It’s no surprise that Briar Handly (chef and owner of HSL) scooped up Craig Gerome to operate as his chef de cuisine. With past gigs at Philadelphia’s Le Bec Fin and Michelin star rated Spruce in San Francisco, Gerome brings a wealth of experience and invaluable contacts with him.
A dish that exemplifies Gerome’s farm to table approach is simply titled Duck Egg. A soft cooked duck egg from local Ranui Gardens (Park City) is placed on house made sourdough with nduja (a spreadable salami, pronounced na-do-ya) sourced from another highly regarded local farm to table purveyor, Beltex Meats.
Mention Beltex Meats and their owner/butcher, and Gerome lights up. “His name is Phil Grubisa, I’ve worked with him for a long time. He traveled through Europe and California and worked for free just to get the techniques right. He is down right serious about what he does he’s the real deal. Everything is seasoned, cured, dry aged and always perfect. The nduja is seasoned with real Calabrian chili powder which he sources himself through his own secret accounts.”
It’s close relationships like these with farmers, butchers, and fishermen that Gerome relies on to power his cooking. “Sweet valley organics is also an important friend of mine,” he adds. “His name is Chris and we’ve actually just got back from a foraging trip together near Boise Idaho. Chris is a super-serious forager who finds some of the best morels I’ve ever seen.”
Recommending specific dishes can be tough when a restaurant looks to source seasonally and from smaller producers. The menu at HSL can typically change on the spur of a moment or delivery. With that in mind, you’ll see several staple dishes whose exact components can flux with the season.
For example, a micro seasonal ‘grains’ dish uses ash-roasted vegetables, taking advantage of the restaurant’s wood fired oven left behind by previous tenant, Vinto. “The vegetables change almost every day, depending on what the farmers send me,” Gerome explains. “We literally throw them into the coals until tender, cut the surface area off that actually touched the coals, and lightly season with 20-year-aged sherry vinegar and good Spanish olive oil.” The dish, made with three to four types of poached, sprouted and sometimes popped grains, is finished with puréed basil mint and olive oil, plus a dab of house-made harissa paste. It’s this type of thoughtful preparation that makes HSL equally enjoyable for vegetarians and meat-lovers alike.
One particular dish you can rely on throughout the seasons is one of my favorite dishes in SLC—rope grown mussels with fennel, English peas and house made sourdough. Again the dish relies on quality niche purveyors.
The rope-grown mussels are picked specifically for HSL and flown Fedex to SLC, direct from Stonington, Maine. Once at HSL, they are steamed in a pan sauce made from pernod, egg yolks, lemon juice shallots and garlic butter. A flurry of herbs rounds out the dish. Of this very special supplier, Gerome speaks highly. “Their inventory is limited to only certain restaurants including the likes of Thomas Keller and Daniel Boulud. Their seafood is only serviced through word-of-mouth chef recommendations.”
HSL is located at 418 E 200 S – Salt Lake City