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United Way of Utah County

April 16, 2024

How to Find Fresh Ingredients

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by Brandon Roddy

Culinary Director

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As a chef, I have had the privilege of cooking in some wonderful restaurants and working alongside amazing chefs (including the inimitable Wolfgang Puck and Melissa King). I have enjoyed delicious haute cuisine from all around the world, but the best meal I ever had was about as far from fancy cooking as you can get.

My Best Meal

A few years ago, I was invited to the Cayman Islands to spend a week working as a private chef. An old culinary friend joined me in the adventure, and we spent the week cooking lunches and dinners for a family of about 30 people. After working 12-14 hours per day all week, my buddy and I were delighted to finally get a day off. We spent the morning laying in hammocks at the beach, relaxing and drinking rum.

For lunch, we’d been invited to join a local gentleman who took care of the family's property where we were working. He led us to an old tumble-down shack behind a dilapidated gas station. The shack stood on an outcropping overlooking the Caribbean Sea and all its countless shades of blue. Just below the shack, a small fishing boat lay anchored to a rock. Our new friend told us that the boat belonged to the owner of the shack, and that he went out every morning to catch the fish he cooked and served.

My friend and I let our guide order for us. We enjoyed fresh-caught roasted snapper, fried plantains, cassava (yuca), and pickled vegetables, all served in simple Styrofoam clamshells with plastic utensils. Before eating, our host told to squeeze fresh lemon onto everything. To wash it all down, our guide brought out some Black Rum. I don’t know if it was the flavorful ingredients bought at the local market that morning, the fresh fish, the scenery, the delightful conversation, or just the rum, but I realized that I was enjoying the best meal of my life!

Keeping It Fresh

I’ve never forgotten that experience. It always reminds me that the essence of making great food is keeping it simple and fresh. As much as I love sophisticated culinary innovations and techniques, nothing will ever replace plain, fresh, local ingredients.

And if you can enjoy them on a Caribbean beach with friends…well, that’s just the best.

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Brandon’s Tips for Finding Fresh Ingredients

THINK LOCAL

The simplest way to find fresh ingredients is to buy them locally. When your food comes directly from the farm rather than being packaged, preserved, and shipped halfway around the world, it’s generally fresher and more flavorful. Plus, you can support your local food producers while also reducing your carbon footprint. Sourcing locally is delicious, nutritious, and judicious.

VISIT FARMERS’ MARKETS

Besides offering the freshest possible ingredients, farmers’ markets are also the ideal place to meet local producers and get a foot into that community. Talk to the merchants there. Ask them about how their goods are produced and what they recommend. Even if they don’t have exactly what you’re looking for, chances are they can point you in the right direction.

Utah has some great farmer’s markets. Salt Lake City has regular markets at Pioneer Park and Liberty Park through the summer and fall. Also, the Gateway hosts an indoor market from November to April. You can learn more here.

For info on farmer’s markets all over the state, check out the Utah’s Own website.

MEET YOUR GROCER AND BUTCHER

It pays to get to know the butcher and grocer at your local grocery store. Ask them when they make fresh bread and what days their fresh produce arrives. If they get to know you and see your enthusiasm for fresh ingredients, they can often help you with insider tips.

DON’T OVERLOOK PRODUCE STANDS

At certain times of the year, stands start popping up all over Utah. They offer watermelons, peaches, corn, apples, cherries, and a whole range of fresh produce. If you haven’t been brave enough to stop and check them out, give it a try. Don’t feel like you’re obligated to buy if you’re not impressed with what you see, but sometimes produce stands are where I have found the very best deals.

GET TO KNOW “FRESH” VENDORS

Some vendors in Utah go out of their way to offer the best in fresh. Caputo’s in SLC is a great place to be introduced to Utah meats, cheeses, honey, chocolate, and other local ingredients. Aquarius Fish Co. is doing a fantastic job bringing fresh seafood to our desert state. Snuck Farm is great for their greens. The Utah’s Own website can give you information on Utah growers and producers, recipes that use local ingredients, and ideas for how to support Utah’s agricultural community.

