Wednesday, June 30, 2010

A Walk in the Park

Park City, Utah, that is.

Our strategy: Get an early start for the 60-mile drive from our RV site in North Salt Lake so that we can beat the horde of daily visitors to this city that had served as one of the venues during the 2002 Winter Olympics. On the edge of town was this reminder of those games.

Note: We have learned that Utah's food culture has generated more than 100 souvenir Olympic food pins. It began with a bowl of glistening cubes of green gelatin. In 1998, about 5,000 green gelatin food pins were released, retailing for $7. Soon, they took on a Beanie Baby-like mystique. Now they're worth $150 each, if you can get your hands on one. In addition, cookbooks were produced to share in such stereotypical delights as Green Jell-O with Pineapple and Cottage Cheese, Fry Sauce and Funeral Potatoes.

Back to our plan. The strategy was effective--in part.

We arrived mid-morning and had our choice of parking spots in a large lot convenient to the town's main street. We had beaten the crowds. It was going to be a good day.

We began our walk around town, pleased that we could take photographs of the town without interfering with the sidewalk traffic flow.

But, as the saying goes; "It was quiet . . . , too quiet."

It seems that we had not only beaten the other visitors, but we had beaten the merchants that morning. Signs in shop windows read: "Open at 11:00," or "Hours -- Noon to 8:00 pm."

We had planned to spend only the morning in Park City, so we had to content ourselves with views of the buildings' exteriors.

The history of Park City begins with the discovery of silver. The first recorded claim of the Park City Mining District was the Young American lode in December 1869. By the 1870s, production in that area had begun, perpetuated by the discovery of a large vein of silver ore in what would become the Ontario Mine. In its heyday, it was considered the greatest silver mine in the world.

By the 1880s, many prospectors had either sent for their families or were bringing them along, building houses and establishing schools.

Although Park City was a tremendously successful mining town, the history of the city is marked with difficult times. Park City suffered terrible fires in 1882 and then again in 1885. However, the worst disaster came on June 19, 1898. A horrible fire raged through the Park City commercial district.

It was the greatest fire in the history of Utah. Main Street was destroyed. Losses were estimated at over one million dollars. Approximately 200 business houses and dwellings perished. The city was left in ruins.

One of the buildings on Main Street that survived was the 1895 Telephone Building, now the Purple Sage restaurant.

But when we saw the Egyptian Theatre (partially hidden by a parked re-cycling truck), we knew we wanted to see the interior.

A woman exited the theatre, "Is it possible to take photos of the interior?" I asked.

"Well, I think so, but I have no idea where the light panel is to turn on the lights. Someone should be here within the next half hour. It's really a beautiful theatre--one of about 10 like it in the country," she answered.

Well, we waited over half an hour with no luck. Phone calls to the offices of three members of the staff were unsuccessful. So, it is only these exterior photo that I have. (It would be 12 days before anyone from the Mary G. Steiner Egyptian Theatre would return my calls.)

Today's residents may laugh at the irony that Park City was once listed on the national list of historic "ghost towns."

In 1996, Park City made another list. The town was honored in a book entitled "Top 100 Small Towns for Art in America."

The free trolley provides a convenient ride along Main Street.

The art community in Park City is thriving.

This sculpture is at the main intersection in the center of the city. In addition to about two dozen galleries, the city's Arts Council's work complements the recreational activities of the area.

A variety of performing arts and artistic endeavors are provided through the Park City Art Festival, the Summit Institute for the Arts and Humanities (classical and modern dance), the Park City Film Series (international independent films throughout the year), and each January, filmmakers from all over the country convene for North America's premiere independent film competition at Robert Redford's Sundance Film Festival.

Along Main Street are artistic products ranging from serious sculptures

to some off-beat presenta-tions.

This sculpture garden elicited some interest. The lawn chair seemed poised to host a viewer of the sculpture (right) on the stage. Unoccupied, the chair seemed to be an equally interesting piece of artwork.

Even the colors of the city's buildings and shops and their furnishings convey the spirit and vitality of the city.

If only we had been able to see the interior of the Egyptian Theatre.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Not On Our Radar Screen

Our Salt Lake City plans didn’t include eating two meals at the Garden Restaurant, but circumstances sometimes dictate when and where one eats lunch.

Our spur of the moment decision to attend two organ concerts in one day left us looking for a place for a quick lunch. Our first choice was the Nauvoo Café, a semi-fast food sandwich restaurant on the first floor of the Joseph Smith Memorial Building. But a gigantic bus tour arrived just before we did and another change of plans was called for. It was upstairs to The Garden.

Located on the tenth floor of the Joseph Smith Memorial Building, The Garden Restaurant has stunning views of Temple Square and downtown Salt Lake City. The room truly resembles a garden with its retractable roof (the weather that day mandated the roof remain closed), floor to ceiling windows, red floor tiles, white columns, green plants, and pergola effect running around two sides of the room. The décor was part elegant and part casual.

