Hidden Treasures: Middle Eastern food in Utah

A local favorite, the Mazza cafe offers the best, award winning middle eastern food in Utah. Originally started as a deli at it’s original 15th & 15th location, owner Ali Sabbah has grown this cafe into two full service restaurants.

Stop by the cute original neighborhood location for a quiet dining experience, or head to the hopping 9th & 9th restaurant were Ali Sabbah can be found chatting with diners.

Among my favorite dishes are the baba ganooj, house salad, the Chicken Shawarma sandwich, and the Chicken and Cauliflower Kabseh. Don’t miss the fries with the aiol dipping sauce; they are among the best Salt Lake City has to offer. Mazza offers both local and imported foods and drinks and offers an extensive selection of vegetarian and vegan offerings.

Mazza is definitely must visit location when in Salt Lake City. Come early, this place might be packed.

Kirsten Sparks is a Seed.com contributor.

Toyota’s Farm to Table Tour takes sustainable eating on the road

I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking, “Yeah, right. Toyota just needs damage control. As if feel-good, treehugging road trips make up for all those recalls.” But before you judge, let us separate the issue from the mission.

This is Toyota’s second annual Farm to Table Tour, in which 11 farmers markets nationwide participate with the automotive giant to visit “farmers markets across the country to showcase the connection between farmers, chefs, farmers markets, and the communities they serve, and to give market shoppers the opportunity to experience Toyota’s hybrid vehicles.” On each stop, up to 12 local chefs and farmers pair up to highlight seasonal ingredients through free tastings. Talks on eating locally and sustainably, culinary vacation giveaways, gardening information, and test rides in a 2010 Prius, Highlander Hybrid, or Camry Hybrid are also part of each market collaboration.

Toyota is also making financial donations to the participating markets, as well as to the Farmers Market Coalition. In addition, the company is using eco-friendly materials and purchasing carbon credits through TerraPass to offset the educational tour’s carbon footprint.

Tour stops include Birmingham, Pittsburgh, Chattanooga, Minneapolis, and Salt Lake City. The Washington DC FARMFRESH Market by the White House stop on July 29th features influential chef Nora Pouillon, of Restaurant Nora, the nation’s first certified organic restaurant, which opened in 1999. Regardless of how you may feel about Toyota, the company deserves props for its ongoing commitment to sustainability, and supporting family farms. And that ain’t a bad thing.

Top Fourth of July fireworks spots across the US

Here are ten of the biggest and best (as well as some smaller and more regionally or otherwise distinctive) fireworks displays to anticipate this Fourth of July across the United States. And even if you can’t be in ten places across a continent in a single day (you can’t? weird!) these spots might just provide a good reference list for your next decade of Fourth of July vacation planning.

1. South Lake Tahoe, California.

The largest synchronized fireworks display west of the Mississippi will kick off on the southern end of South Lake Tahoe, starting around 9:45 pm. Lake Tahoe provides a mesmerizing surface for reflected pyrotechnics.

2. Seward, Alaska.

Seward, south of Anchorage, is flooded with tourists on July 4. The town’s festivities get off to an early start with Seward’s waterfront fireworks, which begin at 12:01 am on the morning of July 4.

3. Washington, DC.

A display over the Washington Monument is one of the country’s most distinctive. Fireworks are set off from the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool after 9:00 pm.

4. New York City, New York.

The Macy’s 4th of July Fireworks show, set along the Hudson River, will kick off at 9 pm with Justin Bieber tasked with the job of getting the patriotism flowing. (How’s that for Canadian-American cross-border good will?) This year’s display is graced with a score titled “American Harmony,” performed by the New York Pops and the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.

5. Amarillo, Texas.

The largest fireworks display in the Texas panhandle gets started at 9:30 pm at John Stiff Memorial Park. 10,000 people are expected this year.

6. Salt Lake City, Utah.

Jordan Park, on the arty west side of Salt Lake City, hosts a 10 pm fireworks display.

7. Ala Moana Center, Honolulu, Hawaii.

Hawaii’s biggest fireworks display kicks off at 8:30 pm at the Ala Moana Center shopping mall in Honolulu, following several hours of musical entertainment.

8. Tacoma, Washington.

Tacoma’s fireworks will get going at 10 pm on the city’s Commencement Bay, the grand finale of Tacoma’s annual Freedom Fair. The bay provides a glorious expanse for the fireworks display.

9. St. Louis, Missouri.

At 9:15 pm, a fireworks display will close out 2010′s Fair Saint Louis at Gateway Arch. The St. Louis display is regarded to be one of the best in the country by hardcore fireworks fans.

10. New Orleans. Louisiana.

The Big Easy’s Dueling Barges Fireworks Extravaganza makes for an especially vibrant and exciting fireworks display.


Don’t see your city listed? More great destinations
here!

[Image: Flickr/Clearly Ambiguous]

Top five weekend travel media stories

Here are five interesting stories from this weekend’s newspaper travel sections around the world.

1. In Melbourne’s the Age, Andrew West writes about a fabulous train journey from Jakarta to Yogyakarta to Surabaya and then back to Jakarta.

2. Sophie Cooke extols the pleasures of Sarajevo and rural Bosnia in the Guardian.

3. In the New York Times, Jaime Gross spends 36 hours in Salt Lake City and fills readers in on the buzz on SLC’s new organic dining scene.

4. Jay Jones does the Wisconsin artisan cheese tour circuit for the Los Angeles Times.

5. In the Globe and Mail, Bonny Reichert writes an ode to backcountry canoeing and camping in Ontario’s Algonquin Park.

(Image: Flickr/johovac)

Salt Lake City uses Facebook contest to get you psyched

The #1 Fan Sweepstakes for the Salt Lake City CVB’s Facebook fan page kicked off on January 15, 2010 and runs until February 12, 2010. The goal is to get the number of fans pumped up to 5,000, while giving potential visitors information about everything Utah: from skiing to genealogy to Mormonism to convention business. Already, the number of fans has almost doubled — from 1,200 to 2,200 — indicating that the new Facebook push is working.

This is a trend that’s becoming increasingly common: travel companies and destinations are turning to Facebook to promote themselves and attract tourists. Recently, JetBlue and the Mexican Council for the Promotion of Tourism kicked off Facebook programs to attract interest and (hopefully) generate the sort of interest that will help them overcome the severe travel industry slump that we’ve been coping with for more than a year now. For Salt Lake City, which has been executing an aggressive media campaign, the move into social media isn’t at all surprising.

According to Inside Facebook, the #1 Fan Sweepstakes isn’t the first push that the Salt Lake City CVB has made on Facebook. Rather, it reflects the lessons learned from previous efforts. Says Shawn Stinson, Director of Communications for the CVB, “We started with a number of different Facebook fan pages: ski, visit, genealogy, meetings, and that didn’t work. It was too littered. So we went to simply Visit Salt Lake.” The straightforward approach is anchored in this new initiative. According to Stinson, “This contest in particular is being used to drive an increase in our fan base because we are looking to distribute more and more information via Facebook.”

The grand prize is a ski trip for two that is packed with extras beyond airfare and lodging: ski passes and a FLIP video camera are included, and the winner is expected to shoot video for a blog about the trip. Other prizes include a set of Dynastar skis and bindings, a two-day Ski Salt Lake pass valid at any of the four resorts in Salt Lake and 20 Ski Salt Lake belt buckles and t-shirts.

Are you a fan of Gadling on Facebook yet?