October 8, 2012

Meet the Frida Staff: Esther Arzola

Esther is being humble - she can really carry 17 plates at a time.
Frida Bistro is proud to have come such a long way since opening its doors over two years ago, and Esther Arzola holds the unique distinction of being the only member of the service staff to have been here from the very beginning.  She's seen menus evolve drastically, walls get knocked down, and most importantly has seen the uniforms change from black...to white...to black...to coral...and back to black again.  We love Esther for her go-with-the-flow attitude and willingness to adapt during Frida's formative years while she developed her true identity (Frida that it, not Esther)!

Moving to the United States via Mexico over 15 years ago, Esther lived in California and Washington before moving to Utah "for love," where she has called home for the past 3 years.  On her days off, which are few and far between, Esther loves to explore Utah's beautiful mountains and lakes, hiking with her husband, Leroy.  Sometimes she even brings along her petite Yorkshire Terrier, Paris!

Before entering into the world of hospitality, Esther worked as a bilingual secretary for a plastic surgeon!  Her first stint in the hospitality industry was as a hostess at a Brazilian restaurant in Baja California Mexico.  She quickly moved into serving and has been excelling at it ever since.

She loves working at Frida because it is such a unique, colorful restaurant with a great staff, as well as wonderful clientele.  Jorge, the owner of Frida Bistro and Rico Brand, and his family have treated her as one of their own since she started working here.  She has helped out with Rico Catering, Rico Market, Farmer's Market, and even some management responsibilities at the restaurant.  With all of the many hats she wears, Esther says her favorite role is "babysitting the new staff" (she may complain about it, but we know she loves it)!

Esther considers herself a great server but acknowledges that she learns new things every day, as offering great customer service is an ongoing process.  She loves interacting with people and educating them about Mexican food and culture, and she's an excellent resource for staff members that want to become more versed on these topics.  Esther's presence is invaluable because of this immense knowledge, as well as her willingness to be flexible in her schedule and to offer help whenever it's needed.

Bringing in home cooked goodies for staff, training new team members, and helping make important restaurant decisions, Esther is certainly the "mother figure" at Frida Bistro.  But don't worry Esther, you're a young, hip, sexy mother!

September 25, 2012

Huitlacoche, aka Corn Smut

Huitlacoche: it looks much more delicious after the Frida chefs prepare it!
Learning how to pronounce Huitlachoche is a right of passage for new Frida Bistro employees - while it takes a bit of time to get it right, it sounds much more elegant and appetizing than it's other name: corn smut.

Say it with me: WEET-LA-KO-CHEE.

In Mexico, an ear of corn "infected" with this fungus nearly quadruples the value of the produce!  So while it ruins the crop, it actually ends up being worth more than a healthy batch of corn.

The taste is complex - rich and earthy while retaining the natural sweetness of the corn.  It's even packed full of proteins, minerals, and other nutritious goodies!

At Frida we offer an extremely popular Quesadilla de Huitlocoche, as well as a Plantain Tort with huitlacoche cream sauce (which is uniquely gray and fantastic).

If your curiosity has been piqued you can pick up a package of huitlacoche in the Rico Market and experiment with your own creations!

September 17, 2012

Meet the Frida Staff: Thomas Kreitlow

We just had to get this moment on camera.
To begin with, we are going to attempt to write this blog post without doing a fact check with Thomas (we want it to be a surprise!), so we cannot ensure the complete accuracy of all statements.  With that being said...

Thomas Kreitlow is a man of many talents.  Chef.  Economist.  Triathlete.  And above all: Cleaner of Counter Tops.

Thomas is the Chief Operating Officer for the Fierro Group (Rico Brand/Rico Catering/Frida Bistro) - which means his sole purpose is making sure things operate efficiently for THREE major companies, no matter what it takes.  No big deal.  The above photo is a perfect example of Tom's work ethic.  If we need an extra chef, he jumps into the kitchen.  If the air ducts need cleaning, he climbs a ladder.  And if the counter is dirty...he goes searching for a bottle of Windex.  Aside from that Tom spends his days crunching numbers and creating budgets, interviewing and hiring for all departments, helping to create new products for Rico and Frida, and well, overseeing all operations, big and small.  He knows the answer to just about any question an employee could have about our company.  He's a COO who is not afraid to get his hands dirty...literally.