April 11, 2024

Culinary Crafts Wins Catie Awards

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We’re excited to announce that Culinary Crafts won the Catie awards for “Best Catered Event” and “Best Catered Wedding” of 2024!

“What’s a Catie?” you might ask. Good question.

Catie Awards

The Caties are basically the Oscars for the entire catering or hospitality industry.

Nominations come from all over the world, and the competition is fierce. A panel of respected culinary and catering professionals choose a winner in each of eleven different categories.

This year, Culinary Crafts walked away with the awards for Best Catered Event and Best Catered Wedding. We were also finalists for Best Small Plate and Best Action Station. If you think about how many events are catered all over the world during a year, you’ll see why it’s such an honor for two of our events to be chosen as the best.

At the awards ceremony in Austin, Texas in February, the hosting International Caterers Association also granted a Lifetime Achievement Award to our mother, Mary.

So proud of you, Mom!

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March 26, 2024

Savory Sixteen: The Tournament of Cheeses

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Last week we bragged on one of our favorite Utah partners, Beehive Cheese. Every year, they help us create some delicious new flavors of cheese to share at our events. The talented folks at Beehive are amazing!

Now we want to introduce you to a few of our favorite cheese flavors over the years. In honor of March Madness, we’ve whittled it down to sixteen of the best, going head to head to determine the champion. We've been been introducing the cheeses two at a time on our Instagram and Facebook stories. You can vote for your favorites in each round by clicking on the social icons at the bottom of this page. While you're there, feel free to follow us for all the delicious goings-on at Culinary Crafts.

Rosemary Cracked Pepper

Start with our classic Irish white cheddar. Then add fresh rosemary from the volunteer bushes growing outside our kitchen. Add cracked pepper and voila! A spicy kick with herbal notes, all nestled in creamy goodness.

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Al Pastor

Don’t let the plain look fool you; this cheese is anything but ordinary. Drawing from Lebanese-Mexican traditions for marinading meats, this unique cheese has a taste profile that’s both savory and sweet.

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Black Truffle Sea Salt

Coming into the competition as a top-ranked contender, Black Truffle Sea Salt is riding high on the team chemistry between truffles and cheese. Black truffles aren’t really black; they’re a very dark purple that turns to blue as they diffuse throughout the cheese, giving it a lovely marbled look. Truffles taste amazing with just about any cheese (including mac and cheese), and some say this match is unbeatable. But Black Truffle Sea Salt faces stiff competition in the first round.

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Chocolate Chipotle

If you’re familiar with Mexican mole (MOH-lay) sauce, you’ll understand why this Chocolate Chipotle cheese is always a crowd favorite.

We started with a classic mole dry rub with brown sugar, chilis, spices, and Mexican chocolate. Then we tweaked it to have just enough heat to get your attention but not overpower the creaminess of the cheese. Imagine this on nachos, tacos, refried beans…anything that needs a shot of smoky, savory sweetness. Some say this is the dark horse of the cheese tournament. We say, “Get in my mouth!”

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Curry On

Ever find yourself feening for a bite of spicy, succulent red curry? Well, now you are, aren’t you?

Added to any cheese spread or grazing table, our Curry On cheese will generate excitement on its own. But melted on a grilled cheese sandwich with mayo and a slice of very ripe heirloom tomato, this cheese may change your life!

The Irish cheddar we use is milder and more buttery than American cheddar, so Curry On makes a perfect complement between the creamy smoothness of the cheese and the zippy spiciness of the curry.

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Big Dill

Fans of dill won’t be surprised to see Big Dill making an appearance in the competition; it’s a perennial contender. Dill enhances an incredibly wide profile of other flavors, which makes it a safe bet for any charcuterie board, table, or spread. It may not have the flash of more exotic cheeses, but sometimes it’s the tried and true that wins.

