries and a choice of roasted garlic or spicy aioli, it was one damn fine burger.  And it definitely has a kick to it!  So spicy-adverse, be ware!  Same goes with the togarashi, a Japanese chili pepper-like spice, which adds a hint of fire to the fries.

Deconstructed Carrot Cake to finish off our dinner at Rye.

Deconstructed Carrot Cake to finish off our dinner at Rye.

The dessert menu, like the rest of the menus, will change pretty frequently at Rye, but for opening weekend had a selection of buttermilk pie with candied basil ($6), chocolate custard with grapefruit gel ($7) and the Rye sundae with Bulliet rye ice cream, whiskey caramel and salted caramel popcorn ($8).  They were out of the Rye Sundae (my heart is still shattered) so we went with the ‘Carrot Cake’ ($7), a deconstructed version with carrot sorbet, buttermilk sponge, cinnamony pecan crumble, creme fraiche namalake and fried carrot chips.  The dish tasted just like the namesake dessert but the textures were switched up; it was deliciously exciting.

It’s obvious Rye isn’t your average diner.  Or restaurant.  Or coffee shop.  Creative menu items aside, they also plan to pipe in a live stream of music/video from Urban Lounge next door, which could be awesome or awkward depending on the band.  So keep that in mind when heading there.  But no matter what music is blasting through the restaurant, I suspect that the food at Rye is good enough to be louder than the band.

Go to Rye for :: brunch, dinner or late night creative dishes in a casual setting.  Notes :: Rye is open seven days a week.  The coffee bar is open 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.; brunch and lunch is served 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.; dinner 6 p.m. to midnight; late night menu (back to brunch items) is served until 2 a.m. on weekends.  Friend Rye on facebook or follow them on twitter.
Rye on Urbanspoon

Featured in Downtown the Magazine!

Salt Lake City’s Downtown Alliance publishes a quarterly magazine aptly named Downtown the Magazine, featuring articles about the area for both locals and tourists.  I was asked to write an article compiling four weekend itineraries, recommending everything from restaurants to activities to hotels, all while staying downtown.


My article, “Destination: Downtown,” covers a cultural night on the town complete with cocktails and opera (of course!), a shop-aholics’ excursion with a refueling ramen break, a concert-centric weekend with late night small plates, and a sightseeing agenda with stops at some of the best restaurants and coffees shops in the area.  There is an online version of the magazine here.

I am one of the featured contributors in the magazine too!

I am one of the featured contributors in the magazine too!

The three-page article is my first written publication in a print magazine and I am ecstatic!  Downtown the Magazine is available in coffee shops and local stores downtown.  Go grab a copy!  Thank you to the Downtown Alliance for including me in such a fun and exciting project!

P.S. Did you know that the actual coordinates of “downtown” only cover this small area?

The Gran Teatre del Liceu Opera House in Barcelona

I have a confession.  I’ve been dreaming of going to Spain for years before I finally took a trip there.  But what inspired me to go wasn’t the iconic Sagrada Familia basilica or the famously abstract house at Park Güell.  Instead the image I fell in love with and dreamed about seeing was of towering golden balconies bathed in a soft glow of light dotted with rows of rich red seats.  I wanted to see the Gran Teatre del Liceu Opera House in Barcelona.

Barcelona's opera house, the Gran Teatre del Liceu.

Barcelona’s opera house, the Gran Teatre del Liceu.

The Gran Teatre del Liceu is one of the largest opera houses in all of Europe.  Its doors opened in April of 1847 on Barcelona’s La Rambla street, now a popular touristy destination.  The theater has since burned down and been rebuilt twice, most recently in 1994.  It seats 2,292 people throughout six levels in a horseshoe-like shape, a typical Italian-style theater that maximizes acoustics (but minimizes some visibility).

The exterior of the Liceu opera house in Barcelona.

Looks can be deceiving. The exterior of Liceu looks like nothing special.

