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. 

A New New York :: From Montauk to Manhattan

For the third time this year I flew to New York for a weekend of food, opera and adventure.  Except this time I found myself riding in the passenger seat of a car as it drove along Long Island’s highway for the first time, gazing at the sparkling waters of the Atlantic ocean as we headed east.  This would not be my normal NYC trip—this was definitely going to be a new New York.

The beautiful view at the Montauk Point Lighthouse in Long Island, New York.

The beautiful view at the Montauk Point Lighthouse.

Once upon a time while visiting friends in Chicago, I met a man who was in the city on business.  We shared a couch at a rooftop bar on the top of one of the tallest buildings in a city full of tall buildings, bonding over scotch and his hometown: New York.

The clock struck midnight (or whenever the bar closed—the scotch had kicked in by then) and I gave him my number before hopping in a cab, thinking how tragic it was that I’d never see him ever again.

The view from the top of the Montauk Point Lighthouse in Long Island, New York.

The view from the top of the Montauk Point Lighthouse.

But as luck or fate or pixie dust (whichever you prefer) would have it, months later when I was planning a trip to New York City to see Rusalka, I contacted the man I met in Chicago and miraculously he remembered me.  He even offered to take me to opera, an offer no opera-loving lady can resist.  So the two of us spent a wintery day in New York City together drinking scotch, seeing the opera and slurping on ramen.

And stranger still, when I returned to New York City once the city had thawed, we met again for whiskey on a rooftop overlooking the city’s skyscrapers.

The MOntauk Point Lightouse in Long Island, New York.

The Montauk Point Lighthouse was first lit in 1797.

Montauk

When the man discovered I’d never ventured beyond Manhattan in the dozen-plus times I’d visited, he decided to be my personal guide to a new New York, devising a plan to see Long Island and the Hudson Valley.  And that’s how I found myself heading toward Long Island’s East End on a recent October evening.

Bushy trees aching to turn yellow in the autumn air soon morphed into seaside sagebrush all right outside my window.  The pleasant drive took us beyond the traffic of the city, under old bridges and over the bay, passing peaceful tiny towns until we reached Montauk.

Oceanview room at the Montauk Yacht Club in Long Island, New York.

The view from our room at the Montauk Yacht Club.

Montauk is a sleepy seaside town recovering from the heavy tourist season that just ended.  I don’t know if its calmness is the byproduct of being near the ocean or the aftermath of an exhausting peak season coming to a close, but I welcomed the relaxation it immediately brought.

With dining options grim, we went to a Japanese restaurant decorated with driftwood on the walls, random reggae music on the stereo and few fellow diners.  The identity crisis was palpable but the sashimi was fresh, the scotch was excellent and the company was even better.

Hot lobster roll at Lunch Lobster Roll in East Hampton, New York.

The hot lobster roll at Lunch in East Hampton, Long Island.

The next day we woke to a pristine view of the bay twinkling in the fall sunshine.  We toured the Montauk Point Lighthouse, climbing its centuries-old steps to gaze at the endless ocean from the top and feel the fresh ocean breeze as it swept into the island.  The East End felt a little like going back in time and a little like a fairy tale; the picturesque churches and storefronts felt frozen in time and I was tempted to stay there forever.  But we had operas to see and adventures to go on.

On our way back to Manhattan–and the present time period–we stopped at Lunch, a road-side diner notorious for lobster rolls.  We mixed with the few remaining tourists and handful of locals enjoying the rich, buttery lumps of lobster that only the east coast can provide.

The Metropolitan Opera House in New York City.

The view of the Metropolitan Opera House from our seats.

Manhattan

We drove the three hours back to Manhattan, traversing a bridge into the city I’d never taken before, providing a new view of the city’s infamous skyline.  It appeared that even the familiar parts of the city would be new on this trip.

That evening, the man I met in Chicago treated me to the opera Carmen, complete with box seats so close to the stage I could actually see the singers’ emotion.  The best part was the view of the audience, a perspective I’d never seen before.  As familiar arias danced through my head, I found myself gazing at the entire opera house, amazed that so much beauty can be contained in one space.

