Saturday, December 17, 2011

BIGGEST LOSER: Finale Was No Surprise

   The stage was full of testosterone at "The Biggest Loser" finale, as three super-competitive males weighed in for the $250,000 prize.  John, of course won; seeing that determined glint in his eye made me think he would have starved himself for a month just in order to win. But weirdly, as he accepted congratulations, he didn't have that "overjoyed winner" look. In fact, when he hugged people, he wasn't even smiling.
   I guess I've watched too many Miss America pageants where the teary-eyed winner looks so surprised and thrilled, so I expected he would seem less subdued. Maybe the "win" just hadn't yet sunk in for John. But I've often heard that you should "enjoy the journey" for whatever goal you set, or just for life in general. I don't know if John enjoyed the journey.  He was so focused on winning that he didn't seem to bond much with his team. I'm pretty sure that if he hadn't worked so hard to keep himself above the yellow line, he would have been voted off. It reminded me of  the ultra-competitive Rulon Gardner in Season 11, who said "I'm not here to make relationships."
  During one of the last episodes, trainer Bob Harper made the comment that John was so focused on winning that he would end up gaining back the weight after the competition is over. But I don't think he will. It sounds like he had something to prove, and he proved it.
  Now that Antone Davis was let go from his job as a manager at Chili's, I'm sure he could have used that $250,000 prize money. (Rest assured, folks, by the time the IRS and the state of California take their share, it's considerably less.) According to, Chili's wanted Antone to come back to work as soon as he came home from the ranch, and he apparently wanted to stay on leave so that he could have time to work out for the show. So he was let go. Bad PR move for Chili's.  I'd like to see Antone in a job where he can inspire former NFL players in some way.
   Ramon and Jessica are beginning a new life and new jobs as trainers at The Biggest Loser Resort.
  Congrats to Jennifer Rumple, the $100,000 at-home winner. Like John, she was another member of the black team who didn't seem to bond well, except with trainer Bob Harper.  He win was especially inspiring because while at the ranch, she developed a stress fracture in her knee and was on crutches. She couldn't participate in some of those grueling workouts, but maybe it's better to let your body heal instead of pushing too hard. She ended up losing 145 pounds, or 43.94 percent of her total body weight. Pretty amazing
  And speaking of trainers, it sounds like Dolvett will be back for the upcoming season. confirmed awhile ago that Anna won't be back.  Some said she didn't seem sympathetic to the contestants, but Jillian wasn't that sympathetic a lot of the time, either.  She just seemed to lack passion for the job. In fairness, she was dealt an unfair hand by getting all of the oldest contestants.  For all they say about "age is just a number," older bodies can't bounce back from tough workouts the way a younger body can. I hope someone at NBC realizes that the "Battle of the Ages" was just a bad idea.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

One Bite At A Time: Bite Size Cafe & Catering

Ray and Londa Davis, owners of Bite Size Cafe & Catering.

My column on Bite Size Cafe & Catering ran in today's Deseret News.

Ray and Londa Davis have been talking about opening some type of restaurant for many years, and they finally did it.  It's a family affair, with their teen-age daughters helping out at the cafe at 1050 Shepard Lane in Farmington (in the strip mall where Burt Brothers, Javier's are now; and where Kmart and Bukoo's used to be). 

When they came up with the name for their new business, they didn't realize how well the term "Bite Size" dovetailed with the times. WIth people downsizing both their budgets and their appetites, party foods are trending to mini portions with big flavor, such as  "small plates," "cake bites," or 
Tortellini Brochettes are easy to make at home. 
"shooters," where the 
appetizer or dessert is served in shot glass size cups.
If you're doing your own party, Ray shared his secrets for tortellini brochettes, an easy-to-make appetizer that is full of flavor and impressive as well. Buy refrigerated cheese-filled tortellini, boil them to just before the “al dente” stage so that they hold their shape and are easy to work with. Roll up a  slice of  meat (Ray likes to use Capicola ham or prosciutto, but you could also use turkey or even pepperoni)  to a ¾-inch square and skewer it between two of the tortellinis.  Drizzle the brochettes with pesto that’s been thinned with water or oil, and chill until time to serve.

For more information, check the Bite Size website,

Cavin and Londa Davis setting out triple-chocolate cake bites.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

BIGGEST LOSER: Deni Hill At Tonight's Finale

Deni Hill at Season 11 finale.
If you're watching "The Biggest Loser" finale tonight, look for Deni Hill, the "Biggest Loser" contestant who won the $100,000 at-home prize for Season 11. 

