Utah: A Culinary Mecca
Utah is becoming one of America’s prime eating destinations.
On December 27, 2013, Bloomberg reported South Dakota is the hottest address for America’s billionaires because of its tax-friendly trust laws, but in the world of gourmet eating and fine dining, the nearby state of Utah is becoming one of America’s prime eating destinations. Over the past decade, celebrity chefs have flocked to various parts of this state to open their establishments and feed the wealthy. Knowledgeable foodies with discriminating palates have begun to take culinary vacations to Utah, attending food and wine festivals, culinary classes and farm tours. Thanks to the international media exposure of The 2002 Olympic Winter Games and the annual renowned Sundance Film Festival, Utah has become a gourmet emporium. Salt Lake City and Park City are host to some of the world’s most expensive winter vacation homes and luxury five-star hotels. Where there is wealth, good food always follows.
Fine dining restaurants, gourmet groceries and sustainable farmers have sprinkled Utah’s landscape, producing and selling some of the world’s best food, mostly grown locally. Some of those sustainable farmers are growing their products in unexpected locations -- on the side of mountains.
Utah features restaurants and gourmet food markets offering their interpretation of new Native American cuisine, influenced by groups such as the Navajo. A fried dough, called Fry Bread, is traditionally eaten as an open-face dish, usually topped with rabbit or mutton. Other variations include southwestern/flavors -- chili beans, topped with cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, onions and salsa. Dessert versions are also made, featuring local fruit preserves.
Located in the heart of Park City’s ski country is a sustainable restaurant called The Farm. Its entire menu is a farm-to-table concept, using local artisan growers to provide its vegetables, fruits, fish, game and poultry. The Farm’s menu reads like a regional new American cuisine concept with a touch of Native American influences. Popular items include Milk Braised Rabbit (served with chicory, frisee, kale and picked mustard) and Steelhead Trout (with dill brown butter and spinach ragout).
Utah-based A Local Table is a gourmet specialty company that has a niche of using local artisan makers and sustainable farmers to supply its business with cheeses, cured meats, pickled products, breads and preserves. These products are beautifully packaged and shipped online to customers across America and around the world.
Utah’s reputation as the state that consumes the most Jell-O is gradually fading. Within the past few years, luxury brand hotels, such as the St. Regis and Waldorf Astoria, have opened properties in the state, each with restaurant chefs incorporating local food ingredients and cooking techniques on their menus. Utah-signature foods are being used in these establishments and many others across the state, paying homage to the Native Americans, pioneers and farmers who called this state home first.
Frysauce, sold at grocery stores and listed on restaurants menus throughout the Utah, is a combination (equal parts) of ketchup and mayonnaise. Utah-based burger chain Artic Circle claims to have invented the sauce, which dates back in the 1940s. The condiment is eaten with burgers and fries, but gourmet eateries have devised various versions of fry sauce, by adding garlic, mustard, lemon juice and hot sauce.
In terms of Utah-based beverages, Apple Beer and Ironport are well-regarded. Apple Beer Corporation produces a non-alcoholic drink called Apple Beer made with carbonated water, pure cane sugar, citric acid, natural flavors and vitamin C. Created in the 1960s, it is distributed in the mountain and western parts of the United States and throughout the Caribbean.
Ironport was created during the early part of the 20th century. Its flavors resembles a combination of root beer and Caribbean spices -- Jamaican Allspice. A Cuban beverage called Iron Beer bears a similar taste.
The Mormons settled in Utah around the mid-1800s, and their way of life had a big impact on Utah, especially its cuisine. A casserole dish called Potato Hot Dish, (aka Funeral Potatoes) is found in local grocery store delis and gourmet eateries. Traditionally, it is eaten at funeral dinners and repast services, but younger Utahans are now serving and enjoying this dish at most social gatherings, such as birthdays and potlucks. The ingredients are cubed potatoes or hash browns, parmesan or cheddar cheese, onions, cream of mushroom soup, sour cream, butter -- topped with crushed cornflakes or plain potato chips.
During the early part of their migration to Utah and the other western states, Mormons used large cast iron pots to cook most of their meals, which has served as an inspiration to The Deer Valley’s Fireside Dining Restaurant. This restaurant prepares its menu meals in large, cast-iron pots. Local specials include mutton stew, and local mountain berry bread puddings and chutneys.