SLC Eats: Tulie Bakery

Tulie Bakery, one of the finest establishments in Salt Lake City.
Tulie Bakery, one of the finest establishments in Salt Lake City.

Compared to New York City and Boulder, Colorado, my two previous places of residence, Salt Lake City’s choice dining options are, for the most part, few and far between — a handful of jewels scattered in a gravel pit. The gravel, in this case, is the mostly bland urban and suburban neighborhoods, strip malls, chain establishments, and restaurants with the moto: “Quantity over quality.” To find the treasure, you have to go a-hunting. Which is good and bad. Good because it makes the moment of discovery all the more satisfying. And bad because it means extensive research and car (or bicycle, if you’re into that kind of thing) mileage is required to find the really killer spots. (In the future, I plan to blog about more of the places I’ve discovered to eat, drink, and be merry in Salt Lake City.)

One of the first gems I discovered upon moving to Salt Lake two years ago is the Tulie Bakery, on the edge of the trendy 9th and 9th neighborhood. Winner of many awards and recognitions, I was surprised to find that few of my friends, who have lived here for years or even their entire lives, had been to Tulie. Admittedly, you might not stumble across it if you didn’t know it was there. Tulie sits in a suburban setting, along one of Salt Lake’s extra-wide landing strips roadways. You could easily visit the excellent Café Trio (680 South 900 East; triodining.com), which occupies the corner real estate a few doors down, and not notice its glass façade.

Keep your hands out of the cookie jars.
Keep your hands out of the cookie jars.

The French-inspired Tulie is approaching its fourth year in business and continues to draw crowds to its clean, well-lighted, rustic/modern interior. The usual suspects at the bakery comprise a relatively diverse mixture of young parents with smartly dressed toddlers, well-off empty nesters, the obligatory foodie hipsters, and a random smattering of difficult-to-classify individuals willing to pay a premium for the “pure, high-quality ingredients that flow seamlessly with the decor,” as it says on the Tulie website.

A mild crowd for a Saturday morning at Tulie.
A mild crowd for a Saturday morning at Tulie.

According to their menu, the Tulie Bakery has five core culinary offerings: breakfast pastry, hot pressed sandwiches, pastry ( for other times of the day, I gather), cakes, and the catch-all “cupcakes, cookies, and bars.” Of these, I have found the breakfast pastry to be the most superlative. Everything I have tried, from the morning bun to the pain au chocolat to the crème fraîche coffee cake has been worthy of recommendation.

Yes, everything is good — great even — but floating above it all, like a plate of ethereal, golden, powder-caked balloons, are the beignets, which are baked only on the weekends, at some time around 8 or 9 in the morning. Sold individually or in sets of four, these French-style (via New Orleans) “donuts” bear hardly any resemblance to their denser, tire-shaped cousins. I have missed the “golden hour” — from when the beignets come out of the oven to the time they sell out — on several occasions, which never ceases to fill me with disappointment. Another plus, and one that richly compliments the beignets: Tulie Bakery has trained their employees to pull excellent espresso drinks.

Tulie's famous beignets, fresh from the oven.
Tulie’s famous beignets, fresh from the oven.

Yes, the sandwiches, cakes, pastries, cookies and tarts really are among the best in Salt Lake City. Personal preference will vary, but there is no denying that the overall quality of the food at Tulie is second to none. Were I a wealthy man, I might stop in every day, but dietary and pecuniary limitations restrict me to weekly visits. That’s just enough to leave me always wanting more, which, I think, is really the way it ought be to allow for maximum appreciation of any food this good.

Tulie Bakery is located at 863 East 700 South, in Salt Lake City, Utah. Contact information, hours of operation, a complete menu, and more can be found at their website: www.tuliebakery.com.

The Anti-Tourist: LA Recommended

Growing up as only child, my parents kindly took me with them on their many travels. Without fail, the most exciting thing about our destinations was the food. France, Greece, Northern California, New York City… before our trips, I recall mom and dad clipping reviews from papers and magazines (pre-Google! pre-Urban Spoon!), plotting out our culinary itinerary to the meal. It’s only logical though — nothing gives more intimate connection to a place and a people than food.

This past weekend, my fiancée and I headed to Los Angeles to meet up with my folks and enjoy a brief vacation. Again, meals provided the anchors around which the rest of the trip would flow. Admittedly, three nights in LA are not enough to scratch the city’s strange, smoggy surface, but my special lady and I certainly came away from the trip with a few food and entertainment recommendations. If you’re heading to LA for a day or a week, or (I suppose, if you live in LA and just need an excuse to try something new) consider adding these to your list. They’re places worthy of planning a trip around.

