Leo Libations at The Leonardo in Salt Lake City

The Leonardo museum boasts itself as the place where science, technology and creativity come together in Salt Lake City.  So what better place to learn about the art and science of wine?  That’s exactly the aim of Leo Libations at The Leonardo in Salt Lake City.

Leo Libations is held in the foyer of The Leonardo.

Leo Libations is held in the foyer of The Leonardo.

The Leonardo is responsible for bringing some of the country’s most exciting pieces of art and history to downtown Salt Lake City, like Da Vinci’s inventions and Mummies of the World.  They are currently home to the Dead Sea Scrolls, one of the few museums in the country hosting the exhibit.  Along with great exhibits, the museum hosts discussions with business and tech innovators (called Sessions), dinner and museum packages and the monthly Leo Libation classes.

Round one of wine: Jaume Serra Cristalino Brut Rosé, Willow Crest Pinot Gris and Sonoma Cutrer Chardonnay.

Round one of wine: Jaume Serra Cristalino Brut Rosé, Willow Crest Pinot Gris and Sonoma Cutrer Chardonnay.

Each Leo Libation class focuses on a specific component of wine, from tasting different wines from one region to pairing food and wines together.  Taught by the talented Jim Santangelo of the Wine Academy of Utah, they are informative and fun.

All six wines tasted at the Basics of Food & Wine Pairing class.

All six wines tasted at the Basics of Food & Wine Pairing class.

Last week I attended the Basics of Food & Wine Pairing class, aimed at understanding the science of putting a glass of wine with a piece of food.  We tasted six wines, starting with a rosé, evolving to several whites, then deep reds and finishing with a Port.

Chutney with braised beef at Leo Libations at The Leonardo in Salt Lake City.

The chutney with braised beef was perfectly paired with a Malbec.

Each wine was complemented by a dish created by Zanetta Jones, the chef de cuisine at The Leonardo’s cafe, Salt Bistro.  Some of my favorite pairings were the apple/pear/celery salad with brie vinaigrette dressing teamed with a Pinot Gris and the chutney with beef braised in cocoa and coffee topped with plum and carrot sauce paired with a Malbec.

Strawberry and balsamic curd dessert with Port at Leo Libations at The Leonardo in Salt Lake City.

The dessert helped balance the richness of the Port.

And the brie ice cream with strawberry and balsami curd topped with milk chocolate and white chocolate fudge, paired with the Port, a rich but wonderful pairing that demonstrated Chef Zanetta’s culinary roots as a pastry chef.

Jim Santangelo, of the Wine Academy of Utah, teaching Leo Libations.

Jim Santangelo, of the Wine Academy of Utah, teaching Leo Libations.

Jim Santangelo has won numerous awards for his wine educator skills and it’s obvious why he’s been singled out for his work.  His enthusiasm is infectious, his knowledge is impressive and his easily approachable way of teaching is fun and informative without being intimidating or pretentious.

Leo Libations is held the first Thursday of every month at 7 p.m. at The Leonardo.  The class list is here, including another Basics of Food & Wine Pairing (featuring different wines) coming up on April 3, 2014.  Prices vary per class ($50-65) but include museums admission.

Disclaimer :: I was graciously treated to this event by The Leonardo/Wine Academy of Utah.  All opinions are my own.

Related :: My review of the Opening Night Gala of the Dead Sea Scrolls Exhibit at The Leonardo. 

Daikaya Ramen in Washington, D.C.

New Year’s Day in my family always consists of feasting on Japanese food.  Ever since I was little I remember my dad and aunts cooking for days leading up to the holiday, led by Chef Grandma, making rolls of sushi, marinating pork for roasting and cutting up dozens of brightly-colored unidentifiable objects.  There was nothing like combating the sugar overdose that was Christmas with the heavy salt intake of Japanese food on New Year’s Day.

Spicy miso ramen at Daikaya on New Year's Day.

Spicy miso ramen at Daikaya on New Year’s Day.

Last year was the first year in my life that I missed the annual feast because I was in Chicago.  Fearing terrible luck throughout 2013 if my first meal of the year wasn’t Japanese food, my friends and I tracked down ramen at Chicago’s Slurping Turtle and let me tell you a little secret :: ramen is the best cure for a hangover, ever.  Ever! 

So when I found myself away from my family for the second year in a row on New Year’s Day, this year in Washington, D.C., I thought I’d start a tradition of my own and find some ramen again.  (I swear it had absolutely nothing to do with ramen’s hangover-redeeming qualities.  Nothing.)  After asking around, several people recommended Daikaya.

The open kitchen at Daikaya.