If you are the kind of diner who likes a great pickle but thinks that most pickles overwhelm the taste of your burger, try skipping the pickle and melting a slice of this on your burger instead. Or try warming (not boiling) a kosher dog in a malty beer, char it on the grill, and add shavings of Big Dill and maybe some raspberry chipotle sauce. Heaven!

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Bye, Son

No, it’s not bison-flavored cheese. (Although we’d be up for trying that!) Bye, Son is our take on a cheesy version of Buffalo wings. The creamy white cheddar is just what’s needed to smooth out the heat of the buffalo seasoning. bye son cheese, buffalo wing cheese, spicy hot cheddar

Figgin’ Amazing

Probably the sweetest entrant in our “Savory Sixteen,” Figgin’ Amazing is for those of us who love our fruit and cheese all rolled up in one.

This was one of our most difficult cheeses to develop. First, the water content of fruits make them tricky ingredients to use in cheeses, even after they’re dried. Second, the natural sugars in fruit can throw the cheese off. It took a lot of adjusting and the addition of chives to bring a savory balance to the figs, but once we hit that perfect balance, “Figgin’ Amazing” seemed like the only right name.

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Good Thyme

Milder and more easy-going than most of the cheeses in this contest, Good Thyme is the kind of cheese you’d love to hang out with, just as its name implies.

With a subtle but complex flavor profile, it’s great to savor on its own. But Ryan says, “If I were pan-roasting chicken or pork with pasta and a light creamy sauce, I wouldn’t use the big Italian or French cheeses that typically go into pasta. I’d use Good Thyme. It’s a great cheese, either in a sauce with a roux or just grated over the pasta with olive oil and black pepper.”

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Chili crisp

Chili crisp has been a part of Chinese cuisine for centuries, but it only became popular in America during the pandemic. We use crunchy bits of fried peppers, garlic, and onions, similar in texture to Rice Crispies. One reporter describes the flavor of chili crisp as “the salty, crackly pleasure of potato chips with a just-right amount of tingling chili heat.” Throw in the creamy goodness of white cheddar and that makes a pretty good summary of this cheese.

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Smoked Pepper

Of all the cheeses we’ve made over the years, this was our mother’s favorite. We really wanted to make a cheese that brought in the wonderful flavors of smoke, but smoke just doesn’t penetrate well as a rub. Should we age the cheese and then smoke it? Smoke it first? Maybe slice it up and cold-smoke it? The answer turned out to be simple: smoke the peppers instead of the cheese. That way you get all the wonderful smokiness plus a little kick of pepper too.

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Tarragon Dijon

We’ve featured this unique cheese in charcuteries and cheese spreads, and it never fails to cause a stir. It’s delicious on its own, but our favorite way to use it is in a homemade sandwich. Try it with arugula and prosciutto (or just about any kind of salted pork), some homemade mayo, and maybe a little truffle aioli if you want to splurge. Un-be-lievable!

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Chive wasabi

Before you bite into this cheese, you need to understand that wasabi is not horseradish.

Yes, they’re related, but what passes for “wasabi” in America is usually just horseradish dyed green, and it tastes very different. Real wasabi doesn’t have that burn-your-face-off bite. It’s fresher and sweeter, and it enhances other flavors rather than overpowering them. That’s why this cheese plays so nicely with prosciutto, beef, seafood, cucumber and other vegetables, figs, citrus, even a beer.

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Cranberry Cinnamon

If you set out a cheese spread or a tasting table for the holidays, this cheese is an automatic must-include. The sweet/tart combination of cranberries and cinnamon, backed by the creamy smoothness of the cheesy, will have guests clustered around the snacks reaching for more. Gingerbread crackers can make it even more festive.

