If I read one more newspaper column, magazine article or blog post about the prevalence of green Jell-O and funeral potatoes in Utah, my head is going to explode. C’mon, folks: Get with the program.
In case you’ve been napping for the past decade or so, there’s a culinary renaissance going on in Utah that includes the emergence of world-class restaurants and local, artisan food purveyors, some of whom have garnered international recognition for their superb products. I believe, however, that Utah’s culinary renaissance dates back further than the past 10 or 15 years—way back, in fact.
You could, for example, point to the founding of Salt Lake food purveyors Nicholas & Company—by Nicholas William Mouskondis in 1939—as a critical event in Utah’s food timeline. Likewise, the establishing of Frank Granato’s import company in 1948 introduced many of the Utah public and Salt Lake City’s restaurants to authentic Italian and Mediterranean food products for the first time.
Harmons has grown from a single fruit stand in 1932 to what will be 16 stores by the spring of 2012, and helps to sustain local food producers such as Castle Valley Greenhouses, Schmidt Produce and Manning Orchards by featuring local growers in their stores. In more recent years, Gastronomy, Inc. was the first to work a deal with Delta Airlines to fly fresh fish and seafood to Salt Lake City via overnight express cargo, while food enthusiasts such as Steven Rosenberg, Tony Caputo and Glynis Gregory brought imported and gourmet products to local food lovers with Liberty Heights Fresh, Caputo’s Market & Deli and Gregory’s much-missed Cheese House in Foothill Village.
Chefs like Metropolitan’s Matthias Merges, The Globe’s Adam Kreisel, Sundance’s Jason Knibb, Park City restaurateur Bill White and, more recently, The Copper Onion’s Ryan Lowder and Forage’s Viet Pham and Bowman Brown—just to name a few—have proved that we don’t have to travel to New York City or San Francisco to enjoy some of the best restaurant food this country has to offer.
But don’t take my word for it. Spend a little time perusing the list of hundreds of independent Utah food producers at the Utah’s Own Website (UtahsOwn.Utah.gov), and you’ll be amazed at what you find—everything from honey, cheese and chocolate makers to purveyors specializing in Argentine empanadas, gluten-free cakes and natural, grass-fed beef. It would take dozens of pages in City Weekly to do justice to all the creative and talented food producers in our state, so I’ll just mention a few of my favorites—folks who are doing the heavy lifting in Utah’s food renaissance.
For starters, there are the bakers. It’s easy to overlook Pierre’s Country Bakery, which was one of the first, locally, to produce a respectable French baguette, not to mention delicious croissants, pastries and more. Vosen’s Bread Paradise, too, has been supplying Utahns with authentic German-style breads, pastries and desserts for many years now. And, up north, Logan’s Crumb Brothers bakery knocks out artisan breads that are, well, knockouts. At The Market in Park City, new-kid-on-the-bakery-block Red Bicycle Breadworks is keeping Utah crusty with their locally produced artisan breads made with only locally sourced ingredients.
Need some cheese to put on that bread? By now, everyone should have heard of Uintah’s Beehive Cheese Company. They have, after all, garnered a truckload of awards at national and international cheese competitions, and have been featured everywhere from The Washington Post to Martha Stewart Living. But, they’re not the only game in town. Also very worthy of your attention are Drake Family Farms’ fresh goat cheese, Richmond’s Rockhill Creamery cheeses made with milk from brown Swiss cows, Shepherds Dairy Old World cheeses from Erda, and the excellent cheddars and Parmesan cheeses from Gold Creek Farms in Woodland.
Let’s talk meat. Again, everybody is probably familiar by now with artisan cured-meat producer Cristiano Creminelli. He makes world-class salamis, sausages and now, prosciutto, from generations-old Italian family recipes and has won numerous awards worldwide. He began making salami in the basement of Caputo’s Market, and now his products are recognized internationally. Meanwhile, in Morgan Valley, Jamie and Linda Gillmor’s Morgan Valley Lamb is a favorite of restaurant chefs and lamb lovers across the state. In Emery, Taylor Natural Farms produces certified-organic, free-range beef and pork, free of herbicides, antibiotics, hormones, etc., and Bar 10 Beef in St. George offers all-natural, grass-fed beef raised on 250,000 acres of open range. In Vernon, Christian and Hollie Christiansen’s Hog Heaven is populated with purebred Berkshire pigs, as is Clifford Family Farm in Provo. And, in Park City, Summit County Beef is a favorite source of natural beef—T-bones, rib-eyes, chuck, ground beef and more—for discerning carnivores.
For sweet stuff, Amano Artisan Chocolate in Orem has been winning worldwide acclaim for its “no compromise” chocolates. And, let’s not forget that renowned chocolate artisan Chris Blue of Chocolatier Blue started his award-winning confection company in Alpine, before moving to Berkeley, Calif. Finally, what would the Beehive State be without sweet, aromatic, single-batch, hand-bottled honey? That’s the specialty at Slide Ridge Honey, where the pure, unadulterated, complex artisan honey is simply unsurpassed.
And that’s just the tip of the Utah iceberg. I haven’t even touched upon terrific producers like Amour Spreads (artisan jams and marmalades), Happy Monkey Hummus, Bell Organic Gardens, Nu Nooz Artisan Pasta, Samak Smoke House jerky, Pepperlane preserves, Redmond Real Salt, Utah Beefalo, The Hive Winery or dozens and dozens more terrific Utah artisan food and drink producers. So, please don’t talk to me about green Jell-O.