Caputo’s Cooking Classes

Long after the high of being in Spain evaporated, after I’ve gone through the thousands of photos I took an equal thousand number of times, and after all the stories of adventures in Spain have been told, I find myself missing the little parts of my trip the most.  Like the lunches of small plates filled with anchovies drenched in olive oil paired with tomato bread and glasses of Sangria, and the dinners built of manchego cheese plates, morcilla sausage, and stuffed piquillo peppers.

There are two ways to remedy my longing for these things: 1. frequently dine at Salt Lake City’s Spanish restaurants, and 2. learn how to make these dishes at home.  The first one is easy and I do it all too often, but the second one, well, I’m not exactly known as a cook.  But whenever I encounter a food-related dilemma, somehow Caputo’s is always the answer.  And this time is no different.

The newest location of Caputo's in Holladay.

The newest location of Caputo’s in Holladay.

In addition to the many food classes at Caputo’s, like cheese and wine, chocolate and beer, even whiskey and scotch, Caputo’s also has cooking classes.  I’ve been a huge fan of the food classes for years; they are incredibly informative and a great way to expand your taste buds and experience with everything ranging from cheese to olive oil.  Caputo’s cooking classes are no different :: they teach pasta-making, Italian cooking, holiday feasts, Spanish tapas classes, and more.

Caputo’s cooking classes aren’t hands-on, but the instructor makes the dishes in front of the class.  The recipes are provided so you can follow along, plus you get to taste everything.  Many classes have a beverage pairing component, like wine, cocktails or both.

Tomato bread at the Caputo's Spanish tapas cooking class.

Classic tomato bread.

The Spanish tapas class started with tasting some of Spain’s most beloved bites, like anchovies, jamón, and manchego cheese topped with quince paste, paired with a Vermouth cocktail.  I was instantly transported back to Spain.

Next we moved on to tomato bread, or pan con tomate, a simple recipe involving garlic, tomatoes and olive oil on bread, served at almost every restaurant we visited in Barcelona.  Then came the stuffed piquillo peppers.  The instructor Adrianna told us some short cuts and suggested some products, like using Ortiz Bonito del Norte canned tuna that’s nothing like the “chicken of the sea crap found in grocery stores.”

Cojonuda at the Caputo's cooking class.

Morcilla sausage on fried eggs, called Cojonuda.

Then we had the tapas version of sausage and eggs using Spanish morcilla (blood sausage), the one food I said I’d never eat but accidentally tried in Madrid and fell in love.  Adrianna fried eggs, placed them on slices of baguette and topped them with lightly fried pieces of morcilla.  This was paired with the traditional Sangria, filled with fresh peaches and oranges (we got the recipe for that too).

We ended with a Barcelona Fish Stew, a hearty stew with heavy paprika flavors filled with chunks of halibut and Serrano ham, served with Pedro Ximenez Montilla-Moriles Solera sherry from 1927.

Adrianna of Caputo's at the Spanish tapas cooking class.

Instructor Adrianna dishing up the Barcelona Fish Stew.

Caputo’s cooking classes are filling, fun, and informative.  The recipes and subjects change with the season, so check Caputo’s website for the current list of upcoming cooking classes and food tasting classes.  Most cooking classes are $45 for food, $15 for alcohol pairing.  Classes are held at all three locations (downtown, 15th & 15th, and Holladay).

Related :: 7 Must Eat Foods in Spain, Caputo’s Scotch Class and Caputo’s on 15th & 15th.
Disclaimer :: I was graciously treated to the Spanish Tapas Cooking Class by Caputo’s.  All opinions are my own. 

Lucky 13 The Best Burgers in Salt Lake City

The secret’s out.

What was once a hidden gem that few people knew about, the dive bar known as Lucky 13 is now a place where finding a seat at any time of day or night is a challenge.  But you can’t blame the crowd.  Once rumors got around town of Lucky 13–arguably the best burgers in Salt Lake City–it was no surprise that people would flock there to have them.

When I first discovered Lucky 13 a few years ago, I remember telling people that they had to go there.  The reaction was always the same: “Lucky 13, the old biker bar?!  Really?!”  But once they tried the heavily-doused garlic fries and the house-smoked bacon burgers, they were hooked.

Lucky 13 has the best burgers in Salt Lake City.

Lucky 13, located on 135 West 1300 South in Salt Lake City.