Check out a photo gallery from my LA trip, here

The main dining room of Gjelina, on Abbot Kinney
The main dining room of Gjelina, on Abbot Kinney

Gjelina – Located amongst the pricey eclectic boutiques of tragically hip Abbot Kenny Road, Gjelina offers a high-end rustic setting with fresh, well-thought-out food: raw wood planks and beams, bare light bulbs with bright orange filaments aglow, rusted metal fixtures, a monumental steel I-beam exposed on the ceiling. We sat in the back patio, where patina-colored tables rested on antique bricks. Every dish we tried was superb: grilled brussels sprouts with bacon, dates, and vinegar; a mixed cheese plate with goat, cow, and sheep’s milk cheeses; a flatiron steak sandwich on a baguette with chili peppers, arugula, and a sinus-infiltrating (in a good way) horseradish aioli; a fried egg sandwich with roasted pepper, mozzarella, prosciutto, arugula, and harissa aioli; and a lamb burger with the same harissa aioli, roasted tomato, and arugula. Next door is Gjelina GTA, a take-out specific space for those looking to save a little money and a lot of time – gjelina.com.

Mixed cheese plate at Gjelina
Mixed cheese plate at Gjelina

Intelligentsia Coffee – Also on Abbot Kinney, this spot takes coffee dorkery to its logical extreme. The first and most noticeable trait of the large, airy café is the layout. Instead of the typical straight block of forward-facing counter space, Intelligentsia features a circular counter, penning in the four or five tragically hip knowledgable baristas working the gleaming coffee machinery. The theory behind the counter circle, our barista informed us, was to reduce the distance between barista and customer. In the rear of the shop was an area labeled “slow bar.” Here, a coffee expert will take you through the origin story of the particular coffee you order. Whether you enjoy Intelligentsia’s ambience or not (I did), it’s hard to argue that the high-quality, fresh coffee was expertly prepared. The cappuccinos and lattes were artful blends of well-pulled espresso and what I can only presume was local, organic milk. A small, moist red velvet mini cake sported a layer of raspberry cream and a delicate chocolate coating. While enjoying our Intelligentsia experience, we were also stoked to see our favorite ex-IRA weapons expert, Fiona, from the TV series Burn Notice (her real name is Gabrielle Anwar). Our LA experience felt somehow more complete for the television-star sighting – intelligentsiacoffee.com.

Note: Our barista at Intelligentsia was practiced in the art of latte “leaf” creation (see below). For a very cool piece on this frothy medium, check out The Art of Judging Latte Art on Slate.com

 cacA barista pouring a near-perfect latte at Intelligentsia
A barista pouring a near-perfect cappuccino at Intelligentsia
A barista at Intelligentsia Coffee
A barista at Intelligentsia Coffee

The Lazy Ox Canteen – Located in one of my favorite downtown LA neighborhoods, Little Tokyo, the Lazy Ox isn’t a Japanese restaurant. The owner, Michael Hide Cardenas, however, was raised in Japan, and Japanese notes definitely infiltrate many of the eclectic dishes. Our party of four waited a solid hour to be seated sans reservation, but luckily a walk through Little Tokyo burned most of that. At one point, we came across an awkward outdoor karaoke session in a little plaza full of bakeries, noodle shops, and fashion boutiques. We spent the final twenty minutes of our wait sipping sake and big bottles of Kirin at the Japanese restaurant next door to the Lazy Ox. Once seated, we ordered four small and four medium-sized plates, not of a single one of which was less than amazing. Still, some standouts included barbecued short ribs, polenta with mushrooms, the tempura artichoke hearts with a citrus mayonnaise, and the ricotta fritters with honey. I can only assume the rest of the items on the ever-changing menu would have been as exceptional, too. For desert, a seasonal fruit crumble, and butterscotch pudding were among the party favorites, but again, nothing was disappointing. The Lazy Ox philosophy is “to bring exceptional ingredients prepared artistically at an approachable price.” The first two items I can see, but the approachable price thing seems like a bit of a stretch. Maybe I’ve forgotten how much things cost in the big city… – lazyoxcanteen.com

Also highly recommended are LA’s many food trucks. We only ate at one, which served killer Bánh mì (Vietnamese sandwiches on baguettes),  so you’ll have to experiment to find your style. Totally worth it. Find them at findlafoodtrucks.com

A food truck in LA
"Cool Haus," one of many food trucks in LA. This one was parked across the street from the LA Country Museum of Art, which has a great show on California modernist design from the 1930s-60s.

And here are a few places we didn’t get to go but that were highly recommended by trustworthy sources: