If you were inviting food writers from across the U.S. to visit Utah for three days, what would you show them? Where would you take them? What “uniquely Utah” foods would you feed them?
As co-chairwomen for the Association of Food Journalists’ conference, those were some questions facing Kathy Stephenson, the Salt Lake Tribune’s food editor, and me.
Every year, the AFJ — a group of food editors, writers and cookbook authors — has an annual conference in a host city, where they explore some of the regional cuisine and food culture. Some of my own favorite AFJ memories included meeting Emeril Lagasse in New Orleans, touring the Betty Crocker kitchens in Minneapolis, eating a pilgrim’s Thanksgiving feast near Boston, and learning all about Kansas City barbecue.
So when Kathy agreed to host the 2013 conference in Park City — and then asked for some help — I felt pretty intimidated. Last year, the group toured the White House kitchen garden — a pretty hard act to follow.
Two weeks ago, all of our plans came together at the Treasure Mountain Inn in Park City. Unfortunately, there were so many things we wanted to do that some of them just couldn’t be packed into a three-day conference.
Seminars and events touched on these topics (among others):
• “Yes, You Can Get a Drink in Utah.” Panelists from the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control and those involved in wine, beer and whiskey businesses explained the state’s liquor laws. Apparently they did a good job, because later I saw a tweet from one food editor: “Yes, you can get a hangover in Utah.”
• Utah’s supplement industry, with panelists from the United Natural Products Alliance, USAN and Xango, and business reporter Tom Harvey of the Salt Lake Tribune.
• Utah’s penchant for food storage. All of the panelists happen to be from Top of Utah, and they brought some life to a topic that has a potential for boredom. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ director of welfare services, Steven K. Petersen (who happens to live in South Weber), explained why his church encourages food storage. Mark Hyland, president and CEO of Daily Bread (based in Kaysville), represented the business side of food storage. Teresa Hunsaker of Weber County’s Utah State University Extension Service talked about properly storing, rotating and cooking long-term foods, and supplied practical tips and recipes.
• Taste of Park City included signature dishes from eight of Park City’s restaurants, and from Utah’s Viet Pham, who beat Bobby Flay on the Food Network’s “Iron Chef.” There was also a sampler table with a variety of Utah’s award-winning artisan cheeses, sausages and spreads from around the state.
• Monica Bhide, the conference’s “writer-in-residence” updated us on social media. Most longtime newspaper food editors are getting the hang of blogging, Twitter, Pinterest, Facebook and so on; but in keeping with her name, Monica has an edge when it comes to “Moni-tizing” them.
• A tour of High West Distillery (yes, you CAN get a drink in Utah!), with owner David Perkins telling us all about how whiskey is made. Lunch at High West included whiskey-flavored chocolates made for High West by Ruth Kendrick, of South Ogden.
We had seminars on food styling and photography (since most food writers, including me, take their own food photos now), and a primer on taxes for freelancers. We also talked about how to publish your cookbook, and the food-related job market.
Our awards banquet was at Stein Erickson Lodge in Deer Valley. Many folks commented on the beautiful mountain setting and chef Zane Holmquist’s stunning foodie feast. Some of the standouts included lobster mushrooms (mushrooms with the color and texture of lobster), duck & waffles (a riff on chicken & waffles), salad with tiny veggies such as cuke-o-melons, chewy creamed freekeh (green wheat that’s been roasted), and Rocky Mountain elk.
Friday morning was devoted to Utah’s official cooking pot, the Dutch oven. The Utah-based International Dutch Oven Society had the writers don cowboy hats and bandanas to add to the Old West flavor.
Colleen Sloan shared a history of Dutch ovens, and showed off some of her museum-worthy pots. Two world champions, Bruce Tracy, of Ogden, and Matt Pelton, of Provo, taught cooking classes, and a half-dozen or so cooks who have competed in the World Championships showed off some of their show-stopping pies and cheesecakes, fluffy apple pancakes, succulent seared pork loin, and more.
Several writers wanted the recipe for Ross Conlin’s Impossible Zucchini Pie, an easy way to use some of that garden produce. The Logan-based company, Camp Chef, showed off its outdoor cooking equipment, and helped ensure that the event ran smoothly. Then we had a Dutch oven lunch cooked by IDOS members — including the Utah institution, Funeral Potatoes.
Members enjoyed donning cowboy hats and bandanas, and enjoyed the ambience at the city park — the mountains, sunny skies, aromas of Dutch oven cooking, and the company of friendly food writers who bonded over the course of three days in Utah. Yee-haw.
Impossible Dutch Oven Zucchini Pie
This pie is an easy version of a quiche. Just pour the batter over the top, and it makes its own crust during baking. Hence the reason for its name “Impossible.” The recipe comes from Ross and Angie Conlin, of American Falls, Idaho.
10-inch Dutch oven
2 1/4 cups chopped zucchini
1 1/2 cups chopped tomatoes
3/4 cup chopped onions
1/2 cup grated hard Parmesan cheese
1 1/2 cups milk
3/4 cup Bisquick baking mix
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
Grease Dutch oven. Put the first four ingredients in the oven.
Beat the remaining ingredients for one minute; pour over top of the other ingredients.
Bake at 350 degrees until knife inserted in the center comes out clean, about 45 minutes. To cook with coals in a Dutch oven, place 15-19 hot coals on top, in an evenly spaced ring around the rim of the lid, with 2 of those coals in the middle of the lid. On the bottom, place 10-12 coals in a ring around the outer edge of the pot. This will give you about a 350-degree temperature. Cool five minutes before serving. Serves 6 to 8.
Note: If you don’t have a Dutch oven, you can also bake this in a 9-by-13-inch pan.
Valerie Phillips blogs at www.chewandchat.blogspot.com.