We slept in on our last morning....well, if you call sleeping until 730 sleeping in. Our food experiences in Utah seemed a bit disappointing, but we decided to give one last popular restaurant a shot. Since they didn't open until 10am, we decided to walk on over to Temple Square, the headquarters for the LDS.
It was nice and fairly crisp and we were enjoying the day as we passed the convention center.
We passed the Creek Shopping Center, with shops like Tiffany, Nordstrom, and the Apple Store....and closed on Sundays! I'm guessing it has something to do with being right across the street from Temple Square. We were greeted as we entered and asked if we'd be visiting "Music and the Spoken Word", which is the Sunday morning televised broadcast. We were interested, but told the nice folks that we would have to leave fairly quickly. We were told it was no problem since the rehearsal was going on. We were free to leave anytime before the 930 start.
Which is how we got to watch part of the choir's morning rehearsal in the Salt Lake Tabernacle. Quite impressive.
Speaking of impressive, the entire complex is dwarfed by the towering Salt Lake Temple.
The grounds features beautifully manicured gardens, a huge conference center, administrative buildings, several historic houses; the "Lion House" which used to be Brigham Young's residence. It had to be large because Brigham Young had 57 biological children, and the connected "Beehive House".
Temple Square is Utah's most visited tourist attraction, with as many visitors a Utah's 5 National Parks combined!
We saw a lot of folks taking photos....they all seemed overjoyed, almost giddy, at being here.
From the Beehive House, we headed North and got on North Temple Street and headed west. SLC's streets are set-up in a very simple (once you get sued to street with the same name with North/South/East/West) grid system. Our destination was on North Temple and was just under a mile and half walk. Things did seem a bit more "gritty" as we crossed over the I-15. A mere half block later we were at our destination; Red Iguana.
We arrived a few minutes before opening. The exterior looks a bit worn and shabby, but I had read that this is one of the most popular restaurants in the city....Mexican....in Salt Lake City? The place opened and we were told to sit anywhere our hearts desired. Our server; I'm hoping my memory isn't mailing me was named Stephanie. She was super outstanding, so very friendly, accommodating, and gracious.
Within a flash chips (not very good) and some salsa (nice and picante) found its way to our table.
We had come here to try the mole....but was having a difficult time deciding. So Stephanie said not to worry, they put together a sampler for us to try.
What really shocked me was how much I enjoyed the version of Mole Amarillo, not quite the traditional version; this one had raisins and habaneros...sweet with heat. We whittled down the sauces to versions we liked....but was stuck on four. Again, making us half and halfs were not a problem. You gotta love the service.
We choose chicken; which was simple simmered bird. The first combo was half Mole Verde and Mole Poblano ($15.99).
The verde was nice and nutty, but was over-shadowed by the rich, sweet, and spicy mole poblano, which tasted closest to versions I've had before.
The second was Mole Negro and Mole Amarillo ($15.99).
The mole negro was fine, though not nearly as good as say......El Tejate. The unconventional mole Amarillo, sweet and spicy stood up well. It was by far our favorite.
The rice and beans (and the tortillas) were pretty routine and not very good.
And while the food fell short of amazing, it was good, easily our best meal during this trip. And the service was wonderful. Our server is a fairly recent transplant and we chatted about SLC's uniqueness, things that caught her off guard when she moved here. The affinity for sandwiches and burgers; how you can look down Main Street on some days and not see a single car..... She made our meal a pleasure.
Red Iguana 736 W North Temple Salt Lake City, UT 84116
We walked back to the Residence Inn and managed a short catnap before leaving for the airport.
Perhaps the food really didn't stand out on this trip. But the views, well they were priceless.
After a light lunch (and interesting beer) we checked in at the Residence Inn, SLC. This room was even bigger than the Provo location and things looked new. We then had a nice short nap. The staff here was quite friendly and nice. The location is right on 300 South aka West Broadway.
The Greek Orthodox Church is right across the street as is Pioneer Park.
The location was quite convenient. Our dinner destination was just a half mile walk down the street. A couple of things we noticed right away.....there are tons of chain restaurants in SLC. And in spite of all the cars parked; the streets looked empty.
I had made dinner reservations at The Copper Onion. The menu looked perfect for us. Man, in spite of how the streets looked; this placed was packed to the gills. The dining room seemed on the hot and stuffy side, so since the weather was mild we asked if we could get a table on the patio. They only too happy to oblige.