The modest facade of the building, one of the few remaining features from the original 1847 building, disguises the stunning size and amazing beauty of the theater within it.  But even my first step inside blew me away; the Liceu’s lobby opens with a striking staircase contrasted with a black and white checkered floor and seafoam-colored walls.

The lobby of the Liceu opera house in Barcelona.

The lobby of Liceu is from 1861.

The theater itself is even more amazing.  Intricate gold details cover every surface, juxtaposed with thousands of red seats.

The interior of the Liceu opera house in Barcelona.

The view of the Liceu opera house from the highest tier. (One of my favorite photos of Liceu!)

A panoramic view of the interior of the Liceu opera house in Barcelona.

A panoramic view of the interior of the Liceu opera house.

Surrounding the theater are other rooms, equally as beautiful.  The Hall of Mirrors was my favorite.  On the day I toured Liceu the room was set up for a small piano concert.  On the night of the opera, the room was used as a bar where we drank Cava during intermissions.

The Saló de Miralls or Mirrors Hall in Liceu Opera House in Barcelona.

The Saló de Miralls (or Hall of Mirrors) survives from 1847.

On our last night in Barcelona, I saw my first Russian opera at the Gran Teatre del Liceu, The Legend of the Invisible City of Kitezh by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov.  I was surprised how fitting the Russian language is for opera (although I was thankful for the English supertitles on the chair in front of me, like at the Met in New York City).  The production, however, was stale and awkward.

At the opera in Barcelona.

At the opera on our last night in Barcelona.

Even though I dreamed of The Gran Teatre del Liceu in Barcelona for months before I arrived in Spain (I even had my opera tickets before I booked my flight!), there was nothing like actually being inside the opera house.  That view—that moment—is one that I will never forget.

Touring Liceu :: Even if you don’t plan to see an opera, taking a tour of Liceu is worth it. Guided tours are offered Monday-Friday at 9:30 and 10:30 a.m. in Catalan, Spanish, French and English for 14€ and last 50 minutes.  Express tours, lasting 20 minutes, are offered Monday-Sunday in Spanish, French and English for 6€. Tickets for both tours are available day-of at the ticket office. Or take a virtual tour online here.

Productions at Liceu :: Operas, ballets and concerts all take place at Liceu. The opera season runs September-July. I had tickets months in advance so I’m not sure what the availability is for last minute tickets. Prices vary per opera and range from 8,50€-220€ but make sure you check the seat’s visibility before purchasing (not all have direct views of the stage).

Related posts :: Four days in Barcelona and the overview of my trip to Spain and France.

Four Days of Culture & Cuisine in Barcelona

The Sagrada Familia is arguably the heart of Barcelona.  Located in the center of the seaside city, the basilica’s towers stretch toward the sun during the day and glow with demanding attention at night.  The structure is a masterpiece of both art and architecture, stunning tourists and locals alike.

The Sagrada Familia glowing at night in Barcelona, Spain.

The Sagrada Familia glowing at night.

Barcelona was the first stop on Heather and my trip to Spain and France.  We spent four days exploring the city’s history, Catalan culture and, of course, delicious cuisine.  While Barcelona is considered Spain to the outside world, within the country the region is known as Catalonia and is heavily influenced by the Catalan history.  I was surprised to learn they even speak Catalan (a dialect of Spanish) and proudly fly the Catalan flag.  I didn’t even see the Spanish flag until we reached Madrid!

Architecture in Barcelona's Quadrat d'or, or Golden Quarter.

Strolling through Barcelona’s Qaudrat d’or, or Golden Quarter, was entertaining thanks to the beautiful architecture.

We stumbled across this beautiful church in search of lunch in the Golden Quarter.

We stumbled across this beautiful church in search of lunch in the Golden Quarter.