Deni's husband, Dell, told me she will be there, sporting a new shorter haircut, when Season 12 of the NBC's "The Biggest Loser"  reality series wraps up tonight.

Three finalists are weighing in for the $250,000 prize: John Rhode, Antone Davis and Ramon Medeiros.  

The $100,000 prize is anyone's guess, because the contestants who  garner so much attention and drama while at "the ranch"  aren't necessarily the ones who stick to their guns at home. Deni Hill of Bountiful, Utah, flew under the radar until the night of the finale, when she edged out Justin Pope, also of Utah, for the $100,000 grand prize. She went from 256 pounds at the beginning of the competition, to 131 at the season finale. That's 125 pounds, or  48.83 percent of her body weight. She was only slightly bested by the $250,000 grand-prize winner Olivia Ward, who who went from 261 pounds to 132, for a 49.2 percent weight loss. 

I wonder if tonight's winners will be able to hit those kinds of numbers?

As I've already mentioned in previous posts, Deni was in my Body Jam and Zumba classes while she was working her way toward the prize money. She even predicted she would be the winner in a story I did for the Deseret News at  It was so exciting to watch someone you actually know walk off a winner. 
Last summer we walked together in the Deseret News 5K.  She is now involved with the Sponsor Me Slim program, and you can read more about Deni, her website and program at

Monday, December 12, 2011

BIGGEST LOSER: Chef Devin Alexander's Healthy Holiday Tips

Chef Devin Alexander, author of the new "Biggest Loser Quick & Easy Cookbook," offers the following tips to celebrate without busting your calorie budget: 

1.         Eat First
So often, people eat lunch and then don’t eat again until they arrive at an evening party absolutely starved! Before going to a holiday party, be sure to eat a nutritious 200-300 calorie snack or meal like my Asian Crab Salad-Topped Brown Rice Crisps from The Biggest Loser Quick & Easy Cookbook (pictured above, recipe available upon request)! Though this sounds counter-intuitive, eating a small snack before a holiday party will help you from grabbing the first thing you see simply because you’re starved. Three to five of those tiny party faves can contain an entire meals worth of calories, and let’s face it, you are still left wanting or more! 
2.         Get Fruit-Full
Add frozen fruit like grapes or blueberries to holiday cocktails to enjoy a drink without having too much alcohol and so many empty sugars. I love filling champagne flutes with frozen grapes then pouring in the champagne. You still get to be social and enjoy a little bubbly, but you won’t overload on the calories even if you opt for a second drink.
3.         Go Greek
When making holiday dips, swap fat free greek yogurt in place of sour cream!  Unlike fat free sour cream, fat free greek yogurt is thick and rich and is typically preservative and chemical free. By making the swap, you’ll save 22 calories, 3 g fat and 2 g saturated fat per tablespoon.
4.         Crust-Dos
When you make your holiday pie crust, use 100% all-fruit spread and crunchy high-fiber cereal instead of butter and graham crackers for a delicious alternative with fewer calories and less suger. 
5.         Pork It Up
When making your holiday stuffing, add plenty of extra lean sausage to increase your protein and cut back on the empty carbohydrates that tend to be abound during the holidays. 
6.         Dough a Deer (or a Candy Cane)
Use whole-wheat pizza dough to make danishes, pastries and festive soft pretzels in holiday shapes that would otherwise use buttery doughs. You’ll quickly be hooked on my Chocolate Glazed Soft Pretzel Bites (recipe available upon request)!
7.         Better Bling
Instead of adding red or green sugar or sugar-based sprinkles to your holiday desserts, use edible glitter. Since edible glitter is typically made from gelatin, you’ll get all the holiday bling and color with virtually no fat, calories or added sugars found in traditional sprinkles. 
8.         Beef Up
Instead of the traditional prime rib, make a filet mignon roast the centerpiece of your holiday dinner or special occasion. You’ll save 25 calories and 11.5 g of fat per 4 ounce serving.
9.         Super Scoping
When you arrive at a party, scope out all of the food before you start eating. Choose to fill up on high protein items like chicken skewers and shrimp cocktail or veggies (but easy on the dip!) and then leave room for a few of your favorite indulgences. 
10.         Dish It Out
Consider taking a healthy decadent dish to your next holiday party! It will give you an alternative if you happen to show up at a “deep fried party.”  Plus, you’ll increase your chances of being invited back next year because hosts love when guests come bearing gifts!
11.         Careful Not To Crack-er
When given the choice, skip the crackers and opt for bread. Many crackers have butter baked in them, while most bread does not. And let’s face it, the cheeses, meats and dips are center stage, so enjoy those in moderation without adding additional fat.
12.         Cocoa-Loco!
If you’re a chocoholic like me, embrace it with cocoa powder this holiday season! Cocoa powder has only 10 calories per tablespoon and provides 2 grams of fiber. Add it to a protein smoothie, yogurt or use as the base of your hot chocolate. You’ll satisfy your chocolate craving before you find yourself dunking your head in the chocolate fountain or lurking around the fudge!  

