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On Cheese, Cured Meats and Chocolate: A Foodie Tour of Salt Lake City {Part 2 of 2}

On Cheese, Cured Meats and Chocolate: A Foodie Tour of Salt Lake City {Part 2 of 2}

The second half of the Foodie Tour led by Lindsey in Salt Lake City was a stop at Tony Caputo’s Market & Deli. Tony Caputo’s store {let’s call it TC from now on} is divided in half: on one side, you have fine cheeses, cured meats, chocolates, olive oils, imported products and freshly baked breads that infuse the store with deliciousness. On the other side, the deli offers some of the best sandwiches the city has to offer (I can attest to that – the Muffaletta {salami, ham, mortadella, cheese and spicy olive salad on a ciabatta roll} I had was finger-licking good!). And in the middle of all that, there’s a small open space where the store hosts local farmers and artisans to allow them to sell their products during the winter months.

Tony Caputo’s Market & Deli, Salt Lake City

A very full “press wall” greets customers at Tony Caputo’s.

A very full "press wall" greets customers at Tony Caputo's, Salt Lake City.

As we arrived at the store, we were greeted by Amanda, who manages the cheese counter – or the cheese cave, I should say! Because – yes – TC has an in-store cheese cave: the store imports or buys whole wheels of cheese and finishes the aging process in-house. The “cave”, which looks like a large fridge, is controlled by a complex humidity- and temperature-control system that replicates the perfect conditions required to age cheese. Amanda explained how each cheese has its own special requirements, and how each wheel must be placed in a specific spot in the cave according to its origins or the aging stage it has reached, determined by the temperature it can withstand or the humidity levels it needs. There is even one spot in the cave that Amanda called the “rehab center”, where problem children… ahem, cheeses are taken to get specific care when they stray out of control.

Tony Caputo's Cheese Cave, Salt Lake City.

A peek inside the cave…

Inside Tony Caputo's Cheese Cave, Salt Lake City.

Watching Amanda talking about her cheeses, you couldn’t help but be transported by her enthusiasm. She follows the aging process each step of the way, morning to night, and seems to know every detail about each of the 200 cheeses the store carries. Asking her which cheese was her favorite was like asking who’s your favorite child. There are the sweet, mellow ones – then there are the sharp, witty ones; all are lovable in their own ways.

We tasted some incredible farmstead cheeses. Some were firm, with a brittle, nutty texture (like Lark’s Meadow Farms’ Dulcinea), others creamy and sweet (like the Quadrello di Bufala). I loved all the cheeses made by Snowy Mountain Sheep Creamery – I’ll admit I’m sold on sheep cheeses, but their range offered great variety and complex flavors. I especially liked their Timpanogos Peak Blue Cheese, which combined a timid blue flavor with an incredible creaminess.

Cheese maker Stig Hansen, from Snowy Mountrain Sheep Creamery, was one of the artisans directly selling his products at Tony Caputo’s.

Cheese maker Stig Hansen, from Snowy Mountrain Sheep Creamery, was one of the artisans directly selling his products at Tony Caputo's.

One of the most surprising ones we tasted was a blue that had a rather gruff appearance, because it is macerated in an airtight container, wrapped in herbs and fragrant plants and leaves. It was spreadably soft and had a fun fermented, almost effervescent flavor. A great conversation starter!

Cheese at Tony Caputo's Market & Deli, Salt Lake City.

Passionate cheese lover, Amanda.

Passionate cheese lover, Amanda, at Tony Caputo's Market & Deli, Salt Lake City.

A fun {and useful!} box for frequent customers.

Tony Caputo's Market & Deli, Salt Lake City.

Over at the cured meats counter, we tasted a variety of Creminelli salami and deli meats, which are all made with natural, organic meats and crafted in the old-fashioned, Italian way. They were exceptionally tasty on their own – they didn’t need any other vessel or accompaniment to shine, although I’m sure they do elevate any dish they’re incorporated into from good to great.

Creminelli's Capicola, Tony Caputo's Market & Deli, Salt Lake City.

The cured meats counter at Tony Caputo's Market & Deli, Salt Lake City.