The “dive bar” status of Lucky 13 has not changed, regardless of the crowds or the fact that the small bar won the title for best burger in the 2012 World Burger Championship in Las Vegas.  But the rockabilly-style decor and not quite comfy chairs provide part of its charm.  The patio is large and inviting, and once summer is in full force the sunflowers grow tall enough to create a barrier against the traffic on 1300 South.  But beware that smokers are usually out there.  The biker bar mentality hasn’t fully evaporated.

The small staff does what it can to keep up, but with the recent onslaught of crowds, there are days that your patience is required, especially before Bee’s games (the stadium is across the street) or on Utah football game days when people flood the bar to watch the game.  So order a beer (or two or three) to enjoy before your burger.  It’ll be worth the wait.

The beer selection changes routinely, but Lucky 13 usually carries a selection of local favorites and national classics.  Cocktails and wine are available for the beer-adverse, too.

The Bacon Stinky Cheeseburger at Lucky 13 in Salt Lake City.

The Bacon Stinky Cheeseburger with house-smoked bacon and blue cheese.

But the burgers.  The menu has just enough to cover all your needs.  The burgers aren’t too fancy; they aren’t trying to have the most creative burger, just the best.  My recommendation: get something with their house-smoked bacon.  Even if you have to add it onto a burger.

My go-to burger is the Bacon Stinky Cheeseburger ($10), topped with that luscious, juicy bacon and heaps of blue cheese and some mixed greens for good measure.  Paired with garlic fries–and I’m talking real, visible chunks of beautiful garlic–and it is perfection.

The Fungus Amongus burger at Lucky 13 in Salt Lake City.

The Fungus Amongus ($9.50), with red wine-sauteed mushrooms, garlic and swiss cheese served with fried pickles.

The Ring of Fire ($10) is notoriously spicy, so go that route if you’re a fan of heat (it has bacon, roasted jalapeños and habaneros, plus onions and cheddar).  If you’re in the mood for weird, get the Nut Butter ($9.50), with bacon, peanut butter and cheddar.  And if you want a real kicker, try the Bear Burger ($17), 14 oz of beef, habanero puree on roasted habaneros with two grilled cheese sandwiches packed with caramelized onions in place of a bun. I once watched someone eat the whole thing and I almost lost my dinner, but hey, to each their own.

The daily special changes, well, daily, offering concoctions like elk burgers, ostrich burgers, guacamole burgers (count this as my official plea to add that to the regular menu) and more.  Check twitter, facebook and their website to discover today’s rare gem.

Bacon-wrapped jalapeños at Lucky 13 in Salt Lake City.

Bacon-wrapped jalapeños, the night’s special.

Lucky 13 also serves chicken tenders, sandwiches, and salads.  But to be honest, I’ve never been able to go there and not have a burger.  They are just too damn good.

Go to Lucky 13 for :: the best burger in Salt Lake City.  Notes :: Open every day from 10 am – 2 am (serving food til midnight), plus brunch on Sunday.  Remember that it is a bar, so only 21+ are welcome.

Lucky 13 on Urbanspoon

Napa Valley Wine Events in Salt Lake City

“And the wine was bottled poetry.”

The sign that greets visitors as they enter Napa Valley is both whimsical and promising.  But as one of the world’s most well-known and well-respected wine growing regions, the promise is easily fulfilled.

The wines coming out of Napa Valley may have an extraordinary reputation (and for good reason), but what’s even more incredible is the actual size of the region producing such impressive vino.  Napa Valley is actually one of the world’s smallest wine-growing regions, comparable to one-eighth the size of France’s Bordeaux region, yet it’s international reputation is just as widespread.  Even on a regional scale, its reputation far surpasses its size.  Only 4% of California wine is produced in Napa Valley, yet it’s arguably the most notorious wine region in the state.

Bottles of Dominus Estate Napanook Bordeaux blend wine

Bottles of Dominus Estate Napanook Bordeaux blend wine at the Napa Valley Wine Social at The Leonardo.

Almost all Napa Valley wineries (a staggering 95% to be exact) are family-owned businesses, many passed down through generations.  Majority of these wineries produce only 10,000 cases per year.  Nearly 500 of these wineries are members of the Napa Valley Vintners Association, a non-profit organization that promotes and protects the region, as well as gives back to local communities.

The Napa Valley Vintners Association recently partnered with select wine educators around the country to help promote their wines.  One of those selected was Salt Lake City’s Jim Santangelo, owner of the Wine Academy of Utah, who was chosen for his enthusiasm and dedication to wine education.  If you’ve ever attended one of Jim’s wine classes through the University of Utah Continuing Education or his monthly wine pairing classes at The Leonardo, you know exactly why he was picked.

A glass of Chateau Montelena Chardonnay and chicken & herbs on flatbread at the Napa Valley Wine Social at The Leonardo.