Tuesday, December 6, 2011


You may remember the movie, "Gorillas in the Mist." Well, now there's a guerilla restaurant called Mist.

A "guerilla" restaurant is a trendy new breed of high-end eateries that exist for only a few weeks in a non-traditional location.

Chef Gavin Baker, former Sous Chef of  London's The Fat Duck, the world's 2005 top rated restaurant, will open Mist:SaltLake, a guerilla restaurant in Salt Lake City, during the 2012 Sundance Film Festival, January 19-February 19, 2012.

Located at 307 East 300 South, at tropical plant store Paradise Palm, Mist:SaltLake will offer 15 courses of Michelin-caliber cuisine for $150 (and an 18 percent gratuity added at the time of purchase). Seats are limited to 36 per night and the restaurant will operate four to five nights a week. Due to the limited number of seats available and the unique dining experience, tickets must be purchased in advance at

For diners interested in bringing wine, there is no corkage fee. A vegetarian option is available with 48 hours notice.

Chef Gavin Baker has over 15 years of notable culinary experience, including positions with The Fat Duck (London, England), La Cote Basque and Oceana (New York, New York), Chi (Los Angeles, California), and Wahso and Talisker (Park City, Utah).  His culinary vision is translated to  the plate in small amuses like the Crispy Pork Lollipop with Nitro "Dipping Dots" and edible landscapes such as the "Sunrise From My Plane Window."

Upon closing in Salt Lake City, Mist will open in San Francisco, California, in Summer 2012, and will to continue on to select cities nationally and internationally for four weeks at a time.

BIGGEST LOSER: Final Three -- John, Antone or Ramon?

Was anyone surprised that John Rhode and Antone Davis made it to the Final Three of the "The Biggest Loser" Season 12 finale? I had both of them pegged from the beginning because of their  determination and competitive drive.

The drawback for John was his lack of friendships with the rest of the players. Had he not worked soooo hard to keep himself above the yellow line, he would have been voted off a long time ago. But in Tuesday's episode where the contestants were home, I thought it was weird that everyone made a big deal about John's wife doing his laundry and cooking his meals so that he could have more time to work out.  I've been doing my husband's laundry and cooking his meals for 28 years now.  Is there something I'm missing here?

Both John and Antone showed they could be ruthless, which unfortunately is a necessity in these reality series, no matter how "nice" everyone seems.  Antone criticized John when he gave Sunny Sinclair a one-pound penalty and then voted to eliminate her from the show, but in a previous episode Antone voted to eliminate his own ROOMMATE, Joe Mitchell. Joe was stunned; he didn't realize that as a former NFL player, Antone knows all about blindsiding. I was a big Antone fan up until then.

Which brings us to Ramon Medeiros, who got there by winning the marathon. There is no online fan voting  for a finalist this time.  Ramon was already eliminated, but the new rule that the marathon winner would automatically be a finalist saved him. Otherwise, Ramon's good friend Vinny would have been in the final three. 

I thought after winning the marathon, Ramon would still have to face a weigh-in with the other final four players, but he didn't.  Fair or not, I've always liked Ramon's positive attitude. He and Jessica are a cute couple, and I'll bet she loves his new haircut and those dimples. I think both of them will make great trainers at their new jobs at The Biggest Loser Resort. Former contestant Sam Poueu was also working as a trainer for The Biggest Loser Resort, before he was seriously hurt after falling from a four-story building in San Francisco in September. Word is that Sam is making an almost miraculous recovery, but he has lots of rehabilitation ahead of him.  

Who do you think will win? I think either John or Antone will win, and both of them probably deserve it because they've pushed so hard. Who do I wish would win? Ramon. For the at-home prize, I'd like to see Patrick win it.  He was pretty selfless about sacrificing himself and getting sent home early on. As for the women, Courtney seems to be in great shape so she's a likely contender.  

As I've mentioned before,  I still don't like the "Battle of the Ages" theme.  Dividing teams into age groups gave the older folks a major handicap. Older bodies simply can't take as much wear and tear with tough workouts. During the "Where Are They Now?" special, trainer Bob Harper admitted that older people have to work harder to lose weight.  Not only that; the older team had a harder time with the physical challenges, and thus couldn't win any advantages that might have saved them from elimination. But to their credit, the oldsters persevered. All of the older team but Bonnie (who was scheduled for knee surgery) finished the marathon. 