The East River in New York City.

Driving along the East River after lunch in Brooklyn.

The next day the air was noticeably cooler.  Autumn was fighting its way into the city with full force.  We journeyed to Brooklyn–another first for me–for “authentic New York pizza” at Di Fara, where we waited for what felt like forever as we watched the 80-year old owner hand make his pies.

As we prepared to head to the Hudson River, the man I’d met in Chicago received a message–a family emergency–he’d have to go–our plans now cancelled.  I returned to Manhattan and just like that he vanished.  The trip suddenly transformed into another solo adventure.

The Guggenheim Museum in New York City.

The Guggenheim Museum.

With spontaneity staring me in the face (my notorious frenemy), I remembered a Spanish restaurant I was aching to try and a whiskey bar rumored to be amazing.  One was a hit, the other a miss.  But the whole not having a plan thing wasn’t so bad.

The next day, maintaining my theme of a new New York, I visited the Guggenheim Museum for the first time.  I was unimpressed by the art but the building was worth seeing.  Then a friend on the other side of the country suggested I meet his buddy who lived in Manhattan since I was alone.  I scoffed at the ridiculous idea of hanging out with someone I’d never met just because we had a mutual friend in California.

And then I met up with him.

Grand Central Oyster Bar in New York City.

Having lunch at the Grand Central Oyster Bar.

We drank whiskey pickle-back shots and talked travel at an underground bar in Chelsea.  After, while navigating the subway through a whiskey fog, I remembered how I love the randomness that is New York City.

Before I headed to the airport the next day, I made one final stop.  It was the only thing I did over the weekend that wasn’t new.  But for me, it was a requirement :: Grand Central Station.  The terminal reminds me why I love New York City–its bustling energy, the calmness among the craziness, the possibility among the confusion–and reminds me that even though the weekend may not have gone as planned, it was an adventure full of experiences, lessons learned and, most importantly, memories that I’ll never forget.

And that makes every time in New York a new New York.

9 Things Traveling Taught Me About Life

I love discovering a new city or exploring new sides of a familiar one.  But traveling isn’t always without its speed bumps and detours.  While I’ve learned a lot about traveling, I’ve learned that many of those lessons apply to life when I’m not on the road.  Here are 9 things travel taught me about life.

King's Chapel Burying Ground, the oldest cemetery in Boston.

King’s Chapel Burying Ground, the oldest cemetery in Boston.

1. Time is limited.
If you want to do something, do it now.  That means if you want to go somewhere, see something, eat something, or experience something, do it now before your trip is over and your time is up.  As morbid as it sounds, life is no different.

2. A little bit of planning goes a long way.
Some travelers (and people) will argue this one with me, but I’m a huge planner.  I’ve found that by doing a little bit of research (either before the trip or prior to heading out for the day), it saves me a lot of headache, confusion, or outright problems down the road.  You don’t always have to stick exactly to the itinerary, but having a general idea of where you want to go will keep you on track and prevent you from ending up somewhere far from where you intended.

Fushimi Inari Shrine, Kyoto, Japan.

Fushimi Inari Shrine in Kyoto, Japan.

3. Save more money than you think you’ll need for piece of mind.
Because you never know when your cab ride suddenly costs 100€ and you thought it’d cost 20 or when you stumble upon a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that requires an extra few bucks, having more money than you need is both a safety net and an opportunity producer.  Same goes for the real world.

4. Take a chance.
I have a tendency to be more daring about life when I’m traveling.  (Probably thanks to #1.)  If I see a cute guy, I go talk to him because I know the chances of running into him again are next to impossible.  When I’m served a dish that may otherwise make me squirm, I dive right in while on vacation because it’s part of the experience.  I try to bring that bold attitude with me when I’m home.  Besides, isn’t there a saying about trying everything once?

Hôtel de Ville de Montréal, Montreal’s City Hall.

Hôtel de Ville de Montréal, Montreal’s City Hall.

