Here we are, January 2022! Which means we made it through another holiday season filled with delicious food and drink. If your holidays looked anything like mine, you probably spent a lot of time dining out–making up for lost time with family and friends and celebrating time together. I could not narrow down the amazing meals I had in December to just 5 so there is a special bonus edition of Top 9 bites! And if you want to check out everything I enjoyed in December you can head over to my Instagram where I regularly post about all things food in Utah.
Truffle mac & cheese at High West Nelson Cottage
This winter, the prix fixe dinner at High West’s Nelson Cottage returns Wednesdays through Sundays. The dinner features courses that highlight seasonal and local ingredients blended with globally influenced flavors. In mid-December, we were entranced with the Pacific northwest wild mushroom and black truffle mac and cheese. Rich and creamy, the Pecorino cheese sauce accented the earthy fungi flavors and played off the sweeter notes of the paired High West American Prairie Bourbon. A delightful backdrop to the huge flakes of Utah’s greatest snow on earth falling outside.
$95 with optional whiskey pairings for $60
Pumpkin beignets at The Rest
Salt Lake has a speakeasy. If you didn’t already know about The Rest or catch the episode of Real Housewives of Salt Lake City where the guys head out on the town for a guy’s night there, there’s still plenty of fun to be had getting here. The bartenders will work their jiggers for you to shake up something based on your base spirit and desire for sweet or savory but no matter what else you eat or drink while downstairs, definitely end the night with the pumpkin beignets (also available in regular flavor). Filled with a creamy, baking-spiced pumpkin filling and dusted with spiced powdered sugar they are perfect for dipping in cinnamon chantilly cream.
Sweet potato gnocchi at Porch
Porch chef and owner Jen Gilroy is once again flexing her culinary muscles with dishes that surprise and delight. Her pillowy sweet potato gnocchi are served in sage brown butter and topped with nuggets of pecans for a nice bite and bacon for fatty goodness. Taking me right back to the Thanksgiving table, a layer of marshmallow char and maple gastrique completes the dish with just the right amount of sweetness. (The pictured portion was part of a special tasting menu and doesn’t reflect the full-size entree.)
Nam Khao at Tuk Tuk’s
The first place I encountered this dish was in Minneapolis, Minnesota at Lat 14 on a cold, wet winter evening. The herbaceous, sour, and extremely spicy flavors captured my palate. Fortunately, on my first visit to Tuk Tuk’s in West Valley, I saw the elusive Lao appetizer nam khao on the menu! Alongside what I would consider the best Thai food in the valley, this starter features crispy, spicy rice generously splashed with lime juice and fish sauce and filled with soured pork, crunchy peanuts and cilantro. Enjoy the rice mixture wrapped up in fresh lettuce leaves or on crispy cucumbers to slightly counter the chile heat.
Grilled calamari at SLC Eatery
Calamari is such a delightful seafood item for its versatility and ability to complement many flavors. While it’s most commonly served with both the body cut into rings and tentacles fried, squid is best enjoyed with more judicious preparation. SLC Eatery executive chef and co-owner Logen Crew hits the mark with his grilled calamari starter featured on the menu the past few months. Firm pieces of calamari are grilled until tender and placed over fried rice which is artfully presented with a tomato lime coulis dotted with cilantro aioli. Fresh jalapeño slices and micro greens lend a final pop of color and freshness to the dish.
Roasted bone marrow with a whiskey chaser at Bambara
Non-carnivores, please avert your eyes. Yes, these are bones and my husband and I were pretty excited to find such a beautiful bone marrow presentation on the menu at Bambara one chilly winter evening on our way to Ballet West‘s The Nutcracker. Bambara has had its fair share of stellar executive chefs over the years and new to the helm is Jerry Pacheco (who launched Cinder Pig during the pandemic). He’s bringing some Japanese nuances to many of the dishes on the winter menu at this downtown stalwart including the roasted bone marrow starter. Roasted bones filled with warm, meaty marrow ready for spreading on crusty bread are dusted with togarashi spiced panko for a fiery umami kick alongside shiso yuzu koshu, a Japanese hot sauce condiment. After the last of the marrow has been enjoyed, pour some of the whiskey served in a tiny gravy boat down the bones to catch the last of the marrow and rendered fat. It’s no small miracle I didn’t wear this to the ballet and it will be a lasting date-night memory!
$17 (plus a whiskey shot if desired)
Mussel shooters at Tsunami
Always one of my favorite appetizers at Tsunami, these green-lipped mussel shooters are the perfect combination of sweet, salt and fat. The mussels are broiled, chopped and then tossed with a sweet and spicy soy sauce and returned to their beautiful shell for serving. The sushi chefs add a slice of fresh avocado, a raw quail egg and masago to deliver a delicious bite made greater by the sum of its parts.
Hangover pasta at Oquirrh
Available only on the brunch menu at Oquirrh, chef and owner Drew Fuller has crafted the true hangover cure with this pasta. Hot sauce-spiked housemade spaghetti sets the stage for English banger sausages and a perfectly poached egg that’s finished with a generous shave of parmesan. Pair it with their killer bloody Mary and that Saturday night hangover doesn’t stand a chance.
Croquetas at Finca
Although Finca may be residing in its third location in Salt Lake, one of the things that remains an original and perennial favorite there are the croquetas. Found on the tapas portion of the menu, Finca’s Spanish ham and cheese fritters are the perfect fried snack to get dinner off to a great start when shared with friends around the table.