I’m a food critic. No really. I am a food critic. Restaurants actually pay me to come and sample their cuisine and evaluate and provide feedback on the experience. My daughter tells me this is the coolest. job. ever. I just think it is an absolutely wonderful way to spend a Friday or Saturday evening with Jeff. Or a child or a friend.
Because five star restaurants let me taste their food at no cost to me, I am left to partake of some of the most wonderful food known to mankind. Gael Greene once observed that “great food is like great sex. The more you have the more you want.” She is preaching to the choir here from the comfy seat on my lilypad.
I’m getting to know the local restauranteers quite well. I can tell you that the absolute best potato dish is served at the Oyster Bar in Sandy. I can tell you that the reason why it is the best potato dish is because it is an au gratin potato, served with a delicious blend of smoked gouda cheese, and sprinkled with parmesan cheese that has been lightly broiled for a toasted crunchy effect. There is no place along the wasatch front that serves better. I can also tell you that if you want the freshest, most sweet tasting soup you will want to stop by La Vigna’s in American Fork and request their tomato basil soup. Basil, which is my most favorite of all herbs, has historically been used as a token of love. And let me tell you, that basil in La Vigna’s soup deliciously kisses that fresh tomato in the most romantic of embraces. La Vigna’s soup is closely followed by Biaggi’s chicken florentine soup. Biaggi’s is at the Gateway in downtown SLC and the soup is this rich, creamy chicken with bits of fresh spinach and a mellow garlic flavor. If you can’t handle the trip to either of these places, try my original zuppa toscana recipe (below) in your own kitchen. It’s easy, inexpensive, and serves up perfectly with stuffed garlic breadsticks.
If you want a unique salad, try the Harvest Restaurant specialty salad. It is a spinach salad with a light, sweet strawberry balsamic vinaigrette. I don’t normally like a spinach leaf only salad, but the sweetness of the other ingredients take the punch right out of any bitterness normally found in spinach. It’s topped with caramelized walnuts, gargonzola cheese and a funky dried pear slice that I will never really quite understand but there it sits perched on the top nevertheless.
Oh, and don’t forget the New Yorker Grill’s (downtown SLC) specialty cheesecake for dessert. There’s just no getting over it. It’s a classic sour cream cheesecake, served with fresh berries, a dollop of fresh whipped cream, and a light drizzling of caramel and berry sauces. You must load your fork up with a bit of cream, cheesecake, berry and sauce. This, my friends, is the entrance into heaven. You will not even care what the price tag is. I promise.
Froggie’s Zuppa Toscana Soup
1 lb ground hot italian sausage (if you don’t like the heat or are serving younger children, use a milder version)
1½ tsp crushed red peppers
1/2 finely diced white onion
4 bacon pieces
1 tsp minced garlic
8 cups water
4 Tbsp chicken bouillon
3 cups half and half
1 lb sliced russet potatoes, or about 3 large potatoes (sliced in half,and then in 1/4 inch slices )
¼ of a bunch of kale, chopped into bite size pieces
Basil, parsley, salt and pepper to taste
Sautee italian sausage and crushed red pepper in pot. Drain excess fat and set aside in separate bowl. Using the same pan, sautee bacon, onions and garlic until onions are translucent. Add water and bouillon to pan and heat to boil. Add potatoes and cook until soft, about half an hour. Add half and half and cook until thoroughly heated. If you like a thicker consistency (which I always do), thicken with a Tbsp of corn starch dissolved in 1/4 c milk. Stir in the sausage. Add spices to taste. I use a tsp of basil and a tsp of parsley. Add kale just before serving.