The open kitchen at Daikaya.

Daikaya was just like the places I visited in Kyoto for ramen, with a large communal table, booths and bar seating.  The downstairs serves strictly ramen while the upstairs is an Izakaya with bar food, sushi and ramen.  (They even have brunch!)  They have five different kinds of ramen, focusing on the Sapporo-style (with thicker noodles and a lighter broth) and have a whole array of toppings to add to your bowl like extra noodles, soft-boiled egg, Irish sweet cream, corn, etc.

A bowl of spicy miso ramen at Daikaya in Washington, D.C.

Ramen is my definition of comfort food.

I ordered the Spicy Miso Ramen ($13), with a white miso base and bean sprouts that were sauteed in a wok to give them an amazingly awesome smokey flavor.  I wasn’t a huge fan of the ground pork (as I love the slices of pork), but it was a delicious cure for my hangover from my New Year’s Eve extravaganzas.  I mean… it was a perfect meal to start 2014.

Go to Daikaya for :: ramen!!  What else?  Notes :: Open Sunday-Monday 11:30 a.m.-10 p.m., Tuesday-Thursday 11:30 a.m.-11 p.m., and Friday-Saturday 11:30 a.m.- midnight.  Reservations are available online here.

Daikaya on Urbanspoon

Power & Sacrifice in Washington, D.C.

It doesn’t need to be said that Washington, D.C. is densely packed with iconic buildings and striking monuments.  Just bringing up the city’s name conjures images of the White House, the Capitol Building and the Washington Monument, whether or not you’ve been there.

A rose sits at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial with the Washington Monument in the background.

A rose sits at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial with the Washington Monument in the background.

There are reminders of power everywhere in Washington, D.C.  But what I didn’t realize before I visited was how many displays of sacrifice there are, too.  For every massive marble structure containing the country’s political authority, there is a monument dedicated to those who sacrificed their lives to make that power possible.  And I saw almost all of them while I was there during my holiday trip.

The Supreme Court Building, the White House and the Capitol Building.

The Supreme Court Building, the White House and the Capitol Building.

Walking the streets of D.C., I unknowingly created a system of sightseeing checks and balances by visiting a political place partnered with a memorial.  Power, balanced by sacrifice.  It was strikingly obvious on my first day when I spent an emotional day at Arlington National Cemetery combined with a tour of the Pentagon.  Sacrifice of the soldiers for the power of the Pentagon.

The Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C.

The Vietnam Veterans Memorial names all those who died or went missing during the war.

The next day it happened again when I toured the Capitol Building contrasted with the World War II Memorial.  And the rhythm continued—power and sacrifice, power and sacrifice—until my last day, when I got a private tour of the White House and ended my sightseeing with a visit to the Vietnam and Korean War Veterans Memorials.

The Washington Monument and Reflecting Pool in Washington, D.C.

The Washington Monument is the world’s tallest stone structure.

Even the extensive security checks at the political places were balanced by the non-existence thereof at the memorials.  Tours of the Pentagon, Capitol and White House required a written request to my senator weeks in advance in order to conduct a background check; I had to go through metal detectors before entering and photography was forbidden.  Meanwhile most of the memorials were free to stroll upon 24 hours a day, at sunshine, sunset or midnight.

As I wandered mesmerized from place to place—here is where our laws are made; here is where the President lives; here is where the nation’s highest soldiers are buried—with the mantra of power and sacrifice echoing in my head, I realized that something must connect these two groups beyond their contrasts.  And finally it hit me.

The Lincoln Memorial lit up at night in Washington, D.C.

The Lincoln Memorial glowing in the sunset.

I’d been looking at everything all wrong throughout my whole trip, categorizing places by politics and soldiers, power and sacrifice, when in reality all of the places were honoring the same thing: dedication.  It isn’t a contrast, where the power is all politics or the sacrifice is all the soldiers; every single place radiated both characteristics.  Politicians sacrifice; soldiers have power.  It’s their dedication that puts them in the same place.

The National World War II Memorial lit up at twilight.

The National World War II Memorial lit up at twilight.

It was so easy to see Washington, D.C. as a city full of contrasts: power and sacrifice, politics and soldiers, Republicans and Democrats.  But when you look at the spectrum as a whole, it’s really just a city full of dedication to our country.  And maybe that’s where the city’s true energy resonates from.

From Scratch in Salt Lake City

Down the random street behind the Gallivan Center Ice Rink in downtown Salt Lake City is a new pizzeria called From Scratch.  There they are making nearly everything in house, even using an Austrian flour mill to mill their grains and baking pizzas in a wood-fired oven that doubles as the focal point for the restaurant.