A glass of Chateau Montelena Chardonnay and chicken & herbs on flatbread at the Napa Valley Wine Social at The Leonardo.

As part of the partnership between the Napa Valley Vintners Association and the Wine Academy of Utah, The Leonardo hosted a Napa Valley Wine Social where wine-lovers learned about and tasted four Napa Valley wines paired with bites created by the Salt Bistro’s chef Zanetta Jones.  The social was informative, yet fun, and I left armed with tons of Napa Valley knowledge and a list of wines to buy at the liquor store.

The next partnership event is taking place right now at the BTG Wine Bar, called Taking Over the Taps, where a bunch of Napa Valley wines are featured at the bar until September 27, 2014.  It’s a great chance to taste your way through several of the region’s wines, thanks to the bar’s design-your-own wine flights and the availability of 3 oz. pours for tastings.

Taking Over the Taps Flyer for BTG Wine Bar.

Taking Over the Taps goes til September 27, 2014.

The finale to that event is the Napa Valley Wine Pairing Dinner featuring a four-course meal from the Molise region of Italy paired with eight Napa Valley wines.  The dinner is at the BTG Wine Bar on Sunday, September 28, 2014, at 7 pm.  Click here to learn more and/or sign up for the event or call 801.359.2814.

Both events are not to be missed.  After all, how can you resist having a glass of bottled poetry?

Disclaimer :: I was graciously treated to the Napa Wine Social at The Leonardo by the Wine Academy of Utah.  All opinions are my own. 

7 Tips for Seeing the Opera

One of my most faithful passions in life is opera.  Nothing I have ever experienced in life moves me the way that seeing an opera does, not even a really amazing meal.  (And I’m not even 30 years old!)  I love sharing my passion with people, but I’ve discovered that a lot of people find opera intimidating.

The misconceptions of opera are enough to scare people from ever trying it out.  They think: The prissy attire! The foreign language! The hard-to-follow story!  But in reality, those misconceptions are exaggerated and attending the opera isn’t as intimidating as you might think.

This weekend I’m traveling to Los Angeles to experience the legendary Placido Domingo perform one of my favorite operas, La Traviata.  If that wasn’t enough to have me ecstatic, my aunt and uncle are joining me for their first opera.  Every time I bring beginners with me, I give them a rundown of what to expect.  So here are my 7 tips for seeing the opera.

7 tips for seeing the opera

The Gran Teatre del Liceu in Barcelona, Spain.

1. Relax!  There’s probably English subtitles.
Yes, most operas are in a foreign language.  (Call me biased, but the English operas I’ve seen weren’t exactly the best.)  But don’t worry, every theater I’ve ever been has had English subtitles (actually called supertitles) projected over the stage or on the seat in front of me.  Even the opera in Barcelona and at Palais Garnier in Paris had English supertitles.  (But the opera house in Madrid does not.)

2. Read the synopsis beforehand.
Even though you’ll get handy supertitles, your best bet is to read the story beforehand so you know what’s going on.  Operas are often full of complex, crazy dramas best digested before the show.  (Wikipedia is a good resource or the opera company’s website will have it.)  The synopsis will always be printed in the program but save the pre-show time for taking in the theater or people-watching instead of reading the story.

Supertitles at the Metropolitan Opera House in New York City.

The subtitles are on personal screens in front of each patron at the Metropolitan Opera House in New York City.

3. Dress accordingly and don’t wear loud jewelry.
The attire for opera houses varies by city but everywhere I’ve been (now 15 cities around the world), the consensus is to dress up a little bit.  Please don’t wear jeans and absolutely do not wear shorts.  Try not to be a slob!  You don’t have to wear a tux or a gown (in fact, I was very overdressed in Barcelona in a gown) but use your best judgement.

Ladies, if your jewelry makes noise—you know, clangy bangles or dangly earrings that clink when you move—don’t wear it.  These theaters are designed to emphasize noise, projecting the tiniest sounds throughout the theater.

And finally, forgo the heavy perfume and cologne, too.  There is nothing worse than sitting next to someone for four hours who overdid their perfume causing everyone around them to have a headache.  Those of us prone to migraines will thank you.

4. Arrive early.
There is no late seating at operas and late-comers will not be allowed in the theater until intermission.  If the opera doesn’t have an intermission, you are out of luck.  Don’t take your chances!  Most theaters have bars in the lobby, so arrive early and have a glass of bubbly or a cocktail.

Palais Garnier staircase in Paris.

Most opera houses are designed for people watching. The Palais Garnier in Paris is a perfect example.

5. Be quiet.
It seems so simple, yet people find it so difficult.  Don’t make noise.  Don’t talk.  Don’t even whisper.  If you need a cough drop, use wax-wrapped ones that don’t make crinkly noises and if you need a tissue, have it easily accessible and preferably already out of the loud plastic wrap.

Once I caught a terrible head cold right in time for the Ring Cycle, the four-day/17-hour opera series.  I’d get all my tissues ready before each opera so I wouldn’t make noise and unwrap cough drops at each intermission so I wouldn’t disturb those around me.

6. Show your appreciation.
I’ve heard that singing opera is as physically demanding as running a marathon (especially the 5- and 6-hour performances).  The only way to show your appreciation of the singers is with applause–at appropriate times, of course.  At the end of the performance, don’t sneak out of the theater early to beat the traffic, applaud the singers to show your appreciation.  It’s the respectful thing to do.

A costume from the opera Aida on display at Palais Garnier in Paris.

A costume from the opera Aida on display at Palais Garnier in Paris.

7. Have an open mind and enjoy it!
Like all experiences, have an open mind.  The first opera I saw was terrible but something about it intrigued me, so I went again and liked it, then went a third time and fell in love.

Brunch at Silver Fork Lodge in Big Cottonwood Canyon

The drive up Big Cottonwood Canyon is so picture-perfect that the passing views are more what you’d expect from a nature calendar than from a drive just 25 minutes outside of Salt Lake City.  The staggering cliffs covered in lush greenery are often dotted with climbers traversing their way to the top, while fishermen prepare their poles alongside the trickling stream that runs parallel to the street.

After a few narrow switchbacks in the road, the canyon opens to a wide display of aspen trees chasing up the mountain slopes.  By now the scenery is so mesmerizing that it’s easy to forget where you’re going.

And it’s about that point when you’ll see Silver Fork Lodge, perfectly positioned to bring you back down to reality in time to remind you: Oh right, we were on our way to eat.

Silver Fork Lodge in Big Cottonwood Canyon.

Silver Fork Lodge

Silver Fork Lodge, nestled in Big Cottonwood Canyon right before Solitude Mountain Resort, is a Utah staple that’s been serving home-cooked American food since 1943.  The cabin-like restaurant has a patio facing the mountain, offering gorgeous views enticing you to stay for hours.

Even though Silver Fork Lodge is known as a favorite among locals, my first time eating there was just recently.  We sat outside on the deck despite the unseasonably chilly weather so we could take in the atmosphere.

Cinnamon roll at Silver Fork Lodge in Big Cottonwood Canyon.

Sticky, sweet cinnamon roll to start breakfast.

Luckily we had the view to entertain us because the service was painfully slow throughout the entire brunch.  But we were forewarned on the menu that clearly states that they make everything in house, so sit back, relax and enjoy the scenery.

We ordered a cinnamon roll ($4) to share to hold us over before our food came, which was a good idea.  (Apparently driving through gorgeous scenery works up an appetite.)  It was fresh-out-of-the-oven warm and hit the spot with my coffee.

Salmon eggs benedict at Silver Fork Lodge in Big Cottonwood Canyon.

Salmon eggs benedict.

But once the food arrived—hefty portions of home-style breakfasts—we were silently satisfied, our impatient attitudes long forgotten.  The salmon eggs benedict ($15), the classic dish with grilled salmon added to the mix and topped with a light, yet buttery Hollandaise sauce, was served with delightfully crispy hash browns just like my dad always made growing up.  The poached egg was a little well done for my taste; I wished some egg yolk could mix with the sauce, but the perfect potatoes made up for it.

The crab and avocado omelet ($14), created with blue crab claw meat and Hollandaise topped with slices of avocado, was surprisingly light, without too much crab to throw off the balance of taste.  More avocado would have been nice, but can you ever have enough avocado?  The omelet was also served with those perfectly crispy hash browns.

Crab and avocado omelet at Silver Fork Lodge in Big Cottonwood Canyon.

Crab and avocado omelet.

Silver Fork Lodge is more than just beautiful scenery–both on the way and at the restaurant.  Dining there feels like being at a friend’s cabin, complete with a home-cooked brunch.  I can only imagine how their dinner is.

Go to Silver Fork Lodge for :: a home-style meal in a casual setting.  And enjoy the scenic route there.  Notes :: Silver Fork is open for brunch Monday-Friday, 8-11:30 am, Saturday from 8 am-noon, and Sunday 8 am-1 pm.  Lunch is served til 5 pm, then dinner is served until 9 pm.  The restaurant is open every day of the year, including holidays.  You can even stay at the lodge overnight.

