Saturday, December 14, 2019

Brunch at The Copper Onion in Salt Lake City

One of my friends got proposed to in The Copper Onion. (She said yes!) But that's not why I've wanted to go there. It's been on my list as a foodie's destination for new American fare for probably five years. I've wanted to go there on my past few trips to Salt Lake City but never had the chance. I tried to make it hear from Idaho when I saw the eclipse two years ago. But the post-eclipse traffic was so bad that I didn't get here on time.

The Copper Onion.
However, I'm in Salt Lake City today. But, later tonight, I will be standing by for the Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square's Christmas concert.  And what that meant was foregoing normal dinner in favor of probably eating at some food court so I could stand in line longer. So, brunch it was.

The open kitchen at The Copper Onion.
You could choose between a normal seat and a seat at the so-called "chef's table". Some chef's tables have a specific menu like a tasting menu. This was simply bar seats the same way you would sit at a sushi bar or a lunch counter at a diner. I love these seats because you get to watch the food pornography parade as the handover from kitchen to wait staff takes place.

Eggs Benedict fresh from the kitchen.  (Someone else's order.)
The Copper Onion doesn't publish a brunch menu, so I went in blind, but expecting a mixture of breakfast and lunch stuff.  However, it being 3:30 pm in my home time zone, I was really in the mood for pm food. Alas, it was mostly breakfast stuff:
Biscuits and Gravy
Eggs Benedict
Turkish Eggs
Huevos Rancheros
American Breakfast
Mushroom Scramble
Smoked Chicken Posole
Snake River Farms Steak & Eggs
Pasta Carbonara
Cuban Sandwich
The Copper Onion Burger
None of the lunch stuff interested me. Well, I love me some bibimbap, but that's not going to be my first dish at an American restaurant. I ordered some patatas bravas (yes, totally inconsistent of me to order a Spanish dish when I just said I'm not having a Korean one) and requested a recommendation from the waiter. Pasta carbonara, he said. I didn't want a plate of carbs to go with my plate of carbs. So migas it was. And throw in a bourbon sidecar. Because bourbon! And sidecar!

The bourbon sidecar.  Basil Hayden, Maker's Mark (Don't know why there are two bourbons in this drink, but I ain't complainin'), Gran Gala (this is where the sidecar part comes in), lemon, basil, mint.
Damn, that bourbon sidecar was good. In fact, it was the best thing I had there. It also knocked me the hell out. Thankfully, I had no heavy machinery to operate that day.

Patatas bravas.
The first few patatas bravas were good, but one way I judge food is whether or not I think I could eat the whole dish. Yes, I was by myself, but even still, a dish should not be so intensely flavored that a person would not want to devour the whole thing. You can see the richness of this dish in the photo to the left. The spice powder (which I'm guessing was salt, pepper, paprika, and maybe garlic powder) was too much. Aioli smothering every bite? Tasty, but too rich. And not at all what I've had in Spain, though perhaps they were not supposed to be. Either way, I wouldn't order them again.

The migas was a surprise to see on the menu.  In the US, migas is a southwestern thing.  (It's a different dish in Spain and Portugal.)  In fact, the first time I had it was in Tucson.  I was surprised to find it in the middle of Utah's mountains.  Was it good?  It was good, but it didn't thrill me.  I didn't eat the whole thing, but not because it was too intense.  The dish simply didn't come together for me.  I haven't had enough migas in my life to know if it's the dish or the recipe that I don't care for.

This meal may sound disappointing.  And surely, it was not what I was hoping for.  But I'd like to come back again some day for dinner to see what this restaurant is really about.  There were two regulars to my left at the counter chatting up the line cook on a first-name basis.  In spite of the food, this place had the feel of a joint I would be a regular at if I lived here.  In the meantime, it may have to be another year until I get my next shot.  'Til next time.

