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February 5, 2024

How to Buy, Serve, and Enjoy Caviar

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Admit it. If you haven’t tasted quality caviar served on a buckwheat blini with a dallop of crème fraiche, aren’t you curious to know what the fuss is about?

Valentine’s Day is the perfect time to indulge in a little decadence with your special someone, and nothing says romance like candlelight, soft music, long-stemmed roses, champagne…and caviar.

Today, caviar symbolizes the epitome of luxury and class, but it wasn’t always so. In fact, 150 years ago caviar was so cheap in the United States that it was served for free in bars—like pretzels or popcorn—just to encourage patrons to drink more! Overfishing, pollution, and loss of habitat caused supply to crash and prices to skyrocket, but you can still enjoy this delicious delicacy for a reasonable price. You just have to know what you’re looking for.

Read on to learn how to choose, buy, serve, and enjoy quality caviar. Once we’ve mother-of-pearl-spoon-fed you the basics, you’ll be ready to wow your guests or treat your sweety to an exquisite culinary treat.

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Why try caviar?

Caviar still has a bit of an elitist image, but it's no longer just for the uber-wealthy. In fact, it can be as affordable as a bottle of good wine or a great dessert...not to mention that it's far healthier.

Among its many nutritional virtues, caviar is rich in calcium, iron, selenium, and antioxidants. It’s also a great source of protein and Omega-3 fatty acids, which means that it’s good for your heart, bones, and immune system. It's even used as a natural anti-depressant.

But the real reason to treat yourself and your loved ones to this exquisite delicacy is, of course, flavor.

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What caviar is (and isn’t).

If you’re new to buying caviar, you may find the terminology a little confusing.

Technically, caviar is the salted, unfertilized eggs of sturgeon fish. The eggs of other kinds of fish like salmon or trout can also be tasty, but they aren’t true caviar; we refer to the eggs of those fish as “roe.”

In a moment, we’ll discuss the different kinds of caviar and roe, compare their tastes, and show you what you can expect to pay for each. But for now, just keep in mind that all true caviar comes from sturgeon. In the U.S., we tend to be pretty lax about the way we use the terminology, so you might see products that advertise “salmon caviar” or “lumpfish caviar.” Just understand that those products are actually roe.

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What kind of caviar should I buy, and how much should I expect to pay for it?

It’s true that the price of caviar can be astronomically high. (Gastronomically? Gasp-tronomically?) But, as with sparkling wine, the more expensive caviars don’t always offer the highest quality or value.

The following list should give you an idea of the range of caviar available and their prices. Let’s start with the most expensive.

Beluga:

Beluga is widely considered the most prized type of caviar in the world, but due to terribly overfishing, beluga sturgeon are critically endangered. The U.S. banned the importation of beluga caviar in 2005. While you can buy beluga today, not many vendors offer it, and you may have to pay $800 per ounce or more for high-quality product.

Beluga hybrids:

This type of caviar comes from fish that are a cross between beluga and another kind of sturgeon. It’s easier to find than beluga, has a similar buttery, nutty taste, and costs a lot less, ranging from about $120-145 per ounce.

Ossetra:

Perhaps the most popular caviar in the world, ossetra (a/k/a osetra or asetra) has medium-sized gold or brown eggs with a unique taste of butter, caramel, and brine. The price for ossetra varies widely from $50-250 per ounce.

Sevruga:

The European sevruga has small gray eggs with a full-bodied taste that is described as briny, nutty, and slightly tangy. It is not everyone’s favorite, but it is very popular with caviar connoisseurs. Price ranges from $50-150 per ounce. American white sturgeon:Arguably the best value, American white surgeon caviar starts with a typical briny taste but then has a buttery aftertaste almost like parmesan cheese. $85-110.

Siberian:

Also known as baika, Siberian caviar is saltier and has larger eggs than most other kinds. It typically costs $80-105.

Kaluga:

Closely related to beluga, the kaluga sturgeon is found in Asia and is the largest freshwater fish on earth. It is sometimes called “river beluga” because its caviar resembles beluga’s in taste, but it has been much better managed and protected, so they are not as endangered. Kaluga has large, firm eggs that are light brown, grey, gold, or green and have a creamy, nutty taste that is more subtle than some types. Expect to pay $55-85 for a 1-ounce tin.

Sterlet:

Similar to sevruga in taste, sterlet has even smaller eggs that are grey or silver. Expect to pay $50-100 per ounce.

Hackleback:

Also known as shovelback sturgeon, hackleback is a wild sturgeon harvested from the rivers of the American South. Hackleback caviar is dark black and tastes nutty and sweet. At such a low price of $35-50 per ounce, it can be a great value as long as you choose a high-quality product. fish roe, orange fish eggs, salmon roe, salmon eggs, dish of salmon roe, salmon

What alternatives should I consider?

Golden Whitefish:

Think of golden whitefish as the marijuana of the caviar world. Inexpensive and pleasant tasting, it is a gateway drug! At $8-15 per ounce, it’s the perfect “caviar” to experiment with.

Salmon:

Salmon roe, sometimes known as “red caviar,” is one of the most popular and delicious substitutes. For as low as $10 per ounce, it’s no wonder that salmon roe is used in so many cuisines and dishes.

