Maple Leave | Wine | Salt Lake City | Salt Lake City Weekly
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Eat & Drink » Wine

Maple Leave

Is our food writer preparing to abandon Utah for a northward flight? Read on ...



In a little less than two months I’ll be heading north, to Canada. Permanently. I’ve liked our neighbors to the north, ever since I spent some formative teenage years in Labrador-Newfoundland and Toronto. I once dangled a Telecaster around my neck on a Saturday night in a Goose Bay bar until five in the morning. We must have played “No Matter What” (anyone remember Badfinger?) at least a dozen times, since my band only knew 10 or 12 tunes, including “Okie From Muskogee.” The natives and the Newfs kept passing the hat until the booze ran out, literally. They didn’t stay because my band was good; it was because when we stopped playing, the bar closed.

Well, the bar is closing again—early this time. Dark clouds are ahead, and I’m going to require more booze than I can possibly stockpile between now and Nov. 2 to ride this especially dreadful wave out to the end.

I’m old enough to remember Richard Nixon. The second time I moved to Canada—to Toronto this time—it was because of him. I still wasn’t old enough to worry about the draft; I just didn’t want to live in a country that could have a monster like Tricky Dick at the helm. But I feel almost nostalgic for Nixon now. In those days, even Republicans knew his dishonesty and shame.

On Tuesday, Nov. 2, John Kerry will be beaten like a brass gong by George W. Bush. The man will be re-elected even though he never won the job first time ’round. Go figure. I won’t go into all the reasons Kerry will lose, because after all, this is a food column and we deal with happier fodder like under- and over-cooked ahi tuna. But there ain’t gonna be any ahi tuna in my future. I see venison and elk, seal and salmon, a bit of penguin and lots of bacon on my plate. Why? Because I’m heading to Canada!

It pisses me off that a dunce like George W. Bush will end up being the guy to make me flee Utah, a place I’ve really come to relish. But life is hard. And there’s no room for a foie gras-loving, Six Feet Under-watching, Rosé-drinking, Tom Waits-listening, Mojo magazine-reading, freedom-loving guy like me here anymore. So screw tolerance and truth and fun. We’ll have plenty of time for that in Montreal.

Here are a few of the things I’ll miss while living in the Great White North: I’ll miss the pulled pork sandwich at Pat’s Barbecue & Catering. The pork (like everything else from Pat’s smoker) is tender and mildly smoky; when kissed with Pat’s tangy and softly sweet “Sweet Heat” BBQ sauce, it’s a truly wonderful thing to put between your teeth and gums. Yes, the Canadians are friendly by nature, and that will make me happy. But Pat and his staff are the most friendly restaurant people I’ve met in Salt Lake, with the possible exception of the folks at Q4U (what is it about these BBQ types?) and the owners of Royal India in Sandy. I’ll miss their lamb keema mutter too, although good Indian food is a bit easier to find up North than in this country.

I’ll miss walking into Metropolitan. Because no matter who’s currently heading up the kitchen, simply walking into that incredible ode to architecture and design is one of the truly unique Utah experiences, right up there with the Gilgal Gardens. I don’t think I’ll find that in Calgary.

A martini at the Oyster Bar, a beer at Squatters, a shot at Port O’ Call and those sexy bartenders at Lumpy’s are important reasons to remain in Utah. But it’s Chef Will Pliler’s New Yorker rabbit that really makes me want to rethink places like Vancouver, Winnipeg and Quebec City. Do they even have rabbits in Canada?

In Canada, I’ll purchase any wine I damn well please any time I want and have it shipped to my door, if necessary. But I’ll probably wish that UDABC’s Brett Clifford had screened those wines. That’s because although it might seem ludicrous to have one man’s palate decide what an entire state of wine drinkers can buy at their local wine store, I’m happy that it’s Clifford’s tongue and wealth of wine knowledge making those choices. The same might not be true in Cornerbrook, Newfoundland.

Oysters at L’Avenue ... Takashi’s fatty tuna ... the grilled cheese sandwich at the Avenues Bakery ... Friday lunch specials at Caputo’s ... wine tasting at Private Reserve ... there are dozens and dozens of reasons not to vacate the Beehive state. I’ll ignore all of them when John Kerry is sent to the Dukakis Home for Maligned and Misunderstood Democrats in November. Hey, I’ll see you in Thunder Bay, eh?

Aw hell, who am I kidding? Utah is my home. I could no more leave the Beehive State than I could break bread with Dick Cheney. And I’m certainly not going to let that pack of witless Washington thugs run me out of town—or out of this country. Especially since I just remembered Mazza’s falafel and the pizza at Nevole’s and Granato’s Italian submarine sandwich... And jeez, I’m not going anywhere as long as Leon Barroso is still making chile verde burritos at Layton’s Taco Taco and I can eat clams with black bean sauce at Little World and there are freshly baked sticky buns with pecans at Carlucci’s Bakery.