Last Friday night, QSaltlake presented its annual Fabby Awards at Mountain Land Design in Salt Lake City. For the second year in a row, restaurants and other food companies, both old and new, were invited to show off their offerings in one of the beautifully appointed kitchens at the center. I truly want to thank Brad Di Iorio for bringing all of this together and the many Utah wine brokers who donated wine for the event.
Attendees at the Fabby Awards were asked to vote for their favorite food-and-wine pairings, and well, I was able to judge myself too. Here’s the low-down on how things went:
As you came in the door at Mountain Land Design, Sage’s Café was first up and chef Ian Brandt, like last year, had come up with the most creative and inspired canapés. First he simmered bite-size pieces of Portobello mushrooms in a reduction of Utah Petit Sirah wine and juniper berries. The tasty mushroom morsel was then wrapped in a small rice crepe, topped with garden fresh, baby arugula and tulip ribbons and garnished with still another reduction of blackberries. Beautiful and tasty and totally new! The wine, ’07 cabernet, was provided by Parallel Wines, whose owners live in Utah.
Frida Bistro was up next with delicious and succulent carnitas, which are made in a large copper kettle. The pork was served with two spicy sauces, one with an avocado base and one with a chili base and freshly made corn tortillas. Frida also brought mounds of their tiny gorditas, which are made with two chili-flavored biscuits stuffed with requeson cheese. These were delightful and they came with toasted, sweetened pumpkin seeds served on the side. Tracy, from Vine Lore wines was on hand with Tangent Albarino, a crisp and citrus California white wine which I loved. (I think the carnitas were powerful enough to go with a red wine but evidently there was some kind of mix up, but hey, the white worked for me!)
Next to Frida, we had cookie maker, RubySnap, formally known as My Dough Girl, who had brought trays of beautifully made lemon chiffon cookies, about the size of a silver dollar. They were puffy and soft and melted in your mouth — topped with a lemon mascarpone. Simple and elegant, these heavenly cakes were paired with a Carpinatura Lemoncello also donated by Vine Lore. (I loved the tart and bitter lemoncello, juxtaposed next to the fluffy, sweet cookie, awesome!)
Across from Frida, Christopher’s Prime Steakhouse at the downtown location had set up a steak-a-tini bar. Cleverly served in a martini glass, two servers from Christopher’s scooped up mashed potatoes, slices of medium-rare beef tenderloin, a spear of roasted asparagus all topped with a savory demi-glaze laced with caramelized onions. The flavors, quality of the meat, and the presentation were pretty impressive. Jeff Carter, of Southern Wine and Spirits was on-hand to serve up Navarro Correas Malbec from Argentina. Jeff donated a whole case of the Malbec so each person was able to enjoy a nice pouring of this beautiful little wine. In my view this was the best food-and-wine combo of the night.
Entering the larger, more open area at Mountain Land Design, Mini’s Cupcakes had set up with amazing lollypop creations. These were cookies, soaked in a Rose Vinho Verde, then formed into balls the size of a tootsie pop and then dipped in a pink-tinted white chocolate. They were then sprinkled with pink sugar crystals. The rose, slightly sparkling Vinho Verde comes from Portugal, Quinta de Gomariz Espadeiro, provided by Peter Grisley Wines. These little desserts on a stick were amazing to me; at first crunchy, then melting, then creamy and rosy all at the same time. The wine is not a dessert wine but did have enough sweetness to pair with the white chocolate. Not all of the pops were uniform, some larger and some smaller and irregular, but the flavor and texture was to die for.
Tucked in a French-inspired kitchen, in the back right of the show room, Omar from Rawtopia Organic Live Food was dishing up his non-dairy ice cream. Made from coconut milk, ground cashews and other all natural ingredients, this frozen dessert was another look into an amazing food scene in Salt Lake City. Omar’s eyes dance as he explains his theories on how foods made from living, organic plants can bring harmony and peace to the mind, body, and to the world. The ice cream, with only a hint of sweetness from honey was elegant, smooth and delicious. (I regret that we didn’t find a vegan dessert wine to pair with Omar’s presentation.)
Finally, in the back Italian-Modern kitchen—all done in tones of ivory and white, Caffe Molise was serving tiny, potato pancakes topped with aioli and house-smoked salmon. Francis Fecteau had provided Adami Prosecco Bosco di Gica to pair with these appetizers. The pancakes were nicely flavored with shallot and chive, and the pungent aioli and salmon made them beautiful to look at. The Adami Prosecco is one of my favorites with a slight sweetness in the finish and beautiful fruity bubbles—it was a treat to have such a quality sparkling wine at our event. Thanks to Francis who donated a whole case of this wine so everyone could truly enjoy Prosecco. (The pairing with the food was also quite good.)
All the guests attending the Fabby Awards were given red and white candies which, in turn, were deposited in a jar at each station. The reds were worth 5 points and the whites were worth 1 point. I have to say that in counting the candies I kind of thought the voting to be a bit uneven. For example, at the first stations there were almost no candies in the jars and at the end, there were many in the jars. So, that being said, this is how I’m going to state the results. By far, the jar with the most red candies was Mini’s Cupcakes, the rose-wine soaked lolli-pop cupcakes. So, if we go by the candies—Mini’s was the favorite by the voting guests.
The next two runners-up were the cookie station, RubySnap with the excellent Lemon Chiffon cookies and Lemoncello and then, Caffe Molise with the potato latkes and the Prosecco.
For me, I’m going to give my Judge’s choice award to Christopher’s for the best food-and-wine pairing and for the highest quality of ingredients and presentation. And, to Chef Ian from Sage’s Café, I have to give the award for being the most creative, unique and on the cutting edge.
My friend, artist Trevor Southey, who attended, commented on how great the food scene is in Utah and I agree. Just at our little event there was an explosion of variety, diversity and excellence. Thanks to everyone who participated.
(1) Mini’s Cupcakes Voter’s Choice
(2) RubySnap Cookies
(3) Caffe Molisé
(1) Christopher’s Prime Steakhouse
(2) Sage’s Café
HONORABLE MENTION: Frida Bistro and Rawtopia