Rainbow trout:

We love serving rainbow trout roe at home. It’s subtly sweet and a little briny, and it has that delightful pop in your mouth that you want. If you’re not a big seafood lover, try smoked salmon roe! As with most seafoods, smoke mellows out the fishy flavors and gives it a broader appeal. At just $10-30 per ounce, you can afford to add trout roe as a special treat to charcuterie boards, canapés, sushi, and other seafood dishes, or just enjoy it by the spoonful.

Paddlefish:

American paddlefish is another excellent “introductory” caviar substitute. Similar in flavor to sevruga, paddlefish roe is far less expensive at $16-28 per ounce.

Herruga:

The roe of Spanish herring, herruga has a mild smokey and nutty flavor. Prices vary widely, from $6 per ounce all the way up to $200, so make sure you buy from a reputable dealer.

Tobiko:

Made from flying fish roe, tobiko is often dyed green with wasabi, black with squid ink, or red with beet juice. Personally, we don’t think it tastes great on its own, but its pleasant texture makes a great garnish for sushi. Expect to pay around $15 an ounce for good quality tobiko.

Masago:

Masago “caviar” is made from the roe of tiny capelin fish. It’s mildly sweet and smokey, and it will only run you about $7-15 per ounce. Like tobiko, we wouldn’t recommend eating it on its own, but it is often used in Japan as a sushi topping. caviar taco, creme fraiche, avocado, caviar, sesame seeds, onion, Culinary Crafts, hors d'oeuvres, toasted, seafood, Utah wedding

How can I choose good caviar?

There’s a saying that a good caviar should have at least 15 different flavors to it. While that may be a bit of an exaggeration, the point is that a bite of quality caviar should give you a multi-level experience. It should be enjoyable in every aspect, from its appearance and smell to the feel on your tongue, the pop against the roof of your mouth, the initial burst of flavors, and the lingering aftertaste.

  • Appearance: Caviar should have a shine and sparkle, but not an oily sheen. Each egg should be full and distinct, not a mushy mess.
  • Texture: Caviar should be firm, but not tough. When pressed, it should make a pleasant pop.
  • Smell: Caviar should have a mild briny smell, but if they smell fishy, you’ve got a problem!
  • Flavor: Different types of caviar have different forward flavors and lingering aftertaste, from nutty to buttery to fruity to sweet. However, caviar should never taste metallic or overly fishy.

A key to choosing good caviar is to look for quality but not for bargains. Don’t get fooled by blow-out sales or surprisingly low prices. Your best bet is to look for a caviar (or caviar substitute) in your price range and work through a reputable dealer.

Where should I buy caviar?

Shopping for caviar online is a dubious business unless you stick with companies that are established and dependable. We have never been disappointed with Marky’s or Om. Russ & Daughters and Petrossian also have fine reputations.

If you’re looking for caviar you can buy in bulk, Costco is a good option. They offer several varieties of ossetra, Siberian, and white sturgeon.

Here in Utah, we have a few local vendors to choose from. Caputo’s in Salt Lake City is one of our favorite purveyors, not only of caviar but of cheese, chocolate, and all sorts of loveliness! If you’ve shopped there before, you know that Caputo’s employees are amazingly helpful and more than willing to share their knowledge. Maybe if enough of us make a specific request, they’ll offer a hands-on class on caviar.

Finally, Pirate O’s carries reasonably priced caviar substitutes: salmon roe for $24.99/2 ounces and lumpfish roe for $12.99/2 ounces.

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How much caviar do I need to buy?

A good rule of thumb for buying and serving caviar is “Don’t overdo it. A little goes a long way.” The among of caviar you should buy depends on how you’re serving it, how many guests you have, how hungry they are, and how many true caviar-lovers you’ve invited. But here are the basic guidelines to follow:

  • As a garnish just to give a touch of class, a few grains per serving will do, so a 1-ounce tin of caviar can serve your whole party of 20+ people.
  • On most hors d’oeuvres or appetizers, use ⅛ to ¼ of a teaspoon per serving. This will yield roughly 20-40 servings per ounce of caviar.
  • If caviar is the main flavor you want guests to taste on an appetizer, use about ½ teaspoon per serving. This will give you about 10 servings per 1-ounce tin.
  • If eating caviar straight out of the tin, a 1-ounce serving will feed 1 to 2 people.

How should I store caviar?

Since caviar is partially cured with salt and vacuum sealed, it should last 4-6 weeks if unopened. Store caviar in the coldest part of your fridge, usually in the back. Once you open it, you should eat it as soon as you can, within no more than 2-4 days.

You can freeze caviar, but we don’t recommend it. The flavor will be mostly unaffected by freezing, but the texture will change. Once frozen, caviar tends to become more sticky, clumpy, and mushy. It will also lose that slight pop in the mouth.

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How should I serve caviar?

Fish eggs are fragile, so always handle caviar and other kinds of roe gently. Metal spoons, particularly silver, can give caviar a nasty metallic taste and alter its color. That’s why they make special mother-of-pearls spoons for caviar. Plastic, wood, ceramic, or tortoise shell works too.)

If you’re working with salmon, whitefish, or lumpfish roe, it’s a good idea to rinse it gently with cold water and let it dry on a paper towel before serving. Otherwise, the color might run.

