Costa in the Kitchen

Cost in the Kitchen

Archive for the ‘Follow The Chef’ Category

Fresh and From Scratch

Hi all…
Chef Alter coming to you from sunny Salt Lake City. It has been awhile since my last post. I hope you have all had a tremendous summer. While I have been away from my blog, I have been busy refining, training, and rolling our new fish tacos into several Costa Vida locations in Utah and Washington.. The response has been tremendous, and you will see the taco coming to a Costa Vida near you in October. This process has been so rewarding, and has reminded me again why Costa Vida is such a great concept. Everything we do is from scratch with the very best ingredients we can procure.

Costa VIda Salsa Family

Last week, I had the pleasure of doing a cooking show here on the local news. We made ceviche and discussed why Costa Vida is so unique. Within our genre of restaurant concepts, our unique blend of fresh ingredients and scratch cooking is unparalleled in the industry. Did you know that we only carry 2 cans in our entire restaurant? Everything else comes in fresh several times a week so we can make the freshest, tastiest food for you. Because of how we source our products, we can maximize our efficiency while filling our guests’ senses with flavorful, fresh, colorful food with a myriad of textures.
Each day I have the pleasure of working with the finest staff and operators who care solely about putting the freshest, purest product out for you. So the next time you visit a Costa Vida, ask one of our friendly team members to explain how fresh, and handcrafted the food is. If you are gluten free, come on in. Only our Flour tortillas, Tres Leches and Key Lime Pie are off limits. Everything else is made with the philosophy that no guest should be left behind. It is entirely possible to create a terrific meal for all walks of life.

Thanks for tuning in, and I will see you soon…

Chef Geoff Alter


Servings: Makes 6


  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 lemons, juice only
  • 1 lime, juice only
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1 lbs fresh chicken breasts or thighs

Combine the first 7 ingredients with salt and pepper to taste. Grill until the chicken is cooked throughout, and reads on a thermometer to 165 degrees.


  • Grilled Chicken, cut into ¼ slices
  • 6 corn or flour tortillas
  • Chopped romaine lettuce
  • Chopped Tomatoes or Salsa
  • Fresh Lime Wedges
  • Fresh Avocado, cut into slices

Place some of the chicken into each tortilla. Top with suggested toppings.

Fish Tacos are Swimming Your Way

Costa VIda Fish Tacos

Hi Costa Vida enthusiasts… Chef Geoff coming to you from beautiful Salt Lake City.  Since my last blog post, I have been busy working to create a new fish taco for our Baja Inspired menu.  This process has been so rewarding, and we have developed  the taco worth testing in our restaurants.

The process started months ago.  We first looked to find the perfect fish.  I think it very important that we stay true to our nature and use a fish that can be found swimming in the Pacific and Sea of Cortez bordering the Baja Peninsula on both sides.  If you have been to Baja, then you have certainly walked up to a local beach front taco stand, drawn there by the smell of fresh ocean fish gently cooking.  It is a smell that stirs me to this day and provided the muse for my creativity.  The most prevalent species being caught in these waters are Mahi Mahi, Wahoo (ono), Yellowfin Tuna, Snapper (rockfish), and Talapia.  They all have their merits, but we decided on Mahi.  Mahi is a firm fleshed white fish that enables us to be more creative in our cooking process.

We then looked to draw on the most classic of Mexican fish marinades; a combination of fresh lime juice, olive oil, fresh garlic, fresh cilantro and salt.  It is pureed to a smooth bright green consistency and then poured generously over the fish to marinate.  The result is a subtle confluence of earthy Mexican flavors that complement our perfectly cooked- to-order corn tortillas.  The taco is rounded out with a mixture of finely shredded purple and green cabbage, a fresh sprig of cilantro and a lime wedge.  For the sauce, I opted to bring the taco together with something both slightly sweet and spicy.  The balance of the sauce is perfect.  Slightly sweet at the outset, warm through the middle of your palate and then spicy in the back of your throat.  The perfect compliment to subtlety marinated Mahi and the crunch of fresh cabbage.

So if you live in the Salt Lake metropolitan area, please come down to Provo or American Fork and give our new taco a try.  And, be looking for it to make its way to your nearest Costa Vida in the future.

Thanks for reading and I will see you all soon…


Chef Geoff Alter

Summertime Grillin’


Hi all,

Chef Geoff here, coming to you from sunny and warm Utah.  I hope this finds you all well.  As we all ramp up for a great summer of family, friends and outdoor grilling, I thought it appropriate to discuss with you and important improvement coming to Costa Vida’s chicken.  In the spirit of a perfectly grilled piece of chicken, we have figured out how to evolve our process to bring that spirit to every restaurant, table and guest.

I am so excited to share this change with you!  After months of testing, we are unveiling this process to every restaurant and market over the next few weeks.  Our goal was to get the chicken from the grill to your mouth as quickly as possible, while maintaining the same flavor profile you have come accustomed to at Costa Vida.  We did this by taking our proprietary dry spice blend and turning it into a wet marinade.  By doing this, we have created the perfect vehicle for consistent flavor and texture.

Imagine this… as you go through the line at Costa Vida, you see the constant sight of perfectly marinating chicken grilling right in front of you.  The amber color of our marinade adhering to the cast iron grates of the grill, caramelizing, plumping and emanating the greatest smell in the world; that of chicken on the grill.  Just like at home when you grill for your friends and family, the senses take over.  So for your next visit to Costa Vida, please give our grilled and sliced chicken a try.  It is the perfect vehicle for our tacos, burritos, enchiladas, salads and nachos.  Costa Vida is also able to handle any catering or large party needs you may have as the summer celebrations commence.  Please give us a try as you plan your festivities.