We stayed across the street from the iconic Sagrada Familia in one of the not-too-touristy areas between the breathtaking basilica and the quaint neighborhoods that trickle outward from it.  Our hotel, the Ayre Hotel Rosellon, has a rooftop terrace with a perfect view of the building so, naturally, the first thing we did when we arrived in the city was share a bottle of Cava, Spain’s version of Champagne, while taking in the view.

The view of the Sagrada Familia from our hotel with glasses of Cava.

The view from our hotel’s rooftop terrace, complete with Cava.

The basilica is a work-in-progress, with construction cranes protruding from its core and the sounds of jackhammers echoing throughout the area.  The scene is nothing new, nor will it end anytime soon.  The Sagrada Familia has been under construction for 132 years (since 1882) and isn’t expected to be completed until 2026, a century after its famous architect Antoni Gaudi’s death.

The staggering columns and stunning stained glass inside the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona, Spain.

The staggering columns and stunning stained glass inside the Sagrada Familia.

The ceiling of the Sagrada Familia.

The ceiling of the Sagrada Familia.

Inside though, the masterpiece appears to be anything but incomplete.  Gaudi was highly influenced by nature, designing his columns, staircases and windows to mimic trees, seashells and patterns familiar to the outdoors.  To the unknowing eye they are simply stunning.  To the knowing gaze, they are also strikingly clever.

Gaudi's Park Güell in Barcelona.

Gaudi’s Park Güell in Barcelona.

The Barcelona Cathedral in Barcelona's Gothic Quarter.

The Barcelona Cathedral was built in the 13th-15th Centuries.

Our days in Barcelona were consumed by sightseeing its famous structures like Park Güell, Casa Batlló and the Barcelona Cathedral, exploring the Gothic Quarter’s narrow streets and consuming tapas.  Most of our meals consisted of the Spanish small plates, especially Jamón ibérico, delicately sliced pieces of cured ham that’s juicy, salty and slightly nutty.  We paired the ham with cheese, tomato bread (a Catalan staple), anchovies and Spanish rosé or Sangria.

Paella at Bosque Palermo in Barcelona, Spain.

Delicious paella at Bosque Palermo in Barcelona.

Mealtimes in Spain are notoriously late.  Lunch takes places around 2 p.m. while dinner is served around 9 p.m.  We adapted to this timeframe quickly and stuck with it the remainder of our trip (which proved unfortunate once we got to Paris!).  My favorite lunch was at Bosque Palermo, where I ate my first taste of paella, a traditional Spanish dish of rice and seafood flavored with garlic and saffron.  Shared between two people, the dish is served in the pan it’s cooked in, with a heaping amount of mussels, shrimp and vegetables.

Barcelona's opera house, the Gran Teatre del Liceu.

Barcelona’s opera house, the Gran Teatre del Liceu.

As soon as we felt settled in Barcelona, it was our last night in town.  But for me, it was what I’d been looking forward to for months :: the Barcelona Opera at the impressive Gran Teatre del Liceu, one of the largest opera houses in Europe.  We saw the Russian opera, The Legend of the Invisible City of Kitezh, which fell short of my expectations but being in the theater managed to surpass everything I imaged.

The view of Barcelona from the Sagrada Familia.

The view of Barcelona from the Sagrada Familia.

For me, the highlights of Barcelona were being in the Liceu opera house and the city’s cuisine.  Along with the jamón and paella, I’ll never forget our 17-course meal of Spanish-Asian fusion food, where we ate everything from dim sum dumplings packed with Spanish ham and mackerel sashimi to snails and gooseneck barnacles.  But you’ll just have to wait for all the juicy, tasty details of that dinner because they deserve their own post. :)

Related Post :: The overview of our entire 15-day trip to Spain and France

Del Mar al Lago in Salt Lake City

Friends, I’ve been keeping a secret from you.  I know, I know, sometimes I do this and I’m sorry; it wasn’t on purpose.  But every time I ate at Del Mar al Lago Cebichera Peruana in Salt Lake City, I fell into a trance and forgot to take pictures of my food.  But there will be no more withholding :: here is Del Mar in all its Peruvian food glory.