To keep your caviar at its freshest, take it out of the fridge about 10 minutes before you serve it. If you don’t use it all, immediately seal the remainder and place it back in the fridge.

To take a sample taste, place a dollop on the back of your thumb, on the flat part between your thumb and first finger. Then slurp it off. There’s no real reason to eat it like that except tradition.

If you can, keep the tins on ice.

There are lots of delicious ways to serve caviar as an hors d’oeuvres or appetizer. Blinis (small Russian pancakes) are a traditional favorite vehicle, and we particularly love to make them with buckwheat.

Different kinds of crackers or toast points (crustless triangles of toast) also work well, but you’ll be surprised how great caviar tastes on a simple, unsalted potato chip. (Caviar is salty enough on its own, so salted potato chips can be too much.) Honestly, potatoes in practically any form are a great match for caviar, so try it on baked potatoes, mashed potatoes, French fries, or even tater tots. Trust us on this! Eggs, sushi, and all kinds of sea food also complement caviar beautifully.

Red onions, chives, and crème fraiche or sour cream are all great additions. Just don’t overdo them and overpower the amazing flavors of the caviar.

What drink should I serve with caviar?

Ice cold vodka or champagne are the traditional beverages to complement caviar. Plain water or sparkling water can also work to cleanse your palate between tastes. You don’t want anything overpowering like a heavy red or white wine. That said, a milder white wine can work. Finding the perfect pairing is a matter of personal taste and experimentation, but what experimenting could be more fun to do?

From all of us at Culinary Crafts, may your Valentine’s Day be the most romantic and delicious ever!

Eat well.

August 29, 2023

Shiitake Happens

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by Kaleb Crafts

Co-President and Challenge Accepter

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When I was fourteen, my family took a trip to Japan, a country near and dear to my father’s heart. For a high school-aged boy, it was a life-changing experience… sometimes in unexpected ways.

One afternoon we stopped at a cafeteria-style food hall for lunch. Each tray of food was served with traditional Japanese condiments, including pickled vegetables called tsukemono (pronounced “SKAY-moh-NOH”). These particular tsukemono were thinly sliced radishes, carrots, and cucumbers with generous amounts of Japanese horseradish or wasabi. Feeling adventurous, I took a small sample of the strange-smelling condiment and popped it into my mouth. Instantly, my mouth puckered and my nostrils tried to clamp shut. Noticing the tear that trickled down my cheek, my brother, Ryan, did what older brothers have a sacred duty to do: he dared me, “I'll give you twenty bucks if you can eat that whole bowl in one bite!"

Since younger brothers also have a sacred duty—to never turn down a dare—I scooped up the pile of pickles and stuffed them in my mouth. And then…FIRE! It felt like a mini volcano of acid had erupted in my sinuses. Tears streamed down my face, but I knew that if I could only manage the pain for a few minutes, the money and glory would be mine. I could practically feel that crisp twenty-dollar bill in my hand. Colors began to change as my vision blurred, but I kept chewing. By sheer power of will, I forced my esophagus to open and began to swallow. Unfortunately, my stomach didn't want any part of the hell that my mouth and sinuses had been enduring. With the help of my diaphragm and abdominal muscles, it put a sudden and violent end to the whole affair.

Lesson Learned

But here’s the strange part. Instead of leaving me with a lifelong hatred of horseradish, that experience did the opposite. I love horseradish, wasabi and anything with that unique tangy, acidic heat.

It’s strange how a person’s view of a particular food can be changed, for good or bad, by a single experience. For example, I had always told myself I hated mushrooms. To me, they had a weird texture and tasted like moldy dirt. For decades I refused to eat anything containing mushrooms, but then, one humid day in Vancouver, Canada, my narrative changed. A local mushroom expert prepared a meal for me that featured the 60 varieties of mushrooms he’d found on his hillside farm, and I knew I had to at least sample the dishes. I mustered the courage to try a pickled mushroom, and to my surprise, my love of acid and tang overcame my hatred of mushrooms. From that moment on, I couldn’t get enough of mushrooms!

I guess the moral (morel?) of the story is, don’t be too quick to write a food off or tell yourself you don’t like it. Maybe you just haven’t come across a variation or a way of preparing the food that you like. Stay open to new foods and to new ways of preparing them. Who knows? That food you’re sure you hate may turn out to be something you learn to love.

The other moral is, trust your taste buds, not your brother.

May 30, 2023

Basil Pesto Salmon

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by Danielle Mahoney

Director of Staff Development

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Ever since my children could stand, they’ve been next to me at the stove as I cooked. When they were very young, they would join me at the cutting board and put their hands on mine as they “helped” me slice, dice, and chop. I’m a firm believer that the more opportunities children have to help in the kitchen, the less picky of eaters they will be and the healthier attitudes they will have about food and about themselves.

I wanted my daughters to be adventurous eaters, so I liked to introduce new foods and make sure they always tried everything. As they got a little older, they would express their likes and dislikes, which was also something I encouraged.

“Pink Chicken”

One day when my oldest was two or three, she came in from playing and asked what we were having for dinner. I told her we were having Basil Pesto Salmon, and she told me, “I don’t like salmon.” I knew that she had eaten salmon many times and had always enjoyed it, but I didn’t say anything. She went off to play some more, and her young memory forgot the interaction.

