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Utah chocolatier makes list of nation’s best

Ritual Chocolate - pine nut chocolate

News hot off today’s press – finalists of the highly acclimated Good Food Awards are just in – and the beehive received a duo of nods. The yearly ceremony recognizes the very best when it comes to American food culture with this years list recognizing two Utah stalwarts. Both Ritual Chocolates and Bitters Lab will compete in their respective categories (chocolate and elixirs) and try to take home a gold for Utah come the Spring. You might recall this is exactly what Beltex Meats did just last year.

Heber based Ritual are one of several Utah based “bean to bar” chocolate manufactures, the term referring to the thoughtful approach to the process of craft chocolate which begins right the cacao bean itself; the use of heirloom beans and a considered approach to the biodiversity therein is a signature of Ritual. Want to grab a bite? Head to Caputo’s or most Harmons locations which stock a solid lineup of local craft chocolate.

The second finalist hailing from the Beehive are Salt Lake City’s Bitters Lab, a name known to anyone with a passing interest in the local cocktail scene. Starting life as a familiar face at the downtown Farmer’s Market some six or seven years ago – the business has been one of the bigger success stories receiving acres of press coverage (including names like national Bon Appetit) over the years.

The 2023 edition of the awards sees 359 finalists from a total of 42 states and focuses on ensuring American culinary technique, ingredients and flavor are highlighted and preserved. From this years presser, the organizers note several examples of finalists doing just that writing:

In Massachusetts, first-time Finalist Berkshire Cider Project created their Community Cider Project #2 using donated apples gleaned from backyards and forgotten trees. Up north, Barnacle Foods celebrates the Alaskan coast with their hand-harvested Finalists: Bullwhip Kelp & Piri Piri Hot Sauce, and Spruce Tip Jelly. In South Carolina, Holmes Sweet Home uses techniques passed down through generations to transform local dairy into decadent confections like their Sweet Cream Caramel Sauce.

Winners will be announced on April 21st in Portland, Oregon.

Art And Soup returns for 2023

Tickets should go on sale for this yearly fundraiser towards sometime this week and the organizers have asked me to remind both potential restaurants and attendees about the event. This year will be the 34th installment of the venerable fundraiser, which seeks to raise cash for the CNS Charitable Care Program which, ” provides health care, hospice care and medical services to individuals in need throughout Utah.” CNS is Utah’s oldest non-profit hospice company and has been caring for the local Utah community since 1928.

The big fundraising bash affords attendees soup and food samples from 20+ restaurants, not least the opportunity to bid on work from 60 fine artists from around the state of Utah (there’s live entertainment too).

If you represent a restaurant and would like to attend check out the details here – there are plenty of bragging rights and prizes for best soup up for grabs. The final deadline is March 1st and the team would love for you to compete.

For those wanting to attend the event, tickets should go one sale here this week, $30 secures you a tasting ticket to a whole host of local businesses, everyone from the Grand America’s Laurel, through Stratford Proper and more.

Les Madeleines and Six Sisters call it quits

Les Madeleines - last day of business (veryinterestinghmm)
Les Madeleines – last day of business (veryinterestinghmm)

I wrote it about it last year, but I saw the above snap on the local Reddit and thought it timely to give a final clap and cheer for one of Utah’s very best. After some nineteen years of excellence Romina Rasmussen’s award winning bakery Les Madeleines closed up shop on December 30th. The line above is from the very last day in business – showing patrons littering the sidewalk in the hope of one last kouing aman.

It’s not the last you’ll hear from Rasmussen. The plans for her newest venture are almost complete, and while it involves dough, it probably isn’t what you’re expecting. Stay tuned. I’ll be sitting down with her very soon and unveiling the next chapter in her storied career. Bonus teaser to drive you crazy: I already know, and I’m excited.

Another also closing their doors in the past month, Eagle Mountain’s Six Sister’s Deli has now called time. Citing a 65% decline in sales revenue, the business had to close their doors after an otherwise successful seven year run. GSLC contributor Val Phillips has a more in depth story on the closure on her own site here.

It’s also a doubly timely moment to remind you to read this story from 2022 on why restaurants are closing. Dine out, often and tip well folks.

Manoli’s closes temporarily due to water

Scallops (Manoli's)
Scallops (Manoli’s)

Thankfully it’s only a brief closure, but it’s a closure nonetheless. If you had plans to swing by Utah’s premier Greek dining restaurant Manoli’s this month – think again. The restaurant has sadly suffered what sounds like some significant water damage and will be expected to be shuttered for the entirety of January 2023. The company contacted guests via email and stated:

Due to the unexpected nature of the flood and the amount of damage to the building, our restaurant and reservation system will be closed for the month of January.  We will make announcements when possible and appreciate your understanding.  We hope to solve this issue quickly for the safety of our staff and guests.  Thank you for your continued support.

Taqueria 27 changes hands

Taqueria 27 - fish and carne asada tacos
Taqueria 27 – fish and carne asada tacos

After nearly a decade growing their taco-empire across the Wasatch, Todd and Kristin Gardner have formally sold the business and moved onto pastures new. I remember the day the doors opened, Gardiner eager to bring some of the panache from his previous stint at Z’Tejas to his own venture. T27 were trendsetters when they launched back in 2012. When I first dined there back in ’12, the duck confit tacos were a revelation – remaining on the menu until today in fact. Confirming the sale of all Taqueria 27 locations to new owners, the business provided the following press release:

After ten years of ownership, Kristin and Todd Gardiner have announced that they have sold their company, Taqueria 27. Taqueria 27 is a beloved staple in the community, serving up delicious, fresh tacos and world-class tequila to everyone who walks through their doors.

“We’re so excited to announce a new chapter in our lives,” said Taqueria 27 founders Kristin and Todd Gardiner. “As recent empty nesters, we’ve decided to put our beloved Taqueria 27 into some new hands that will be able to carry it on and are dedicated to the team, the quality, and the experience that we’ve put so much time and effort into over the past ten years.”

The Gardiners say they are confident that the new owners will be able to carry on the legacy that they established at the restaurant. The new owners are experienced restaurateurs, and they plan on carrying on the traditions and quality that Taqueria 27 was built upon. The entire leadership team of Taqueria 27 will be staying on, so customers can expect the same recipes and experience that they’ve come to love.

“We hope that you will give them your continued support,” the Gardiners continued. “And thank
you to all of our loyal customers for a great ten years.”

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