Without checking with Thomas we couldn't give you the specifics, but we know that he's lived all over the country, cooked/served/bartended/managed at a multitude of restaurants, is an avid runner and cyclist, adores his loyal, yet sometimes neurotic dog, Bounty, received his Masters in Economics in 2011 from the University of Utah, and loves his job with the Fierro Group.  6 day work weeks are the norm, and 7 day weeks aren't unheard of for Thomas.

While Jorge Fierro, the owner and CEO of the Fierro Group, is undoubtedly the heart of the operation, Thomas is the lungs, or liver, or kidney, or some other vital organ we simply could not go on without - he's that important to this company and we're lucky to have him.

September 6, 2012

Tequila: It's Not Just For College Kids Anymore

Frida Bistro is constantly working to change the misconception that tequila is something to be scared of - a harsh drink college kids throw back as a cheap, quick means to getting inebriated.  When offered tequila many people have such painful memories associated with this Mexican spirit that they'll refuse to even acknowledge its existence.

However, we know that good tequila is just as refined, elegant, and complex as any single-malt scotch or fine cognac on the market.  But many of us have simply been turned off by drinking the wrong stuff.

A quick Tequila 101:

Tequila is a distilled beverage made from the blue agave plant in the Mexican state of Jalisco and in limited regions of a few other states.  There are two main types: mixtos and 100% agave.  Mixtos are no less than 51% agave and the remainder is from less expensive sugars and coloring agents (i.e. no bueno).  100% agave tequilas, which are really the only ones worth drinking, come in a variety of vintages:

  • Blanco ("white") - un-aged and bottled immediately after distillation
  • Joven ("young") - a mixture of blanco and reposado 
  • Reposado ("rested") - aged between 2-12 months in oak barrels
  • Añejo ("aged") - aged 1-3 years in oak barrels
  • Extra Añejo ("extra aged") - aged 3+ years in oak barrels
Each tequila has its own characteristics: vanilla, caramel, cinnamon, floral, pepper, smoke, coconut, butterscotch, etc, and the longer they age in barrels, the more complex and interesting they become.  

The official Riedel tequila tasting glass.  Pitted against hundreds of others, an official committee of tequila makers decided this glass does tequila the most justice - for getting the nose and all of the flavors each spirit has to offer.
Our good friends and Park City locals, Lisa and John Barlow, own ultra premium Vida Tequila, which produces some of the best tequila you'll find (it's made in Mexico, not Utah)!  They currently offer a blanco, reposado, and añejo, with an extra añejo available next year (it takes time to age)!  Lisa and John share a similar mission to spread the word about fine tequila, so it was a natural fit that we would pair up for a six-course tequila tasting dinner.

Last night Frida Bistro hosted 23 eager guests ready to indulge in unique, colorful, and tequila-friendly Mexican cuisine from our fantastic chefs.  Tequila pairs well with acidity (hence the lime juice in margaritas), as well as seafood and fatty meats (reposado tequila and pork carnitas are a classic combo in Mexico).  The dinner was a whirlwind of flavors: polenta asada (grilled polenta), smoked salmon cured in sotol (tequila's cousin), chilled avocado soup with crab meat, beet salad with a citrus vinaigrette, pork belly with a crisp brown sugar crust, and a nectarine tart with a tamarind drizzle.  Each dish was paired with a complementary straight tequila tasting or tequila cocktail (produced by our expert mixologists), and each course was separated by a pallet-cleansing granita (flavored ice) created by our pastry chef using Vida Blanco and fresh teas!  The kitchen staff never ceases to amaze and impress us!

Polenta asada.
Pork belly!
The weather was calm and mild which allowed us to hold the event on our patio oasis, making the evening a true feast for all senses.  Thank you to Lisa, John, the Frida chefs, bartenders, and service staff, as well as our wonderful guests which helped make this event possible.  

Be sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter to hear about upcoming special events similar to this one!

August 27, 2012

Ceviche Pez Espada Recipe

Fresh and light for a summer night on the patio.
Ceviche is a staple on the menu at Frida - a great dish to share as an appetizer with friends or as a light dinner for one.  We change the preparation seasonally and this summer we created a winner with our Ceviche Pez Espada (literal translation: Swordfish Ceviche).  The fun thing about ceviche is that there are endless variations - all you need is some imagination!