When we sat down to dinner that night, I thought I would try to fool her into eating, so when she asked what was on her plate I said, “Pink chicken.” Pink was her favorite color at the time, so it worked out well that the salmon was a sort of pink color. She ate every bite and said it was her favorite dinner and thanked me so much for making it. For years we continued to call salmon “pink chicken,” and even when she was old enough to know the difference, we continued the nickname. To this day, Basil Pesto Salmon is one of her favorite meals to eat and to cook herself. It’s super easy, nutritious, and delicious, and a great way for kids to flex their cooking skills.

To turn this dish into an extra-fancy affair, serve it as bite-size hors d’oeuvres on an appetizer buffet! And if you’re short on time, just buy some quality pesto instead of making your own.

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Basil Pesto Salmon

Salmon

INGREDIENTS
  • 4 salmon fillets, 5 oz each
  • 2 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp pepper
  • ½ cup Parmesan cheese
INSTRUCTIONS
  1. Place salmon in lemon juice, oil, salt and pepper and allow to marinate while you prepare the pesto. (See Pesto recipe below.)
  2. Preheat oven to 400°F.
  3. Place 4 piles of parmesan (about 2 Tbsp in each pile) on a baking sheet, gently pat down to form into approx. 3-inch circles. Bake 4-5 min. until cheese starts to bubble and turn golden. Remove from heat and allow to cool and become crisp.
  4. Remove salmon from marinade, generously coated.
  5. Heat 1 Tbsp. olive oil in sauté pan over med heat. When oil is hot, carefully place salmon in pan, and cook 4 min. Turn salmon over and coat with heaping Tbsp of pesto sauce. Cook additional 2-3 min. just until the fish flakes with fork.
  6. Serve topped with cheese crisp.

Basil Pesto

INGREDIENTS
  • 1 cup fresh basil leaves (I like to substitute ½ cup fresh spinach leaves for half of the basil. It’s a great way to sneak in some greens)
  • 3 Tbsp pine nuts
  • ¼ cup Parmesan cheese
  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • salt and pepper to taste
INSTRUCTIONS
  1. In a food processor or high-powered blender, place the spinach, basil, and pine nuts. Pulse a few times to chop roughly.
  2. Add the cheese and garlic, and pulse several more times to combine.
  3. While blending, add the olive oil in a slow steady stream to keep the mixture emulsified.
  4. Stop occasionally to scrape down the sides so all the ingredients are incorporated.
  5. Add salt and pepper to taste. Consistency should be similar to mashed potatoes with small, uniform chunks.

Enjoy!

May 16, 2023

Rice Atole

By

By Jenna Winger

Event Manager

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When we were trying to decide what recipe I should share, someone asked my son, Jaxon, “What’s the best thing your mom cooks?” Without even thinking about it, he instantly said, “Atole!”

Rice atole (pronounced “uh-toe-lee”) is a Mexican dessert—kind of like a pudding. Jaxon’s grandparents made it for him when he was a baby, and he looooves it. In fact, it was one of his first words! And since he loves it so much, I realized I’d better learn how to make it.

My one bit of advice is to be careful that you add both condensed milk and evaporated milk. I’ve tried to leave one out and double the other, but it doesn’t work!

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Rice Atole

(makes 8 servings)

Ingredients
  • 1 cup white rice
  • 5 cups water
  • 3-4 cinnamon sticks
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • 1 can evaporated milk
  • 1 can condensed milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla
Directions
  1. In a rice cooker, combine rice, water, and cinnamon sticks. Cook for 10 minutes, longer if needed. Rice should be soft but not mushy.
  2. Remove cinnamon sticks. Add in butter, evaporated milk, condensed milk, and vanilla.
  3. If needed, cool the atole by adding a splash of milk.

January 11, 2023

Guasacaca

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by Mosiah Guerrero

Production Chef

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Growing up, I loved to watch my mother cook. She came from a generation who believed that cooking was only for women, so she was a little annoyed to have her youngest son following her around the kitchen all the time, getting in the way. She would tell me to go play outside, but all I wanted to do was be in the kitchen with her, watching and learning.

Whenever Mom left the house, I took it as an opportunity to practice cooking. The dish I always tried was arroz con leche, a kind of rice pudding that we make in Venezuela with condensed milk. Unfortunately, I burned the pot EVERY TIME. When my mom came home and found another mess and another burned pot, she would run around the house looking for me. I was forbidden from cooking anymore, but that didn’t stop me. Even when she got frustrated and stopped buying condensed milk, I just figured out how to make condensed milk on my own.

It never occurred to me that cooking could be a career. After high school, I took a job as a dishwasher at Faustina Restaurant in Salt Lake City, but I figured I’d only be there briefly until I figured out what I wanted to do. Soon I became bored of the dishwasher routine and started watching what was going on in the kitchen. The head chef of the restaurant, Billy Sotelo, noticed my interest and asked if I wanted to start working the salad/appetizer station. After a week and a half of that, Chef Sotelo moved me up to the grill station where I finally got to dip my fingers into a whole new side of the kitchen.