Happy Summer Grilling!  I hope to see you soon in a Costa Vida near you…

Best wishes,

Chef Geoff Alter

Chemistry meets Alchemy

Hi all,

It is a bright and sunny spring day here in the Wasatch, and I find myself thinking about our Queso. Our cheese sauce is so wonderful. Especially when I think about what goes into the preparation of the sauce. I titled this post, “Chemistry meets Alchemy” because this sauce is one of the most technically sound items we produce. In order to make Queso perfectly, chemistry must come into play. Queso is an emulsification of a proprietary cheese made just for Costa Vida into a liquid mixture of Costa Vida’s own sauces, salsas and water. First we combine our liquid mixture and bring to a simmer. We then reduce the mixture to a thicker consistency so that the cheese binds together perfectly.

Costa Chips & Queso

The cheese we use is very creamy in its solid state. Just like cold butter, this cheese is one part milk fat and one part oil. In its solid state it is creamy. In its liquid state, it will separate. Just like butter, when it melts, the oil comes to the top and the milk fat falls to the bottom. The trick is to get the cheese to melt into our liquid mixture without separating. This can only be done if the liquid mixture reduces properly, and if we work the cooking temperature so the product will melt in its solid state. If the pot gets too hot or too cold, it will break. I get giddy thinking about the process. It is food chemistry at its finest.

The reason I say alchemy, is because the finished product has a velvety smooth texture that can only be created with the proper chemistry. Our Queso has a rich wonderful texture. It is simple, yet complicated. The aroma of a mild cheese emulsified into our liquid mixture, coupled with the texture of luxury makes this sauce something special. I hope you can make your way to your nearest Costa Vida and give our Queso a try. I can promise you that each day we combine chemistry and alchemy to provide you the best possible eating experience.

Thanks for reading and I look forward to visiting with you again soon…

Chef Geoff Alter

Costa Vida Tortillas

Costa Vida Tortillas

Costa Vida Customers and Fans:

Hi there… I hope this finds you all well, enjoying the endings of a long winter. I also hope you can make it into one of our restaurants to warm you up with our colorful, flavorful Baja-inspired food. Sometimes all it takes is a momentary ‘escape to the coast’ for a fresh feast to ease the need for sun and outdoor activity.

As you know, your first experience in our restaurant consists of seeing that fresh tortilla ball get pressed and placed onto our tortilla grill for 90 magical seconds, for the beginning of a great meal. Our tortilla has been and always will be our calling card of fresh, delicious food. It was the first thing that attracted me to Costa Vida, and still continues to provide the vehicle for my creativity. Each day we turn out batches and batches of flour, whole wheat and corn tortilla dough. Each type of dough is made with the best possible ingredients, in the best possible environment. As the blog title states, “The Scents and Subtle Sounds”, you are attracted to the smell of the cooking tortilla, the sight of the dough as it bubbles on the grill, and the gentle heat you see emanating from your tortilla as your Costa Vida team member begins to put your meal together. It is our constant, and therefore the most important piece of the experience.

We currently have three types of tortillas: Flour, Whole Wheat and Corn. In addition to being the most traditional, our Corn tortillas also provide our Gluten Free friends the opportunity to enjoy Costa Vida at its full potential. Our corn tortillas have their own press to avoid any contact with gluten products, and are always cooked on a clean sanitized grill.

So the next time you come into one of our restaurants, please think of the scents and subtle sounds of the perfect tortilla made fresh for you each time you come to a Costa Vida. It is the perfect vehicle for our Baja-inspired food we are proud to share with you each and every day.
Happy Eating! I will see you in a few weeks with more thoughts from our kitchen.

Best Wishes,
Chef Geoff Alter

Sweet Baja Shrimp Salad
1 lg tortilla grilled to crispy
1 Tbsp butter
1 cup black beans
1 cup cilantro lime rice
4 oz sliced romaine lettuce
16 (71/90) shrimp simmered in honey butter
1 scoop guacamole
½ cup fresh tortillas strips
1 tsp grated Cotija cheese

Spread the butter on one side of the tortilla and grill for about 1 min until crispy on 1 side. Remove the tortilla and place on a plate or bowl. Add the rice and beans and then the lettuce on top. Pour the shrimp in the sauce over the top of the salad. Garnish with the quacamole, strips and Cotija cheese

Herb Crusted Salmon on Mixed greens
2 Tbsp. fresh lime juice
1 tsp. fresh peeled, grated ginger
2 tsp. dijon mustard
6 Tbsp. vegetable oil, divided
2 (6-7 oz) skinless salmon fillets
2 Tbsp. finely chopped fresh basil
2 Tbsp. finely chopped fresh cilantro
5 oz mixed baby greens

Whisk lime juice, finger and mustard in a small bowl. Slowly whisk in 4 Tbs oil. Season dressing with salt and pepper
Brush salmon on both sides with 1 Tbs oil; sprinkle with salt and pepper, the 1 Tbs cilantro and 1 Tbs basil, press herbs to adhere. Heat 1 Tbs oil in large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add salmon, herb side down; sautÈ 4 minutes. Turn over; sautÈ until salmon is just opaque in center, about 5 minutes.
Toss greens with remaining herbs and some dressing. Divide between 2 plates. Top with salmon and remaining dressing

Ask Chef Dave

Ask a chef!

Hey Costa Vidans, I hope you are all well this fine Monday morning. Going to start something new here in ‘The Kitchen”…I want to hear from you. What questions do you have for me? Recipes? Comments? My favorite beach? Recommendations? Ask me your Costa questions, and I will read them…might even make a video response. Keep rockin’ Vidans!


- Chef Dave