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September 12, 2023

Alpine Mule

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by Danny Bonilla

Bartender and Executive Vice Party Animal

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When I was a teenager, my uncle would sometimes throw parties, and my family usually went. At one of those parties, I found myself all alone in the basement. Everyone else had gone to eat dinner, so it was just me and an open can of Bud Lite sitting on the coffee table in front of me.

This was my chance!

Even though I’d been around alcohol all my life, I’d never actually had a taste before. I picked up the can and gave it a sniff. It didn’t smell very good, but the temptation was irresistible. Checking to make sure no one was coming back down the stairs, I raised the can to my lips, held my breath, and took a big sip.

I nearly gagged. It was terrible! I couldn’t imagine why anyone would want to drink something that tasted so bad. Right there on the spot, I decided that I never wanted to have another drink of alcohol my whole life.

It probably seems funny that someone who hates the taste of alcohol would become a bartender, but that’s exactly what I did. Years later, I started working behind the bar at Culinary Crafts events. At the first event I did at Utah Olympic Park in Park City, I was working with Ryan and Luis who showed me how to make a signature cocktail called an Alpine Mule. I figured if I was going to be mixing Alpine Mules all evening, I probably ought to know what one was supposed to taste like. I totally expected it would be disgusting, but for the second time in my life I held my breath and took a sip. To my surprise, it wasn’t bad at all. In fact, it tasted great!

I’ve mixed a lot of drinks since, at events or just with friends. There are a few other cocktails that I really like (Alan Starks makes a good Moscow Mule and I like Tyler’s Whiskey Sour), but my favorite is still that first cocktail that Ryan and Luis introduced me to, the Alpine Mule. It’s 1,000,000,000,000 percent better than Bud Lite.

Alpine Mule

(makes 1 serving)

Ingredients:

Instructions:

  1. Fill a glass halfway with ice. (Mules are traditionally served in a copper mug to keep the drink cold, but if you want to see the blue color of this drink clearly, use a clear glass.)
  2. Add the vodka, curacao, ginger beer, and optional lime juice. Stir.
  3. Garnish with a wedge of lime or sprig of mint if you feel like getting fancy. Or just enjoy it like it is.

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.

August 15, 2023

Apple Pie Bars: How to Win Friends and Influence Teachers

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Back in the day, at the start of a new school year, a shiny, polished apple was the way to win over your teacher. To be clear, we are not advocating acts of apple-related bribery. But…if you happened to send your young scholars back to school this year with a lunchbox full of delicious apple desserts (like, say, the recipe for amazing Apple Pie Bars below), they just might find themselves making instant friends and becoming their teachers' favorite. Just saying.

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Here at Culinary Crafts, we love finding ways to feature locally grown, in-season ingredients in our menus, and there are soooo many ways to enjoy the sweet abundance of Utah’s apple varieties that are ripening to perfection at this time of year. Apple-infused drinks. Apple butter. Apple chips. Crisps. Cobblers. Crumbles. Chutneys . Hors d’oeuvres. Cheeseboards, The uses for apples are limited only by the imagination. (Whoever said “You don’t make friends with salad” had never tried our Winter Greens with Apples, Beets, and Walnuts.)

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Of all the “apple-ications” you can make with this amazing fruit, some of our favorites are bite-size apple tarts, spicy ciders, and our own Hattie’s Apple Spice Cake.

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If you want to send your kids back to school ready to win a few points with their new classmates and teachers, we’ve got just the thing!

APPLE PIE BARS

Ingredients

SHORTBREAD CRUST
  • ½ cup unsalted butter, melted
  • ¼ cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour, spooned and leveled
APPLE FILLING
  • 2 large apples, peeled and sliced ¼ inch thick
  • 2 Tbsp all-purpose flour
  • 2 Tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • ⅛ tsp ground nutmeg
STREUSEL
  • ½ cup old-fashioned oats
  • ⅓ cup packed light or dark brown sugar
  • ¼ tsp ground cinnamon
  • ¼ cup all-purpose flour, spooned and leveled
  • ¼ cup unsalted butter, cold and cubed
  • salted caramel sauce (optional)