Shortly after, the restaurant changed their menu. Chef Sotelo asked for input from all the employees, but he wanted us to make the recipes our own. I quickly thought of guasacaca, a Venezuelan version of guacamole. It’s amazing for empanadas, marinating chicken, fried mozzarella sticks, and hundreds of other uses. I experimented with the recipe until I had it mastered. The chef loved the sauce, but he didn’t love the name: Guasacaca sounds like…something you wouldn’t eat. He called it “Mosiah Sauce” and added it to the menu. It has been a hit with the customers ever since.

That was the first time I was truly able to make a recipe my own, and I’m still very proud of it. I am forever grateful that, at such a young age, I have been able to turn a passion into a career. Now that I’m a chef, I can do what I love and continue to create goals to become an even better chef every day. I know my mother never expected her son to spend his career in the kitchen, but at least now she doesn’t have to worry about me burning her pans.

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Mosiah Sauce Guasacaca

Ingredients

  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1 peeled garlic clove
  • ½ red onion
  • ½ red bell pepper
  • ½ yellow bell pepper
  • ½ jalapeno pepper (or use ½ Anaheim pepper for a milder taste)
  • 1 avocado
  • 1 cup cilantro
  • 1 lime, juiced
  • salt

Directions

Combine all ingredients in a blender. Puree until smooth. Adjust salt and lime juice to taste. Enjoy!

June 30, 2022

Ryan’s Grilling Tips: Fuel and Fire

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tomahawk steaks, grilling, fire, summer grilling, steaks on the grill Summer is the time for grilling tips and fantastic food!

In an earlier blog, I suggested several ways you can up your grilling game. We discussed the pros and cons of using a gas grill versus wood or charcoal, and I mentioned that all the grills I personally own are charcoal. Why? Even though there are some advantages to a gas grill (such as ease of start-up and cleanup), it will never match the taste and temperatures you can reach with a charcoal grill. For me, it's worth dealing with the downsides of charcoal in exchange for those deep, smoky flavors!

But how do you get the incredible taste that only a charcoal grill can achieve? It all starts with mastering two things, Fuel and Fire. Oktoberfest, grilling, Culinary Crafts, sausages on grill, lederhosen, smiling chef, German, German hat, tongs, charcoal grill,

FUEL

At Culinary Crafts we always say that great food starts with great ingredients, and when it comes to grilling, charcoal isn’t just a heat source; it’s an ingredient. Unlike cooking in a microwave or oven (or even on a gas grill), the fuel you use in a charcoal grill will flavor your food dramatically, so it’s important to choose your fuel carefully.

Lump charcoal

My favorite fuel—at least for grilling steaks—is lump charcoal.

Lump charcoal is made by burning away all the sap and other volatile impurities in the wood, leaving thick black chunks of carbon. The water and gasses in the wood are also burned off, but not completely, which is why lump charcoal sometimes sparks and pops when you heat it, as little gas pockets expand and explode. It’s not dangerous, but it can get pretty exciting! lump charcoal, grilling, fire, coals, flame, burning fuel The main advantages to lump charcoal are
  • it gets hot quickly (in 10 to 15 minutes).
  • it reaches very high temperatures (up to 1400°F) which allows you to give food a wonderful char.
  • it burns more completely, leaving behind less ash.
  • it gives a clean, flavorful smokiness to your food.
The downsides to lump charcoal are that it’s a bit more expensive and it burns quickly, so you’ll need to keep adding charcoal for longer grills.

Briquettes

The most popular type of charcoal—the kind I use for barbequing or for lower-temp grills—is briquettes. Briquettes are basically crushed charcoal held together with starch. If they have no other additives, they’re called “natural” or “hardwood” briquettes. Briquettes can be made from many kinds of wood, but I mostly use mesquite for its strong, flavorful smoke. Hickory is also great. The bags you buy in the store don’t always list what wood it’s made from, but if the briquettes are dense (i.e. the bag feels heavy for its size), it’s probably good wood. briquettes, coal shovel, grill, grilling with charcoal, grilling demonstration, Culinary Crafts, catering in Utah The main advantages of briquette charcoal are
  • it’s readily available.
  • it’s less expensive than lump charcoal.
  • it’s easy to fit onto your grill and move around to control your fire.
  • it gives a more consistent grilling temperature.
  • it burns longer (100 briquettes ought to let you grill for up to an hour).
The biggest disadvantage to briquettes is that they won’t burn nearly as hot as lump charcoal (briquettes max out around 800°F), but for barbequing and for grilling some foods that’s okay.

Briquettes can also be a little more difficult to light, but using a chimney starter will solve that problem. (See below.) If you want to give your charcoal some help by dousing it with lighter fluid, that’s okay too, so long as you leave plenty of time—at least 30 minutes—for the lighter fluid chemicals to burn away before you start to grill. Don’t ever add lighter fluid after the fuel is hot! Some brands of briquettes are pre-soaked in lighter fluid, but I don’t recommend ever using those types of briquettes. The chemicals will not completely burn away, and they will give your food a nasty flavor.

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Wood

Unless you’re out in the wild and grilling over a campfire, using raw wood for your sole fuel is not ideal. Wood is full of tar and other contaminants that will produce a thick, dirty smoke when burned. Most people don’t like the flavors it adds to food. Scraps of construction lumber make even worse fuel for grilling because they’re treated with chemicals.

