Fancy Grille

Boulder City, Nevada has always been a pretty well kept and nice little town but as of recently the main street scene has gone through a re-awakening, at least food wise. There are a good handful of hip-looking cafe/greasy spoon type places lining the main drag. So often in the genre of forced kitsch the restaurant is heavier on tchotchkes then it is on the food.

The Little City Grille, thankfully, is not one of those. I have patronized this place prior to this visit and their burgers were very good. The buns are substantial, but not overbearing. The cheese is real and the bacon perfectly cooked. The grill perhaps lacks a few decades of seasoning, but if they stay open that will be fixed eventually. This time we skipped the burger menu for some of their other offerings. I had their french dip and Megan had the crispy chicken wrap with the house dressing.

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A small but appropriate tangent; if you want a burger (and honestly who doesn’t), just order a burger. You will be thoroughly unsatisfied with anything you get instead of a burger. Long story short, nothing will satisfy a craving for a burger but a burger,…… period. Friends don’t let friends not order burgers. Back to the matter at hand.

I had their crinkle fries and Megan had their sweet potato fries. The crinkle fries were not spectacular. They were a little mushy which I don’t appreciate in a fried food. However, the sweet potato fries were fantastic and done to perfection. The had a nice crispy outside and soft, but not overcooked, inside. They go a little light on the salt for either option, but that is easily rectifiable at your table.

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One of the great things about this restaurant is they seem to pay attention to the ingredients they use. Sorry, buns aren’t just buns, tortillas aren’t just tortillas, and limp iceberg lettuce just won’t do. At the Little City Grille the tortilla on Megan’s wrap was not just one of Don Juillo’s cold and bagged tortillas from the grocery store shelf, it was good! My french dip had delicious meat and even the au jus didn’t taste like it was just the contents of some package dumped in hot water just prior to arriving at my table. If the meat was cold cuts put under a warming lamp they weren’t identifiable as such. Attention to details like these are what take the standard American menu from average to enjoyable. The Little City Grille is definitely a repeat stop for us.

Butter. Need I Say More?

And who really knows butter better than the French.

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In downtown Salt Lake City there is a small French bakery/ cafe called Les Madeleines. On the outset Les Madeleines has all the hallmarks of a French bakery located in the United States: it’s in a re-gentrified downtown neighborhood, it has hip and minimalist styling, their items come in expensive looking and clever boxes, and the menu prices make gas pump prices look reasonable.

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Unlike most of these types of establishments though the food is actually delicious. That being the case we rarely seem to get out of this place without having spent over $100. We’re hooked. If you’re going and want to have the quintessential Les Madeleines experience order yourself a Kouing Aman. Don’t worry about how you pronounce it. Unlike an actual cafe in France these attendants are all very nice and speak English like natives of the good ol’ US of A. You know what you’ve just ordered is good because unless you’ve per-ordered, although nice they may be, the attendants will only sell you up to four of these delectable pastries in one day.

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Do not order a Kouing Aman to-go and then leave the premisses because once you’ve discovered this buttery bit of heaven with your taste buds you’ll want at least one more so stay close by. With a crunchy and caramelized outside and rich and soft inside these pastries defy description. Les Madeleines offers a nice breakfast and lunch menu and honestly everything I’ve ordered has been wonderful. Meal portions are small but that just leaves more room for dessert. We are particularly fond of the carrot cake cookie sandwiches and also their bread pudding. Take your paycheck and enjoy!

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The Soup Kitchen: Not for the Homeless (exclusively)

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Some restaurants you go to wearing a tux. Some restaurants you go to with a dollar in change in your pocket to order off the dollar menu while wearing your best sweat pants. This, is neither of those types of restaurant. This establishment is one of those work-a-day, comfort food, “we would have cleaned the floor, but we were too busy making the delicious soup you’re enjoying” kind of place. I’ve been coming to The Soup Kitchen for several years and it’s always been consistently enjoyable. They offer a full menu of sandwiches and burgers (which I’ve never had), but the shining star is their soup…..and grilled cheese sandwiches.

Ordering soup at most restaurants that a person will normally find themselves at will quickly reveal that the soup is more of an afterthought on the menu or a convenient way for the restaurant to dispose of leftover ingredients. If you love a good soup (and honestly who doesn’t) this is usually a disappointing realization. While the soups at the The Soup Kitchen don’t fall into the “exotic” or “out of this world” category, they are delicious and comfortable with all the ingredients you’d expect and all done to perfection. The flavors are enjoyable, the soup is the right temperature and you’d be hard-pressed to find a watery anything dumped in a warming pot from a can.

I enjoyed the always good tomato soup which has a creamy consistency and is rich and flavorful, not watery and salty like a canned tomato soup. In fact, if you’ve never had anything but canned tomato soup do yourself a favor, join the upper echelons of the human race and try some scratch made tomato soup. It may change your life. Megan had the cheese and broccoli soup which she found delicious with judiciously cooked vegetables that allowed for soup with texture and the right pairing of flavors which you don’t often get in a cheese and broccoli soup. Most often you’re left with something that resembles a bowl of nacho cheese sauce with green bits of decimated broccoli leftovers. Not so at The Soup Kitchen.

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The atmosphere at the restaurant is plain with highly trafficked surfaces and furnishings, minimal decoration, and some single speaker radio playing a local station coming from somewhere in the kitchen. Megan will take issue with me on this point, but I feel this speaks to the owner’s commitment to their top priority which is making good food. Instead of spending time creating a gimmicky brand which many small eateries do instead of spending any time worrying about how their food tastes.

