Food & Drink: Life of the Party

Fuel the festivities and flavor the fun with an array of small bites and shared plates. Local food pros share their tastiest tips.

PHOTOGRAPHS BY DENNIS WISE | STYLED BY THERESA CRIM

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COCKTAIL HOUR

“The cocktail hour should start off with a bang,” says Mary Crafts-Homer of Culinary Crafts, so let the apps and beverages flow freely. “This may be the first food or drink guests have had for several hours, so don’t skimp on hors d’oeuvres.”

Comfort Redux
Get your party started with contemporary, upscale takes on traditional appetizers. Culinary Crafts offers up crispy aged-cheddar mac and cheese croquettes drizzled with spicy tomato sauce and French fries cooked in duck fat, splashed with truffle oil, and sprinkled with chopped chives. Cuisine Unlimited serves crab mac and cheese lollipops Dijon remoulade, petite wedge salad bites on demi forks, and shaved root vegetable chips in bamboo cones with Siracha aioli. Colour Maisch of The Blended Table Catering & Events suggests an old-school favorite: hot smoked salmon paired with a simple dill crème fraiche or warm golden raisin chutney. Artisan cheese plates are always popular, but Culinary Crafts takes the trend a step further with full Charcuterie tables featuring Beehive Cheese and Creminelli salami, olives, artichokes, roasted peppers, honeycomb, dried fruit, and grilled breads.

That’s My Jam
The yummiest new ingredient for cocktails? Jam. Forgo Smucker’s in favor of Amour Spreads small-batch recipes made with seasonal, local fruit and organic cane sugar. Mix up their Merry, Merry Martini for a festive signature sip: 1 tablespoon Amour Spreads cranberry-orange marmalade, 3 ounces gin (or vodka), 1 ounce dry vermouth, and 1/2 ounce fresh lemon juice. Shake with ice, pour into a glass, and garnish with an orange peel or cranberries.

Chip Me “Veggie chips are delicious, gluten-free, and can be topped with almost anything,” says Colour Maisch of The Blended Table.


 

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TAPAS DINNER

Want to spend more time mingling and dancing and less time sitting and eating? Serve a dinner of satisfying small bites that pull their weight as the main course.

Spanish Flair
At Finca‘s swanky new downtown Salt Lake digs, Executive Chef Phelix Gardner cooks up contemporary Spanish cuisine using seasonal, Utah-grown ingredients. Take a page from his menu and treat guests to tasty tapas and crowd-pleasing paella. Our picks: Finca’s zanahoria de asador, wood-grilled carrots with cumin honey and saffron butter; albondigas, lamb and pork meatballs with tomato sauce and Manchego cheese; paella Catalana, a mix of chicken thighs, chorizo, saffron, shrimp, clams, lemon, and summer vegetables.

Toast of the Town
Fancy toast is a thing, and we love it as part of a tapas-style menu. Publik Coffee Roasters is a Salt Lake City hotspot thanks to espresso drinks and pour-overs brewed with beans from the on-site roastery. But their artisan toasts—made in the space’s “toastery,” as owners Matt Bourgeois and Missy Greis like to call it—are also a hit. Think classic avocado and Amour Spreads pear-lavender jam with blue cheese, all on thick slices of loaves from Park City’s Red Bicycle Bread Co. That’s not all: Publik’s 4,000-square-foot warehouse event space is perfect for urban-chic shindigs. Another way to get toasted? Hire pop-up café Ramblin’ Rose to roll up to your event in its charming vintage trailer and dish out a customized menu of seasonal toasts, such as tomato basil and peach and honey, plus sweet and savory fritters and homemade cakes.

Bottoms Up Cheers to your love with local brews from Epic, Squatters, Red Rock, and Wasatch.


 

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BITE-SIZE DESSERTS

End the evening on a sugar-high note with scrumptious treats like mini caramel apples, and cotton candy hand-spun from Sucre by Maison‘s portable cart. Cuisine Unlimited bakes pie pops and cookie dough truffles, and The Blended Table serves creamy budinos with and fresh winter citrus with local honey and slivered mint. Culinary Crafts petite milk shakes with mini homemade cookies will delight kiddos and adults alike.

Fried & True 
Foodies will flip for Culinary Crafts cronuts: homemade puff pastry, fried fresh on-site, drizzled with a honey glaze, and served in small brown paper bags. For more fried deliciousness, take a cue from La Barba, the new coffee-slash-churro shop inside Finca in downtown SLC: Charming Beard coffee plus Mezzo drinking chocolate plus Courtney McDowell’s delectable cinnamon-sugar pastries equals happy guests.

“Couples love warm donut hole bars, where guests fill their own take-away containers with gourmet donut holes in dozens of over-the-top flavors.”Mary Crafts-Homer

Get Buzzed
“There is nothing better than a good cup of French press coffee with steamed milk and Kahlua or Frangelico,” says Colour Maisch. She loves whiskey paired with chocolate, too. Cuisine Unlimited sets up espresso bars that also offer Italian sodas, steamers, and hot cocoa for guests who don’t want a caffeine fix. And why not make beverages dessert? “Affogato is my favorite item to serve post dinner,” says Crafts-Homer. She uses high-quality espresso poured over homemade caramel gelato sprinkled with chocolate shavings and toasted ground hazelnuts.

Drink Me

Sugar House Libations Hot Toddy

1 1/2 oz bourbon or Vida Tequila Reposado
1 oz Sugar House Libations green apple-cinnamon or pear-ginger syrup 
4-6 oz hot water
juice from 1/4 lemon
1 cinnamon stick

Combine all ingredients into a warmed mug, stir with cinnamon stick, and sip away.


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LATE-NIGHT NOSHES

“Dancin’ till the break of dawn requires sustenance,” says Emily Lavin of Cuisine Unlimited.  The solution? Carbs. She suggests mini Reuben sandwiches, mac and cheese bites, and grown-up Poutine bites made with Kennebec potatoes and braised beef. Late night is the perfect time to “break out the sliders,” says Crafts-Homer. Try these new twists: an eggplant slider with fresh mozzarella and arugula, a lobster claw slider with Old Bay seasoning and olive oil, and a pulled turkey slider topped with pickled red onions, all wedged between mini homemade buns. Maisch loves hiring Salt Lake City’s taco carts for after parties. Can’t bring a cart to your event? “Create your own street taco bar with carnitas, shredded chicken, or roasted mushrooms,” she suggests. For authentic street-style tortillas, hit up local tortialla factory La Flor.

The Brunchies
It’s a new dawn, it’s a new day. Ring it in with a.m. eats. The Blended Table dishes out simple and hearty baked breakfast puddings and tarts. At Culinary Crafts, it’s all about waffles: cheesy corn waffles topped with pulled pork and coleslaw; steak, egg, and cheese waffle sandwiches; and smoked salmon and egg on a waffle.

Pop It Like It’s Hot
“Popcorn bars are a huge hit,” says Crafts-Homer, especially when you have flavors such as bacon bourbon, chili lime, toffee s’mores, white chocolate cookies and cream, and salted double caramel.

Breakfast Bites
From Cuisine Unlimited:
Mini breakfast burritos
French toast bites with brie and maple syrup
Grilled potato bites with sunny side up quail egg and pancetta

 

 

 

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