Monday, September 2, 2019

Christmas in September

Years ago, I remember watching "Anthony Bourdain:  Parts Unknown" and hearing him say that Christmas in the Philippines starts in September.  I've been to the Philippines before and thought that that was utter bull poop.
But, today I was in the Philippines on September 1 at a Chinese restaurant, and the radio station at the restaurant was playing Silent Night.  Whoa.

Friday, March 8, 2019

My first Impossible Burger (from a Top Chef who was eliminated making burgers!)

The realization of this day has taken far too long to arrive.  I have read far too many articles and blogs and seen far too many videos.  You'd think I were an industry insider trying to gauge public perception of it.  But nope, I'm just an enthusiast.  And I don't even eat that many burgers.

Despite the acclaim, an amazing number of people don't know what the Impossible Burger is.  There are tons of articles out there telling you what it is (I should know, I've probably read half of them).  But in 60 seconds or fewer, the Impossible Burger is a vegan burger patty designed from the ground up to taste like a hamburger.  While obviously not the first entrant into the veggie burger market, the Impossible Burger is part of a small group of new patties designed from the ground up to be everything a hamburger is without being a hamburger.  Impossible Foods' scientists examined the burger in order to understand what makes a hamburger a hamburger.  (I've now used the word "hamburger" five, er, six times in the last few sentences.  Sorry not sorry.)  Taste is obviously one thing, but there's more to it than that:  There's the way it cooks up, the way you can sear it and have a great crust on the outside and a tender reddish inside.  Speaking of "reddish", there's color.  There's smell.  Ultimately, they identified several proteins, the most predominant of which is called "heme" (think "hemoglobin").  Heme can be derived from plants.  Get the right ingredients in the right proportions, assemble them, add some magical pixie dust, and you have the Impossible Burger!

The menu at Fabio's Osteria.
Problem is, I don't eat a lot of burgers in restaurants.  Not that they're not delicious; more that, if I wanted a burger, I'll make it at home.  I go to restaurants to eat things that I can't eat at home or are such a pain in the @$$ to make at home that I'll happily pay someone else to do it (baked goods, eggs benedict, fried chicken, and pizza come to mind).

But I can't make an Impossible Burger.  So when I was in LAX airport yesterday, I hunted around for one.  Fabio Viviani is a former Top Chef contestant, and how hilarious is it that I came to his 3-year-old restaurant for a burger, considering that he was eliminated from the contest when his burger failed to make the cut.  On the show, he confessed that he couldn't even pronounce "boo-ger".

A big nothing-burger

The Impossible Burger.  I was healthy and skipped the fries.
Forgive the headline:  The burger was fine.  But I'll cut to the chase:  The restaurant is ridiculously overpriced for what you get.

It looks like a burger and quacks like a burger.
Fabio's description of the Impossible Burger:  Peppers, balsamic onions, sun-dried tomato and arugula.  Actually very befitting an Italian chef.  I was a little concerned that I wouldn't be able to taste the burger, and I was right.  The burger was so full of rich ingredients that it was also "impossible" to make a full judgment.  It was also so rich, it was nearly "impossible" to eat.  I didn't finish it.  Normally, I feel badly about such things, as I do not want an animal to die and end up in the trash.  Fortunately, no animals got killed, here.  Just a bunch of arugula.  And those arugula leaves had it coming, anyway.

The burger lives up to the hype of being "impossible" to tell it from a regular burger.  Well, actually, I detected an aftertaste, but I'd never know if that was the burger without either ordering a completely plain version of it, or ordering the exact same burger made from felled bovine.  But ultimately, if somebody handed the burger to me and didn't tell me anything, I wouldn't have noticed that I was eating vegan.

At the end of the day, I'll eat an Impossible Burger again.  But as for Fabio's Osteria....

What bothered me about this place was the brazen pricing.  I've eaten my way through probably 30 Michelin stars in my life.  I'm willing to shell out good dough for some good eats.  But in this place, a burger, cocktail, and an order of meatballs does not a $70 meal make.  Especially not when the waiter forgets part of your order and nearly makes you late for your flight.

Sorry, Fabio.  Please pack your knives and go.