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Skyline of Salt Lake City with mountains in the background

We’ll let you in on a little secret: There’s been a mighty shift in Salt Lake City and the surrounding Wasatch Front in the past five years. We’re not talking seismic changes, but culinary ones. Thanks to a critical mass of young, creative talent and a rekindling of an agricultural past, there’s more artisan food being created and served than ever before in this Utah region. The food community, complete with cheesemakers, chefs, farmers, butchers, and salumieri, is on the cusp of something big. Ask any of them and their growing roster of fans, and they’ll tell you what Mormon pioneer Brigham Young said in the nineteenth century: This is the place.

Liberty Heights cheesemonger holding a basket of cheese.

Liberty Heights has an amazing selection of cheeses and a help and friendly staff.

Cheese Mongers

Liberty Heights Fresh

Parking during peak hours at this local culinary landmark can resemble a game of Tetris. But a bit of polite effort pays off once you step into proprietor Steven Rosenberg’s tiny but jam-packed food utopia. The layout is quirky, taking you into little alcoves filled with unique pantry items, great walls of freshly baked local breads, and colorful bouquets and blooms. But the final destination should be the south wall of artisan charcuterie and farmstead cheese from around the world. The cheese crew are always excited to talk about and sample the local gems, including Rockhill Creamery, Duvall Farms, and Beehive Cheese.

Liberty Heights Fresh 1290 South & 1100 East Salt Lake City, UT, 801.583.7374

Caputo’s Downtown

The average visitor comes for the deli sandwiches. Cheese nerds come for the gorgeous selection of artisanal cheese and salumi (from France, Spain, Italy, and the United States) and the only all-local pasture-raised butcher shop in town. Think Disneyland for grown-ups who love to nerd out at the sight of a cheese cave dedicated to babying whole wheels of Parmigiano Reggiano cheese and washed-rind beauties such as taleggio. The Caputo’s crew features proprietor Matt Caputo and Troy Peterson, both ACS Cheese Certified Professionals who teach cheese-tasting classes once a week for the public and also pull their own mozzarella.

Caputo’s Downtown 215 S. Central Campus Drive Salt Lake City, UT, 801.583.8801

Shops

Harmons

Not too long ago, this local supermarket chain seemed like all the others, with just a so-so selection of generic cheese. But almost overnight, most of its locations were transformed into a venue for local and artisanal products. Crisp, tart Akane apples from local orchards; award-winning Amano chocolate from Orem, Utah; local Creminelli salami in their deli sandwiches; and local cheeses are now mainstays in Harmons flagship stores around the state. The fine cheese program features local and international specialty cheeses cared for by a team of mongers who regularly go on field trips to creameries in the United States and Europe to learn more about the craft.

Harmons 135 East 100 South Salt Lake City, UT, 801.428.0366

Whole Foods Market, Sugar House

If there’s one reason to visit this Whole Foods Market location, it’s Andy Fitzgerrell. This monger’s passion for cheese is obvious — he can talk shop with the best of the cheese and food professionals that visit the store for various tastings and events. But he can also translate that passion to cheese neophytes looking to wow their friends at the next dinner party. Local cheese addicts follow Fitzgerrell, an ACS Certified Cheese Professional, on Facebook, where he announces the arrival and opening of various goodies, including Hanois and a Grand Affinage Comté. (They sold out in a matter of a few hours.)

Whole Foods Market 1131 East Wilmington Avenue Salt Lake City, UT, 801.359.7913
A woman looks at the green beans at a farmers' market

Farmers’ Market

Downtown SLC Pioneer Park Farmers’ Market

May to October is when you can see this urban plot of land transform every Saturday into a pulsing food hub; it’s a good barometer of the current state of local food passion. From 8 am to 1 pm, farmers, bakers, and enterprising food trucks and carts converge. In spring and early summer, look for tender and hearty greens, sweet beets, and local cheesemakers who venture down from various outlying hamlets to sell fresh chèvre (Drake Family Farms), aged raw cow’s milk beauties (Rockhill Creamery), and blended small formats (Snowy Mountain Sheep Creamery).

A slice of SeaHive cheddar

SeaHive cheddar by Beehive Cheese.

Downtown SLC Pioneer Park Farmers’ Market Pioneer Park, 300 South & 300 West Salt Lake City, UT, 801.333.1103

Cheesemakers

Beehive Cheese

This award-winning producer makes waves with their wildly original espresso-and-lavender-rubbed Barely Buzzed; they’ve since added various other creative and local flavors to their cheddar. Visitors can shop in a small retail market after going on a tour of the facility where local pasteurized Jersey and Holstein cow’s milk is turned into giant wheels of Barely Buzzed, SeaHive (local honey and sea salt), and Ipanema (butter-and-cacao-rubbed rind). By appointment only.

Beehive Cheese 2440 East 6600 South Suite 8, Uintah, UT, 801.476.0900

Snowy Mountain Sheep Creamery

At this family farmstead operation, Susan Hansen tends the flock of Icelandic and Lacaune sheep. Their milk is mixed with that of the Brown Swiss cows from a neighbor down the road so that cheesemaker Stig Hansen can transform fresh milk into small-format beauties, all named after local mountains. Timpanogos and Delano are deliciously challenging, while the feta and cotija-style hold more everyday appeal. The hands-down favorite among cheese lovers is Strawberry Peak, which Hansen created in honor of the true fontina style of his homeland Denmark. By appointment only.

