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A Foodie Tour of Salt Lake City {Part 1 of 2}

A Foodie Tour of Salt Lake City {Part 1 of 2}

One of the great things about the Altitude Design Summit, which I attended recently in Salt Lake City, was that it featured activities suited for a wide range of interests, including food. Yay for me! Of course, I signed on to anything remotely food-related in an effort to fulfill the foodie as much as the designer side of me while attending the conference.

On the last day of Alt, a Foodie Tour was going to be led by food blogger Lindsey Johnson (of Café Johnsonia). I was very eager to discover what gourmandises Salt Lake City had to offer because, as the tour’s description put it, one wouldn’t necessarily picture SLC as a foodie paradise. Lindsey was also hosting a dinner on the night immediately before the conference started. Together with Jennifer Hoiyin (of Delightful Delicacies), they took on the formidable challenge of cooking dinner for 16 strangers at SLC’s Viking Cooking School. They prepared a delightful five-course vegetarian meal made almost solely with local ingredients. Their dishes highlighted delicious handcrafted products such as bread, cheese and honey, as well as locally grown and harvested produce and eggs. The meal was a great success, and it was an excellent way to convince me, right from the outset, that SLC did indeed have a delicious food culture worth discovering.

The Viking Cooking School is an impressive space to have dinner in, if only to drool over the gorgeous appliances!

The Viking Cooking School is an impressive space to have dinner in, if only to drool over the gorgeous appliances! (Salt Lake City)

When we arrived, the cooks were busy in a kitchen that looked a little bit messy, as any kitchen that is used to prepare something delicious should. Here, Lindsey’s chatting with guest, Susan.

When we arrived, the cooks were busy in a kitchen that looked a little bit messy, as any kitchen that is used to prepare something delicious should. (At the Viking Cooking School, Salt Lake City)

Guests (MerrileeJeanine, Hillary & Melanie) mingling before the meal starts.

Guests (Merrilee, Danyelle, Hillary & Melanie) mingling before the meal starts. (At the Viking Cooking School, Salt Lake City)

The second half of the cooking duo, Jennifer, with their generous and friendly helper throughout the night, Becky.

The second half of the cooking duo, Jennifer, with their generous and friendly helper throughout the night, Becky. (At the Viking Cooking School, Salt Lake City)

The tables were beautifully set, complete with place markers, a menu, and a list of all the local providers that contributed to the dinner.

The tables were beautifully set, complete with place markers, a menu, and a list of all the local providers that contributed to the dinner. (At Café Johnsonia & Delightful Delicacies' Altitude Summit Dinner, Salt Lake City)

Loved the fragrant rosemary branch that added a pop of color to each place setting {an easy idea to do at home!}. To the right, in the background, Danyelle and Jeanine.

Loved the fragrant rosemary branch that added a pop of color to each place setting {an easy idea to do at home!}. (At Café Johnsonia & Delightful Delicacies' Altitude Summit Dinner, Salt Lake City)

Just some of the colorful dishes we enjoyed (let me tell you, we didn’t leave hungry!).
Clockwise:

  • Compound butters (garlic and chive, raspberry, tamarack honey) and a local hard cheese
  • Winter root vegetable gratin with arugula pesto
  • Creamed polenta with braised hearty greens, sun dried tomatoes and pinenuts
  • Meyer lemon curd ice cream (in-cre-di-bly creamy and dairy-free, it was made with coconut milk!) with a hazelnut shortbread cookie

Just some of the colorful dishes we enjoyed (let me tell you, we didn’t leave hungry!). (At Café Johnsonia & Delightful Delicacies' Altitude Summit Dinner, Salt Lake City)

The ladies behind our welcoming dinner in Salt Lake City: Becky, Lindsey and Jennifer.

The ladies behind our welcoming dinner in Salt Lake City: Becky, Lindsey and Jennifer.

After that wonderful start, I couldn’t wait for the Foodie Tour. The fact that the following conference days were so full that I didn’t even set foot outside of the hotel made me really itch to go out and discover the gourmet side of SLC. Right before lunch on Saturday, I joined Lindsey and the rest of the group for a three-hour walk (which turned out to be a drive because it was raining!) around the city’s most delicious shops.

