There’s a COLLECTIVE sigh amongst diners here in the Wasatch. Well, at least with the ones who make local eating and farm-to-table their mantra. After a long winter without decent tomatoes and sandals, we can now breathe [and eat] a little easier. Vibrant as ever, the crisp zingy flavors of the garden sparking back to life practically write their own menu: think succulent pea shoots, sweet lamb, funky asparagus, the bite of spring onions. The lighter, greener, fresher palate sets the tone for energy and abundance pouring out of these gorgeous lengthening days. It makes you want to skip in a meadow. Smell flowers. Drink sparkly pale wine and get it on like rabbits.
Ah, spring. It does a body good.
Inspired by a recent food binge through Spain, Scott Evans and Phelix Gardner [owner and executive chef, respectively, at local hot spots Pago and Finca] are busy crafting seasonal menus at both of their establishments of gastronomic temptation. The lucky bastards brought their muse back home and are ready to wow with modern interpretations of Spanish classics using local ingredients at SLC’s own tapas temple, Finca. Navy brat Phelix Gardner was born in Spain, and it’s clearly stayed in his blood in spite of a lifetime of moving around the world. Pair his spectacular nosh up with carefully selected fan-fucking-tastic wines sourced by our fave sommelier, Evan Lewandowski, or a cocktail lovingly built by award-winning [yes, he did it again] master mixologist, Scott Gardner. It’ll remind you of spring for lingering hours after, and I’m not just talking about that spectacular hangover or how your pee smells like asparagus for the next full 24.
Food porn for days, people. Fill up your Instagram feed, or better yet just fill your face with this stuff. Caper aioli, farm-fresh eggs, and glistening pickled peppedew peppers [say that five times fast] cradle spring’s phallic harbinger, perfect asparagus spears. Spring onions, flash grilled and crunchy over the classic Spanish tapas, romesco-sauced Tosta de Calcots. Grilled whole Utah trout with preserved lemon and charmoula. Oh, and it’s a moral imperative that you order Pulpo a la plancha when you are at Finca. Arguably the tastiest grilled invertebrate in Happy Valley: flame-seared octopus with smoked paprika oil, fingerling potatoes, and olives. Wowza. When they can get their paws on it [and lucky for us, they did], you’ll find rich, fork-tender Pedro Jiminez sherry-glazed beef cheeks with crumbled black garlic on the menu. Get that mouth-watering morsel of bovine goodness paired up with a truly spectacular bottle of wine—like the 2007 Barbi Brunello di Montalcino that Scott and Evan pulled out of the cellar for us—and enter the gates of heaven. Finish all that up with pastry chef Courtney McDowell’s swoon-worthy silky panna cotta with grapefruit and fuckin’ addictive saffron meringue chips. Day-um. Ask your friendly sommelier to pair it with a sparkling rosé that knocks your socks right into next week; you won’t be sorry.
Busy like the Energizer bunnies they are, Scott Evans and team are gearing up for another grin-inducing sommelier series of tasting dinners hosted at Pago and Finca. The first pairing of the season kicks off Utah’s gorgeous al fresco patio dining season at their 9th & 9th restaurant next week, featuring Italian wines from the Emilia-Romagna region matched up with Pago’s signature upscale farm-to-table freshness. Come hear badass sommelier Evan talk fascinating shop with winemaker Gaia Bucciarelli of the Azienda Agricola Santa Giustina. He calls her wines the epitome of “vivace,” or lust for life. We call them delicious. Chef Phelix and his talented crew [Drew Fuller, Stephen Lott, and Courtney McDowell] are planning a celebration of spring featuring delicious plates like crudités made with local veggies, more o’ that delectable Utah trout, Morgan Valley lamb, and hello, banana cream pie. Seats on the patio are limited, so ring up Pago and reserve your spot ASAP for the April 24th dinner: 801.532.0777.
Finca | 1291 S 1100 E, SLC | 801.487.0699