WEEK 4 — TASTE OF THE VALLEY
Nothing says “pioneer” like gluttony.
For this week’s Munchmobile, Jake Welch, Jamie Wood and Ben Wagner took to the mean streets of downtown Provo to savor the selection of a variety of local restaurants at the “Taste of the Valley” festival, in conjunction with Pioneer Day. Nothing says “pioneer” quite like thousands of fair-skinned foodies standing in line for an itsy bitsy slice of BBQ pork from Goodwood Barbecue or a sliver of beef from Tucanos. The weather was scorching as the hosts of young and old meandered between the various vendor tents in search of the tastiest morsel in the park — and the Munchmobile was right there with them every step of the way.
In order to participate we had to pay $10 for a punch card and wristband. We were then handed little cardboard paper baskets to put the food in as we went from tent to tent. The general atmosphere was fun and lighthearted. The music selections in the background alternated between a recorded playlist and live acoustic sets, providing an upbeat setting for the afternoon. Utah Valley was well represented by a wide range of vendors from the well established Denny’s, Tucanos and California Pizza Kitchen, to the lesser known Down Under Oven, Pizzeria 712 and La Carreta. Now that we’ve set the scene, it’s time to get each of the crew’s bit on their top picks from the Taste of the Valley.
I’m always eager to get my “graze on.” The Super Bowl tends to be more exciting for me than Thanksgiving because of all the Lil’ Smokeys, Ruffles and french onion dip, and all the other finger foods to fit my fancy. “Everything tastes better on the end of a toothpick,” I always say. As such, the opportunity to put my affinity for small portions to good use for the benefit of all those who read this column seemed like a mighty exciting proposition. In the spirit of sampling, here are just a couple of my favorite tidbits from the event, the best and worst.
Best: La Carreta (Ceviche) — ceviche is a dish made of fish that’s been “cooked” by lime. There’s enough acidic content in lime juice that it, in essence, cooks the fish without it ever feeling a flame. (Thankfully, Nirvana taught us that it’s okay to fish because they don’t have any feelings.) I’m generally pretty leery of consuming seafood that’s 800 miles away from the ocean, but I hadn’t had ceviche in so long that it seemed like a shame to pass up the opportunity. It was a little bit fishy, but the flavors combined nicely with the sliced onions and cilantro to create a lively taste. Definitely worth a try of the whole dish.
Worst: Honey Baked Ham — Perhaps it was because Honey Baked Ham was the last place we went, but it gets my worst rating. Or perhaps it just wasn’t very good. I’m always up for a nice slice of ham (especially when coupled with a nice green bean casserole) and looked forward to the small plate with a slice of ham, a cookie, a mini slice of pecan pie and a spoonful of potato salad. The cookie: incredible. The pie: divine. The ham, on the other hand, was dry and cold, lacking that “baked in honey” flavor I was expecting. Kind of a bummer, considering the giant bee mascot parading around attracting hungry visitors. Oh well, stop in for a cookie and you’ll be very satisfied.
Best: Tucanos (Grilled Pineapple) — This is a very bum choice for all of you who were expecting me to come up with something new. Granted, I have tasted the grilled pineapple before, but trust me: On this particular day, nothing was as tasty as this juicy fruit. It seems to be a lot tastier when you eat it as a chaser for grilled sirloin. I was also a huge fan of Melanie’s Sensational Gourmet. This is not a restaurant, but rather a company that sells sauces, rubs and dips. We were lucky enough to try their world beater of a barbecue sauce, “The Contender” — and contend it did. Let’s just say that the plate was licked clean when all was said and done.
Honorable Mention: Goodwood and Rooster
Worst: Denny’s — This really doesn’t deserve any explanation except for why I decided to get food from their tent. I saw that the line was very short and that the portions of food they were giving out were very large. I went into Hungry Man mode (when you willingly sacrifice quality for quantity) and hopped in line. They had chicken salad, which surprised me. I was expecting pancakes, which would have been a lot better. The chicken was dry and the greens were rather brown. They tried to make the experience somewhat enjoyable with a bit sized piece of cheesecake, but I still left embarrassed. There is a reason why Denny’s is open 24/7.
Dishonorable Mention: California Pizza Kitchen and Xango — Lord only knows why that elixir of death costs $40 a pop.
Best: Tucanos — Yeah yeah, everybody in Provo knows about Tucanos and everybody knows that it’s good. It was the best thing I had at the Taste of the Valley and Tucanos deserves its reputation. The grilled pineapple was excellent, as was the meat served alongside it. If you have the money, you owe yourself a tasty dinner at Tucanos.
Honorable Mentions: Pizzeria 712, Melanie’s, Down Under Oven — Pizzeria 712 gave us a sampling of its margarita pizza and it did not disappoint. I had the good fortune of getting the first slice of a pizza pulled freshly out of the huge brick oven they brought with them. Melanie’s “Contender” barbecue sauce was quite excellent and I can’t wait to make a trip there to pick up a few bottles for myself. The Down Under Oven was only offering a pavlova desert as its selection for Taste of the Valley. This tasty treat is an Australian favorite, a meringue dessert with kiwi and banana. I’m not sure what else the Down Under Oven has on its menu, but it’d be worth checking out just to get another try of that pavlova.
Worst: Denny’s — The chicken was dry, the lettuce was flavorless and they towed Rhombus Resident Armchair Economist Daniel Anderson’s car once upon a time. They’re on my hate list.
For suggestions on where you’d like to see the Munchmobile head next week, send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or send a message on Twitter to @rhombusmag.
Jamie Wood, Jake Welch and Ben Wagner are contributors for Rhombus. They are true Hungry Men: they regularly choose quantity over quality in many aspects of their lives. Follow them on Twitter: @jamie_wood, @jraywelch and @ben_wagner, respectively.
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