Les Madeleines Patisserie Café, 216 East 500 South, Salt Lake City, UT - www.les-madeleines.com

We started with dessert at Les Madeleines, where owner Romina Rasmussen, an energetic woman with an infectious enthusiasm, warmly welcomed us inside her busy pastry shop. A table was reserved for our group, so we made ourselves comfortable while Romina took our coffee orders. She then proceeded to present herself and her uncommon career path: she’s a former telecom executive who lived in Hong Kong for a couple of years before choosing to drop her previous career and become a pastry chef. I don’t know what it is with people who choose food as a second career, but they always seem so grateful and passionate about what they do! Romina was no exception, and the way she introduced us to her signature pastry, the kouing-aman, made us drool even before we were each given one to savour.

Romina Rasmussen and Lindsey Johnson, our guide on the Foodie Tour.

Romina Rasmussen and Lindsey Johnson, our guide on the Foodie Tour, Salt Lake City.

The kouing-aman is a rich, buttery pastry from Brittany. The outside of the pastry is crunchy and caramelized, but the inside is tender and flaky like a croissant, with a gooey heart that almost tastes like honey. Romina is famous for being one of the first to make this pastry in North America, and she was featured twice on the Food Network for her specialty, which has been called luxurious and addictive. It is definitely unique, and Romina explained that the process to make kouing-aman takes over nine hours: bread dough is sprinkled with butter and sugar, folded and rolled several times (like croissant dough), then slowly baked so that the butter-sugar mixture melts through the thin dough layers and caramelizes. Talk about a labor-intensive delight!

The kouing-aman is a rich, buttery pastry from Brittany.

In Brittany, the famous pastry, whose hard-to-pronounce name comes from the Breton language, is traditionally made as a large cake that is served in slices. It is also made in individual portions, usually called “Kouignettes” (cute word!), like it is at Les Madeleines. I’m sure the full cake is delicious, but if you ask me, a one-person portion features the perfect balance between crunchy and gooey, and that’s precisely what makes this pastry so addictive.

The outside of the pastry is crunchy and caramelized, but the inside is tender and flaky like a croissant, with a gooey heart that almost tastes like honey.  At Les Madeleines, Salt Lake City.

For more info about kouing-aman, read famous pastry chef and blogger David Lebovitz’s account of his visit to the pastry’s birthplace in Brittany. If you want to try one, know that Les Madeleines ships to all 50 US states – but be advised that ordering may become an expensive habit, because you will undoubtedly become a fan! To find it outside of the US, search for “kouing-aman” + the name of your region on Google (keeping in mind that there are a few different spellings of the word) and you may be lucky enough to find a pastry shop near you that makes them.

All of Les Madeleines’ other pastries and desserts look delicious! They make macarons, cookies, cakes, and all sorts of sweet delights.

All of Les Madeleines’ other pastries and desserts look delicious! They make macarons, cookies, cakes, and all sorts of sweet delights.

Love this: “We will happily assist you when you are finished with your phone call.” Basic courtesy, people!

Love this: “We will happily assist you when you are finished with your phone call.” At Les Madeleines, Salt Lake City.

Les Madeleines’s endearing and generous owner, Romina Rasmussen.

Les Madeleines’s endearing and generous owner, Romina Rasmussen.

I’m already dreaming of going back to enjoy kouing-aman again next year, when I return to Salt Lake City for the next Alt Summit!

After this first visit, Lindsey drove us to one of SLC’s finest food markets, which is worth a post in and of itself. Come back later this week to read more about my delicious visits in Utah!

{Useful Links & Info}

The places I visited in Salt Lake City:

The fine ladies I met at Café Johnsonia & Delightful Delicacies’ welcome dinner:

 

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3 Responses to A Foodie Tour of Salt Lake City {Part 1 of 2}

  1. I registered too late for Alt to get in on the foodie tour – next year for sure!  And your Wednesday night dinner sounds wonderful too.
    I would never have guessed that SLC would be such a foodie paradise. But on second thought, since they seem to have such a huge proportion of designers/creative people, it isn't much of a leap to think that food would be a priorty too!

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