5. Know when to splurge and when to skimp.
Some people use traveling as an excuse to splurge on literally everything–hotels, food, transportation–but it doesn’t need to be that way.  Some of the best food is found on the city’s streets for pennies and some of the best experiences I’ve had while traveling were free.

On the flipside, some things are definitely worth splurging on.  I like to treat myself to an extravagant splurge meal on every trip and I’m not a fan of hostels so I always opt for the pricier hotels.  Where you decide to splurge versus skimp all boils down to preference, but know that you don’t always have to stay in one camp over the other.

6. Comprise is the key to getting along with your partner.
Nothing tests a relationship like traveling, whether it’s platonic or romantic.  I always say that if you can travel with someone, you can do almost anything with that person.  Not all friends make good travel companions but even good travel buddies know that the key to remaining friends after your trip is compromise.  Also, spending time apart never hurts.  Both of these translate perfectly to real life (non-traveling) friendships and relationships.

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

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

7. Follow your passion.
If something calls you enough to make your heart sing, chase it.  I travel for opera because nothing moves me the way seeing one live does and that passion has taken me to 15 cities (and counting) around the world.  I’m often on the younger spectrum of patrons at the opera, but I love talking about it at intermissions with people.  I get teased all the time for my opera obsession.  And you know what?  I don’t care one bit.

If something moves you, do it.  Don’t let the opinions of others eat away at you.  Go after what you love and follow your passion.

8. Give people the benefit of the doubt.
It’s easy to assume that because someone reacts differently than you do to something, you can’t relate to them or that because you don’t fully understand their way of life, you can’t understand them.  But that’s not true at all.  Most people, regardless of their cultural differences and language barriers, are genuinely nice people.

At home or abroad, I’ve learned to remember that while it’s good to stay on my toes and be cautious (especially when traveling alone), most people are good people with good intentions.  And if you treat people with respect and kindness, usually they’ll return respect and kindness back to you.

The Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC.

The Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC.

9. Know the difference between tired/hungry and angry.
Confession: I get hangry.  That is, I get angry when I’m hungry.  Years ago, I realized I got hangry while traveling a lot, making my travel buddies flat-out angry.  So now I make sure to eat breakfast when I travel and eat regular meals to prevent Hangry Kelli.  (Nobody likes Hangry Kelli, not even me!)  Whatever it is that sets you off, know it so you can prevent it–both when you travel and when you’re in real life at home.  Everyone around you will thank you.

::

Every time I take teaches me something new about life and about myself–not to mention about the place I’m visiting.  That’s why I love this quote so much: Traveling is the only thing you buy that makes you richer.  What lessons have you learned while traveling?

Related :: 6 Tips for Dining Out Alone, 7 Tips for Seeing the Opera, 6 Things I Hated About Paris

Utah Updates & Events :: October 2014

Fall is still in full swing (at least for another few weeks) and there are still things happening aplenty.  The past few weeks saw a whole handful of new restaurants open up in Utah (Gastronomic SLC has a great list of them here) that I can’t wait to try, plus here are some food-related events to keep you busy on these last few fall days of the year.

Epic Beer Pairing Dinner at Faustina :: October 23, 2014
The fine folks at Faustina are hosting another beer pairing dinner with Epic Brewing on October 23, 2014 at 7 pm.  Brewmaster Kevin Crompton will be on hand to tell about each beer and how it relates to the four-course dinner.  The food is $40, plus $20 for beer.  Call 801-746-4441 for reservations.

Witches Tea at the Grand America Hotel

Witches Tea at the Grand America Hotel

Witches Tea at the Grand America :: October 25, 26, 31, 2014
The traditional afternoon tea at the Grand America Hotel has been transformed into a Halloween-inspired event for the end of October, with special spooky treats.  Costumes are even welcome.  Sittings are available at 1 and 3:30 pm; $24 for adults, $20 for children 12 & under.  Call 801-258-6707 for reservations.

Wine & Spirits Certification Class :: Starts October 20, 2014
If you’ve ever wished that you knew more about wine or spirits, now is your chance to become actually certified by one of Utah’s most knowledgeable in the field: Jim Santangelo of the Wine Academy of Utah.  The Level 2 class teaches how to professionally assess 44 wines and 6 spirits, review the varieties and regions, and includes the textbook and study-guide.  The 8-class course starts October 20, 2014.  Click here to register.