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 300°F. Line the bottom and sides of an 8-inch square baking pan with parchment paper, leaving a little overhang on all sides. Set aside.
  2. Make the Crust: Stir the melted butter, granulated sugar, vanilla, and salt together in a medium bowl. Add the flour and stir until everything is combined. Press the mixture evenly into the prepared baking pan. apple pie bars, crust, dough, pastry dough, cookie sheet, hand spreading dough, Culinary Crafts kitchen, baker working dough, how to make crust Bake for 25-30 minutes, then remove from oven. (As the crust bakes, you can prepare the filling and streusel.)
  3. Make the Apple Filling: Combine the sliced apples, flour, granulated sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg together in a large bowl until all the apples are evenly coated. Set aside.
  4. Make the Streusel: Whisk the oats, brown sugar, cinnamon, and flour together in a medium bowl. Cut in the chilled butter with a pastry blender or two forks (or even with your hands) until the mixture resembles course crumbs. Set aside.
  5. Turn oven up to 350°F. Evenly layer the apples on top of the warm crust. It will look like there are too many apple slices, so layer them tightly and press them down to fit. Sprinkle the apple layer with streusel and bake for 30-35 minutes or until the streusel is golden brown. apple pie bars, streusel, apple slices, spreading the apple filling, roll the crust, spatula, oats, cinnamon, sugar, butter, flour, Culinary Crafts, Utah catering, catering Wasatch Front, best caterer in utah
  6. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for at least 20 minutes at room temperature. Chill in the refrigerator for at least 3 hours (or overnight). Lift the parchment out of the pan using the overhang on the sides and cut into bars. After they are cut, you can make the dessert even more decadent by drizzling salted caramel sauce on top.

Pro Tips:

  • If you want even more of these delicious Apple Pie Bars, you can double the recipe and bake it in a 9x13 pan. Just make sure you pre-bake the crust for only 18 minutes (instead of 25-30) and then extend the baking time in Step 5 to 45-55 minutes (instead of 30-35).
  • The bars will stay fresh in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 3 days, or you can freeze them for up to 3 months. If you’re going to be storing the bars, avoid unnecessary mess by waiting to add the caramel sauce until you’re ready to serve them.
  • If you’re going to use only one type of apple, Granny Smiths are the way to go! They keep their shape beautifully when baked, and their wonderful tartness balances out the sugar in many baked desserts. For a fuller, more complex flavor, use two or more different types of apples; we like to combine a Granny Smith with a sweet variety like Pink Lady or Honeycrisp. Of course, the best guideline for choosing apples is to pick something ripe and fresh from one of our local growers.
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Where to Find Fresh Local Apples

Starting in August, Cherry Hill Farms in Alpine, Utah allows you to pick your own apples straight off the tree. You can’t get fresher than that! (Call ahead to check on availability.) And while you’re there, don’t miss their chocolate-covered cherries.

Throughout September, you can also pick your fill of apples at Rowley’s Red Barn in Santaquin on Fridays and Saturdays from 9 AM to 7 PM. (Treat yo'self to their apple cider donuts and fresh apple cider slushies!)

Allred Orchards has been a local favorite on University Avenue in Provo for generations. We are huge fans of their fresh-pressed cider! Along with the classic apple types, they also grow some unusual varieties like Zestar and Mutsu.

McMullin Orchards in Payson grows half a dozen different varieties of apples including Fuji, Honey Crisp, and Ginger Gold, all of which make school lunch snacks that are delicious, nutritious, and expeditious!

Crandall’s Fruit Farm in Orem is a great place to get fresh Gala apples. For the 2023 season, call ahead to find out exactly when they’ll be opening.

Wishing all the best to you and yours at the start of a brand-new school year!

Eat well!

August 2, 2023

Mango Pulled Pork

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by M Parker Reed

Event Manager

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When I was six, my parents taught me to cook my first recipe, which was Whacky Cake, also known as Great Depression Cake. Ever since then, I have loved to cook. When I am in the kitchen, I feel like the chef in Ratatouille who has a rat secretly telling him what to do. The voice in my head isn’t a rodent, obviously, but I have wondered if some past relative of mine is connecting with me from the other side, or if it's just an unconscious part of my psyche manifesting itself. Whatever it is that I feel when I’m cooking, it gives me peace and makes me feel centered, like I’m in the right place doing what I love.

It’s also cheap therapy.

Growing up, my favorite TV channel was always the Food Network, but along with cooking, I also loved the broader field of hospitality. I went to UVU to study Hospitality Management (with an emphasis in Event Planning), which is where I came into contact with Culinary Crafts. I ran into Clayton Price at a career fair and later interviewed Kaleb Crafts as part of an assignment. Starting in May 2022, I began working at Culinary Crafts.

I love the family culture here and the feeling I get from people that “I’ve got your back.” They really walk the talk and take excellent care of the clients as well as the team. I’ve especially appreciated the mentorship of Chris, Sara, Amber, Jinous, and others who have been so generous with their help. Even the owners take the time to teach and share their knowledge.