Thursday, December 1, 2011

BIGGEST LOSER: Ramon and Jessica Hired As Trainers at Biggest Loser Resort

The Biggest Loser Resort has hired Season 12 contestants Ramon Medeiros and Jessica Limpert as trainers. Does that offer any clues as to whether or not  either of them will end up winning "The Biggest Loser" title at the season finale?  

Ramon and Jessica were teammates on the weight-loss reality series, and struck up a friendship that led to romantic picnics and strolls. Although both were eventually voted off the show, they still had a chance at the title and the $250,000 prize. All the contestants in Season 12 will compete in a marathon, with the winner earning a spot in the "Final Four" at the finale. 
A Facebook post from The Biggest Loser Resort announced that Ramon and Jessica will start work the second week in January. They will first undergo training at the Fitness Ridge location in Ivins, Utah.  I toured the Ivins  resort in 2010, and it's a dream facility for people who want to lose weight. As co-owner Michelle Kelsch told me, "It gives people an experience similar to the show without the cameras and drama and, of course, without the $250,000 prize."

Unlike TV contestants who compete at the Biggest Loser "ranch " for free, guests at Fitness Ridge pay around $1,500 to $2,200 per week, depending on their accommodations and length of stay. While it sounds steep, the price tag is relative compared with the $7,000 or so weekly fee for ritzy destination spas such as The Golden Door and Canyon Ranch. 

The resort's Facebook post adds, "Ramon and Jessica will join forces with former 'Biggest Loser' contestants turned Biggest Loser Resort trainers Sam Poueu and Sione Fa."  
However, many fans are aware that Sam Poueu is curently undergoing rehabilitation therapy. Last September Sam fell from a four-story building and was critically injured. Facebook posts from his friends and family indicate that his recovery has been miraculous, although he still has a long way to go. The comment from the resort implies that the company still considers him an employee — a positive sign. 
Ramon, age 27, started out of the show at 355 pounds. Jessica, 26, weighed in at 254 pounds. 

The blog post adds, "As you can gather from their bios and their hard work, dedication and transformations on "The Biggest Loser," they will be a great asset to our team. We are very excited to have them!"

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Deer Valley Menu Preview

Deer Valley is now open for the winter ski season. The resort is known not only for it's snow, but for its stellar cuisine.  A few weeks ago Utah food writers were invited for a preview of some new items that will be on the menus of the Deer Valley restaurants.  Here are some of them:
Roasted Chicken  Piccata served at Royal Street Cafe. A Coleman brand all-natural chicken breast has a pan sauce of lemon, white wine, capers and dill and is served on a bed of spinach pappardelle with roasted butternut squash.

Tomatillo Crusted Sturgeon Fillet from The Mariposa. The seafood is surrounded with pools of roasted red pepper and black bean sauces and topped with frisee, chayote, local sweet corn and heirloom cherry tomatoes.

Jerk Marinated Grey Snapper is pooled in a  Jamaican coconut "rundown" sauce and topped with little balls of fresh honeydew melon for a nice  ratio of heat and sweet. A yam chip is perched on top.

Milk Chocolate Cremeaux Tart from The Mariposa is polished with salted caramel, yuzu jam and a sesame cracker.

Pomegranate Napoleon from Seafood Buffet has layers of mascarpone mousse that uses Utah-produced Slide Ridge honey. One pomegranate seed was encased in a hot candy syrup that hardened into a crystalline effect. 

Harmons Hosting Extreme Gingerbread House-Making Event

Gingerbread, icing and candy will be flying fast and furious as local children and adults build gingerbread houses during Harmons’ Extreme Gingerbread Event, Saturday, Dec. 10 at Harmons’ Bangerter Crossing Store, 125 East 13800 South in Draper.  Children and their parents will participate in a gingerbread house-making class on the store’s mezzanine under the supervision of Harmons’ chefs and bakers, starting at noon. Close by, inside Harmons’ Cooking School kitchen, three teams of professional architects will construct houses out of heavy-duty gingerbread as they compete for charity.

The public is encouraged to drop by to see the progress of the architects from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. or to watch video updates of the event. When the houses are completed, individuals can vote for their favorites online. In the store a panel of Harmons’ associates and children will pick a winner based on imagination, creativity and technique.