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Apricot habanero

When we started making this cheese, it was quite a battle. Our mother was worried that people wouldn’t like a spicy cheese, but Ryan kept trying to sneak more and more peppers into each batch. One year, mom didn’t come with us to Beehive to make the cheese, so Ryan was free to put in as much as he wanted. He overdid it a little, but ever since then we’ve made it with a good kick to offset the sweetness of the dried apricots and the honey rubbed on the outside. It’s always a guest favorite.

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Porcini and morels

When we make our annual trip to Ogden to make cheeses with Beehive, it’s usually in the late winter, which is the only time to get fresh morel mushrooms in Utah. We chop them up, dehydrate them, add salt and sugar, and combine them with another of our favorite mushrooms, porcini. Morels and porcini have a much fuller, meatier flavor than the button mushrooms you typically see at the store.

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So which cheeses would make it to your charcuterie finals? Let us know your votes.

Eat well!

March 22, 2024

Rice Pudding

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by Robin Kocherhans

Field Kitchen Manager

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I was nine when my dad died.

My brain dealt with the grief by shutting down, and over two decades later, I still struggle to find memories of him. But every once in a while, I get pieces:

Him helping me deliver newspapers.

Or the times he’d bundle my sisters and me in layers of snow gear and blankets and pile us into a cheap plastic sled hitched to his snowmachine. He’d drive us around for hours over frozen streets and across icy rivers into the silent forests of Fairbanks, Alaska.

Most of all, though, I remember his joy for food. A surprising number of the few memories I do have of him revolve around his culinary experiments.

Dad's Rice Pudding

One of my most cherished memories is of him turning leftover dinner rice into bowls of piping hot rice pudding. We’d scarf it down, and then, with our bellies full of its comforting warmth, he’d send us off to bed.

But when he died, that recipe died with him.

It had only ever been written inside his head and in the motions of his hands stirring rice that bubbled on the stove. I tried to recreate it over the years, but it never quite turned out the same.

Still, I persisted. Whenever the weight of missing would become too heavy, I’d give his rice pudding another go. Experimenting, just like he did, made him feel closer and the sadness less overwhelming, until eventually the act itself of making—of using my hands to stir a bubbling pot of rice—was enough.

So now, every time I make the rice pudding recipe I created and cobbled together from my attempts over years and decades, I remember.

I remember how much my dad loved me. I remember his hands, stained with grease, holding a wooden spoon as I stood on a chair, my hands on the counter so I could lean in and watch. And even though grief never really fades, making this rice pudding stills its waves and keeps me from forgetting.

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Rice Pudding

Ingredients

  • 3 cups uncooked rice
  • 4 ½ cups water
  • 1 ½ cups sugar
  • 3 tsp cornstarch
  • ¾ tsp salt
  • 4 ½ cups whole milk
  • 6 Tbsp butter
  • 1 ½ tsp vanilla
  • 6 egg yolks, beaten
  • allspice or clove, nutmeg, and cinnamon to taste

Instructions

  1. Cook the rice with the water, either over the stove or in a rice cooker. If using leftover rice, skip this step and replace these two ingredients with 8-9 cups of cooked rice
  2. In a separate bowl, whisk sugar, cornstarch, and salt. Add this mixture, plus the milk, to the cooked rice in a large pot and place on stove over medium to medium-high heat. Heat to a boil for one minute, stirring constantly. Remove from the heat and stir in the butter and vanilla.
  3. Slowly temper the eggs by adding about 1 cup of the hot rice mixture to the beaten yolks. Once mixed, add the tempered eggs back into the rest of the rice mixture along with any spices you might prefer. I usually start with a ½ tsp of clove or allspice, ¼ tsp of nutmeg, and 1 tsp of cinnamon and then bump it up from there. Mix everything until fully combined and return the pan to medium heat.
  4. Let your rice pudding heat up until it thickens and starts to bubble. Remove from the heat and divide into ½ cup portions (or more, if measuring with your heart). Eat plain or finish with your favorite toppings. Mine usually consist of fresh blackberries with an additional sprinkle of spices.