The recipe I want to share, Mango Pulled Pork, is a creation I developed for an assignment at UVU. My wife (who is very particular about her pulled pork) claims that this recipe is better than her mother’s, but I’d never dare to mention that to my mother-in-law.

Bon Appetit, darlings!

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Mango Pulled Pork

(Serves 2-3 people)

Ingredients:

  • 2 lb pork roast
  • 1 can (11 oz) mango nectar
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup ketchup
  • 1 TBSP brown sugar
  • onion powder
  • garlic powder
  • salt
  • pepper

Directions:

  1. Mix 1 cup (not the whole can) of mango nectar with 1 cup of water. Add a dash of onion powder, garlic powder, and salt. Pour mixture over the pork roast in a crockpot.
  2. Cook on high for 2 hours. Then semi-shred the pork, turn crockpot down to low, and cook for another 2 hours.
  3. Mix the remaining mango nectar with ketchup and brown sugar. Drain the pork and place it in a mixing bowl. Pour ketchup mixture over the pork.
  4. Season with a dash of pepper, onion powder, and garlic powder. Stir until evenly coated, then serve.

July 18, 2023

Wedding Cake Catastrophes (and How to Avoid Them)

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Let’s talk wedding cakes. Specifically, wedding cake catastrophes.

Over the last 35+ years that we’ve been catering weddings, we’ve seen all kinds of cakes, from small and simple to enormous, elaborate creations that belong in an art gallery. Whatever type you choose, your wedding cake will be an expression of your personality and style, as well as a special way of sharing your love and appreciation with your guests. No one wants to see your day ruined by something going wrong with your cake.

But, once in a while, that’s exactly what happens!

We talked to three experts about the horror stories they’ve seen and their advice for how to avoid wedding cake catastrophes. Ale Wortmann is the owner of cake by Alessandra and one of our very favorite cake vendors in Utah. Ryan Crafts is, of course, our COO and co-owner of Culinary Crafts. Cassidy Harrison is the owner of Flour & Flourish and the genius behind their real-as-life sugar flowers. Honestly, even up close, you’d swear those things are real! Check out these examples of her work:

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Here’s what the experts had to say.

1. The Sun Is Not Your Friend

Cassidy told us about one of her wedding cake nightmares. Once, she delivered a four-tier buttercream cake to the venue and noticed that the cake table had been set up in full sunlight. It was late in the evening, but there were still a couple of hours before sunset. Cassidy warned the planner that the cake table needed to be moved, but the bride was adamant that she wanted it under the gazebo. There was no way to change the bride’s mind, so Cassidy hurried home to dress for the wedding. (The bride was a family friend.)

When she returned 45 minutes later, the whole wedding party was in a panic. People mobbed Cassidy, apologizing over and over, "The cake! I'm so sorry! The cake!" Sure enough, it looked like a melted candle.

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“Ever since then,” Cassidy says, “I've been really stern about moving the cake table.” Her advice is “Listen to your cake artist about not putting the cake in the sun on a 96-degree day. We aren't being annoying for no reason. Nobody wants a melty cake at their wedding.”

2. Be Careful About Taking Your Cake Outside

“Outdoor pictures are amazing,” Ale says, “but don’t leave your cake outside very long. Even the shade is hot during our Utah summer months. These cakes are made with butter . Fondant also has buttercream underneath, and it will melt, bubble, and crack in the heat.” Leaving your cake outside on a hot day is probably going to ruin it, even if you avoid direct sunlight. Your best bet is to set up your cake indoors and keep it away from any heat sources. (Cakes have been known to melt indoors just from being placed too close to a sunny window.) But heat isn’t the only danger your cake can face in the great outdoors. Rain, wind, squirrels, ants, leaves, dust, dogs, and other outdoor factors can all lead to wedding cake catastrophes.

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3. Don’t Move the Cake

“Transport is the hardest part,” Ryan says. “Most mishaps happen when someone is moving the cake.”

One of Culinary Crafts’ most harrowing cake-moving experiences was a few years ago when a groom insisted on having a 17-tier cake. That’s right; 17 tiers, and each one had to be a different flavor! It took four team members just to carry it, and we had to move it in pieces, four tiers at a time. Everything went well, but nerves were definitely wracked that day!

Our experts advised against trying to move the cake yourself, including delivering it to the venue. Many times, Ale has been horrified to see a client show up to take their cake in a car filled with balloons, kids, and dogs. (Yes, dogs!) “Please don’t,” she says. “The cake is structured to travel well; however, once it leaves our hands, we can’t be responsible anymore.”