Our server was a really gracious, friendly, and knowledgeable young man named Michael. He made the meal a seamless process except for the time they took our plates and silverware away then brought us our next course...leaving us stranded. But other than that, we enjoyed the service.
We started with the Wagyu Beef Tartar ($11).
Man, look at all that crostini. This didn't quite do it for us. The beef was too chewy, it was under seasoned...I really missed that velvety egg yolk which adds richness without interfering with the refreshing aspect of the beef, which the salsa rosa did. The arugula, fresh, crisp, not overly bitter, dressed simply was the best part of the dish.
The Escarole Salad ($10) looked quite sloppy.
The greens were really nice and crisp, but I wasn't a fan of the balsamic they used which was extremely sour, lacking the rounded balance, and touch of sweetness that we love in a balsamic vinegar.
The best item of the night was the Wagyu Roasted Bone Marrow ($18).
Man, that marrow was awesome....simply prepared, rich, smoky, with a touch of salt which was provided on the side. The Missus made sure to have every single little morsel.
Luckily, we made sure to keep the salt provided for the bone marrow. We needed it for the Griddled Duck ($23).
Funny thing; several items seemed in need of salt...which led the missus to say, "hey, this is SALT Lake City, right?" The duck, with a light sprinkle of salt tasted fine. It was cooked a nice medium rare. It was cut a bit too thick. also, the plating seemed a bit dated and ponderous. That red stuff you see on the butternut squash puree is actually duck blood......I don't think the duck rested long enough after prep. Loved the upland cress, peppery and refreshing. The Portobello was totally under-seasoned and the gills hadn't been cleaned, so it left a huge black blotch in the orange-blood tinged, plate.
The Missus did love Her order of Beets ($4), though.
The service here was excellent. The food however, seemed a bit uneven to us; in terms of flavor, presentation, and finesse. Still, I'm glad we tried the place.
The Copper Onion 111 E Broadway Salt Lake City, UT 84111
After dinner, the Missus decided we needed to burn off that bone marrow so we walked all the way to Trolley Square, then back to the Residence Inn.
We passed the modern looking public library and the City and County Building along the way back.
Man, so this was Saturday night, huh? We finally passed a couple of groups of people as we walked up South Main Street. As we got close to the hotel, we stopped by Squatters Craft Beer, which was packed in spite of the empty streets (strange, I know) and picked up a couple of bottles to try as a nightcap.
The Squatters Bumper Crop Honey Ale was fine, nice head, hints of citrus and honey (of course). The Wasatch Evolution Amber Ale is pretty blah.....
Still, the weather was nice...we kept the windows open all night and the Missus sure slept well!
Tomorrow, we'd have one last chance for a good meal in SLC before heading to the airport. Would we find it?
I woke at 530am on our second morning in Utah. The previous day, had been quite amazing....well, the views, not the food. We decided to head off to a district of the massive (337,598 acres) Canyonlands National Park, known as Island in the Sky, a mesa that towers a thousand feet over the rugged and picturesque terrain below. I got the Missus up at around 6am....we showered, packed up and headed out into the dark morning.....pretty much like the day before. This time though, our target was much closer, a bit over 30 miles or so away. The classic location for viewing the sunrise in the Island in the Sky district is the Mesa Arch which frames the East rising sun. We had run into maybe two cars on our drive to the Mesa Arch, but were surprised when the parking lot was almost full! Taking the short half mile walk to the arch, we could see an entire line of paparazzi folks with camera gear already set-up!
It was crazy. I heard one guy telling another he'd camped out overnight and got to his "spot" to set-up at 5am! Serious folks!
I just headed off to the side to photograph the dramatic sunrise.
The Missus hung back and took a photo of the sunrise through the Mesa Arch.
And while it was a bit of a hazy morning, the views were still quite dramatic.
We walked back to the car and headed off to the Grand View Point Overlook and took the 3 mile hike around the rim of the mesa.
I really enjoyed this hike. The views were just stunning. I probably enjoyed this more than the Delicate Arch, which was the Missus' favorite.
You can see for miles in the distance; view the amazing terrain, and just try to take it all in.
The hike is easy, you can read more about it here and here.
And no, there aren't any fences or barriers......which just adds to the drama. (Click on the photos to enlarge)
We made one last short stop at the Shafer Canyon Overlook, before hitting the road and making the 200 mile trip back to Salt Lake City.
I made a short stop in Green River to refuel, then drove all the way through.