That said, there are ways that raw wood can be used in your grill to add great flavor. Pure wood chips, soaked in water, can be dropped directly on top of your charcoal to add aromatic flavors of your choice. I love the strong smoke from mesquite, hickory, or oak wood chips. Woods like cherry, apple, or plum add a nice fruity flavor, but stay away from soft woods like pine, cedar, or fir. Their smoke tastes terrible.

PRO GRILLING TIP: If you’re using a gas grill, you can still add smoky flavor to your food by burning woodchips in a smoker box or in a tinfoil packet with holes punch in it. Just place the foil packet over a heat source where it will slowly smoke and burn. You can also add dried rosemary or basil for another level of flavor. (Leave the stems on.) For a rich, fruity flavor, save and dry your grapevine cuttings and add them to your fuel.

 

FIRE

wood grill, grilling, flames, barbeque, outdoors, grilling in the backyard Once you know what you’re going to be burning, it’s time to talk about how. The first concern, of course, is safety.

Set Up Safety

  • Set up your grill safely far away from potential fire hazards like structures or low- hanging trees. (Anticipate possibilities like things falling or being blown around by wind.)
  • Position your grill where pets, children, or foot traffic won’t accidentally bump into it.
  • Think about the mess. I’m not just talking about the ash; I’m also talking about the mess from the food itself. For example, if you’re grilling meat, you’re always going to have drippings, so don’t set up your grill on any decorative or porous surface. Stay away from concrete, nice flooring, or patio wood if you can. Grass is good.
  • Arrange your tools and space ahead of time. When you’re holding a scorching-hot chimney in one hand and tending to a sudden flare-up with the other, it’s too late to be thinking about where you’re going to safely put things down.

grilling tools, grilling demonstration, cookbooks, tools for grilling, barbeque toolsFire Safety

  • Don’t wear anything loose like a tie or dangling, long hair while you’re grilling.
  • Keep “helpful” neighbors and everyone else at a safe distance from your fire.
  • If you ignore our advice and use self-igniting briquettes, at least don’t use them in a chimney or with an electric coil starter.
  • Once your fire is going, never leave the grill unattended.
  • Be careful when opening the lid of your grill. When you turn or move meat, be especially alert for flareups from melting fat falling onto your coals.
  • Wear proper protective gear and don’t set hot items near flammables, where someone can accidentally touch them, or where they can be knocked over by the wind.
  • Have a functioning fire extinguisher and/or a water hose nearby, just in case.

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Food Safety

When you’re grilling, you also need to be careful about the way you handle your food.
  • Wash your hands thoroughly before and after handling food, especially raw meat.
  • Keep your plates and platters clean. Don’t put cooked foods onto the same plate with raw foods or where raw meat has been.
  • Keep your tools clean too. If you use a fork or tongs on raw meat, wash it thoroughly before you let it touch any cooked food.
  • Especially for less experienced grillers, it’s a good idea to use a meat thermometer to check your food and make sure it reaches the recommended internal temperature.
  • Don’t leave uncooked, perishable food sitting out (even to thaw) for more than 2 hours. In hot weather, don’t leave it out for 1 hour.
  • Don’t put grilled food into your fridge until it’s had time to cool off. Putting hot food into your fridge can change the temperature enough to make your other food spoil.

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Planning Your Fire

Once you’ve set up your space to grill safely, it’s time to think about how you’re going to arrange your fuel and build your fire.

A good fire takes planning. Think about what items you’ll be cooking and what temperatures each of them will need. You may also choose to leave room on your grill for wood chips and/or an aluminum pan to catch meat drippings. Personally, I like to let fat drip right onto the charcoal. I love the added flavor from the smoke of the burning fat, and I don’t mind dealing with the flames of an occasional flare-up by temporarily shifting my meat to a cooler zone.

Good Grub sign, signage, barbeque, grilling outdoors, Culinary Crafts, catering event in Utah, outdoor grilling You also need to plan out your grilling schedule. Charcoal takes time to heat, and after you put your hot coals onto the grill, you’ll need another 10-15 minutes to let the grill itself get hot before you start cooking. Coordinate your schedule so that your meats will be well-rested and your other food will be coming off hot and juicy right when everyone’s ready to eat.

Light It Up!

If you’re using briquettes, the best way to light them is to use a charcoal chimney. Open the air vents of your grill, remove the cooking grate, and set the chimney on the charcoal grate. Fill your chimney with charcoal. (One chimney full of briquettes should be enough to grill four thick steaks.) Use lighter fluid if you want, but as I said, a chimney makes lighter fluid unnecessary. Pile a wad of newspaper under the chimney and light the paper. The bottom briquettes will heat up and light the briquettes above them.

When the top coals in the chimney are lightly glowing or are flickering with flames, they’re ready. Using thick gloves and following the manufacturer’s instructions, carefully turn the chimney over to dump the briquettes onto your charcoal grate. Use a charcoal rake to arrange them according to your plan to create your temperature zones.

