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National Restaurant Association - Will cherry cobbler replace green Jell-O as popular Utah specialty?

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Will cherry cobbler replace green Jell-O as popular Utah specialty?

Move over, lime Jell-O. Utah has a new favorite food: cherry cobbler.

Ten years after green Jell-O was featured on souvenir pins for the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Olympics, cherry cobbler was the winning regional food in CQ Roll Call's Taste of America competition.

The winner was announced July 28 before the annual Congressional Baseball Game in Washington, D.C. The online contest, styled after the NCAA basketball tournament, encouraged consumers to vote for iconic foods from various states.

"Cobbler is kind of a big thing in Utah," says Neil Wilkinson, marketing director, Temple Square Hospitality. "Cherry is probably the most popular. It's easy to make for big families, and you can make it pioneer-style in a Dutch oven."

Wilkinson was surprised cobbler beat out Arizona chimichangas, Louisiana jambalaya, North Carolina barbecue and Philly cheesesteak, which were among the "Elite Eight" finalists in the National Restaurant Association-sponsored competition.

"It puts Utah on the map for something unique," Wilkinson says.

When the Utah Restaurant Association learned cherry cobbler was a Taste of America finalist, it asked Wilkinson to help get out the vote. Wilkinson reached out to The Roof's 5,000 Facebook fans and Twitter followers and encouraged other guests to vote through text messages and the restaurant's blog.

"It was a lot of fun," he says. "We got involved late in the game, so it was fast-paced."

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Cherry cobbler is one of 27 homemade desserts made daily for The Roof's gourmet dinner buffet. The restaurant, on the 10th floor of the Joseph Smith Memorial Building, overlooks Temple Square and is a popular destination for birthdays, anniversaries and proposals. The Joseph Smith Memorial Building, which opened in 1911 as the Hotel Utah is now a social center. Its 11 banquet rooms can host 26 weddings a day.

Of Temple Square Hospitality's four restaurants, The Roof is the only one that serves cherry cobbler.

The competition began last month with 64 foods paired against each other in brackets. Because CQ Roll Call paired Taste of America with its Congressional Baseball Game this year, it included foods suitable for ballparks.

For those trying to predict election outcomes based on contest results, good luck. While a cherry cobbler win might look good for Mitt Romney, the Democrats won the Congressional Baseball Game, 18-5.

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