Monday, December 17, 2012


We decided to try out SLC Pop last weekend on a whim when Chef Katie Weinner posted some avaialbe seats on their Facebook page. It was a really cool experience and I'll mostly just use my iPhone shots to tell the story. The event is held at the Nata Gallery, which Katie and her partner Mike Burtis have leased as a multi-dimensional community space which will host meals for SLC Pop as well as other events. Check out their Kickstarter video for details, but it seems like a space that could be used similarly to the Missio Dei space that The SLC Foodie uses for all of her events. I love people who are trying to build up the food and culture scene in Salt Lake City, so I love the thought behind the Nata Gallery.

When we arrived we got an original take on the BLT - a pork rind topped with tomato, beet green and fry sauce. It was a single bite course, but a fun idea and tasty for sure.

Next course was a raddish and some Amish butter served in a jar filled with applewood smoke. Chef Katie told us that we could wait a while to open the jar if we would like a smokier flavor, so we waited a good five minutes to sample the jar.  The combo of radish with salt and butter is a typical French snack, but usually served over a baguette or crouton in my experience.  Two complaints about this - the smoke just didn't permeate anything for me and without a bread to perch the dish on we basically ended up eating a raddish and then a little fork full of butter.  I dig the creative presentation and I highly support the use of a smoke gun whenever possible, but this was the only flop of the night for me.  

Releasing the smoke was fun!

The next dish was number three on my top three tastes of the night list.  Presented as an "edible rock", we got some Barely Buzzed shortbread (made with a local lavender-and-espresso-rubbed cheese of the same name).  The shortbread was served with honeyed goat cheese stuffed medjool dates (from Trader Joe's!) with cocoa nib salt, butternut squash butter with honey and pepper jam.  The shortbread was killer alone but the flavor combos were all interesting on this plate.

The next dish was the cheese course and the soup course all in one, and I would put this in the running for the best soup I have ever had.  Did you hear that?  True.  It was a smoked mozzarella cream with chunks of smoked fresh mozzarella, topped with a pear and triple creme brie soup.  Forget the photo, this soup may have been worth the price of admission.

We came back to earth for the next course and enjoyed a Sri Lankan beet curry over coconut Daikon noodles and topped with some beet greens.  The Daikon noodles are soaked in coconut milk and end up tasting a lot like they are actually just slices of coconut.  The beet curry was good - I think that there was some coffee involved in the recipe, which makes beets particularly awesome.

The next course rounds out our top three, coming in at number two.  It was a purple polenta (made with blue corn) topped with jalepeno elk sausage and green apple.  Really tasty and the elk was farm raised so it had a very different flavor than most of the elk I've had in the past - much more mellow.  I wish we had received more than a few bites of this one.

The palette cleanser was a citrus granita with agave nectar and violet caviar.  I was glad to see a bit of molecular work its way into the meal with the caviar.  

The next course wasn't really food, but it was fun.  We got a painter's pallet with a variety of edible ink, including violet, yogurt powder, fizzy thingers (?), finger lime caramel (yum), orange curd, chocolate caramel, red wine and beet-buddha hand.  Then we got rice paper and were told to paint a picture and then eat it.  This was all pretty funny and it would have only been better if we would have all shared our art around the room.

Here is my lovely creation.  The eyes are done in pistachio paste, in case you were wondering.

Next we started into the desserts.  The first course was a slow roasted pineapple confit, but since pineapples don't really have their own fat for confit roasting, butter was used instead.  This was served with a tangerine zabaglione with honey comb and amoretti.  It was good and the amoretti cookies were probably the highlight.

The next dessert course was a beet cereal with Kaffir lime milk.  I won't lie - when I saw that one of the previous SLC Pop dinners had featured a cereal I was pretty bummed.  I hate cereal.  But Chef Katie gave us the download on how she had dehydrated then fried up the beet chips, and I do love beets, so I gave it a try.  I did enjoy this dish and the lime milk added a super interesting flavor to the mix.  I just told myself I wasn't really eating cereal and it all worked out in the end.

We finished the night with petit fours: a thyme macaroon, whiskey gummies, red wine meringue, guiness chocolate cake and the house take on a Butterfinger.  The chocolate cake was dry, but everything else was delicious and the coffee was good too!

It is really hard to comment on the SLC Pop experience as an unbiased critic because it is such a personal event.  The chefs really involve you in what they are doing - we went back and checked out the kitchen and even got the backstory on the bathroom sink at Nata.  Overall, the dinner showcases some of the best culinary talent that our city has to offer and for that reason I would put this on your tick list if you care about food in Salt Lake.  The only qualm I have is that we left hungry.  If we had bumped a couple of the portions in size I think the meal would have been perfect, but if you arrive hungry you might consider following your 10 courses at SLC Pop with a hamburger at The Green Pig next door.  The other thing I want to add is that this dinner felt very much like it belonged in Salt Lake City - not sure if that will make sense to anyone but the vibe was local and I loved that about the meal.

The verdict?  I was really glad that I went and felt that every course had something unique and interesting to offer.  For the price ($75 per person), you're also getting bargain access to some of the same folks who can charge a whole lot more at events like Mist.  I'm looking forward to engaging Katie on some other events in the future - she said they are very open to customizing meals for groups so hit them up if you've got an idea.

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