Replace your cooking grate and wait for it to heat up. By the time your briquettes finish turning ashy white, you shouldn’t have any more tall, yellow flames. You want your flames to be low and blue or red; that means that your fire is burning hotter and more efficiently. You should be seeing only a small amount of clear-ish colored smoke from your briquettes. The hotter your fire burns, the cleaner the smoke will be. Remember, thick, black smoke is dirty smoke, and no one wants that in their food.

grill flare-up, grilling hamburgers, outdoor grill, outdoor cooking, campfire cooking, summer catered event in Utah, orange flame, smoke, charcoal grill After 10-15 minutes, check the temperature. To do the popular “hand test,” place your hand about four inches above your coals, approximately at the height where your food will be placed. (Don’t touch the grate, obviously.) See how long you can comfortably keep your hand there. If you can hold it there only 1 or 3 seconds, your grill is at a high cooking temp. 4 to 7 second means you’re at a medium heat, and 10 seconds or longer means you have a low temperature.

For grilling steaks, pork chops, burgers, or thin veggies you’ll want a high temperature. Medium heat is great for chicken, fish, or thickly-sliced veggies. For larger or tougher cuts like ribs or brisket, you’ll want to grill them at low heat for longer times.

If you need to decrease your heat, try cutting off some of the oxygen to your fire by partially or fully closing the grill’s air vents.

To turn up the heat, try increasing the airflow by opening the vents. Raking the coals or breaking your charcoal into smaller pieces will increase the surface area that can burn, which will also raise the heat. Just be careful not to knock ash onto your food. If those methods don’t work to increase the heat, you probably just need to add more fuel.

grill, trout, santa maria grill, outdoor event, summer party, catering in Utah, SLC caterers Don’t worry if you encounter some difficulties building your fire, creating your grill zones, and keeping their temperatures constant. Learning to master fuel and fire takes practice. But now that you’ve got the basics, it’s time to turn our attention to the food.

That, my friends, is the subject of our next grilling lesson! Stay tuned.

March 29, 2019

The Top 15 places to eat lunch in Utah County

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Culinary Crafts headquarters is located in Pleasant Grove, so we are always looking for great places for lunch in Utah County. We polled Ryan, Kaleb, and our chefs to come up with this list of our 15 favorite lunch spots.
  • Pizzeria 712 - 320 State St #185, Orem, UT - This has been a Crafts family favorite since it opened. 712's approach shares many of our own philosophies and values regarding food - simple yet creative, ingredient driven, and house-made. Always delicious!
  • Asahi - 1470 N State St, Orem, UT - Great sushi at a great price. Conveniently located. We go here a lot!Image result for asahi orem
  • Tsunami Restaurant & Sushi Bar - 1616 W Traverse Parkway, Lehi, UT - Not only is the sushi fabulous, there are lots of delicious options to satisfy even the sushi averse, including an impressive sake list.Image result for tsunami sushi
  • Oteo - 139 S State St, Lindon, UT - Tacos, sopes, and empanadas after our own hearts! Innovative and trendy, yet still simple and without fuss. Don't miss the avocado tacos.
  • Black Sheep Cafe - 19 N University Ave, Provo, UT - Southwestern Native American cooking with full bar selections. Upscale and full service, but still casual. Ryan recommends the hog jowl tacos!Image result for black sheep provo
  • Cravings Bistro - 25 W Center St, Pleasant Grove, UT - A modern take on classic comfort dishes (grilled cheese and soup). It's impossible to pick the wrong sandwich, but if you're undecided opt for the ABC (apples, bacon, and cheddar). And it's just a few blocks away from our own office!Image result for cravings bistro
  • The Foundry Grill - 8841 N Alpine Loop Rd, Sundance, UT - Ryan spends a lot of time skiing the slopes at Sundance, and drops in here often for an elegant dinner of modern American cuisine. The Tree Room, and Owl Bar are excellent too!Image result for foundry grill
  • Peace On Earth - 35 N 300 W #200, Provo, UT - Let's be honest, it's not easy to find a great cup of Joe of Utah County. We're so happy to see more places like this coming to town. Great sandwiches and beautiful digs as well!DSC08314.jpeg
  • Taqueria 27 - 1688 W Traverse Pkwy, Lehi, UT - Great food at great prices. Fun for groups. Also featuring an array of specials updated daily.Image result for taqueria 27
  • 180 Tacos - 3368 N University Ave, Provo, UT - Too many taco places you say? There's no such thing! Great to dine in or take. The daily specials are always fun!Image result for 180 tacos
  • Bam Bams BBQ - 1708 State St, Orem, UT - Delicious Texas-style BBQ. And just like in Texas, the best thing is the brisket! Image result for bam bam's restaurant
  • Yamato - 1074 State St, Orem, UT - As much as we like to see new comers in our local restaurant scene, we're also ecstatic that places like Yamato stand the test of time. Excellent sushi as well as other classic Japanese dishes.Related image
  • CHOM Burger - 45 300 N, Provo, UT - Just because you've ditched fast food for good, doesn't mean you can't find a tasty burger out there. We love CHOM. And the milkshakes are killer too (especially the rotating seasonal selection)!
  • Sidecar Cafe - 1715 W 500 S, Springville, UT - In addition to the great breakfast and lunch menus, you can check out the Legend's Motorcycle Museum while you're there.
  • Straptank - 1750 West 596 South, Springville, UT - Across the parking lot from Sidecar, this brewery (yep, you read that right) features pub grub to satisfy all comers.
 

March 8, 2019

Host an Olive Oil Tasting!

