I was toying with the idea of not doing a write-up about this wonderful night that Kim and I had recently. We were invited to a “Vintage Mixer” by the gracious, Becky Rosenthal of The Vintage Mixer. Several other bloggers and food writers were present and we met some wonderful people. A couple of them have already written about their experience. However, in hopes of offering a new perspective, or perhaps simply for my own enjoyment, here I go:
It was held at Vinto Pizzeria in the east part of Salt Lake. We’d never been there, although news of eatery had not escaped our ears. We’d been going to Settebello pizzeria for a couple years now and still thoroughly enjoy it. We’d always professed that it was the best pizza in Salt Lake. I still can’t get over how awesome Napoletana style pizza is. Many times however, we’d be talking pizza with some random stranger and they’d ask, “Have you tried Vinto?” So when we were invited to this mixer, I was a bit ashamed that I’d never been. Luckily, we were not the only ones.
It was amazing. We arrived and were stuffed into a cozy little corner over by the enormous pizza oven.
We were treated to a 13 course tasting menu.
First course was a soup:
At first I thought this was a bit bizarre given we were in the middle of summer and it was blazing hot outside, but then I was reminded of the comprehensiveness of the menu. 13 courses. There were 2 salads in the line up as well. Plus the flavor intrigued me. (Intrigue. That’s the word that I’ll use to describe the entire night.)
Sorrel Soup made with potatoes and cream. It was lovely. It reminded me of the first recipe in Mastering the Art of French Cooking: Potage Parmentier. But with more lemon. Just a little side note about sorrel: I was introduced to it by the chef Ian Brandt of Sage’s Cafe during a little cooking demonstration at the University. Since then I’ve loved it. My wife and I were at the market a few weeks ago and there was some guy selling “lemon spinach.” That peaked my interest so I got a sample and tossed it in my mouth. It was sorrel. I guess he was having a hard time selling “sorrel,” so he took nominal matters into his own enterprising hands.
San Marzano style tomatoes, basil, and mozzarella. They use a terrific brand of tomatoes called “Di Napoli” grown out of California. My wife and I buy it by the case from Tony Caputo’s. This is Vinto’s answer to an excellent Caprese salad when they can’t get good tomatoes. It was delicious. The tomatoes were roasted nicely. However, I still prefer my caprese salad with fresh tomatoes. I totally respect Vinto for finding a way around the problem instead of settling for sub-standard tomatoes and blaming it on the farmers/season/weather.
Served with wild arugula and a very-french shallot vinaigrette. I love shallot vinaigrette. Reminds me of the first time I realized that salad could mean so much more than iceberg lettuce mix with fat-free kraft ranch dressing. This was a wonderful simple transition into the more serious stuff to come. My wife loves artichokes…(she’s actually steaming some right now, as I write this) so she was especially excited when she saw this on the menu.
Oven roasted meatballs, tomato sauce, parmigiano-reggiano, grilled toast. Spaghetti and meatballs is one of my all time favorite dishes, but only if done right. No canned spaghetti sauce please. These were great. Tender and juicy. The charred bits on the toast were especially nice.
The fifth and sixth course consisted of 2 different salads.
I loved this salad. The fontina cheese and pancetta were wonderful balances to the mild cucumber and leaves of romaine. I recently attended a tasting course on Olli meats and had one of the best pancetta’s I’ve ever tasted, and to my surprise, it didn’t taste like bacon. This did. But I wasn’t complaining. The other salad is not pictured. It consisted of a whole host of ingredients such as quinoa, edamame, red onion, and beets. I heard that it won some awards, but compared to this show-stopper, it didn’t really grab my attention.
This was totally new to me. I’ve had fettuccine with cream sauces plenty of times and there always seems to be some sort of pork involved as well, usually in the form of lardons, much to my delight. But this. They added orange. Quite a bit of it at that. Little bits of orange zest. One of my dining companions complained that the orange was bitter and that she didn’t care for it. Maybe my palate isn’t developed enough but I loved it. So did another person at the table. She loved it so much that when the server came to take it away, she stopped him, took the serving bowl, and polished it off herself.
Finally, we arrived at the main event. The course that I’d been anticipating all night. The pizza.
Eighth, ninth, and tenth courses:
The first pizza to come out was the classic Margherita. There’s just something about this lovely combination of flavors. Vibrant tomatoes, floral basil, and tangy soft mozzarella. It’s almost impossible to improve upon. The only thing that any self-respectin’, dough-tossin’ cook can do is source good ingredients and not mess up the quantities. The folks at Vinto do a great job. For me, pizza is all about the crust. It’s what makes or breaks a pizza in my opinion. Vinto’s is great. Extremely soft, yet slightly crunchy on the outside, with only a bit of chew. When this pizza was brought out, the manager came with it. As we all whipped out our cameras (4 or 5 total if I remember correctly) he gently reminded us that it’s best to eat it hot. With that gentle slap on the wrist, we tore in.
This next one is called the Patate.
Earthy yukon gold potato, goat cheese, arugula, and white truffle oil. My wife, being pregnant, ventured slightly on the wild-side and had a bite. I sincerely enjoyed the truffle oil even though some of the others claimed that it was too much. Perhaps they’re tired of it, it is used quite a bit now a days. I’m still in love with it. The meaty flavor compound that it adds to anything, it’s extremely difficult to miss. The first time I had ever tried truffle oil on pizza was at Apizza Scholls in Portland. This one tasted like a hearty mushroom stew with a side dish of light greens…on a pizza.
This one was my favorite of the evening. I’m a sucker for caramelized onions. Especially paired with sausage. They offer a wonderful contrast and play off each other in one’s mouth. That’s exactly what this Tuttabella pizza was all about. Wonderful, licorice-y, floral, fennel seeds, red pepper, tomatoes, house made sausage, and sweet caramelized onions.
The Dolci course (which was technically broken down into 3 courses) consisted of gelato, a budino (pudding), and various cookies. This course really helped end the night on a high note.
The gelato that came out first didn’t impress me. I prefer my gelato thick, and almost chewy. And their chocolate gelato was a little weak. Plus they had flavors like mint-chocolate chip that seemed a bit too ice-creamy for my somewhat traditional taste. And I’ve had basil ice-cream before too.
Vanilla Gelato with Viola extra virgin olive oil and grey sea salt. This was a revelation for me. It was fantastic. Never had I heard of putting olive oil in a dessert, much less drizzled on top of gelato. And the sea salt. I enjoy adding a bit of salt to my fruit to help the flavor pop but you can see from the picture the size of the salt crystals on top. And yet, despite the seemingly cloying use of olive oil and sea salt, it all worked, beautifully.
This. This was just the perfect dessert to bring everything full circle. After all the experimentation with new flavors in the middle of the courses, all the revelations, and playfulness of the ingredients, it ended with butterscotch. Rich, caramely, and comfortable.
I commend Vinto for an incredible menu. It was an honor being guided through so many courses and being exposed to so many wonderful ideas. They definitely pass my test of “Would I be able to make this at home?” No, I wouldn’t. I lack the insight, the inspiration, and the technique needed to execute the sometimes daring dishes and flavor combinations that they put together for us that night.
The service was great with only a few hiccups which I don’t at all hold against them. The servers were professional, unassuming, quick, and non-intrusive.
The decor of the restaurant is awe-inspiring. It’s extremely subtle and yet modern. In my opinion, this is extremely difficult to do. If you’ve ever visited the Metropolitan in Salt Lake, that is a great example of modern and annoying. Vinto’s interior seemed to welcome me into something new, warm, and thoughtful, all while helping me feel as if I hadn’t underdressed.
We’ll be back.