Local Food & Drink Artisans 

10 can't-miss companies, from honey to pickles

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By now, I think we all get it: Eating local is a good thing if you’re looking to reduce carbon footprints, support independent food producers and artisans and eat fresh, close to the source. But determining what’s local and what ain’t can be tricky. While looking at all the pickle possibilities at Whole Foods Market, for example, how would you know which jar is locally produced? Local First Utah (LocalFirst.org) is a great online clearinghouse and resource for discovering all things local. And I’m also here to help, with a roundup of 10 (I wish there was room for more) local food and drink artisans worthy of your attention and support.

Amour is the French word for love, and you’re going to love the wholesome and delicious marmalades and jams from Amour Spreads (888-554-6845, AmourSpreads.com), produced locally near Liberty Park. They’re made with fresh, ripe fruit—never frozen or processed—with organic cane sugar and lemon juice, in traditional copper jam pans. My favorite so far: Amour’s pear-lavender jam is pure heaven!

Local honey junkies speak of Slide Ridge (475 E. 250 South, Mendon, 435-752-4956, SlideRidgeHoney.com) honey the way truffle heads talk about fresh Alba truffles: with tears of joy in their eyes. Slide Ridge is a family affair, with Martin James and his sister Karla Shelton as full-time beekeepers, and Martin’s parents and kids involved, too. Together, they produce unpasteurized, unfiltered natural honey, honey-wine vinegar and Honeybee Hand Balm. The texture, flavor and aroma of Slide Ridge honey are unsurpassed; it’s the Château Margaux of honey.

Roy, in Weber County, is not synonymous with pasta, but it may be one day, thanks to Nu Nooz Artisan Pasta (801-549-7358), which is based there. All the pasta is made from local ingredients including durum semolina flour milled in Utah, along with Redmond Real Salt and farm-fresh eggs from heritage chickens. Find it at Caputo’s, 9th South Delicatessen and local farmers markets. Perhaps you’ll want to toss your Nu Nooz in Grandma Sandino’s Sicilian Sauce (801-631-9933, GrandmaSandinos.com), made with fresh garlic, olive oil, red-wine vinegar and Mediterranean herbs and spices, right in Salt Lake City. It’s all-natural, vegetarian, gluten-free, dairy-free and vegan. Grandma Sandino’s motto? “You’ll love it or else.”

Let’s talk meat, specifically jerky. The Samak Smoke House & Country Store (1937 Mirror Lake Highway, Kamas, 435-783-4880, SamakSmokeHouse.com) produces the best jerky I’ve ever encountered, and I’m a closeted jerky junky. Fish, beef, turkey and such are dried and smoked using fresh cherry wood from Wisconsin (many jerky makers use liquid smoke), without chemicals or preservatives. Among the offerings are spicy chipotle beef jerky, free-range turkey jerky, teriyaki beef and more, but my favorite is the classic natural beef jerky, made the old-fashioned way.

I suspect that you’ve heard of Cristiano Creminelli by now. His Creminelli Fine Meats (801-428-1820, Creminelli.com) has garnered worldwide attention for quality and flavor, and has collected numerous awards and press accolades, including being named in this month’s Bon Appetit magazine as one of its 2012 “tastemakers”—“visionaries who are making our lives so delicious.” With all this attention, it’s easy to forget that Creminelli Fine Meats is a Utah-born enterprise. Cristiano—whose family has been producing artisan meat products as far back as the 1600s, in Italy—started his salami-making operation in the basement of Caputo’s Market & Deli, and now produces cured meats and sausages that are the envy of Italy’s best meat producers.

However, man cannot live on salami and jerky alone. He must also have cheese. Of course, Utah’s own Beehive Cheese Company has won so many awards in world cheese competitions that they’re soon going to have to build a special shed just to keep them all in. A lesser-known company, but one that’s also producing world-class cheese locally, is Gold Creek Farms (6297 E. Bench Creek Road, 800-517-7670, GoldCreekFarms.com)—family-owned and operated in Woodland, Utah. Gold Creek Farms was a finalist in the recent 2012 World Championship Cheese Contest, held in Madison, Wisconsin, where they know a thing or two about cheese. And Gold Creek won the Best in Class award for their cherry-wood-smoked cheddar and a second-place award for their cherry-wood-smoked Parmesan in the Smoked Hard Cheeses category. I also love their cumin-spiced cheddar and my favorite: Gold Creek Farms aged white cheddar, which compares favorably with any aged white I’ve ever tasted.

Need wine to go with those cheeses and meats? Why not turn to Layton? It’s not exactly the middle of wine country, but Jay and Lori Yahne’s Hive Winery (1220 W. Jack D Drive, 801-628-2661, TheHiveWinery.com) produces non-grape fruit wines and honey wines (meads and melomels) in small batches, using local fruit and honey whenever possible. There is a wide range of wines made at the hive; some of the popular flavors include raspberry-peach, pineapple, blackberry, apricot, strawberry (no Boone’s Farm jokes, please), black currant and Bing cherry.

At Salt Lake City’s Happy Monkey Hummus (724-964-6665, HappyMonkeyHummus.com), only locally grown, sustainable ingredients are used, including organic garbanzo beans, fresh lemons, real roasted garlic and fresh, natural vegetables. Of course, the classic Original Happy Monkey hummus is hard to beat, but I also like to branch out with their Fire-Roasted Bell Pepper Hummus and the chipotle-pepper-spiced XXX.

According to Park City’s Yee-Haw Pickle Company’s (435-659-5687, YeeHawPickles.com) website, the adverb “yee-haw” is an “expression of enthusiasm or exuberance typically accompanied by lots of hooting and hollering.” That pretty much sums up my feelings about Yee-Haw Pickles. I never considered myself a pickle snob until I tasted these. Now, Vlasic just won’t do. Yee-Haw’s Giddy-Up Garlic Dills and Honey Bee Stackers are becoming quite popular, but I just can’t get enough of the incendiary Hot Damn Dills, with habanero and red Fresno peppers packed along with the pickles into every jar.

I would also shout out a healthy yee-haw to all of our local food and drink artisans!

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