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2014 Corporate Cuisine Awards.

Iocal chefs are spicing up the state's culinary atmosphere, mixing creativity with delectable menu items to introduce a new level of sophistication to Utah diners. And restaurant patrons are eating it up.

In the last decade, the state's food scene has skyrocketed as eateries try to keep up with more educated diners and customers look for something tasty, eclectic and surprising. As people travel more (experiencing international cuisines), and as individuals relocate to Utah (and look for their favorite foods), restaurants have had to adapt--or lose business.

Local food writer Heather King has evaluated food destinations for nearly 20 years and marvels at the change in the restaurant culture in Utah, along with the incredible variety of menu items.

"People are craving ethnic foods. I can't believe how many Thai restaurants are in this state. And at one time there were four Ethiopian restaurants," she says. "People are willing to pay more for something that tastes really amazing."

Local products are also being highlighted on menus. Chefs shop at nearby farmer's markets to pick up only the freshest ingredients for their dishes. At Bambara, which garnered the "Best Hotel Restaurant" award this year, Chef Nathan Powers wows guests with his creative use of local foods. In Utah's modern restaurant scene, chefs and restaurant owners must use quality items and provide something with a modern twist to attract customers, like an innovative mixologist or a world-renowned pastry chef.

Food trucks are still a big trend in the state with several vendors offering mobile gourmet cuisine that's a little easier on the wallet. And award-winning local breweries continue to upgrade, reinvent and integrate new ideas to stay ahead of the game.

Culinary connoisseurs with sophisticated palates seek out adventurous offerings, and are finding them at Utah's restaurants. A local cafe is now offering pate, while a fish farm in the state produces high-end caviar. Blood sausage is on the menu at a Utah-based deli, and quality sushi and Ethopian injera is easier to find--as is ceviche, the star on the menu of Del Mar al Lago, winner of the "Best Kept Secret" award. "Park City was at the foreground of adventurous cuisine with so many people coming to Sundance from out of state. But now I can go to any restaurant in the valley and be surprised. There is better talent using better ingredients," says King.

For diners not familiar with advanced menu options, several restaurants offer small plates (tapas), which give patrons a bite or two to decide if it's something they enjoy. These ideas are creating a culinary zeal--and a new wave of educated foodies.

Utah's gastronomic scene has attracted the notice of several big cities. And while the state's dining might not be as advanced in options, ingredients and creativity, local chefs are certainly ramping things up while adapting to changes in the market.

As more dining selections become available, King looks forward to watching the continued evolution of Utah's restaurant offerings, but reminds people that the state's scenery is also a big draw for unforgettable dining experiences. "Go out and dine in the mountains. We have these amazing resorts, particularly in the summertime, where it's gorgeous and cooler. We forget how close these amazing restaurants really are," King says. "I don't think Utah is behind the times at all, but we have so much more room to grow."

Get ready for a mouth-watering experience as you discover the winners of our 2014 Corporate Cuisine Awards. These restaurants and venues, which were chosen by our readers, exemplify Utah's deepening culinary terrain and offer the perfect setting for business deals, casual meetings or a night on the town with important out-of-town guests.

Best Power Breakfast

Market Street Grill - Downtown

48 W. Market Street, Salt Lake City, UT 84101

marketstreetgrill.com

Consistency is what makes Market Street Grill a breakfast hotspot--that and the fact that the restaurant serves up delicious dishes like eggs benedict paired with crab cakes, broiled salmon or Alaskan snow crab, says Fred Boutwell, general manager. "We don't do anything fancy," he says. "It's funny because we're critiqued a lot for not being very creative and not changing anything. But we follow the old adage of 'if it's not broken, don't fix it.' It's real food. We don't use artificial anything and it's not too expensive. People know what they're going to get. That's one of the reasons we're so popular."

Best Hotel Restaurant

Bambara

202 S. Main Street, Salt Lake City, UT 84101

bombora-sic.com

One of Bambara's most unique attributes can be found in the kitchen in the form of Chef Nathan Powers. The classically trained chef has an approach to cooking that is "just brilliant," says Guy Wheelwright, general manager. "His focus is traditional French cuisine with a new American twist. He uses menu ingredients that are recognizable but prepared in a unique way. He keeps the integrity of the ingredients by keeping it simple."

Bambara's menu changes seasonally, but Wheelwright says currently. most guests favor the flat iron steak cobb salad for lunch and the seared Maine scallops for dinner. The restaurant's crispy Utah trout tacos and shrimp and pork belly confit tacos are a personal favorite of Wheelwright's.

Best Ethnic

Mazza

1515 S. 1500 East, Salt Lake City, UT 84105

912 E. 900 South, Salt Lake City, UT 84105

mazzacafe.com

Creating the right dining experience complete with authenticity is what owner Ali Sabbah strives for at Mazza. The restaurant serves around 60 different Middle Eastern-inspired dishes, the most popular of which is shawarma, thin slices of beef and lamb marinated and seasoned with a blend of spices that are then broiled and shaved into a pita with tahini, fresh vegetables and turnip pickles. "I think the fact that we really strive for consistency and try our best to create the right dining experience is what attracts people," Sabbah says. "We try to create each of our dishes in a very authentic way with our own flavors added."

Best Business Catering

Culinary Crafts

357 W. 200 South, Salt Lake City, UT 84101

1400 W. 400 North, Orem, UT 84057

culinarycrafis.com

Culinary Crafts is known for sourcing local seasonal foods, which is just one of many reasons why the company is popular. It is also the only caterer left in Utah that has a full in-house bakery producing all of its own breads, desserts, gelato and candies. "We make over 18 different varieties of bread, and when it is coming out of the ovens every morning, it is a smell I just can't resist," says Mary Crafts-Homer, president and CEO.