Snowy Mountain Sheep Creamery 2111 North 5500 East Eden, UT, 801.745.0388

Rockhill Creamery

About eight Brown Swiss cows supply the raw milk for the aged cheese at this historic homestead where Pete Schropp and Jennifer Hines literally built everything themselves—from the subterranean aging room to the gorgeously renovated barn. They welcome visitors every Saturday during harvest markets and food tours in this food-loving community. Take home some Snow Canyon Edam, Wasatch Mountain Gruyere, Desert Red Feta, and more.

Rockhill Creamery 563 South State Street Richmond, UT,435.258.1278

Gold Creek Farms

Flavored cheese is the star here, including an infused favorite that uses fig mustard made at nearby ski and food mecca Deer Valley Resort. Gold Creek’s cheese is a favorite with Park City chefs, who regularly feature its smoked white cheddar and Parmesan on such comfort food classics as burgers and macaroni and cheese.

Gold Creek Farms 6297 East Bench Creek Road Kamas, UT, 800.517.7670

Heber Valley Artisan Cheese/Kohler Creamery

The big red barn — otherwise known as Kohler Creamery — is the bucolic home of Heber Valley Artisan Cheese. Cow’s milk is their focus, and they transform local gallons into squeaky cheese curds, queso fresco, an aged Snake Creek cheddar, and Aggiano — a Parmesan-style wheel. The scenic location is the setting of several cheese-tasting events and a retail shop where visitors can take in the views of Timpanogos Peak and check out the Jersey cows grazing on nearby pastures.

Heber Valley Artisan Cheese/Kohler Creamery 920 North River Road, Midway, UT, 435.654.0291

A charcuterie board with meats and raisins

The Farm at the Canyons Resort in Park City

Dining

The Farm

“Farm to table” is the mantra at this resort restaurant — and judging from the chambray and denim button-down shirts the servers sport and the lengthy menu descriptions, they actually mean it. Nearby Gold Creek Farms makes a regular appearance on the menu, the best offering of which is oxtail onion soup in all its deep caramelized glory, topped with a crouton and melted Gold Creek cheddar. A recently installed curing room has led to some mighty fine house-made charcuterie options, including buttery local lardo and guanciale.

The Farm 4000 Canyons Resort Drive, The Canyons Resort, Park City, UT, 401.421.4422

Talisker on Main

The exterior of Talisker at night

Talisker on Main

Briar Handly is arguably the most talented chef in Park City. His calm, quiet demeanor is a contrast to the flamboyance of the dining rooms, but both are elegant in their own way. He can hold his own among technique-savvy diners with a sous-vide flourish but also pull off a retro dish of perfect fried chicken. House-made charcuterie is a personal passion of his; sample Handly’s efforts, from creamy rillettes to bresaola.

Talisker on Main 515 Main Street, Park City, UT, 435.658.5479

Forage

Chef/owners Bowman Brown and Viet Pham regularly feature a cheese course and creative dairy treatments in their nightly prix fixe menu. Attention to detail gave them top honors from Food & Wine magazine (they were named Best New Chefs 2011). Whether it’s using buttermilk and fresh cheese whey to poach meats and vegetables or the care they give to the Icelandic butter they serve with bread by first smoking it over apple wood, then churning it with white soy sauce to play up the umami in the dairy, the experience is understated and utterly stunning.

Forage 370 East 900 South, Salt Lake City, UT, 801.708.7834

A plate of ricotta dumplings with parmesan.

The Copper Onion: Straightforward flavor from amazing ingredients.

The Copper Onion

When it comes to straightforward flavor from amazing ingredients, this casual restaurant nails it. Roasted bone marrow, hearty poutine with Grotte Caputo (aged in Caputo’s Market’s Cheese Cave), thyme-scented house-made ricotta dumplings, and the best cheese plate in town are just a few reasons many folks saddle up to the bar, communal table, or reserved tables. For the best pairing experience, ask sommelier James Santangelo to steer your way through the various flavors of a cheese plate that might include a light chèvre from Avalanche Cheese Company in Colorado, Rocchetta from the Alta Langhe, and a Basque Ossau-Iraty aged at nearby Caputo’s Market.

The Copper Onion 111 East Broadway Suite 170, Salt Lake City, UT, 801.355.3282

A whole pizza margarita from Pizzeria 712

Pizzeria 712 bakes their pies in a matter of seconds in a 712°F wood-fired oven.

Pizzeria 712

Pizza Margherita (mozzarella, San Marzano tomatoes, and basil) is like roast chicken for pizza chefs if they can do this deceptively simple dish well, then you know they’ve got skills. That’s definitely the case at this casual restaurant south of Salt Lake City. Each day they pull their own mozzarella for the house margherita and other pies that are baked to order in a matter of seconds in the 712°F wood-fired oven. Each beautifully blistered crust is the foundation for classic and adventurous toppings, including serious cheese such as taleggio, strewn over Yukon Golds.

Pizzeria 712 320 South State Street, Orem, UT

Drinks

High West Distillery

At this award-winning micro distillery and restaurant, the spent grain used to make the potent elixirs are often delivered to neighboring Gold Creek Farms to feed the cows that in turn provide the milk for the cheddar used in the house burger. Some of Gold Creek’s cheddar even gets a healthy rubdown with the High West whiskey, completing this culinary circle of life. High West’s renovated historic building houses a gorgeous Austrian copper still and various mining town memorabilia that you can tour everyday. But the best way to experience this unique place is to order the whiskey flight — a tasting of their specialties, such as Son of Bourye (pair it with the Creminelli Whiskey salami), the peaty Campfire scotch blend, and the elegant American Prairie Reserve.

High West Distillery 703 Park Avenue Park City, UT, 435.649.8300

Vanessa Chang

Freelance food and travel writer Vanessa Chang lives and eats (happily) in Salt Lake City.