Simply put, ceviche is fresh, raw fish marinated in citrus juice.  While the fish in ceviche is not cooked using heat, the acids from the citrus do "cook" the meat to a degree (the longer you let it marinate, the more it will cook).  However, the citrus juice will not kill the bacteria the same way heat will, so it's important to use fresh, parasite-free, and disease-free fish!  Check out this great article for tips on ensuring your fish is safe to eat.  Since it's nearly impossible to get fresh fish in landlocked Utah, we use the deep freeze method to kill any bacteria.

Ceviche is simple and delicious, and takes very little time to prepare.  As long as you have fresh fish, citrus juice, and a mixing bowl you can make a fantastic ceviche that will impress all your friends.
Steve preparing the dish with a simple mold.  Remember, presentation is almost as important as taste!
This recipe is for one serving of ceviche (which can be shared between 2-3 people as an appetizer).  We "eye" most of the ingredients, so it was hard to get the chefs to give me an exact measure!

Mix following ingredients in a bowl:
  1. Handful of cubed, raw swordfish 
  2. Chopped mango 
  3. Diced red and green peppers, radish, and cucumber
  4. 2-Tbsp freshly-squeezed orange juice
  5. Juice from 2 lime wedges
  6. Pinch salt
  7. Pinch cilantro
Dig in!
Mix with your hand for approximately 20 seconds which will allow the fish to begin cooking.  At Frida we like to top our ceviche with microgreens and serve with blue corn tortilla chips, which add a great texture to the dish.  Take this ceviche out on your patio, imagine you're at the beach, and enjoy with friends or loved ones as the sun sets!

August 21, 2012

Meet the Frida Staff: Gretchen Windt

Gretchen is always smiling...and making customers smile as well!
What's that sound?!  Oh, it's just Gretchen laughing from across the restaurant.

A lover of food and drink, Gretchen is one of those people that was born to work in the hospitality industry.  That's not to say she's not multi-talented (she has her Bachelor's in Music Education, her Master's in Vocal Performance, and is working on her Doctorate of Musical Arts at the University of Utah!) - but she has that "it" quality that Frida guests adore.  Gretchen is a tireless professional who takes her work here very seriously, always taking notes on our newest foods and wines so she's able to educate our guests with ease.  When she interacts with guests, she performs with complete sincerity - it's pretty impressive.  She truly wants every guest to have the best possible experience at Frida Bistro - she wants them to savor ever course and drink, and makes sure they have everything they need so they can enjoy Frida as much as she does.

Twelve years ago, as a freshman in college, Gretchen started working as a server at a small restaurant in Chicago, and has been part of the industry ever since.  Aside from an impressive stint at Cincinnati's Vito's Cafe, home of the singing servers, where she would sing arias and showtunes throughout dinner service, Gretchen has performed operas, oratorios, and choruses in Chicago, Cincinnati, Baltimore, Albuquerque, Amherst, Sarasota, Salt Lake City, Boise, and Italy.  In fact, she moved to SLC from Cincinnati after receiving a young artist contract with the Utah Opera.

Always willing to take on extra responsibility, Gretchen recently added bartending to her resume when a few shifts became available, and she's catching on quickly.  She's already started coming up with some fantastic new drink recipes (get ready for our Fall drink menu, debuting soon)!

We're lucky to have had Gretchen on our staff for over a year already, and hope she sticks around for a few more.  When asked what she enjoys about working at Frida she listed the food, namely the unique flavors and presentation.  She loves how our margaritas are seasonal, fresh, and of course, delicious!  Lastly, she relishes the beautiful space: the artwork, colors, and especially the patio...when it's not 100 degrees out!

When she's not at school, studying, hanging out around town with Frida friends, or at work she's been known to cover Johnny Cash songs on the ukulele (maybe her album will be available on iTunes before long)!  We were also surprised to learn SHE DOES NOT CARE FOR CAPITAL LETTERS (I wonder if that drove her crazy)!  She also likes using language as colorful as the walls at Frida Bistro (see below).

Quite colorful indeed.
There are so many great things to say about Gretchen...like how she pays close attention to detail, is an outstanding multi-tasker, is a natural leader, and is able to put a positive spin on anything...BUT, we wouldn't want her head getting too big!  So thank you, Gretchen, for all the hard work and dedication you put into Frida Bistro - we truly appreciate it, as do all of your guests!