Our destination? The rather hip neighborhood in SLC called Sugar House. During our stop at Whole Foods a couple of nights back. I got into a nice conversation with the very friendly young lady at the deli counter. When I mentioned we were from San Diego...she bent over and whispered; "do you like to drink beer???" I whispered back, "we sure do....but why are we whispering?"
Anyway, she recommended a stop at the Annex by Epic Brewing. So that's where we went. The place has this "club license" which means they can serve alcohol without having to serve food. The server was really nice and explained things to us...took our IDs and scanned them and did the whole thing.
I would have really enjoyed this place except for one thing....the bartender was a jerk. Apparently he didn't like us, and decided to serve and chat to his "friends" rather than pour us our beer, which took 25 minutes to get to us. Other than the three people at the bar, the place was totally empty. I think the last straw was when a group of eight came in after us and got their drinks before us. Even our server profusely apologized telling us, "I'm sorry, but I don't have control over pouring your beer". Too bad, my Belgian Style Golden Ale was quite nice.
I felt really bad for our server when I told her, "I think we'll be headed out." And asked for the check....so I left her a nice tip...after all, it wasn't her fault the wanna be hipster behind the bar was a jerk. Nuff said.
The Annex by Epic Brewing 1048 E 2100 S Salt Lake City, UT 84106
In retrospect, maybe it was fate that drove us from the Annex to Wasatch Brew Pub next door.
This place was a bit more busy and our server was wonderful. I also loved the names of the beer; Chasing Tail Golden Ale, anyone? This almost made me forget I was in SLC.
And then the Missus saw the beer I "just had to order".... the Polygamy Porter on Nitro....yep, you heard that right. I just can't help but crack up. I loved the glass....in fact, the Missus and I should have bought a couple for our friends. And then there's the beer's tagline; "Why have just one...." You gotta love it...
This was pretty light, mild coffee, nice and creamy from the nitro. Not the best Porter I've had....but surely one of the best names!
The Missus ordered the Jalapeno Cream Ale, which was quite good. Unlike a lot of chile beers, this one had a nice kick that came through. Great fragrance of jalapenos as well. It went well with the food we had.
The Shishito Peppers could have been roasted a bit more.
But the Missus really enjoyed it.....the portion size was quite large. It needed a bit more salt, but the peppers were really fresh. Some of the larger, older ones had a bit of sneaky heat as well.
The Missus really wanted more veggies and we had dinner reservation for what I thought was going to be a rather rich meal, so I didn't veto the "Super Food Beet Salad". The beets were really tasty, having that balanced sweetness I really enjoy. The vinaigrette was nice, slightly citrusy, never getting in the way of the ingredient's flavors.
I honestly have to say; I'm still not a fan of fruits in my salad...especially mandarin oranges...though the Missus enjoys them.
In the end, I'm glad we ended up here. The service was pleasant, the food, while nothing special was ok, and we got a couple of good laughs as well. The beer will not make you forget about San Diego, but you'll never forget that sign.....
Wasatch Brew Pub 2110 Highland Dr Salt Lake City, UT 84106
Thanks to Cathy, you probably didn't even notice I was gone for a few days, did ya?
A few weeks back, I could tell that the Missus, who had been working really hard was just itchin' for a trip. I had just finished watching an episode of Inside Man...a rarity for me since I've been too busy to watch television over the last couple of months. The episode was about America's National Parks. When the little tidbit about the average age of the typical visitor to a National Park was mentioned, I was shocked. Can you guess what it was? 57? I recall living vicariously thru the stories that kids I knew whose parents would take them to Yellowstone, or some other national park over the summer would tell. We were too poor to travel, but I'd always told myself "someday....." The Missus had been wanting to visit Arches National Park for a while; so I guess "someday" had arrived.
So I quickly planned our escape. An evening flight to Salt Lake City. I decided to stay in Provo since it would cut off an hour of our drive time. We'd be getting to Provo by about 830 pm or so. I did a bit of research to see what was open after 9pm......yikes....not much in Provo or Orem. So what I decided to do was to take an extra hour out, head to Whole Foods in Salt Lake, grab a salad, some nuts(which would keep us the whole weekend), some charcuterie, and head to Provo. So our first real interaction with folks in Utah was at Whole Foods and let me tell you....I just couldn't believe how really nice the two young ladies who helped us were. I'll have more on the young lady at the deli counter later. Strangely, Whole Foods was almost totally empty, at 730 pm...so were the streets of downtown Salt Lake City. We loved the Residence Inn in Provo, full fridge, sofa, living room...even though we'd only be staying the night it made us feel at home.