The architects participating in this event are members of the Board of Directors of the Utah Chapter of the American Institute of Architects (AIA). Their unique gingerbread structures will be on display in the store until Dec. 16, when they will be auctioned off at a special Cooking School Holiday Party. Half of the auction proceeds will be used to purchase food for the Utah Food Bank and the other half will benefit The One Percent, an architectural charitable organization that provides design support services for communities in need.  

Space for participation in the gingerbread house-making class for children is limited. The public can register online at Children must be 6 – 12 years old and accompanied by a parent at all times.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Weekend at Grandma's

Anthony and Jayden spent the weekend here while their folks are on a cruise. In the past 48 hours we have:
Raked lots and lots of leaves in the backyard.
Lonn & Jayden raking leaves.
Jonathan's creative gingerbread house.
Made gingerbread houses with Amy, Brayden, Anthony and his friends Jonathan and Sam.

Went to the playground with Annalise, Jayden's friend from across the street.
Saw a display of about 500 Nativity scenes at the Kaysville Tabernacle.
Saw the 35-foot (real) Christmas tree and skating rink at the Station Park stores in Farmington. Tried to see Santa but Jayden got scared and began screaming.
Played Old Maid, War and Match Game.
Went to church.
Made refrigerator magnets from Perler beads.
Went on a walk.
Made pink Rice Krispies treats.
Sam's house caved in so he ate it. 
Anthony 's creation wasn't really a house.
Made Barbie a new skirt.
Did puzzles.
Made lots of mac & cheese and chocolate milk.
Told Jayden's story of the girl who "put on a little red outfit so the fox would chase her on the way to her grandma's house." And then, "The fox said I'll huff and I'll puff and I'll blow your house down."
Watched Sponge Bob.
The idea was to keep t hem so busy they wouldn't miss Mom & Dad. What a weekend! I need the week to recuperate.

So what if it's not perfect? The kids had fun.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Thanksgiving Dinner is Good For You!

Since the past few weeks I've received flurries of press releases on how to cut the calories out of Thanksgiving dinner, it was refreshing to see this article posted on the It pointed out that some of the Thanksgiving staples are actually packed with nutrition (although I suspect that when they're swimming in gravy, butter and cream, they can't really be considered "health food.") 
As one of my foodie friends pointed out, Thanksgiving is just one day of the year, so enjoy it. That doesn't mean we need to have three or four helpings until we're rolling from the table! But we can slowly savor every bite of your favorite dishes as we enjoy friends and family and offer thanks for the many wonderful things in our lives. 
I think my downfall isn't the meal itself, but the post-dinner snacking, where I'll polish off another helping of mashed potatoes while I'm loading the dishwasher, and grab another piece of pie just because it's there!

Here's some of the nutrition you're getting in your Thanksgiving dinner:
Turkey is a great source of lean protein, selenium, niacin, vitamin B6 and phosphorous, as well as tryptophan that is essential for appetite and mood regulation. 
Cranberries contain vitamin C, fiber, manganese and vitamin K and are known for their help in maintaining a healthy urinary tract. 
Potatoes contain vitamin C, B6, copper, potassium, manganese, iron, protein and fiber- as well as a variety of antioxidants. Keep the skin on because that is where many of the nutrients are found.
Pecans contain vitamins A and E, folic acid, calcium, magnesium, potassium, several B vitamins and zinc. They also contain fiber and protein, and are a good source of heart healthy mono and polyunsaturated fats.  The Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry found that, “pecans rank highest among all nuts and are among the top category of foods to contain the highest antioxidant capacity.”
Pumpkin contains potassium, zinc, dietary fiber and the bright orange color indicates that pumpkin is rich in the antioxidant beta-carotene, which is great for our eyesight and more.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

BIGGEST LOSER: "Where Are They Now?" Special Airs Nov. 23

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Viewers will have the oppportunity to catch up with some of their favorite contestants from past seasons of "The Biggest Loser," on Wednesday, Nov. 23, 7 p.m. Mountain Standard Time.  They will also get to see bloopers of behind-the-scenes moments with the host, trainers and season 12 contestants. 
Alison Sweeney hosts the special, filmed before a live audience, and trainers Bob Harper, Anna Kournikova and Dolvett Quince will all be on hand to share their thoughts about the current season of the show. Cameras will also follow trainer Bob Harper through “a day in the life.” 
Fan favorites like Abby Rike (season eight), Tara Costa (season seven), O’Neal Hampton (season nine) and season five winner Ali Vincent will reveal what they are up to now, along with season eight champ Danny Cahill and season 11 winner Olivia Ward. Viewers can also catch up with Hannah Curlee (season 11) and Jesse Atkins (season 10) as well as other popular players like season seven’s Sione Fa and Jerry and Estella Hayes, who give their updates via personal videos.