August 9, 2012

Meet the Frida Staff: Steve Terry

Steve posing in "the window."
Steve Terry joined the Frida Bistro culinary team nearly 4 months ago after cutting his teeth at Lamb's Grill in downtown SLC for the past 9 years.  We were happy to have Steve come on board due to his sharp attention to detail and ability to remain calm and cool under pressure. 

If you're eating at Frida, there's a good chance your food went though Steve's station: he prepares soups and salads, most of the appetizers, and many of the side dishes for the entrees.  His position in the kitchen is at "the window" - the area where servers pick up food that is ready to be served to our guests - meaning he is the last chef to see the plates before they're served.  He ensures they are plated beautifully and are immaculately flawless, as the presentation of our food is just as important as the unique and delicate flavors.  If that wasn't stressful enough, Steve is also the liaison between the Front of House and Back of House staff, meaning at any given time there are no less than 13 people shouting instructions his way! 

Steve grew up in Virginia, just outside of Washington DC (his favorite football team is the Redskins), but has lived in Utah for most of his life.  He began his cooking career at a young age by flipping burgers at a fast food joint (he declined to tell me which one, however!), but quickly realized his talents were being wasted in that environment.  On his days off he can't stay out of the kitchen - he enjoys cooking for his wife and 8-month-old son at their home in Murray, UT. 

One of the main draws of working at Frida is that every day we are essentially coming to an art gallery, which Steve cherishes.  He loves the design of the retaurant and how it goes hand in hand with the artistic preparation and presentation of the food.  And he takes pride in knowing he plays an integral role in the guest's experience at our restaurant. 

August 6, 2012

Taste of the Wasatch

An absolutely beautiful day in the Wasatch range.
Yesterday Frida Bistro participated in the annual Taste of the Wasatch at Solitude Mountain Resort in Big Cottonwood Canyon.  Taste of the Wasatch is Utah's premiere culinary event and raises funds to help end hunger in the state.  Frida joined over 50 other restaurants, resorts, wineries, and craft breweries to dish out tastings to the eager crowd.

Esther is very proud/protective of those beautiful tostaditas - watch out!
Let's just say the guests weren't the only ones eating the irresistible tostaditas...
Needless to say, getting Frida staff to volunteer wasn't exactly difficult: free entrance to an event that otherwise costs $125/ticket isn't a tough sell.  That's not to say it was all fun and games - we went all out in our tastings and needed all 8 employees to help stage, cook, and serve food.  The dedicated team was as follows: Thomas (Fierro Group COO), Josh (Frida Bistro Manager) and his girlfriend Lauren, Raul (Head Chef), Gretchen (Server/Bartender) and her boyfriend Michael (who is a professional chef), Esther (Server), and Jessica (Server).  The team was focused on plating excellent tastings for the event guests...and doing some excellent tastings of our own!
Raul putting the finishing touches on the chocolate mole cake.
We may be slightly biased, but we were partial to Frida's delicious gourmet spread!  We started guests with house-cured salmon tostaditas: a crispy corn tortilla, salmon cured with reposado sotol and topped with jalapeno/balsamic aioli, cucumber, radish, and dill.  Next we had Mexican risotto paired with a pistachio-encrusted Chilean sea bass complemented by an elote/cilantro sauce.  And to finish it off, our famous chocolate mole cake topped with chocolate mousse, a fresh raspberry, and strawberry coulis.  I think it's safe to say Frida made some new fans yesterday afternoon!

Hey Jessica, less peace signs, more tostaditas!
By the end of the afternoon the crew was exhausted.  We had a fantastic week at the restaurant with the help of the Outdoor Retailers, and Sunday, which is typically everyone's day off, came and went in a haze - prepping the food, loading the truck, driving up the canyon, unloading the truck, setting up the booth, serving food in the intense mountain sun, breaking down the booth, reloading the truck...you get the picture!  It was a long day, but well worth it.

We want to thank Solitude Mountain Resort and everyone else who made this outstanding event possible - we'll definitely see you next year!

August 3, 2012

Grilled Pineapple Margarita Recipe

Ain't she a beaut?
Summertime means unique, refreshing margaritas at Frida Bistro, where we use only fresh fruits, veggies, herbs, and spices to make our homemade mixes.  The Grilled Pineapple/Jalapeno/Cilantro has been a guest favorite since we introduced it nearly 3 months ago: sweet, smoky, and spicy is the feedback we've gotten - and with this recipe you'll now be able to make it yourself!