 

Aristo’s in Salt Lake City

Aristo’s has been one of my favorite restaurants in Salt Lake City since the first time I went there, nearly five years ago.  It was always at the top of my list of restaurants I recommended people to go and for awhile I went there about once a month.  Then Guy Fieri brought his Food Network show Diners, Drive-Ins & Dives to Utah and filmed a segment at Aristo’s.

And everything changed.

The patio and exterior of Aristo's in Salt Lake City.

The patio and exterior of Aristo’s in Salt Lake City.

Before the camera crews arrived, Aristo’s received a welcome facelift with a remodel cleaning up both the interior and exterior of the restaurant.  After Guy Fieri and his bad haircut left, Aristo’s changed their menu and crowds of people flocked to the restaurant.  Both of those could be positives except that some of my favorite items were removed from the menu.  Heartbroken, I didn’t return for months.

Driven back by my craving for their Skordalia, one of my favorite dishes in all of Salt Lake Valley, I was determined to find some new favorites on the updated menu.  For those of you who haven’t seen the new menu, it’s more condensed than before with portions regulated into better sizes (for some dishes that means downsizing, which is actually good for some of the heavier, richer dishes).

Skordalia and kafteri dips in the Orektika sampler at Aristo's in Salt Lake City.

Skordalia and kafteri dips in the Orektika sampler (I double up on the skordalia).

The skordalia ($7.50), a dip made of garlic, garlic and more garlic (swoon) is something I dream about.  I order it in the Orektika sampler of three dips ($13) with the kafteri, a dip of roasted Macedonian peppers and feta cheese with a touch of cayenne pepper.  It’s slightly spicy, but the prominence of the red peppers has such a unique kick when contrasted with the soothing feta that it’s lovingly addicting.

The Kotopoulo at Aristo's in Salt Lake City.

One of my absolute favorite dishes at Aristo’s: the Kotopoulo.

One of the favorites that remains on the menu is the Kotopoulo ($20), breaded chicken stuffed with garlic, spinach and feta, served with a rice pilaf in a mushroom sauce.  Juicy chicken filled with slightly savory mushrooms and spinach surrounded by a slightly crunchy coating, it’s a must-try dish that’s flavored to perfection.  Another remaining favorite is the rich Yemista ($17), a sort of Greek lasagna with tomato, green bell peppers and zucchini in rice with heavy seasonings of mint and oregano.

Boureki, a Greek dish of sliced zucchini and potatoes with feta at Aristo's in Salt Lake City.

The new portion of Boureki is thankfully downsized.

Another classic that made the cut: Boureki ($10), although its been gratefully downsized, with layers of sliced zucchini and sliced potatoes, packed with feta and Athotyro (a Greek ricotta-like cheese).  Satisfyingly rich, the smaller size is much more enjoyable.  (Order it as an appetizer or as a small plate paired with octopus.)

The Oxtapodi, or octopus, at Aristo's in Salt Lake City.

The Oxtapodi, or octopus, is my new favorite dish.

I finally tried the famed octopus (Oxtapodi, $12 for small, $20 for large), now deemed a “Fieri favorite” (after Guy Fieri).  The tender, luscious chunks of octopus arrived dripping in olive oil, oregano, and lemon.  Tangy and delicious, it’s my new go-to dish.

Other go-tos are traditional Greek favorites like Spanakopita ($9), rich wads of spinach and feta wrapped in flaky phyllo dough, and dolmathes ($6.50) with lamb, beef, rice and mint wrapped in grape leaves.  (Note that the vegetarian dolmathes are no longer on the menu.)

The lamb ribs at Aristo's in Salt Lake City.

The lamb ribs were surprisingly full of flavor.