Add the fresh-baked items to Culinary Crafts' most popular dish, mesquite-grilled Rocky Mountain red trout with house-made sweet tomato jam, and it's easy to see why the company remains a mainstay in the community.

Best Cocktails

Bar-X

155 E. 200 South, Salt Lake City, UT 84111

barxsaltlake.com

With its classic, speakeasy ambiance, Bar-X is the perfect spot for after-business drinks--especially since its cocktails are made with only the best ingredients. "We use only fresh juice for anything that calls for fruit," says Co-owner Richard Noel. "If it's not in season, we just don't offer it."

Best Steak

Ruth's Chris Salt Lake

275 S. West Temple, Salt Lake City, UT 84101

ruthschns.com

At Ruth's Chris, steak takes center stage. No fancy sauces or overpowering seasonings--a Ruth's Chris steak is served with only a generous pat of butter, salt and pepper, and a sprig of parsley. "Our signature is that we cook the steak in an 1800-degree broiler that sears the outside and seals in the juices. We serve it to you on a 500-degree platter, and it goes out within 90 seconds of being removed from the broiler," says Mark Robbins, owner of Ruth's Chris Salt Lake.

Best Business Lunch

New Yorker

60 W. Market Street, Salt Lake City, UT 84101

newyorkerslc.com

Look no further than New Yorker for a quick, tasty and impressive lunch. Favorite items on the menu include the filet mignon, prime steak, Atlantic sole and seafood stew, which is Chef Will Pliler's favorite selection. "It is a light flavorful broth with fresh Maine lobster, shrimp, mussels, calamari and pancetta," he says. Another seasonal choice Pliler recommends is the filetto di ricca, which is a 6 ounce filet mignon topped with fresh foie gras and freshly harvested porcini mushrooms.

Beyond its good eats, the 35-year-old restaurant is housed in the original Hotel Utah and includes some of the original furnishings and stained glass skylights, making it a historic downtown icon.

Best Company Party Venue

Pierpont Place

163 Pierpont Ave.

Salt Lake City, UT 84101

perpontploce.com

Pierpont Place has been the venue of choice for more than 1,000 events. While each event has had its own flair, owner Janice Boes says one of her favorite experiences was hosting the Sundance Film Festival's Salt Lake Premiere Gala. This annual event is a special event for our team. We host guests from around the world. Hollywood and local community all coming together to celebrate film. It turned out fabulous," she says.

Boes says she enjoys her role of celebrating success in the community. "As a local company, we are very involved in supporting other local business and organizations. which builds community and strengthens our economy," she says. "Our mission is to deliver the best product and best service for the best price, assuring that most can access our services if they choose."

Best Business Casual

The Copper Onion

111 E. Broadway, Salt Lake City, UT 84111

thecopperonron.com

From day one, The Copper Onion prioritized using locally and regionally sourced ingredients in the kitchen. Chef Ryan Lowder changes the menu regularly to use freshly grown and seasonal produce. He sources local beef from Utah County-based Pleasant Creek Ranch and finds fresh produce from Salt Lake's Old Man Frank, and supports several other locally owned farmers and food manufacturers. Lowder also searches for new ingredients to create unique plates you won't find anywhere else. As one voter says. "[The Copper Onion] has an upscale look, down to earth roots and is chef operated!"

Best Place to Impress

Log Haven

6451 E. Millcreek Canyon Road, Salt Lake City, UT 84109

log-haven.com

Nestled among 40 acres of private land that includes three waterfalls, a natural outdoor theater and a pond. Log Haven is a place where all of your senses can feast. Built in the 1920s, the historic restaurant serves fine-dining options like seared wild salmon served with a cucumber broth, purple potatoes, purslane, pickled onions and horseradish creme--which happens to be owner Margo Provost's top pick. Or, you might opt for grilled bison steak served with caramelized Brussels sprouts, house-made candied pancetta, cipolin onions and fingerling yams. "I have always felt that breaking bread together can be the key to connecting personally with business clients," says Provost. "The right setting oils the gears of negotiation, and a satisfying meal sends the message that the relationship is valued."

Best Business Meeting Venue

The Grand America Hotel

505 S. Main Street, Salt Lake City, UT 84111

grandamerica.com

Sumptuous and elegant, The Grand America Hotel is the perfect setting for important meetings and events. The hotel can host the smallest, intimate groups to events with more than 2,000 attendees.

Susanne Maitzen. executive director of hospitality communications, says she enjoys the immense variety of meetings that take place at The Grand America, but among her favorite are "those that transform elegant meeting space used for a general session during the day into an entirely different atmosphere in the evening with use of decor, themes and technical elements. It allows groups to host a multi-day event all on property and still get the exposure to the evening entertainment they might have been considering at an off-site venue."

Best Kept Secret

Del Mar al Lago

310 Bugatti Drive, Salt Lake City, UT 84111

Website. NA

Del Mar al Lago is a well-kept secret--perhaps because it's located in an industrial area of South Salt Lake, or possibly due to its traditional, but exotic (to locals) Peruvian cuisine. The star of Del Mar al Lago's menu is undoubtedly the ceviche: fresh, raw fish that is cured in a citrus-based marinade. The flavors are varied from cilantro and chili to yellow curry and chipotle. The best option is to try a platter with all three of the restaurant's signature ceviches.

Chef Frederick Perez brings a unique flair to the restaurant, along with a full menu of traditional Peruvian dishes like Peruvian kebabs, seafood paella, and shrimp or seafood stew. Del Mar al Lago will not be a hidden gem for long--so grab a table while you can.
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Author:Kinder, Peri
Publication:Utah Business
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jul 1, 2014
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