The open oven and bar at From Scratch in Salt Lake City.

The open oven and bar at From Scratch.

The casual eatery has plenty of bar-style seating, a large communal table perfect for big parties and a bunch of smaller tables spread throughout the space, all in downtown-meets-country-chic decor.

The menu is a simple one-pager focusing mainly on pizzas but also offering pastas, burger and short rib entrees.  I was anxious to learn more about the Austrian flour mill I’d heard about but was disappointed that there was nothing on the menu explaining it.  Unfortunately our server declined to give us any information on it, too.

The interior of From Scratch in Salt Lake City.

The interior of From Scratch.

The wine list includes a handful of options in both white and red forms, ranging from $30-$110/bottle and $6-10/glass.  There were a few bottles I was unfamiliar with and when we asked our server for an explanation, she simply responded “It’s a blend” without any other description.  Luckily, From Scratch carries Honig, one of my favorite Sauvignon Blancs, which solved that.

The Risotto Cake appetizer at From Scratch in Salt Lake City.

The Risotto Cake appetizer.

The menu was uninformative about other things, too; like the size of the pizzas (our server explained they are 13″, personal size, but only after we asked) and we felt the description of the Risotto Cake was misleading.  Described as “Risotto Cake, wild arugula and fire roasted bell pepper sauce” ($6), the appetizer was deep-fried and lacked the consistently I cherish about classic risotto.

Fennel sausage pizza at From Scratch in Salt Lake City.

Fennel sausage pizza.

The pizzas range from $13-16 in price and from classics, like Margherita, to crazy, like Pumpkin Ravioli Pasta (with pumpkin sage ravioli, brown butter sauce and toasted pepita seeds).  We ordered the Fennel Sausage ($15), with creme fraiche, red and green onion and mozzarella.  It was a good mix of flavors, with the powerful fennel reminding me of Indian food.

The salumi pizza at From Scratch in Salt Lake City.

The salumi pizza.

We also ordered the Salumi ($15), with Creminelli salumi, speck, tomato sauce and mozzarella.  I would have predicted this to be the better of the two, but it lacked a focal flavor and ended up being very unmemorable.  I liked the sizes of the pizzas; perfectly big enough to split two pizzas between two people and still have left overs.

Popcorn Panna Cotta at From Scratch in Salt Lake City.

Popcorn Panna Cotta, the night’s dessert special.

From Scrach makes one dessert a night.  On the night we were there it was Popcorn Panna Cotta ($5).  The panna cotta had almost no flavor but was bombarded by the sugary overload from the crunchy caramel popcorn.  It was very unbalanced.

From Scratch has a great space in a good location, with plenty of potential to be an excellent restaurant.  I’d love to see some more information on their menus, better trained servers (especially in the wine service department) and some tweaks to their dishes and they’ll be set.

Go to From Scratch for :: A casual lunch or dinner downtown.  Notes :: Open Monday through Thursday 11 am-3 pm and 5 pm-9 pm; Friday and Saturday from 11 am-3 pm and 5 pm-10 pm.  Reservations are available online here.  Also, they validate parking for one hour at the Wells Fargo garage!

From Scratch on Urbanspoon

24 Course Dinner at Rogue 24 in Washington, D.C.

If gluttony is one of the seven deadly sins, I’d been looking forward to sinning in Washington, D.C. weeks before I arrived in the city for my holiday trip.  I travel for food (and culture and opera) so each trip includes a “splurge meal,” an extravagant meal that I wouldn’t find anywhere else.  When I discovered the 24 course tasting menu dinner at Rogue 24 in Washington, D.C., it was exactly what I was looking for.

The final course, called Rocks, was chocolate, powder, pop rocks and gelato.

The final course, called Rocks, was chocolate, powder, pop rocks and gelato.

The Medieval priest Thomas Aquinas argued that there are six ways to commit the sin of gluttony beyond over-eating.  He also included eating too soon, eating too expensively, too eagerly, daintily and wildly to be under the category of gluttonous sin.  For the record, I’ve disagreed with Aquinas since I took Philosophy of Religion my freshman year in college and after reading his thoughts on gluttony, well, it solidified my distaste.

Chef RJ Cooper in the open kitchen at Rogue 24 in Washington, D.C.

Chef RJ Cooper in the open kitchen at Rogue 24.

Rogue 24 is the culinary creation of chef RJ Cooper, a James Beard-winning chef from Detroit.  He leads an impressive team in an open kitchen that sits at center stage of the restaurant, surrounded by tables of diners so everyone can see their innovative production in action.  The barrier between what happens in the kitchen and what’s delivered to the diners is completely evaporated, making you feel like you’re all part of the performance.

