With restaurants currently closed for in-house dining, the job of restaurant criticism and reviewing is challenging, to say the least. But, many restaurants are open for takeout meals with curbside pickup and/or delivery. So, when you’re given lemons you make lemonade, right?
For now – until restaurants fully open again – I will turn my attention here in Utah Bites to “Tales of Takeout.” These will be short “reviews” of various restaurant takeout options that I’ve been enjoying. Granted, they won’t be the sort of in-depth restaurant reviews I’ve done for the past 25 years, since ambiance, decor, wine, cocktails, and even traditional table service, for the most part, don’t enter into the equation. (No, I’m not going to start rating parking lots or drive-thrus in terms of “curb appeal.”) But there’s a glass-half-full aspect to the “takeout tryouts” I’ve been indulging in. And it applies, I think, to Utah Bites readers, as well.
Supporting restaurants providing takeout sometimes means trying out a place that might have otherwise flown under the radar, for example. I’m turning my attention to establishments that perhaps I might not have picked for a full-blown restaurant review. Which means I’m trying some new spots. And you should, too. The current situation is forcing all of us out of our comfort zones, including the restaurants we order from. If your old fave is currently closed, try a new one. Maybe it will become a new favorite.
I also find that takeout meals offer an opportunity to experience (sort of) a restaurant without having to go “all-in.” For example, maybe the wine list at a particular restaurant isn’t that appealing. Well, now you can order food to go and drink a fine wine at home, without a corkage fee. Or perhaps you love the cuisine at the hippest new restaurant in town, but you can’t handle the noise there. Well, you have complete control (unless you have kids) over the noise level when dining at home. There are upsides to this whole takeout thing.
As mentioned, being limited to takeout operations means that I’ve been looking at restaurants that might not have otherwise been ones on the top of my list to review. Each week for the foreseeable future I’ll review takeout fare from a restaurant that could be new, or might be a venerable institution that hasn’t gotten much media attention in recent years. I’ll start this week with Gourmandise The Bakery.
Both the Draper and downtown SLC Gourmandise locations are open for drive-thru and curbside pickup for their Cafe and Bakery menus, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday. In addition, Gourmandise also offers delivery for oven-ready meals, pastries and sweets.
For nearly 30 years – since 1991 – family-owned Gourmandise has been feeding Utahns delicious family-style fare and especially their well-known made-from-scratch desserts and pastries. I was surprised, frankly, at the vastness of the Gourmandise menu selections for takeout; there are LOTS of options, ranging from salads, sandwiches, soups, stews and pastas for lunch to dinner items like Tri Tip Au Poivre, Salmon en Croute, French Country Stew, Mediterranean Nicoise Salad, and of course, an eye-popping range of cakes, tarts, pastries, cookies and desserts of every stripe, from a French Macaron Box and Chocolate-Dipped Peanut Butter Cookie, to Cannolis, Baba au Rum, Eclairs, Brownies and Rice Pudding.
My wife and I placed a lunch order to pick up and found the experience very simple, fast and straightforward. We were greeted at Gourmandise drive-thru by a gloved server who brought our goods to our car – we had already paid by phone. It was easy peasy.
I love a French dip sandwich and it had been a long time – years I think – since I’d eaten one. Well, I was blown away by the Gourmandise French Dip. Tender, tasty slices of slow-roasted Italian beef were stacked with Swiss cheese and served on an incredible house-made baguette that was light and airy with a beautiful crunchy crust. Alongside came a container of rich, tasty au jus and a dill pickle wedge. Simply put, this was one of the best French Dip sandwiches I’ve ever gotten my lips around.
My wife – a restaurateur herself – was equally impressed with Gourmandise’ Shrimp & Avocado Salad. This was a generous serving of organic field greens and perfectly cooked, tender shrimp tossed with toasted almonds, avocado slices, parmesan cheese shavings, and citrus vinaigrette – a sensational salad.
Gourmandise is well- and widely-known for its fabulous desserts and since it was my stepson’s birthday, we ordered a tiramisu cake to celebrate at home with. The cake was as gorgeous to look at as it was delicious to eat, securely packaged in a perfectly-sized box for safe transport home.
Due to COVID-19, Gourmandise has had to lay off over 130 employees, “many of whom are friends and comrades we’ve worked alongside for years,” say owners Vernon and Hally Hanssen. They are encouraging anyone who’d like to help support the most vulnerable and at-risk foodservice families by visiting the WE SERVE GoFundMe page or the Amazon Wish List to order family household essentials. “Our hope is for donations to exceed our employees’ immediate needs so we can share remaining resources with other local restaurant owners who also aren’t able to help all of their most vulnerable staff.
And of course, you’ll be helping out current Gourmandise employees plus getting to enjoy excellent homemade meals to-go when you order takeout from this Salt Lake City restaurant institution. I hope they’ll be around for another 30 years, and more.
Next week’s Takeout Tryout: Feldman’s Deli.
I want to sincerely thank the generous sponsors of Utah Bites and Utah Stories advertisers for their continued support during this very unstable time. We are extremely grateful. There would be no Utah Bites without sponsors; they are vital to its survival. Please support our wonderful sponsors now and in the future. We wouldn’t be here without them.
Culinary quote of the week:
“All food is comfort food. Maybe I just like to chew.” — Lewis Black
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Originally trained as an anthropologist, Ted Scheffler is a seasoned food, wine & travel writer based in Utah. He loves cooking, skiing, and spends an inordinate amount of time tending to his ever-growing herd of guitars and amplifiers.
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