M.C. Escher Exhibition:
Maybe it’s a too-well kept secret, or perhaps I’ve just been languishing in the dark… But I was stunned to learn recently about an exhibition of M.C. Escher artwork that’s been running at the BYU Museum of Art since November, and continues through May 19th. The Dutch-born Escher was one of my favorite artists, so I was thrilled to learn of the exhibition M.C. Escher: Other Worlds at BYI. Oh, and by the way, the Escher show is FREE. Who knew?
A visit to Provo to view Escher art also gave me an excuse to check out a new restaurant that was sounding mighty tempting: Block. Although it’s only been open three months, Block is creating quite a buzz in Utah County — a place not exactly known for culinary creativity. Perusing the restaurant’s website, the eatery appeared to be a place with a hip vibe and farm-to-table fare. Indeed, the menu is peppered with foods and ingredients from local purveyors such as Clifford Farm, Beehive Gin, Slide Ridge Honey, High West Distillery, Snuck Farm, Heber Valley Cheese, Sugar House Distillery, Five Wives Vodka and others.
It’s a gorgeous mix of contemporary design with warm woods and brick. The dining room is spacious and well-lit by day, with a bar off to the right and a copper-topped counter with seating for about ten in the rear, overlooking the exhibition kitchen. And, how could I help but fall in love with a restaurant that displays a Dalai Lama quote at the check-in stand: There are only two days in the year that nothing can be done, one is called yesterday and the other is called tomorrow, so today is the right day to love, believe, do and mostly live. There’s also a large wall hanging with an inspirational thought from Brene Brown that my wife and I really loved. I hadn’t heard of Brené Brown before, but our terrific server, Kirstie, clued me in.
In addition to Block’s wine, cocktail and beer list, there’s also a special Wine of the Month choice, which during our visit was Menage a Trois red blend, priced at $7 per glass or $32 for the bottle. The cocktail selection is an enticing one, ranging from classics like Mimosas, Bloody Marys, Moscow Mules and Margaritas, to creative concoctions such as the Habanero: Milagro tequila, habanero-lime bitters, sweet and sour, lime juice and orange-chili sugar. For those who don’t care to imbibe, all of the craft drinks at Block can be made sans alcohol.
Starters at Block run the gamut from light choices like charred snow peas with roasted garlic aioli ($7) or fig tapenade crostinis ($12), to more meaty options (literally) such as pan-seared Clifford Farm pork belly with shaved Brussels sprouts, sunchoke puree and pomegranate molasses ($13), or the charcuterie selection of cured meats and cheeses with housemade seasonal jam and Slide Ridge honey comb ($22).
There’s also a salad selection that is anything but run-of-the-mill, including a roasted beet salad with herbed goat cheese and balsamic sherry dressing ($11), a honey-pear salad ($8), and a quinoa medley with roasted butternut squash, dried cranberries, toasted pumpkin seeds and balsamic dressing ($9).
I was in the mood for a burger and was not disappointed by the Block Burger ($15). Indeed, it’s one of the best burgers I’ve gotten my lips around in quite some time. First, there’s the gorgeous, glistening brioche bun supplied by Antonella’s Artisan Bread Cafe in Orem — a great start. Sandwiched in that beautiful bun bun is a plump, juicy, perfectly cooked local beef patty with a pan-fried sunny side up Clifford Farm egg, smoked cheddar from Heber Valley Cheese, and delicious Dijon mustard made in-house. The bodacious burger comes with a side salad or roasted sweet potato wedges.
Fish aficionados will enjoy the rainbow trout ($26), which comes from Spring Lake Trout Farm and is served with a cauliflower duo of roasted cauliflower and cauliflower puree, dill and herb emulsion and a squid ink cracker. Who is behind this creative cuisine, you ask? The chef is a young fella named Adam Cold, and he’s got skills. My wife really loved chef Cold’s kale Caesar salad made with Snuck Farm kale, roasted jalapeño Caesar dressing, parmesan cheese, and (optional) seared salmon on top. The salad was perfectly dressed, and my wife appreciated our server delivering the salad without the garlic-herb croutons normally included, since she’s gluten-free.
Block is the brainchild of husband and wife team Erika and Jason Orndorff. This is their first restaurant and if the early success is any indication, Block is here to stay. Where they find the time to operate a restaurant serving lunch, brunch and dinner, plus raise four young kids, is beyond me. Erika told me that she and Jason enjoying entertaining in their home and that they love to entertain and feed people, so Block is a natural outgrowth of their entertaining lifestyle. Jason is a builder and Erika has a keen eye for design – talents that help make the restaurant such an appealing one.
Block is already excuse enough to visit Provo. But if you need added incentive, remember the spectacular M.C. Escher exhibit currently running at BYU. How could you possibly beat the winning combination of Escher’s art and Block’s artful cuisine?
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