March 20, 2024

Beehive Cheese

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A few years ago, my wife treated me to an extra-special birthday present, a trip to Napa Valley and a meal from one of my personal idols, Chef Thomas Keller. (Chef Keller is the owner and chef of The French Laundry, a three-Michelin-star restaurant that Anthony Bourdain once called, “the best restaurant in the world, period.”) As expected, the meal was exquisite. My favorite moment came at the end of the meal when the waiter brought out a cheese flight for the guests to enjoy.

The second I saw those cheeses, I did a double take. One taste confirmed my suspicion; Chef Keller was serving selections from Utah’s own Beehive Cheese—the very same cheeses we had been featuring for years.

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Beehive Cheese

Our relationship with Beehive Cheese goes back to 2005 when they opened their doors in Uintah, Utah. That year they gave us a tour of their facility, and we were so inspired by their dedication to making great cheese that we formed a partnership on the spot.

Every year, our chefs gather ingredients for several new flavors of cheeses they want to create. Then we make the trek up to Ogden where Pat and his team generously share their knowledge and skill to guide us through the cheese-making process. It’s one of our favorite days of the year!

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Why is cheddar cheese orange?

All the cheeses we’ve made with Beehive Cheese start with a classic white Irish cheddar base. Wait, white cheddar? Isn’t cheddar supposed to be orange?

Actually, no.

Cheddar cheese, like the cow’s milk it’s made from, is naturally white. The orange cheddar that you see in stores contains coloring that’s been added to give it that characteristic hue. Why would cheesemakers go through the trouble of changing the color? The answer is history.

During the 1600s, milk made in England came from Jersey and Guernsey cows, two breeds that give milk with an unusually high fat content. During the summer when these cows ate a lot of green grass, their milkfat had a slight orange color due to the beta-carotene in their diet. That orange tint came to be a sign of high-quality, high-fat cheese.

It didn’t take long for unscrupulous cheesemakers to realize that they could make more money if they skimmed off the valuable cream and sold it to make butter. Then they added carrot juice or some other coloring to the milk to make it look like it still had that orange fat in it.

Over time, cheddar cheese came to be associated (at least in England and parts of the US) with a distinctive orange color. But don’t be fooled. The highest quality cheddars made today are often white.

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Beehive Cheese makes cheddar better

Over the years, we’ve made dozens of different flavors of cheddar with the help of Pat and the other culinary wizards at Beehive Cheese. We’ve learned that cheesemaking is equal parts art and science, with an added dash of luck.

Our favorite step of the process (other than tasting) is adding the flavors. After the curds have formed and been cut into slabs, they are layered on top of each other to press out the liquid whey, a process called “cheddaring.” When enough liquid has been removed, the curds are shredded into smaller chunks again. That’s the point at which we add the cracked pepper, tarragon, black truffles, or whatever seasoning we’re going to use. When the curds are pressed together into blocks, the ingredients will be diffused throughout the cheese in a beautiful marbling pattern.

Alternatively, sometimes we just add the ingredients as a rub on the outside of the wheel and let the flavors slowly seep into the cheese as it ages. That aging process can takes months or even years. The longer a cheese wheel is allowed to age, the more sugars the bacteria inside will consume, and the sharper and tangier the cheese will taste.

It takes time and patience to create a great cheddar, but when you do…it’s all worth it.

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Cheese Madness

This month, in honor of March Madness, we’ll be looking back at some of our favorite collaborative creations with Beehive Cheese.

Each day on our Facebook and Instagram stories, we’ll be posting info on a pair of our past cheesy creations. You can vote on which cheese should advance from our “Savory Sixteen” to the next round of voting, and we’ll continue until we’ve crowned a champion!

You can find links to our social media at the bottom of this page or our Home Page.

Wishing you all the delicious cheesiness.

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