Courses 1-6 were bites: kumo, pinenut sable, sunchoke, bonbon, truffle, potato puff, duck's blood lavash at Rogue 24 in Washington, D.C.

Courses 1-6 were bites: (clockwise from left hand corner) duck’s blood lavash; potato puff (close up above left); truffle; sunchoke; pinenut sable; kumo oyster; and bonbon.

Rogue 24 is hidden in a back alley’s back alley, giving it a sort of speakeasy-type feeling of accomplishment of simply finding the location.  It’s all part of a fun excitement that surrounds the restaurant and once inside, the energy is bursting, especially with the glowing kitchen as the focal point.

Course 7. osetra with onion soubise, 8. sea urchin with concentrated carrot juice and prawn puff, 9. sweet romaine with aracona egg emulsion at Rogue 24 in Washington, D.C.

7. osetra caviar with onion soubise; 8. sea urchin with concentrated carrot juice and prawn puff; 9. sweet romaine with aracona egg emulsion.

I arrived at Rogue 24 on a normally-closed Sunday night, open only because of the surrounding holidays, so the restaurant was calm.  This gave me the chance to chat with Chef Cooper and his colleagues as they delivered my dishes, as well as get to know my servers and fellow diners.  It really created a community between us; by the end of the night, we all felt like friends.  (Or perhaps it was just the wine talking!)

10. swordfish with fennel, blood orange and truffle, 11. aji with radish, ginger and wasabi, 12. grapes spheres with olive tapenade and orange zest at Rogue 24 in Washington, D.C.

10. swordfish with fennel, blood orange and truffle; 11. aji with radish, ginger and wasabi; 12. grapes spheres (like eating a bubble) with olive tapenade and orange zest.

Rogue 24 only provides a tasting menu service in 16- and 24-course packages with optional wine pairings.  With “go big or go home” as my mantra, I picked the 24-courses ($135) with the wine pairing ($85).  The first courses were tiny bites followed by two-bite courses that slowly moved to heavier (but never much larger) dishes.  An early favorite was the clam chowder in the mini bread bowl.  (I’m a sucker for cute things.)

13. sepia with duck broth, 14. razor clam chowder with broiche and whipped lardo, 15. pigtail with candied cabbage and hot mustard oil at Rogue 24 in Washington DC.

13. sepia (cuttlefish) with duck broth; 14. razor clam chowder with broiche and whipped lardo; 15. pigtail with candied cabbage and hot mustard oil.

Courses progressed through fish to pigtail, a first for me.  It was surprisingly delicious, like a slow-roasted rib.  That was followed by a long favorite of mine, squab (aka pigeon) with grits and a fun take on veal :: veal “fibers” served in a mushroom.

16. squab with grits and dates, 17. veal fibers with parmesan, agaricus bisporus and truffle, 18. venison with squash, oatmeal and huckleberry at Rogue 24 in Washington, D.C.

16. squab with grits and dates; 17. veal fibers with parmesan, agaricus bisporus and truffle; 18. venison with squash, oatmeal and huckleberry.

Seamlessly the courses transitioned to a rich chestnut, pistachio soup.  It was a good course to allow me to reflect on what I’d had so far and dream of what could possibly be to come.  I should have known :: all that richness implied that desserts were on their way.

19. chestnut, pistachio, truffle parmesan soup, 20. glacier: lychee, lime, white chocolate, 21. earth: butterscotch, peanut butter and bananas at Rogue 24 in Washington, D.C.

19. chestnut, pistachio, truffle parmesan soup; 20. glacier: lychee, lime and white chocolate; 21. earth: butterscotch, peanut butter and bananas.

Cheekily named glacier, earth, rocks (pictured at the top of this post) and finally, happy endings, the desserts were rich, complex and deliciously sweet.  I loved the play with textures and temperatures, using ice cream, ice and gelato to keep my taste buds alive, even after 20 courses.

The final course of Rogue 24 was "happy endings."

Courses 21-24. simply named “little things/small bites.”

The final courses, thankfully, were tiny house-made candies delivered in a wooden box.  I’d been happily eating for hours, made friends with not only the chef and my servers but the girls at the table next to me.  It was a truly wonderful night and one of the highlights of my trip.  A 24-course dinner may be considered gluttony—therefore I may have sinned—but, damn, was it worth it!

Go to Rogue 24 for :: an unforgettable journey through food that you’ll never forget.  Notes :: Reservations are required but easily made online here.  Open Tuesday – Saturday, 6-11 p.m.  It’s a bit tricky to find so check out these directions before you head there.