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Of course we never tire of hosting wine, cheese, charcuterie, whiskey, and chocolate tastings. Less common, but just as fun, we also love to sample a line up up fabulous olive oils.  It's a super fun experience to kick off a dinner party!  Moreover, slowing down to sample different high end oils will also improve your larger cooking experience as you find your favorite oils and use them in all your dishes.   What you'll need:
  • Extra virgin olive oils. Start with 3-6 oils. Pick premium selections. And look to achieve as much variety as possible - oils of varying itensity, of different colors, and from multiple locales.
  • Wine Glasses.
  • Small Plates.
  • Bread. Something with a great crust. Simple breads sans any flavors or accoutrements (the bread is simply to deliver the oil, not compete or contrast with it).
  • Palate Cleanser(s). We suggest fresh fruit (apples, oranges, berries, etc.) and sparkling water.
Photo Credit: Olive Oil Source
  1. First, pour about a tablespoon of the first olive oil into your wineglass.
  2. Swirl the olive oil in the glass.  Cup the glass in one of your hands and cover the top of the glass with the other.  Swirl gently to release aromas.  The warmth from your hands with help the aromas release as well.
  3. Uncover the glass and smell the oil deeply.  Take mental notes of what you smell.  Is it peppery? Fruity?  Buttery?
  4. Next, take a sip of the oil almost in a 'soup-slurping' fashion.  Allow the oil to run across the palate. Breathe in through your nose. Try to smell the oil again before swallowing.
  5. As you exhale, swallow the oil and concentrate on the flavor.  Think about some general categories such as fruitiness, pungency, bitterness, earthiness, pepperyness, etc.  Write down your observations and then compare them with your fellow tasters!  You can also re-taste the oil by pouring it on a small plate and dipping the bread in the oil and seeing how that affects the taste.
  6. When you are ready to move on to the next oil, cleanse your palate with plain bread, a slice of apple, and/or sparkling water.
  7. Repeat the process for the oils.
Taking notes helps. Putting your impressions into words and discussing them with others will help them take form and become more specific. It also helps to recall your thoughts later on when shopping for oils for unique purposes. Below is a great card that's fun to give each guest to help them take notes.Eat well!

February 13, 2019

Ryan’s Valentine’s Day Menu

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Ryan is at it again, making a special night for his stunning wife. Perhaps this will offer some inspiration for your meal.  Apertif & Appetizer 14 Day Rose & Cherry Infused Valentine 75 Rose & Cherry cupcake Amuse American Ossetra caviar, french toast, creme fraiche, and buttermilk syrup Soup wild mushroom bisque with black garlic crouton and mascarpone Entree tuna, gooseberries, and shaved foie gras Entree chili pepper fried chicken with radish, kumquat and ginger salad Salad winter squash and citrus salad with shaved fennel, local greens, and sorrel rhubarb dressing Intermezzo pomegranate, grapefruit, and herb granita Dessert olive oil cake with poached pear, zabaglione, and warm granola Cheese and Honey local raw unfiltered honey and artisan cheese selections Chocolate flourless chocolate cake with dark chocolate ganache, and chocolate cookie crumble, finished with edible gold flake Wishing you a romantic and delicious Valentine's Day!

December 26, 2018

A Very Special Baby Shower!

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Hope you all had a lovely holiday with your friends and family!  Today we have a VERY SPECIAL Culinary Crafts event to share with you all!  It’s our very own Meagan Crafts Price and Clayton Price’s baby shower - and, spoiler alert, it was GORGEOUS!  Held at The Tasting Room, our friends at Soiree Productions created a picture perfect brunch party.  Check it out! How pretty is this signage?  A perfect welcome to the party and those florals from Artisan Bloom are stunning! The Tasting Room was the perfect venue, don’t you think?  We love the mix of feminine florals with just a touch of blue for Meagan and Clayton’s baby boy, Tristan! Another peek at those beautiful tables!  SO PRETTY! We loved how many fun details were party of this shower as well!  Guests were invited to take a Polaroid of themselves to put in the guestbook with a note for the soon-to-be parents! We knew we had to have a fresh juice bar!  Fresh squeezed OJ, Pomegranate Lemonade, Cucumber Mint Water, and Mango Lemonade were all served.  Yum! Of course, since we hosted a brunch party, we made sure to have a signature Coffee Bar! This action bar with artisan cheeses, salad, crackers, and honeycomb was definitely a crowd favorite! Seriously, how pretty was this event???  I couldn’t help but share one more of this beautiful setup! We love our Ebelskiver action station!  How could you not love these delicious pancakes?  Plus the guests love having theirs made to order! The hand calligraphied menus were such a great addition to the event!  Also we served Eggs Benedict because you can’t have brunch with out Benes.  Our delicious version were also made to order and topped with whichever toppings the guests wanted.  So good! Of course we also had a whole selection of desserts!  Plus, we love displaying some of them in our honeycomb display.  Such a whimsical touch! Thank you to all of the wonderful people who came to celebrate Meagan, Clayton, and baby Tristan!  And thank you to Soiree Productions, Artisan Bloom, The Tasting Room, Logan Walker Photography, and Pepper Nix Photography for coming together to host such a beautiful event for them too!  It was the best day to celebrate the best soon to be parents! Check out more Salt Lake City, Park City, and Utah County catering at www.culinarycrafts.com!  

27x winner Utah’s Best of State

24x Best of State Caterer

3x Best of the Best / Hospitality

1x Entrepreneur of the Year