Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Road Trip - West to Salt Lake City

Fortified by a tasty breakfast at Lucile's (peach pancakes = yum) in Boulder, it was time to head back west. We stopped briefly in Rocky Mountain National Park -- not really enough of a visit to do it justice. We did get lucky however, and saw a bunch of bighorn sheep along the road. They are the brown bits in the photo below (click on the photo to enlarge and they turn into slightly larger brown bits). We got in trouble with the interpretive staff when we tried to get closer...

Before leaving the copious Colorado beer selection behind us, we stopped in a liquor store (grocery stores can't carry alcohol in Colorado) for some supplies. This IPA from Odell ended up being our favorite Colorado beer after those made by Great Divide.

Then we hit southern Wyoming. What's in southern Wyoming, you ask? Not much...

We stayed overnight in Rock Springs. It was surprisingly difficult to get a hotel for the Tuesday after Labor Day in the middle of nowhere. During dinner at Bitter Creek Brewing (I had the Mustang Pale Ale, which was ok), a guy told us that oil and natural gas were hot at the moment, causing a lot of activity in the region.

The next day we kept on west to Salt Lake City. Downtown SLC has a very strange vibe to it. The streets are very wide, which kills any kind of intimate downtown feel. There are lots of interesting old buildings, but much of the street-level spaces are recently empty. I'm not sure if the businesses failed or if the buildings are just in need of serious renovation. Regardless, they area did not have a very vibrant feel.

The dominant feature of downtown is, of course, Temple Square, the center of activity for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Brigham Young stands at the edge of the square.

We took a somewhat bizarre tour of the Beehive House (Brigham Young's residence) given by two Asian Mormon missionaries (one from Japan and one from Korea). As we wandered around the square, we saw that these international missionaries were everywhere, offering free guided tours as a means to get "face-time" with prospective converts.

But hey, at the end of the day its all about the children...

Despite the church influence in the city, you can still get a pint and there are a number of microbreweries in town. We first visited Squatter's and had their IPA. In order to have that particular beer, we had to move from the bar area to the restaurant proper. Utah liquor laws are pretty strange. They can only serve beers up to 4% on tap. Anything over that needs to be served in a bottle -- the brewery's restaurant purchases it that way like anyone else.

We also stopped at Red Rock Brewing Company, which we preferred to Squatters both in atmosphere and beer selection. My favorite was the Roggen Rock, a rye beer.

That evening we had a very nice dinner at Martine where we shared five tapas and a pichet of their house red, a very pleasant Rhone. The tapas were:

  • Eggplant and heirloom tomato napoleon. Very pretty. The tomatoes were great, but the eggplant was a bit boring and stiff.
  • Halibut cakes with a tomato fennel relish and saffron cream. These were more croquette than cake, but the fish was great. We didn't really notice the other flavors much, though.
  • Antipasti with prosciutto, braseola, coppa and fontina. The braseola was fantastic and the prosciutto was good, but we found the flavor of the coppa much too strong.
  • Braised lamb and chorizo over mascarpone polenta. Great comfort lamb flavor and the polenta was a perfect accompaniment.
  • Duck breast and braised pear with gorgonzola currant sauce. Probably our favorite. The duck was cooked perfectly and the currant sauce was wonderful. The pear had just the right consistency.
All in all, a really good meal.

On the way out of the city the next morning after a nice breakfast of Kouing-aman and plum tart at Les Madeleines, we stopped at the Bonneville Salt Flats, which as advertised were both salty and flat.

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