New items like the flight of gyros (a tasting of three gyros, $12), lamb tacos (with horiatiki pico, mint and feta for $5), and souvlaki skewers (pork, $4, chicken, $4, or shrimp, $5) are filed under Street Favorites on the menu.  Simple but tasty, they are reminiscent of your favorite fast food Greek joint but much better tasting.  The Plevrakia ($11), char-broiled lamb ribs, are so incredibly tender they slip off the bone; a salty, juicy sensation that I can’t wait to repeat.

Lamb chops at Aristo's in Salt Lake City.

Lamb chops.

Pork chops (“Brizoles,” $18) marinated in oil, salt, pepper, garlic and oregano then char-broiled and served with fries, or the lamb chop version (called Paidakia, $30) are easy to love classics that are so basic, yet somehow manage to still be surprisingly delicious.

Lamb tacos at Aristo's in Salt Lake City.

Lamb tacos are a new addition to Aristo’s menu.

After enjoying the feast at Aristo’s, I had one of those regretful Why did I wait so long to return? thoughts.  Yes, the menu changed and yes, some of my beloved dishes left with it.  But just like in life, not all change is bad, even when you miss what you once had.

Go to Aristo’s for :: an amazing meal of Greek favorites and Greek surprises that will surprise you, then keep you coming back again and again.  Notes :: Many dishes are vegetarian- and vegan-friendly and are clearly marked on the menu.  Reservations are accepted online here.  Aristo’s is open Monday-Saturday, 11 am-10 pm and Sunday 4 pm-9 pm.

Aristo's on Urbanspoon

LA Opera’s La Traviata

There is always a little bit of pressure, of nervousness, when sharing one of your greatest passions with someone else for the first time.  You’ve no doubt talked up its grandeur in order to convince them to join you; you’ve likely confessed the way it moves you in ways nothing else can.

And so, here is this newbie at your side with high expectations, and suddenly you worry: what if something goes wrong and they completely hate it?

A few weeks ago I convinced my aunt and uncle to join me for their first opera.  Luckily it wasn’t just any opera, but LA Opera’s La Traviata at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion in downtown Los Angeles.  And if that wasn’t enough, it was starring the legendary Placido Domingo.

Kelli Nakagama in front of the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion in Los Angeles before La Traviata.

In front of the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion before La Traviata.

In the days leading up to the performance I had given them tips for seeing the opera and given them the synopsis.  But in the hours before the opera, I got the pre-performance jitters.  What if they hated it?

We arrived at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion early enough for a glass of wine on the plaza and for people-watching, an essential part of the opera experience in my opinion.  An R&B trio sang on the plaza, friends and couples of all ages enjoyed wine and food, and we watched all of this as the southern California sun slowly set in the evening.  So far, so good.

The stairway in the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion in Los Angeles.

The stairway in the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion.

We entered the opera house in time to catch the last few minutes of the pre-opera talk, this time led by LA Opera’s conductor James Conlon and art director Marta Domingo, who explained that setting La Traviata in the 1920s art deco period just “made sense.”  And truly, with an era obsessed with extravagance, it does.

As we took our seats, I was both nervous and excited.  But as soon as the music started and, moments later, when Nino Machaidze released her first burst of passion from her voice as Violetta, all was well with the world.  The power in her voice and the graceful beauty in its sound was stunning.

The chandeliers in the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion in Los Angeles.

The chandeliers in the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion.

Together with tenor Arturo Chacón-Cruz, who played her lover Alfredo, their voices created a perfect harmony.  And later, in the second act, when Placido Domingo arrived on stage and demanded everyone’s attention with his commanding presence, it was incredible.  His capacity and tone paired well with Violetta but, at times, drowned out tenor Alfredo, although it’s hard to keep up with someone with 3600 performances under his belt.

After the last curtain fell, I was on a high from such an outstanding performance of one of my favorite operas.  I turned to my aunt and uncle, anxious for their reaction.  My uncle said it wasn’t bad.  My aunt said she was surprised how much she enjoyed it.  At first I didn’t know if that was good or bad, until she immediately asked, “what’s playing next in Salt Lake City?”

I smiled.  She got it, she understood my passion.  And I thought to myself, success!

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