A wonderful thing about being a culinary writer is that from time to time you get invited to a truly wonderful and fun event. I had such an opportunity last Wednesday night at the new Sea Salt (1725 E. 1300 South). Let me tell you about it.
The owner of Sea Salt, Eric de Bonis, invited some great wine people to Utah and took the opportunity to prepare a full-on, rustic, Italian dinner paired with both Italian wines and California Zinfandels brought in by Will Bucklin of Bucklin Wines. Francis Fecteau, Utah’s hustle-bustle wine broker was on hand too to help out. I knew the minute I was invited that this would be something very special.
Sea Salt, if you haven’t been, is the most beautiful space I’ve seen in a new restaurant in quite some time. The décor is ultra contemporary with a lot of white walls and accents, interspersed with hardwood floors, white benches and Italian, wooden chairs. All the counters open to the kitchen are white marble and there’s tall and open ceilings. I thought I was in Del Mar or on Rodeo Drive in California – gorgeous.
While waiting to be seated, we were served small flutes of Adami Prosecco, a fruity sparkling wine from Italy. The state carries three different Adamis so you need to go to your favorite wine store and check them out. I loved the bubbly which had just a touch of sweetness in the finish.
When we sat down, the first course appeared: lightly wilted, long, radicchio leaves topped with mild white anchovy and a lemon and chive vinaigrette. And then came a wood-fire pizza topped with grilled winter squash. We drank the Prosecco throughout.
The next two courses were just fantastic: cheesy risotto croquettes and then a platter of seafood and pasta with mussels, clams and crab. The pasta was mixed in with the seafood and all the juices plus white wine, garlic and tomatoes. The broth was fragrant and delicious, served up on a huge, rustic platter. I loved it. These plates were served with Alois Lageder Pinot Grigio.
Pork shoulder came next. Nicely roasted with herbs and a lot of black peppercorns. The flavor was delicious and then Eric appeared from the kitchen with a large pot, scooping up braised fennel, browned then simmered in stock. It was a creamy and savory addition to the pork.
Two very nice side dishes were served with the pork: a plate of simple but delicious white cannellini beans, and a dish of zucchini in tomato sauce topped with feta cheese and herbs. Both were perfectly prepared and added so much to the savory pork. The pork entrée was paired with two red wines, an Italian Carmenere and a Bucklin Juvenile Zinfandel called Bambino. I liked the dry, yet fruity Carmenere. But the most fun wine of the night was the Bambino, which after a few minutes in the glass opened up into a floral beauty, full of violets and lavender.
The last course, also on a large platter, was roasted duckling in a sauce which I would call Caciatori with large pasta noodles. The duck was succulent and I wish I hadn’t been so full by the time it came because I could only eat a bite. This dish was made in a yummy sauce with tomatoes, mushrooms, parsley and topped with excellent cheeses. These dishes were accompanied by a Tenuta Garbi Ripassa Valpolicella and a Bucklin Old Hill Zinfandel. All the wines were nicely chosen and truly a treat for me because it was the first time I had tried many of them.
At the end, we were served a tiny wedge of homemade torte, a rich cake baked over pears and topped with whipped cream laced with orange blossom water. A very nice ending to the night.
To be fair, I have to say that I wasn’t crazy about the pizza and had it been me, I’d have made the duck in a different treatment, although it was delicious. I thought it was too much like the seafood dish and also, my least favorite wine of the night was the Pinot Grigio which I thought was too flavorless to hold up to all the hearty flavors in the food.
The risotto balls were to die for and the pork was my favorite. All the dishes, in fact the entire evening, was like being in Italy in someone’s home. Home-cooking all the way and good home cooking to boot!
I know Sea Salt is still new and working out some kinks, but my experiences there have been fun and I love the atmosphere. I rate my evening at Sea Salt 91 points.