One contestant makes a big surprise announcement, and another shares her emotional story of competing in one of the most difficult competitions in the world. And there's an update on the condition of season nine contestant Sam Poueu, who was critically injured after falling from a four-story building in September. Considering the head trauma he suffered, word is that his recovery has been miraculous (thanks to all the prayers on his behalf!) and he's now undergoing physical therapy, speech therapy and occupational therapy. 

Cooking expert Aida Mollenkamp will prepare a healthy Thanksgiving feast for the trainers and past season contestants, and share great cooking tips as well. Currently, Aida is host of two shows on the Cooking Channel: “Ask Aida”, where she shares her knowledge of food while dishing out culinary therapy, and “Foodcrafters,” where Aida leaves the kitchen to uncover handmade food finds from around the nation.  

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

HOG HEAVEN: Humanely Raised, All-Natural Pork at Vernon Farm

Photo by Valerie Phillips
For the past few weeks I've been working on a Deseret News story about Christiansen's pig farm in Vernon, Utah, known as "Hog Heaven" because of the way they raise their pigs.  If you're wondering where Vernon is, it's about 20 miles south of Rush Valley (where I grew up) and about 40 miles south of  Tooele.

Photo by Valerie Phillips
I was glad that I made arrangements to visit the farm in October, before the bad weather hit. I enjoyed going out with Hollie Christiansen and her daughter, Shia, to feed their pigs. All the pig farms I've ever known were pretty stinky.  But this one didn't have any tell-tale odor when I drove up to the house. I even wondered if I was at the right place! But I left with a few manure souvenirs on my shoes, from focusing on taking photos and not where I was stepping.

Chef Ryan Lowder of Copper Onion 
No wonder the farm is known as "Hog Heaven."  Chefs consider the Christiansen's all-natural pork a bit of heaven itself — tender and juicy with lots flavor.  Chef Ryan Lowder uses it at his restaurant, Copper Onion, because "they do the best job, and the quality is a better product all the way around," he said. The pork will also be used in Lowder's second restaurant, Plum Alley.

"We found the quality of animals was phenomenal when we treat the animals humanely, and allow pigs to live as pigs," said Christian Christiansen.  Lowder and the Christiansens gave the public a chance to taste the difference at a pig roast held at the Utah Fairpark last month, as part of an end-of-season farewell for the Pioneer Park Farmers Market. The Christiansens donated three pigs, and Lowder and other staff made an outdoor roasting box where they cooked them. Many of the 200-or-so people who feasted on the meat noted that it was very tender, flavorful and darker than the usual store-bought pork.

Christian Christiansen says three factors made the difference: breed, quality feed and humane treatment. The Christiansens raise purebred Berkshires, a heritage breed also known as Kurobuta pork. The breed was popular before World War II, and produces pork that's darker, meatier and marbled with fat.

 "Older people taste it and say, 'This is what pork tasted like when I was a kid,'" Christian said.  Over the past few decades, commercially raised pigs were bred to be leaner, as "low-fat" became the trend. Marketers called pork, "The Other White Meat" to compete with the hugely popular chicken breast.  Unfortunately, the lack of fat marbling resulted in meat that was more dry, with less flavor.

 "Our meat is a darker color, and it has fat marbled throughout," said Christian Christiansen. "It's like the Kobe beef of pork. Berkshires are the least cost-effective to raise, because they have a slower growth rate. But the quality is phenomenal."  Other restaurants who use the Christiansens' pork include Pizzeria 712 and Communal in Utah County, St. Regis and The Farm in Park City, and Pago in Salt Lake City. People can buy the pork at Caputo's Market and Deli, or order it online at

White House Sweet Potatoes Recipe

Looking for a new way to do Thanksgiving sweet potatoes — a change of pace from marshmallows on top?
Here's the recipe served by the Obamas and around 50 guests in 2009. It is featured in “A White House Garden Cookbook: Healthy Ideas from the First Family for Your Family” by Clara Silverstein. The Obamas have a fondness for sweet potatoes. 

This recipe looks almost TOO healthy: lots of spices, very little butter and no brown sugar or marshmallows. it serves four, so you will need to double or triple it for a bigger group. 

Despite the long history of White House Thanksgiving traditions and a 
1789 call by George Washington to make November 26 a national day of 
“public thanksgiving,” it was not until the 1840s that Thanksgiving 
dinner was first served there, under James K. Polk’s administration. 