What You'll Need:
  • 1 Medium/Large Pineapple
  • 1 Medium Jalapeno
  • 2 Pinches Rough-Cut Cilantro
  • 1.5oz Reposado Tequila* (per drink)
  • .5oz Freshly-Squeezed Lime Juice (per drink)
  • .5oz Organic Agave Nectar (per drink)
  • Kosher Salt
Making the Mix:
  1. Cut all the skin and gristle off your pineapple, and cut into 1-inch discs
  2. Grill the pineapple on both sides until blackened (try to retain the juices!)
  3. Cut into small chunks, leaving behind the core
  4. Dice a medium-sized jalapeno, seeds included (or for a more mild spice, remove some or all of the seeds)
  5. Rough-cut enough cilantro for two pinches
  6. Combine pineapple (with juice), jalapeno, and cilantro into a container and muddle until well mixed 
  7. That's your mix!  Keep refrigerated and use within 2-3 days.
Mixing Your Margarita:
  1. Fill a tumbler half way with ice
  2. Combine tequila, lime juice, agave nectar, and 1 TBSP mix - shake vigorously!
  3. Rim a clear highball glass with kosher salt and pour contents of tumbler
  4. Garnish with a lime wedge
*A note on tequila: Do not settle for anything less than 100% agave - otherwise it's filled with extra sugar and coloring agents (e.g. Jose Cuervo Gold).  A 100% agave reposado (aged or "rested") tequila can be had for under $20/bottle and will be very decent.  At Frida we like using Espolon Reposado, which retails for under $30/bottle - it's silky smooth and has just enough spice to complement our margaritas wonderfully.  

There you have it - Frida Bistro's Grilled Pineapple/Jalapeno/Cilantro margarita!

A New Beginning

Our 2011 Salt Lake Magazine award for "Best Mexican" - we were honored to win the same award in 2012 as well!
The Frida Bistro blog has long been forgotten, but with exciting things happening at the restaurant everyday, we thought this would be a good time to revamp the design and commit to posting regularly.  The truth is, the blog was started when the restaurant opened, and with the tremendous amount of time, effort, and dedication it takes to get a restaurant up and running (and keep it running!), the blog effort simply fell by the wayside.

With the success of Frida Bistro comes more time to focus on reaching out to the Salt Lake community and connecting with the people who make Frida Bistro thrive - our patrons!  And that brings me to my next point: how Frida Bistro got its roots.  This is the truncated version, but stop by the restaurant any time and I promise Jorge will be happy to give you all of the details of his inspiring "immigrant from Mexico to local Salt Lake celebrity" story!

The restaurant is adorned with colorful artwork, much of it celebrating Frida Kahlo.  A good portion of the artwork is for sale, some from Jorge's personal collection, the rest from local and Mexican artists.  
Jorge Fierro came to Utah from Mexico in his 20s.  Dissatisfied with the Mexican food in town, Jorge decided to take matters into his own hands.  He set up a booth at the Pioneer Park Farmer's Market and started selling beans.  With the success of this small endeavor, Jorge started Rico Brand, where "Beans are our Beansness."  Rico Brand now manufacturers over 120 products right here in downtown Salt Lake (burritos, salsas, tamales, sauces, beans, rice, etc), and distributes to retailers all over the region!  But you'll still find Jorge at the farmer's market, every Saturday morning, schmoozing with all his adoring fans.

The space within the front of the Rico warehouse (which is now Frida Bistro) used to be Jorge's office area and the employee lounge for the production workers.  People would drive by every day and see the employees eating through the windows and wondered what restaurant was there, but there was none - they would knock on the door and try to come in.  This gave Jorge the idea to open Frida Bistro, named after Frida Kahlo, an early 20th century Mexican painter with passion and flare - once again, giving Salt Lake City something they were lacking: sophisticated Mexican gastronomy.

Frida is known for its inviting atmosphere: colorful, festive, energetic, fun, and sexy!  It's a favorite place for locals to host out-of-town guests because of its unique and charming qualities.
Moving forward, we'll use the blog to share interesting facts about Frida Kahlo, introduce you to our talented staff, feature original Frida food and drink (and yes, we'll share recipes!), and tell you about all of the big (and small) things happening in Frida's world. We look forward to having you follow along.