Rogue 24 on Urbanspoon

Cannella’s in Salt Lake City

There are nights when I want going out to dinner to be an event with a dress code, a busy see-and-be-seen crowd and a cuisine that offers a little challenge.  And there are nights when I want to go to dinner simply to be pampered in a place that feels comfortable and enjoy food that’s familiar.  Cannella’s is a perfect answer on those nights, tucked away in the corner of downtown Salt Lake City.

The bar at Cannella's in Salt Lake City.

The bar at Cannella’s.

Cannella’s has been serving Italian food to Salt Lake City since 1978.  A true “ma and pa” establishment, the family-owned restaurant is known for being friends with its customers and serving them like they would family.  My parents have been going to Cannella’s for decades and last weekend when they returned from Hawaii, we went straight to there for dinner.

The caprese appetizer at Cannella's in Salt Lake City.

I loved that the Caprese had a dollop of pesto.

Canella’s recently updated their menu, giving it a fun grid-like look with food-centric quotes like “There is no love sincerer than the love of food” (George Bernard Shaw).  They added classic cocktails (like Pimm’s Cup, Moscow Mules, Manhattans, etc., all $8) and appetizers, like mushroom risotto cakes ($9), mussels and clams ($12) and Caprese ($11).

Alberto's meat lasagne at Cannella's in Salt Lake City.

The meat-packed lasagne is intense, but delicious.

Their famous classics, like Alberto’s Meat Lasagne ($17), are still on the menu.  Packed with Colosimo’s sausage, meatballs, pepperoni, mozzarella, asagio, and topped with red and yellow pepper sauce, it’s a bold take on the classic layered pasta.  (There’s a less-meaty version for $15, too.)

The Pomodoro pasta at Cannella's in Salt Lake City.

The Pomodoro lacked meat but not flavor.

Much of the menu focuses on pasta (it is an Italian restaurant, after all), but with variation.  There is a good variety of seafood-based ones (seafood marinara, $19; house made gnocchi with shrimp, $18), chicken-based one (tortellini with chicken, $16), and meatless ones (Pomodoro, $13).  The wheat-based spaghetti Pomodoro was full of marinated tomatoes, garlic and olive oil, a spicy, yet light pasta dish.

The Pappardelle Bolognese pasta at Cannella's in Salt Lake City.

The gorgonzola added an awesome element to the Pappardelle Bolognese.

I found some middle ground with the Pappardelle Bolognese ($19), a light pasta with ground veal, pork and pancetta mixed throughout, topped with roasted red peppers and gorgonzola to give it a good, rich kick.  It was really enjoyable, with bursts of different flavors in every bite.  All entrees are served with soup or salad.  The salad of the day was a roasted red pepper tomato bisque, a spicier version of the comforting tomato classic.

The roasted red pepper tomato bisque at Cannella's in Salt Lake City.

Spicy, creamy, peppery/tomato goodness.

The best addition to Cannella’s menu is the gelato martinis.  They have solved the problem when you can’t decide between a cocktail and dessert, with combinations like the Sophia Loren (lemon biscotti gelato in Limoncello and La Marca Prosecco) and the Boardwalk Empire (Nutella gelato in Kahlua, Bailey’s Irish Cream and cherry liquor).  I picked the Whiskey Bravo, vanilla bean gelato doused in High West American Prairie Bourbon and a dash of chocolate.  It was phenomenal and something I will be re-creating at home from now on!  All are $8/each.

The Whiskey Bravo with gelato and High West American Prairie Bourbon at Cannella's in Salt Lake City.

Whiskey + gelato = heaven.

If you prefer to eat your dessert instead of drink it, they also serve Cannolis, Tiramisu, chocolate beet cake (I’ve gotta try that next time!) and gelato sans-cocktail (all $6/each).  Cannella’s has a great, affordable wine list with bottles starting at $30 and wines available by the glass, and plenty of beers if you want that route.  (My dad loves that they have PBR on tap.)

There’s a reason Cannella’s has happily been serving Salt Lake City since 1978 and people keep coming back.  If you don’t know why, it’s worth visiting to find out!

Go to Cannella’s for :: a casual, comfortable dinner or laid-back lunch.  Notes :: Open Monday 11 am-9 pm, Tuesday-Thursday 11 am-10 pm, Friday-Saturday 11 am-11 pm and Sundays 4 pm-9 pm.  Reservations are available online here or by calling 801-355-8518.  They also are available to host private parties and events for up to 20 people.

Cannella's on Urbanspoon

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