Since then, each passing First Family has altered and added to those 
traditions with their unique contributions of food preferences and 
customs. For example, Harry S. Truman started the annual White House 
tradition of pardoning a turkey before Thanksgiving.

Readers can learn more about the cookbook and how Thanksgiving 
is celebrated at the White House by visiting

The book includes other Thanksgiving recipes from the White House and 
community gardens around the country, such as Fennel-Parsnip Puree, Pear 
& Fennel Salad, Kohlrabi & Carrot Stew, Tasty Greens with Turnips, Baby 
Carrots with Orange Juice & Cinnamon, Nutty Carrot & Cabbage Salad, 
various salsas, White House Baked Sliced Apples, and White House Apple 

White House Whipped Sweet Potatoes
Serves 4

3 medium (12 to 16 ounces each) sweet potatoes
2 tablespoons butter
⅛ teaspoon ground cinnamon
⅛ teaspoon ground cumin
⅛ teaspoon chili powder
Pinch of ground cloves
4 tablespoons orange juice
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
Salt to taste

1. Set the oven at 425 degrees.
2. Wash the potatoes, pat dry, and wrap each one in foil. Place on a 
baking sheet and bake until soft all the way through, approximately one 
hour cooking time will vary depending on the size of he potatoes).
3. Remove the potatoes from the oven. Unwrap the foil and allow them to 
cool enough to handle.
4. Cut each potato in half. Scoop out the inside and place in a large 
mixing bowl.
5. Add the butter, cinnamon, cumin, chili powder, cloves, orange juice, 
and lemon juice. Using an electric mixer with a whisk attachment on 
medium speed, whip the potatoes until smooth and all the ingredients are 
incorporated, 1 to 2 minutes.
6. Add the salt and serve.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

NEXT IRON CHEF: Chefs With Utah Ties

While flipping channels a few nights ago, I happened upon "The Next Iron Chef" competition, where some high-level chefs are cooking for the next chance to be a regular with Bobby Flay, Mario Batali, Cat Cora and other on the Food Network's popular "Iron Chef" series. 
The contestants aren't unknown chefs; most of them have some fame at their restaurant, have published cookbooks or have done food TV. 
I enjoyed seeing some familiar faces who have cooked here in Utah.

Marcus Samuelsson came to Utah in 2001 to help cook for a Salt Lake Olympic Committee "one-year-out" party at Park City Mountain Resort,.  At the time, he owned Aquavit restaurant in New York City, had won the James Beard Foundation's "Best Rising Star Chef" award in 1999, and was profiled by People magazine in 2000 as one of America's top five eligible bachelors.
 I interviewed him as he was preparing for the Olympics event, which also had ties to the James Beard Foundation. "How often does an Ethiopian kid from Sweden get to cook for the Olympics?" said Samuelsson, who was orphaned as a child in Ethiopia, then adopted by a Swedish couple. "This is a real privilege, and when an organization like James Beard Foundation asks you, you don't turn it down."
His star has continued to rise, as he oversaw President Barack Obama's first state dinner. 

Beau Macmillan was one of the cooks in 2010 at Chefdance in Park City. One of the traditions that has evolved around the Sundance Film Festival, a different "celebrity" chef is brought in to cook each night for about 250 of the entertainment industry's movers, shakers, and their friends.  MacMillan, chef at Sanctuary on Camelback Mountain in Phoenix, was also one of the "boot camp" instructors on the Food Network's "Worst Cook in America"
At his Chefdance gig, MacMillan served seared scallops with creamed Anson Mill grits, chorizo and tomato jam; chilled lump crab salad, passion fruit and avocado; braised short ribs with salsify fondue and garlic cherry glaze; and salted caramel panna cotta with caramel corn and chocolate peanuts.

As far as I know, Michael Chiarello hasn't done any cooking in Utah; but I did meet him during a Pillsbury Bake-off in San Francisco in 1998. He cooked a spring asparagus risotto for the food editors and admonished us to eat foods in season, noting that  asparagus always tastes better in the spring.

Current "Iron Chefs" who have visited Utah:

Bobby Flay did a segment of his "Food Nation" series in 2003 where he took part in a Dutch Oven Gathering (known by Dutch oven enthusiasts as a DOG). He also helped cook sourdough scones, chicken 'n' dumplings and lamb at the Lion House Pantry,  sampled venison sausage and elk jerky and visited some Utah ski resorts.