Just pay the delivery fee; we promise, it’s worth every penny. Not only will your cake be handled by the experts who made it, but they will be there at delivery to set it up properly and to fix any issues that may have arisen during transport.

4. Keep It Level

Ale’s next piece of advice is “Make sure your cake table is leveled. Even a slight tip on the table can create a huge impact on tiered cakes, especially on tall ones.”

“One time we had this gorgeous five-tier cake,” Ale remembers. “We did all we could to make it level, but this one was quite tricky. I kept tabs on it all night long. I knew the chef at this restaurant, so I kept asking about the cake, and like I told the client about two hours in, the cake was a Leaning Tower of Pisa. No kidding…. I am just glad it never tipped!!!”

If, despite our experts’ advice, you’re going to have your cake outside for a significant length of time, it’s even more important that you check the table for levelness. Don’t just eyeball the table and assume that it’s “good enough.” Ryan will never forget the anguish of watching the legs of a cake table slowly sink into the soggy ground after a rainstorm. Save yourself a lot of stress and grief by putting your cake on a safe, solid, level surface to begin with.

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5. Work With an Experienced Cake Vendor

The best way to protect against wedding cake catastrophes is to work with an expert. Ryan’s advice is, “Choose a cake vendor/baker who has been around for a while. A newcomer might be able to make a cake that’s just as beautiful and delicious, but will they be familiar with all the issues that can arise? Driving on Utah roads? Adjusting to Utah weather?”

A few years ago, Ryan worked with a bride whose mother insisted that she wanted to make her daughter’s wedding cake. She created a gorgeous four-tier cake covered with amazing sugar roses. On the day of the wedding, she wrapped every rose individually in tissue paper and drove the whole thing from St George up to the State Capitol.

They set up the cake at the top of the granite staircase, and it was stunning! Unfortunately, there were problems with the cake right away. The recipe she’d used for the buttercream was too soft, so even in the air-conditioned room, the cake started to sag. As the ballroom filled with guests, they heard a crash that sounded like a wine goblet being smashed on the staircase, then another and another. They looked up to see that the delicate sugar flowers that the bride’s mother had so carefully crafted were sliding off the cake and crashing to the floor. Then the whole cake buckled and started to lean.

How to Handle Wedding Cake Catastrophes

Ryan raced up the stairs and got to the cake at the same moment as the mom. Together, they caught the cake and held it up with their bare hands. The mom was in tears. She wanted to redo the cake, but Ryan said, “It doesn’t look like this cake is dowelled,” and when she responded, “I don’t know what that means,” he knew the cake was doomed.

“Here’s what we’re going to do,” he said. “We’ll walk this cake down the stairs and behind the curtain to our back of house. My team will take off the top tier, and when you’ve had a chance to redecorate it, we’ll bring that tier back up the stairs for display. My chefs will save the parts that can be salvaged, and we’ll serve those to your guests.”

So that’s what they did, and as heart-breaking as it was to see the mother’s work of love collapse, it didn’t ruin the evening. Would a more experienced cake-maker have known that they needed to reinforce the cake with dowels and dividing supports? Sure. And they probably would have used a different buttercream recipe, and the whole incident might have been avoided. But kudos to that mother for showing her daughter such love by (a) making a magnificent cake and (b) not letting the cake’s demise overshadow the wedding.

And that leads us to our final piece of advice….

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6. Don’t Lose Perspective

You may do everything right—you may work with an experienced vendor who makes a structurally sound cake; you may keep it indoors and away from the heat; you may set it on a level surface and not move it—and something could still go wrong. The A/C could go out. An unattended child can start licking the frosting. A freak draft of wind could knock a decoration into your beautiful cake. Those unexpected things don’t happen very often, but if they do, it’s important to keep your perspective and not let the day be ruined.

Believe us, after nearly four decades of working in Utah’s catering industry, we’ve done a lot of weddings and seen a lot of surprises. We know how important it is to absorb setbacks, adapt on the fly, and make things work. Even if there’s not a problem with your cake, the flowers will arrive late, or the bride’s dress will snag, or Uncle Kenny will show up inebriated. Whatever goes wrong, keep your cool and don’t let your focus be taken from what really matters.

It might help to repeat this mantra to yourself: “The difference between a catastrophe and a great story is just a bit of time and a little perspective.”

Congratulations to all the couples preparing to cut their wedding cakes this summer. Bon chance! And eat well.

27x winner Utah’s Best of State

24x Best of State Caterer

3x Best of the Best / Hospitality

1x Entrepreneur of the Year