800 degrees… literally

Processed with VSCOcam with s3 preset

This past weekend I found myself in Vegas (which was real hot) for a couple hours. Before we made our way back to Ely we grabbed lunch at 800 degrees Pizzeria. I loved everything about it. You can create your own pizza or choose one of their specialty pizzas. If you choose to create your own, you get to choose everything…even the kind of crust you want.

Processed with VSCOcam with s3 preset

We chose the tropicale, which had roasted pineapple and rosemary ham. We also ordered a caesar salad. I loved the freshness of the food. I was planning on just eating the salad and having half a slice of the pizza for my lunch. But that half a piece turned into a tad bit more because it was so good! The crust had a great crispiness to it. I love a good crust! My only criticism was the extremely loud music and there seemed to be some serious confusion among the employees, which made ordering a little hectic.

Processed with VSCOcam with s3 preset

 

Life changing

I found myself in Vegas a couple weeks ago for a state basketball game. After the game, my friend Connie and I wanted to get dinner somewhere we hadn’t been before. We decided on Gordon Ramsey’s restaurant called Steak. I cannot explain what happened that night, but I’m going to try.

Because we wanted one of everything on the menu, we decided to split a few dishes so we could try more. We started with a caesar salad. Of course I loved the uniquely shaped plate. I also loved the unique plating of the salad…the fact that the lettuce leaves were whole and they used shaved parm. And then there was the quail egg. I was hesitant to eat it, because I knew it was a quail egg. But I wanted to share this entire experience with my students so I wanted to try everything, and that meant the quail egg. I was not disappointed. It’s called a scotch egg, they are a common picnic food in the UK. There was sausage around the egg and the outside was breaded.

IMG_1615

Next came the bread plate. Let’s talk brioche (the two rolls in the middle). When the waitress brought this plate out she told us that the brioche had a mushroom filling. I died a little inside, I hate mushrooms…a lot. But, because I was going to share this experience with my students I tried it. Turns out the mushrooms didn’t matter. Brioche is a light and flaky bread, similar to a croissant. Delicious!

IMG_1617

One of our sides was asparagus. We all know my thoughts on asparagus and this did not disappoint. Funny story… on our ride to Vegas for some reason we were talking about vegetables. Connie likes hers very well cooked and mushy. My vegetables need to be tender, yet crispy. Lucky for me, that’s exactly how these were cooked. Not to mention, they were cooked in butter.

IMG_1619

Another side we tried was the macaroni and cheese. This was the most disappointing dish for me of the night. Strike one: peas. Really, I think it was just different than what I was expecting. In the realm of macaroni and cheese it was very light compared to any others I’ve tried. I did, however appreciate the bread crumbs on top that gave the dish some texture.

IMG_1620

And the star of the show. Beef wellington. We asked them to split this in half so this is not what the portion normally looks like. First off, the presentation is beautiful. What I loved most about this dish was how well the flavors complemented each other. Everything worked so well together and nothing was overpowering. Each bite was better than the last. I’ve totally been inspired to learn how to make this.

IMG_1618

Sticky toffee pudding with brown butter ice cream. You had me at brown butter. When the waiter brought this out he explained that this was the chef’s take on the classic bread and butter. He poured the sauce over the cake and told us it was best to eat the ice cream with the cake. We all know my feelings about butter, but brown butter ice cream was a revelation. Simply amazing.

IMG_1621

The things my dreams are made of.

IMG_1622

With the tip included we paid $150.00. I regret nothing! This was a great experience and if you get the chance to eat here, don’t pass it up.

IMG_1624

 

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.

IMG_1399

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.

IMG_1401                     IMG_1402

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.

IMG_1321

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.

IMG_1327

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.

IMG_1328

 

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!

IMG_1333

The Soup Kitchen: Not for the Homeless (exclusively)

IMG_1323

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.

IMG_1325                              IMG_1326

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.