Silver Fork Lodge on Urbanspoon

First Look :: Handle in Park City

The restaurant business is kind of like an elaborate game of musical chairs with chefs, bartenders, and managers moving from one place to the next.  Keeping track of everyone during the Game of Chefs can sometimes be confusing, but a good chef will make headlines wherever he or she goes, so they’re bound to turn up eventually.

Recently in the game, chef Briar Handly moved from his acclaimed spot at Talisker on Main to opening his own restaurant, Handle.  Handle is in Park City, just down the street from Talisker.  The small plates restaurant serves an evolving menu of incredibly creative dishes using locally-sourced ingredients.  In fact, they often post on their facebook page where their ingredients are from.  Talk about local.

Handle in Park City.

Handle in Park City.

Handle is hidden inside the strip mall at the bottom of Main Street, but there are enough signs to make it visible from the street.  Depending on where you’re seated inside the restaurant, you may forget you’re not in a freestanding restaurant.  Unfortunately, our table was next to an indoor window with a view of the mall’s interior–a constantly awkward reminder that we were in a strip mall.  Had we been sitting at the bar facing the juxtaposed rows of wine bottles, near the windows facing outside, or at the bar peering into the kitchen, it would have been much better.

Roasted pork belly at Handle in Park City.

The roasted pork belly was so good we ordered two!

But once our food starting coming, the interior view was far from our minds.  The New American menu is full of small plates designed to be shared among the table, although I found a few of them to be very small “small plates.”  A couple were difficult to split even between two of us.  The Roasted Pork Belly ($16) was tortuously small, mostly because it was so ridiculously good with its intense juiciness and maple flavor.  (We ordered two plates to compensate since one order only allotted about two bites of pork each.)

Cauliflower in buffalo hot wing fashion at Handle in Park City.

The cauliflower in buffalo hot wing fashion was a favorite.

The menu is bluntly vague, creating a conversation opportunity with your server.  If you’re lucky, you’ll get the server we had (I believe his name is Erickson), who expertly described each dish, told us favorites, and directed us toward dishes we couldn’t leave without ordering.  One was the Cauliflower ($8), brined and coated the same as buffalo hot wings and served with blue cheese, they had the spicy essence of buffalo wings without the mess.  I’ll echo our server: do not leave Handle without a plate of these!

Chef Briar Handly's award-winning trout sausage at Handle in Park City.

Chef Briar Handly’s award-winning trout sausage.

Another server-recommended must have was the Smoked Trout Sausage ($12), a house-made sausage stuffed with pieces of local trout that won Chef Briar a place at the Great American Seafood Cookoff in Louisiana.  The light sausage had a hint of trout flavor, while maintaining the stability of a traditional sausage, served with a light corn pudding gravy and summer vegetables.

The melon dish at Handle in Park City.

Melon, peaches, and Creminelli Coppa.

From the Cold section of the menu (it’s divided into cold, hot, and hearty categories), we ordered the Melon ($12): peaches and melons topped with thin slices of salty Creminelli Coppa and bits of basil.  It was amazing–and I’m not even a fan of fruit!  The saltiness of the salami balanced the sweetness of the fruit that I normally don’t like and together it was heaven.

Grilled baby octopus at Handle in Park City.

Another can’t miss dish is the grilled baby octopus.

We also had Grilled Baby Octopus ($14) with romaine hearts and charred eggplant ricotta in a creamy Caesar dressing.  I loved the tender octopus with just enough dressing to add flavor but not take away from the octopus.

We ended with Beignets ($12), fluffy balls of fried dough stuffed with rice Krispies and served a chocolate dipping sauce.  I appreciated the lightness after our meal but wished they were sweeter (what can I say, I have a never-ending sweet tooth!).

Beignets at Handle in Park City.

Dessert: Beignets with chocolate sauce.

The hearty section of the menu had to be skipped, but I can’t wait to try the Fried Chicken to share (with potato salad, $36) or the Pork Rib Chop with roasted fennel and goat cheese ($28).

Handle was definitely a hit.  If their debut menu is this incredible, I can only imagine how amazing the dishes Chef Briar will create in the future.  I’m keeping this restaurant on my radar, cause this one is going places.

Go to Handle for :: a meal of incredibly awesome, ridiculously creative small plates.  Notes :: Handle is currently open Wed-Saturday, 6 pm-close, plus Sunday brunch starting at noon-9 pm.  Reservations are accepted online here or call 435-602-1155.

Handle on Urbanspoon

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