We headed out before 6 am the next morning. It was hard to see much since the sun didn't come up until almost 7 am.
The drive was interesting....we saw unmelted ice by the side of the roads....snow had fallen as recently as the week before we arrived and if I recall correctly, more snow is set to fall there Wednesday into Thursday this week!
We stopped for fuel, some vitamin D, and a good stretching of our legs in Price.
We arrived at the gates of Arches National Park at around 845am, and managed to drive past the gates by 9am. The Missus wanted to check out the Visitor's Center so we made a stop there. Here's the deal. We had made no plans (except for one must see) and decided just to let the road be our guide. I knew it was going to be amazing just by the view out the window of the Visitor's Center.
I had printed a map earlier, off the National Park Service Website. Maps tell you distance, you can determine location....but they don't indicate what the area looks like. Which was pretty darn beautiful.
We stopped at the trailhead called "Park Avenue" because it resembles the towers that line the famous boulevard in Manhattan.
We then drove just a short distance when I couldn't help but stop and just look in wonder.
In this panoramic shot (click on to enlarge), you can see "the Organ" (second from the right) and the "Three Gossips" (three little nubs to the left of the Organ).
If you ever visit, Balanced Rock should be a must stop. there's an easy short trail...we saw a woman using a walker on the trail. It's pretty amazing.....the Missus kept saying "who knows.....this might just fall and crumble any day now" during the entire time here.
There's this strange sense of scale when looking at these large sandstone formations...it really doesn't look that large from a distance....but up close..... So including people in our photos actually helps to illustrate scale.
From Balanced Rock, it gets a bit more crowded. After all, the Windows area is a must stop.
This is another very easy trail. You can visit the North and South "Window" and also the Turret Arch across the way, via a very easy trail.
It's a very popular area.
As is the "Double Arch" (right across the parking lot), two arches that meet at a single spot....formed by water in a "pothole" according to the signage.
My favorite view were the formations named "Parade of the Elephants"....which really looked like elephants!
Our next stop was the one the Missus was really looking forward to. It meant stopping near an area called Wolfe Ranch. Near here is a side trail where you can view petroglyphs......one of my favorite sites on this trip.
Beyond this point lay what the Missus wanted to see. It was easy trail to this point. Beyond this was a fairly steep trail of what they call "slickrock". Still, I saw many a mom and dad making their way up the side of the mountain with a baby strapped to their back. Granted, they were decades younger than me....but still......
The big payoff here was a close-up view of a iconic symbol of the state of Utah. the Delicate Arch.
It is striking....and as the Missus said, "you know.....this might just fall and crumble any day now!"
The descent was actually harder on my joints than the ascent. But we finally made it back to the car and onward to Moab. I wasn't really inspired by any location in Moab, so I let the Missus choose. She decided on Moab Brewery.
Utah has some of the most restrictive alcohol laws in the US. And Moab Brewery is located almost at the end of the one major thoroughfare, Main Street.
We decided to eat in the bar area. The woman who served us was so nice. We asked about the local liquor restrictions and apologized for not quite knowing it. Her reply, "oh, no problem......I tell everyone who is not a local anyway, so they know." Anyway, anything draft is less than 4 percent ABV, you can get bottled beer, which is considered "liquor", as in hard liquor. There are "tasters", but no "flights".
Anyway, I went with a Hefeweizen, which was decent, non-descript, fairly generic, though quite refreshing.
We weren't too hungry and decided on two things......
Starting with the Jalapeno Beer Fries ($6.59).
We both actually enjoyed this. The Jalapeno Powder gave this a bit of a "kick", the fries had been dusted with flour and were crisp. The "beer sauce" was like nacho cheese with salsa....but was strangely addictive...in a "college dorm room" kind of way.
We also ordered the Gazpacho Salad with Grilled Chicken ($9.99).
The vinaigrette was decent, this hit the spot as we wanted something cold and light for lunch.
The service was nice, the food...well, I've had much worse in San Diego.
Moab Brewery 686 S Main St Moab, UT 84532
And so we hit the magical hour of check-in. Which we did....followed by a short nap.
Upon getting up, we decided to head back to Arches for the sunset.
First we visited the area called the "Garden of Eden".
Then it was off to the Windows for the sunset.
The difference in views and how things look at various times of the day is fascinating. Also, you start noticing more on your second visit.
And so we watched the sunset from the Turret Arch.......