After cheese and meats came dessert. We met chocolate aficionado Vanessa, who promised to make us chocolate experts in just 15 minutes. She made us taste different dark chocolates from industrially-made varieties to high-end artisan brands made with the rarest cacao beans, in order to allow us to observe how different they are and to highlight why choosing a finer and more expensive chocolate bar can be a better investment than an industrially made cheaper bar.

Tony Caputo’s chocolate counter.

Tony Caputo's chocolate counter, Salt Lake City.

We learned that fine chocolates contain no fillers. Any chocolate labeled “fine” shouldn’t list more than three to five ingredients: cocoa mass, cocoa butter, sugar, and sometimes vanilla and soy lecithin (as an emulsifier). When choosing their chocolate, many people assume that the higher the percentage labeled on a bar, the better the chocolate is going to be. In fact, when Vanessa offers 65% bars to some clients, they often ask if they can have higher percentages instead, like 80 or 85%. That always puzzles her because, as she says, sugar is what makes chocolate taste like chocolate. Without sugar, cocoa beans taste like nothing – sugar is the vessel to the chocolate flavor. So the percentage on a chocolate bar basically indicates the cocoa mass by weight – 65% being the quantity or cocoa mass and butter, and the rest being sugar, as well as vanilla and soy lecithin (if applicable). As Vanessa splendidly put it: “Percentage only indicates cocoa mass, not awesomeness.”

Chocolate aficionado Vanessa, at Tony Caputo's Market & Deli, Salt Lake City.

That being said, tasting an industrially made dark chocolate bar with our eyes closed reminded us of marshmallow – all we could taste was the vanilla. The taste was bitter, dry and chalky and, once melted, the flavor went away; nothing lingered. Mind you, this was a big and well-established brand, so I was a little bit shocked to discover how “cheap” and one-note the chocolate tasted. Of course, it all went uphill from there. I especially liked Patric Chocolate‘s 75% Madagascar, which unveiled surprisingly fruity and tangy notes, although it is made with only two ingredients – cocoa mass and sugar.

Domori’s chocolate was also exceptional, of course. Domori is an Italian company that is known for its chocolate’s supernatural smoothness. We tasted Domori’s Lattesal D-Fusion milk chocolate bar, which contains 45% cocoa with a touch of fleur de sel. The salt is not sprinkled on the chocolate but incorporated into it. The salty flavor was subtle; it just seemed to lift the chocolate’s creaminess. The texture was like velvet on the tongue: it melted immediately and left a long, lingering taste that you never want to forget.

Our Foodie Tour group, listening and tasting delightful chocolates at Tony Caputo's, Salt Lake City.

The tasting ended with a sample of fine filled chocolates by Chocolatier Blue, which is one of the few confectioners that uses Domori chocolate as its base – so you can imagine how luscious its creations are. The shapes are fun, they’re painted in bright colors and adorned with edible glitter, and they’re presented in an array of delightful flavors from “Better than sex cake” {dark chocolate cake ganache with bits of toffee and dark chocolate frosting} to “French Toast” {a breakfast combination of maple syrup layered with a chocolaty French toast}. Far from feeling gimmicky, these flavors taste strikingly natural and match Domori’s top quality chocolates perfectly. A true, unique indulgence.

Chocolatier Blue’s colorful filled chocolates:

Chocolatier Blue's filled chocolates at Tony Caputo's Market & Deli, Salt Lake City.

A portion of Tony Caputo’s extensive chocolate collection:

Tony Caputo's extensive chocolate collection, Salt Lake City.

Tony Caputo’s was a great one-stop-shop for the second half of our foodie tour, where we met exceptionally passionate people who highlighted the very best of their products. I am told that private chocolate classes are offered by the store, and generous tastings and advice are always offered to customers. TC is a great all-around gourmet store that shouldn’t be missed by anyone visiting Salt Lake City, if only to grab one of their delicious sandwiches for a quick lunch.

Tony Caputo's deli counter, Salt Lake City.

{Useful Links & Info}

All the products mentioned in this post can be ordered online, either online from Caputo’s or directly from the artisans:

 

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