Taste of Summer Brings Together Local Utah Vendors



(The Natural History Museum of Utah | Courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

By Christopher Payne, Assistant Arts Editor


This article was published in print on Aug. 5, 2019.

Ice cream, chocolate, gelato, churros, cupcakes, honey, barbecue and salsa all came together during the Taste of Summer food festival on July 20 and 21. For the first time at the Natural History Museum of Utah, local food vendors from all around the area gathered for museum-goers to explore the many flavors of Utah. Over the course of two seven-hour-days, patrons consistently streamed through the museum’s lobby and took their time at more than a dozen stalls, sampling delicious food and getting to know these local businesses.

Many familiar names showed up across the stalls, including bigger businesses like Harmons and Creamies and smaller businesses alike. Dessert treats seemed to be a common theme, with stalls like Bon Bon, La Michoacana, Di Frutta and Rockwell each selling their own varieties of frozen goods. Caputo’s provided samples of chocolates while Chio’s Churros covered a variety of fried treats. Meanwhile, other vendors showed off their own unique crafts. Cache Canning Co. showed off an impressive variety of canned goods. White Lake Farms brought their signature raw honey. Smoke-a-Billy BBQ — a food truck known on our own campus for serving up lunch just above the Marriott Library during the school year — sold a variety of tasty barbecue dishes. All the food was delicious and the vendors were eager to share their experiences with the Utah community.

The Taste of Summer event attracted young families with children eager for tasty samples and treats — not Caputo’s typical clientele. As the vendor Abigail Sabir said, “They’re interested in trying but they’re not really interested in knowing.” Sabir works as a cheesemonger with Caputo’s, and the crowds she’s used to serving are interested in the story behind the artisanal cheeses and meats. These are the customers who are interested in the cheese caves where Caputo’s affineur — the artisan who ages cheese — cares for and revives cheeses shipped internationally and brings local cheeses to work them into something unique and delicious. These are the customers who want the unique stories behind the numerous companies — local and international — that fill the shelves at Caputo’s.

For the sake of the food festival, the Caputo’s stall tapped into a local side that would appeal more to the museum-goers. Utah is shaping up to be the artisan chocolate capital of America, and the stall showed off the impressive assortment of high-end chocolates produced all around the state, featuring brands like Solstice, Ritual and Amano. One small bowl with samples of a delicious citrus and rose chocolate bar continued to bring visitors back for seconds and thirds.

Throughout the day, another one of the most frequented stalls around belonged to the company Salsa Queen. Six different types of salsa invited visitors over for comprehensive sampling, and behind the stall, the Salsa Queen herself warmly greeted each customer. Born Maharba Zapata, Salsa Queen legally adopted the name of the business she founded five years ago, and it reflects the complete dedication she has towards her craft.

Queen came to Utah when she was seventeen as an illegal immigrant who didn’t speak any English. Just five years ago, she decided to turn her passion for cooking into a business to support her family as a single mother, and today she owns a salsa brand sold across hundreds of stores and her family business has grown to employ over 50 workers. At the Taste of Summer festival, she served up her salsa alongside her eldest son as the two reflected on the road that brought them here. “I love the creative part of cooking,” Queen explained. “So we just started playing with salsas and we ended up with these six fabulous salsas.” “We went through a lot,” added her son. “We experimented a lot with a lot of flavors.”

This Taste of Summer festival was a first for the Natural History Museum of Utah, but Queen hopes it will come back again in the future. “I’m really excited to be a part of this first year … I’m so proud and humbled to be here among all of these people that work really hard because it’s not easy to get to where we’re at. There’s a lot of struggles and a lot of sacrifices but, you know, it’s worth it. It’s been worth it for us, so we are very excited to be here.”

For now, at least, the Taste of Summer event is over, but all of these excellent Utah vendors are here to stay. Stop by the Smoke-a-Billy food truck when the school year begins, grab a sandwich at your nearest Caputo’s, pick up some salsa from the closest grocery store or pop into one of the many local gelaterias and ice cream shops and support our local businesses. Meanwhile, keep a lookout for the next event going on up at the Natural History Museum of Utah. Consider putting that UCard to good use and explore the museum this summer for free.

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