The annual Taste of the Wasatch fundraiser at Solitude on Sunday was another sold-out success, selling 1,500 tickets to the food festival and raising a lot of money for groups fighting hunger in Utah.
This year, those groups include Utahns Against Hunger, Ogden-Weber Community Action Partnership, Utah Food Bank and 3 Squares, Inc., and a slew of Utah chefs, restaurants, and caterers volunteered their time and skills to feeding a hungry group of Tasters. There was a nice mix of vegetarian fare, and goods for the more carnivorous among us. Some chefs kept it simple--but still delicious--with grilled corn or cold soups, while others delivered some ornate treats sure to stick in the memories of the diners when they think about where to head on their next date night.
I did my best to sample as many of the offerings as possible, but tasting dozens of dishes is impossible, even with four hours to play with. And that's before we even start talking about the Utah Baker's Dozen, the annual favorite gathering an amazing array of desserts as part of the Taste of the Wasatch menu.
With the limitations of one man's stomach in mind, here are my highlights from Taste of the Wasatch 2014:
Most Unexpected Favorite: Del Mar al Lago's Anticuchos. I'm enjoyed Del Mar al Lago's various sebiche dishes many times, and I'm not the kind of guy who goes looking to grub on some organ meat, like, ever. That made this traditional Peruvian skewered and grilled beef heart dish all the more surprising. It was delicious, with some wonderful flavor from both the meat and the spices. I went back for seconds.
Most Expected Favorite: Tie between Tin Angel Cafe's Pato Tacos and Red Iguana's Ahi Tuna Tostadita. Both the Tin Angel and Red Iguana make amazing stuff that I get into regularly. Even so, their dishes Sunday stood out from the pack. Tin Angels tacos put together duck confit, hummus, slaw, feta and pickled onion in a corn tortilla fried in duck fat. Yes, it tasted as good as all that sounds--unbelievable. Likewise, Red Iguana's dish worked in a wide array of ingredients, including chile-lime crusted yellowfin tuna, a cilantro-pepita emulsion, cabbage, pico de gallo and an avocado puree.
Best Way with a Mango: Francks' Foie Gras Panno Cotta with Spicy Mango Soup. Many participants make creative shot glasses of soups and such, and this was my favorite on Sunday. The foie gras gave the sweet dish a little crunch, and the spicy mango was impressive. I seem to bump into mango a lot lately, but this is one mango dish I could see ordering, and often.
Best Date of the Day: Meditrina's Chorizo & Chevre-stuffed Dates with Red Wine Demiglace. Let's just say the fellow serving for Meditrina recognized me within the first couple hours of the event thanks to my repeated stops at his booth.
Best Way to Beet It: Chaia Cucina Catering's Chilled Roasted Red Beet Bisque with Mind Oil & Feta. Cool, refreshing, remarkably tasty and purple. That goes a lot way for this Prince fan.
Best Summer Soup: The Blue Boar Inn's Corn & Crab Chilled Soup. Well-balanced between the flavors, and light. I could eat a lot more than a shot glass-full next time I'm near The Blue Boar.
Favorite Creative Presentation: Riverhorse on Main's Fresh Watermelon with Jalapeno Vinaigrette, Crumbled Feta and Local Honey. A blast from a syringe planted in each piece of watermelon unleashed the vinaigrette, and the honey was subtle and delicious.
Best Making Shrimp Taste Large: Pallet Bistro's Shrimp Pate with Red Beet Cocktail Sauce and Pressed Citrus Salad. This little dish was perfect for the hot part of the afternoon. The shrimp pate was the first I've ever had, and the beets and citrus flavors proved perfect complements.
Best Chance of Turning Me Into a Vegetarian: Sage's Asian-style Lettuce Wraps with Tempeh and Locally Grown Vegetables. Easy to eat, hearty, and a nice spicy sauce turned the tempeh and veggies into one of the dishes I tried all day.
Best Messin' with the Salmon: The Aerie's Honey & Rosemary Cured Gravlax with Preserved Lemon Cream Cheese and Brioche Toast Point. Looking at this dish, it seemed like a simple bit of smoked salmon on min-toast. But the blend of flavors was incredible, and I don't even like cream cheese.
Best Yes, I Still Tried Some Dessert: Pago/Finca's Utah Peaches and Cream. Simple, creamy and killer.
Kudos to the organizers of the event, always one of the best of the year, and all the restaurants, chefs and groups involved with Taste of the Wasatch. It's a mid-summer treasure worth putting on your schedule every year.