The bread sticks they serve here also deserve a mention. They offer a variety of three types of bread sticks with your meal; garlic, plain, and cheese. I’ve personally never had warm bread sticks here. They are usually pretty cold and I’ve always assumed this was on purpose (in fact, I still don’t know that it’s not). I have always counted this as point of genius to the proprietors. When the soup is served, it is slightly too hot to ingest. I enjoy my bread sticks by dipping them in my soup. The cold bread sticks are warmed by the hot soup and the hot soup is slightly cooled by the cold bread sticks. By the time I’m done with my bread sticks the soup is usually the perfect temperature.

The Soup Kitchen is located in the Sugar House neighborhood of Salt Lake City.

Leaven for the Rest of Us

Who doesn’t love homemade bread? And can we talk about that smell?!? Personally, I can’t get enough of it. If homemade bread intimidates you, this is a great recipe to try. Good bread just takes a little bit of practice.

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Start with your ingredients.

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Heat 2 cups of water and dissolve a small amount of your sugar in the warm water. Stir in yeast and let sit. The temperature of the water needs to be between 95 – 115 degrees F. Once you make bread a few times, you’ll get an idea of what the temperature should feel like. When I teach my kids about dough, I have them feel water that is too cold, too hot, and then the right temperature. If your water is too hot, it will kill the yeast. If your water is too cold, it won’t activate the yeast. Yeast is what makes the bread rise, so you want to be sure the water is the right temperature. Adding a little sugar just speeds things up.

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After about 10 minutes, you should see a significant change in the yeast. If nothing has happened, you will need to start the yeast over. It should look like this.

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Melt the butter and add butter, honey, 2 1/2 cups of water, salt, remaining sugar. Mix to combine.

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Add yeast to mixing bowl and mix to combine.

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Begin adding flour. I used white flour this time. This is what the dough should look like after 4 cups have been added.

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Keep adding flour, a few cups at a time. This is after 8 cups of flour.

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I ended up adding about 11 cups total. Knowing when the dough is done will come with time and practice. It should be slightly sticky to the touch.

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Knead the dough for 8 minutes in the mixer.

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The dough should have a nice shine to it. Isn’t it beautiful?

Divide dough into 4 equal parts. I use a kitchen scale for this since I’m terrible at eyeballing.

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Spray 4 bread pans with pan spray.

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Shape dough into loaves and place in the pans.

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Place in warm oven and let rise for 30 minutes and doubled in size.

Remove bread and heat oven to 400. Place bread back in oven and cook for 5 minutes. Reduce the heat to 325 and bake for another 25 minutes, until golden brown on top.

Remove bread from oven and pans. Place on a cooling rack. While bread is still warm, butter the tops of the loaves.

Enjoy!

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I’m blaming it on my holiday sickness. I forgot to let this bread rise. Apparently it’s my first day. I just made sure the internal temperature was around 200. This proves what a great recipe this is. Of course bread should rise, but know that the bread will still turn out.

Bread
Recipe type: Bread
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 4 loaves
 
Great for beginner bread bakers.
Ingredients
  • 4½ cups warm water
  • 4 TBSP Butter
  • 6 TBSP Sugar
  • ¼ c Honey
  • 1 TBSP Salt
  • 2 Heaping TBSP Yeast
  • 2 TBSP Dough Enhancer
  • 10-12 cups of flour (white/wheat/mixture)
Instructions
  1. Warm 2 cups of water.
  2. Dissolve 1 TBSP of your pre measured sugar in the water.
  3. Add yeast, stir, and set aside.
  4. Add remaining water, sugar, salt, honey, and melted butter into the mixer bowl.
  5. Mix to combine.
  6. Add yeast mixture and combine.
  7. Begin adding flour, 2 cups at a time, stopping occasionally to scape down the sides of the bowl.
  8. Continue to add flour until dough starts to clean the sides of the bowl.
  9. Turn mixer on high and knead for 8 minutes.
  10. Turn dough out onto an oiled surface and form into 4 loaves and place each loaf into a well-greased bread pan.
  11. Place pans in a slightly warm oven to proof for about 30 minutes, until doubled in size.
  12. Take bread out of the oven and preheat to 400.
  13. Place bread into oven and bake for 5 minutes, then reduce the heat to 325 until bread is done. (about 30 minutes)
  14. Remove from oven, remove bread from pans and place on cooling rack.
  15. While loaves are still warm, butter tops and allow bread to cool completely before storing.

Favorites

The secretaries at the high school are always dropping (not so subtle) hints for cookies and treats. They certainly do a lot for me and my program, so whenever I can, I oblige. For Christmas I made the office staff their favorite cookies. Coconut macaroons was first up on my list.

I love that this recipe is so simple and delicious! Drizzle chocolate to add some class.

Macaroons

Coconut Macaroons
Recipe type: Cookies
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: About 20 cookies
 
Ingredients
  • 14 ounces sweetened shredded coconut
  • 14 ounces sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 egg whites, at room temperature
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¼ cup chocolate chips (optional)
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.
  2. Combine the coconut, condensed milk, and vanilla in a large bowl. Whip the egg whites and salt on high speed in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment until they make medium-firm peaks.
  3. Carefully fold the egg whites into the coconut mixture.
  4. Drop 1 TBSP of batter onto sheet pans lined with parchment paper.
  5. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until golden brown.
  6. While cookies are baking, melt chocolate in a double boiler.
  7. Drizzle melted chocolate over cookies using a piping bag or spoon.
  8. Cool and serve.