Choritos Rellenos, seafood mussel shooters, at Del Mar al Lago in Salt Lake City.

Choritos Rellenos, seafood mussel shooters.

For awhile Del Mar al Lago flew relatively under the radar, so to speak, thanks to its awkward strip mall location that’s more than a maze to find.  That is, until recently when rumors began to surface about the delicious ceviche (called “cebeche” at Del Mar), then Chef Frederick Perez was nominated by Food and Wine Magazine for one of the Best Chefs in the Southwest and now it’s a popular spot that’s packed on weekends.

The Fusion ceviche sampler at Del Mar al Lago in Salt Lake City.

The Fusion ceviche sampler showcasing the Ghandi ceviche.

Del Mar made a name for itself with its ceviche, which contains some of the freshest, tastiest fish in the city.  The seafood dish is a mixture of squid, octopus, scallops and other white fish that is uncooked but cured by citrus juice (called Tigers Milk).  There are several different flavors of ceviche at Del Mar, ranging from sweet to spicy ($10-$17).  For the indecisive types, there are two ceviche samplers with three flavors available ($22-23).

The Fusion ceviche sample at Del Mar al Lago in Salt Lake City.

The Fusion ceviche sampler, with the Brasa ceviche in the front.

The Cebiche Fusion ($22) is the spicier of the two samplers, with three signature ceviches (Ghandi, Chifa and Brasa).  The Ghandi is made with curry powder and mango; the Chifa with peanuts, carrots, cucumbers and wonton strips; and Brasa with fried fish and a smoky chipotle sauce.  It arrived at the table flaming—a fun touch because, really, who doesn’t like flaming food?

Seafood lovers will rejoice in these ceviches; the subtle flavors and varying textures of the seafood is still evident through the different sauces, which only enhance how everything tastes together.  The portions of the samplers are huge so order a side of rice or some French fries and split the dish between two people.

Choritos Rellenos Mussel Shooters at Del Mar al Lago in Salt Lake City.

Choritos Rellenos Mussel Shooters.

The appetizers are full of Peruvian dishes that may sound intimidating, like the Anticuchos (skewered beef hearts, $11), but are worth stepping outside your comfort zone for.  There’s also Yucca Frita (fried yucca root, $8), Papa a la Huancaina (steamed potatoes with cheese sauce, $7) and Choritos Rellenos, mixed seafood and mussel shooters ($13 for six).  More of a mixed seafood salad, the “shooters” require a fork (at least for me) but I loved the combination of different textures caused by the corn, onions, tomatoes and seafood.

Seared steak, fries, rice and plantains at Del Mar al Lago in Salt Lake City.

Seared steak, fries, rice and plantains.

If seafood isn’t your thing, Del Mar serves plenty of meat-heavy Peruvian classics like Seared Steak (topped with an egg and served with a heavy dosage of carbs: both French fries and rice) and my personal favorite, Lomo Saltado, a stir fry of marinated beef with onions, tomatoes and chilis, also served with fries and rice.

The Pisco Sour is a classic Peruvian cocktail.

The Pisco Sour is a classic Peruvian cocktail.

The physical atmosphere of Del Mar is what you’d expect from a shopping mall restaurant, but the energy from the vibrant staff and the excitement from the diners create a fun atmosphere that only increases once the food arrives.  Oh, and don’t forget to try their cocktails, especially the Piso Sour ($9) and classic Mojito ($10).

Go to Del Mar for :: a creative lunch or dinner full of fresh seafood and creative ceviches.  Notes :: The casual restaurant is a bit tricky to find (on 310 Bugatti Drive across the street from RC Willey).  Open Monday-Thursday 11 am-4 pm and 6 pm-9 pm; Friday-Sunday, 11 am-10 pm.  Reservations are accepted; call (801) 467-2890. Follow Del Mar on twitter or friend them on facebook.
Del Mar al Lago on Urbanspoon

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