Cat Cora has cooked several times at Sundance dinner parties, including one for the Humane Society of the United States in 2009 that included Paris Hilton, Nigel Barker of "America's Next Top Model," actor Alan Cumming, and Slash of the rock groups Velvet Revolver and Guns N'Roses. The vegan menu featured a silky roasted winter squash and saffron soup, herbed potato risotto spiked with chanterelle mushrooms, and a rich chocolate ganache tartlet with a salted caramel gelato accented with peanut brittle.For appetizers, there were pretty little chickpea fritters and polenta squares topped with Swiss chard, candied pumpkin seeds and a sliver of sun-dried tomato.

Alton Brown - "Iron Chef" announcer, came through Southern Utah in 2006 as a biker dude for his series "Feasting On Asphalt." In a later interview, he told me that one of his favorite places was the Mexican Hat Motor Lodge. "They have a grill that swings back and forth over the fire, and it was a cool place. We ended up eating there one night with a German Harley- Davidson club."

Friday, November 11, 2011

Veteran's Day: Taking My Hubby Out For A Free Meal

Since today was Veteran's Day, my daughter and  I took my hubby, Kim, out to lunch.  Of course we wanted to honor him (and I wanted to say thanks for putting those new shocks on my car as well).

But there was also a little ulterior motive on my part. For several years I have written about restaurants offering a free meal to veterans, and I wondered what the experience was like. Super-crowded? Not as great as expected?

We went to the Applebee's in Bountiful at about 3:30 p.m., and it seemed so quiet when we walked in that I wondered if I'd made a mistake in my reporting of this event.  But, it turned out that there were lots of tables taken, there just wasn't a crowd waiting for a table. The press release said that some form of military ID was required.  Kim was wearing his Vietnam Vet hat, but I also brought along  the shadow box my daughter made for him, with his photos and army insignia. I mean, anyone could put on a hat and say they served, right?  But, the hostess didn't seem to worried that we were trying to sneak a free meal.

Veterans had a special menu with quite a few choices, and Kim chose the Double Crunch Shrimp. He said his meal was great, although he didn't realize the shrimp were going to be deep-fried. (What puts the crunch in "double crunch?") Amy and I ordered off the regular menu, of course. She was happy with the  buffalo wings and side salad, and I enjoyed a grilled shrimp and spinach salad, with crunchy almond slices and a sweet, bacony dressing.

A hostess came to our table and gave us a $5 voucher to use on a future visit to Applebee's, and thanked Kim for his service. Those words of thanks still mean something to him, because when he came home from Vietnam, there was no hero's welcome. War protesters were calling soldiers "baby killers" and most Americans just wanted the war to be over.

While we were finishing our meal, the waiting area began to fill. It was interesting to watch people walk in and guess where or when they served their country. Kim talked to a man who served in three wars: World War II, Korean War and Vietnam. 

Our overall experience was a positive one. The food and service were great, and there was a feeling of comradery, mostly unspoken, among the diners there.

But I would advise anyone to go before 4 p.m. You'll avoid a long wait for a table, and wait staff usually give better service when they're not rushed and trying to turn over tables quickly.

Next year I hope to make the trek out Tooele way and take my Dad to Applebee's there. He served in the Navy during World War II.  It's not a matter of getting a "free meal," because we certainly could buy him lunch elsewhere.  But it felt like we were part of something a little special today, and I'd like for him to feel that way as well.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Blue Boar Inn's Thanksgiving Feast

The Blue Boar Inn & Restaurant in Midway ( will offer its annual Thanksgiving Day menu on Thursday, Nov. 24.

The fixed-price, three-course menu will feature Blue Boar salad with pomegranate seeds, feta and honey vinaigrette; roasted chestnut and forest mushroom soup with sage cream, fried shitakes and chestnuts. The main course will include garlic and herb rubbed turkey with parmesan mashed potato, spinach and ricotta stuffing, pan gravy and cranberry sauce and double-cut pork chop featuring a sweet potato puree, glazed carrot and brussel sprouts and a maple glaze.

Executive Chef Eric May will also prepare two less traditional Thanksgiving entrées: pan seared Chilean sea bass with rock shrimp, grape tomatoes and house-made Pappardelle pasta and slow-roasted prime rib prepared with sautéed brussels sprouts, white cheddar twice-baked potato, aus jus and horseradish cream.

Desserts will include individual apple pies with caramel sauce and cinnamon Chantilly cream, pumpkin mousse chocolate tart with walnut toffee crunch and New York style cheesecake with macerated berries and raspberry glaze. 

The Blue Boar Inn & Restaurant will offer the Thanksgiving Day menu from noon to 6 p.m. The cost is $45 for adults and $15 for children 12 and under. A full wine selection is also available. Reservations are required and can be made by calling 888-650-1400.
For more information on The Blue Boar Inn & Restaurant, visit