The lunch menu is a mix of appetizers, salads, sandwiches, pastas, and more formal entrees. Salads include the classic Cobb and Spinach salads, plus a Raspberry Salad (mixed greens tossed with raspberry vinaigrette and topped with oven-roasted turkey, raspberries, sugar roasted walnuts, sweet red onions, Fuji apples, and crumbled feta cheese), and an Oriental Pasta Salad (oven-roasted turkey, crisp garden greens tossed with bean sprouts, jícama, carrots, snow peas, and mandarin oranges in a honey-ginger-soy dressing and topped with capellini pasta, toasted cashews, and crisp wontons).

If you wanted pasta, you could choose: ravioli filled with parmesan, Romano, and ricotta cheeses and tossed with a Bolognese meat sauce and topped with grated asiago cheese and a drizzle of balsamic reduction; fettuccine with grilled chicken, prosciutto, sautéed mushrooms, and diced tomatoes tossed in a creamy roasted garlic-Alfredo sauce; lasagna layered with artichoke hearts, caramelized onions, fresh spinach, tomatoes, sautéed mushrooms, topped with a blend of Italian cheeses, and served with vegetarian tomato basil sauce or a Bolognese meat sauce; or penne pasta with chicken sautéed with wild boar sausage, caramelized onions and sweet peppers tossed with a Bolognese meat

The day was chilly, overcast, and threatening rain, so pasta sounded good to us both. Chuck’s choice was the penne (he has developed this recent fondness for penne), and mine was the lasagna with vegetarian sauce. His penne came in a chunky tomato sauce that absorbed great flavor from the wild boar sausage (this tasted like a smoked beef sausage, but with more pepper and with a slightly sweet gamey flavor). I thought that the pasta was a little overcooked, but this was still a delicious bowl of pasta.

My lasagna was also tasty and the pasta layers sandwiched artichokes, spinach, mushrooms, and tomatoes. The tomato basil sauce was light, and over the lasagna and sauce were whole fried basil leaves. This portion was so large that a third returned home with me and was eaten that night for supper.

We went away highly satisfied, but without intentions to return. But a few days later we found ourselves back at Temple Square with lunch rapidly approaching. Having enjoyed our lunch a few days earlier, back to The Garden we went.

This time, Chuck went to the sandwich part of the menu where his choices included: a shrimp and crab salad topped with alfalfa sprouts, tomatoes, and avocado served on a croissant with pasta salad and chips; the beef dipper with thinly sliced sirloin steak and provolone cheese topped with caramelized onions and sweet peppers and served on a hoagie bun with a side of French onion au jus and garden fries; the vegetable sandwich alfalfa sprouts, cucumbers, avocado, Swiss cheese, red leaf lettuce, tomato, sweet red onion, and roasted red pepper hummus on toasted honey wheat bread and served with fruit salad and chips; and an Italian Panini with grilled chicken, pepperoni, and ham with provolone cheese, caramelized onions, sweet peppers, and sundried tomato aioli on sourdough bread and served with pasta salad and chips.

Chuck chose to start his lunch with the soup of the day – the Banana Bisque. Yes, you read that right. This was a chilled, but not ice cold, soup that tasted just as our server described – “banana bread in a bowl.” It was lightly seasoned with cinnamon and nutmeg and contained pieces of chopped walnut. Really intriguing, but a cup serving was just enough. A full bowl would have been too much.

For his lunch he chose the beef dipper (French dip). The menu didn’t lie when it described the meat as thinly sliced which made it ultra tender. The fried onions and peppers added tons of flavor and meshed perfectly with the onion au jus. And the roll was perfect for the sandwich. Light enough to soak up the au jus, but not so light that it fell apart. The hand-cut seasoned fries were also first rate.

At our earlier lunch, I was interested in the Oriental Pasta Salad, but was scared away by the presence of Mandarin oranges (I am very allergic to oranges.). But the attraction was still there. So I asked our server, being as polite as I could and explaining my orange allergy, if the salads were pre-made and sitting in the kitchen. (I didn’t want someone picking the oranges out of a pre-made salad.) She assured me that each was made to order, so I decided to risk it. And am I glad I did.

There were so many texture and taste contrasts going on that this salad was interesting until the last bite. And the dressing with honey, soy, sesame, and ginger complimented all of the veggies and the turkey cubes.

The Garden may not have been part of our initial Salt Lake City dining plans, but was a truly pleasant surprise and earns a 4.0 Addie score.

Monday, June 28, 2010

I Usually Avoid…

eating food served from steam tables. But I am glad we made an exception for the Lion House Pantry Restaurant just off Temple Square in Salt Lake City.

The restaurant is located on the lower level (sounds better than basement) of Brigham Young’s personal residence, The Lion House. Built in 1856 by Brigham Young, the home derives its name from the stone statue of the reclining lion over the front entrance. Young had a lion installed at his residence in part because it reminded him of a similar statue at an affluent home in Vermont that he had seen as a young man.

The Lion House Pantry is open for lunch and dinner and features Mormon home cooking. Meals are served cafeteria style and as a rule include a chicken dish, a beef or pork dish, and a fish dish along with a soup and a salad. At the end of the cafeteria line is an extensive choice of desserts (including green Jell-O). On the day of our visit the choices were: clam chowder in a bread bowl, a tossed salad with shrimp, Italian style chicken, prime rib, and salmon.

The dining rooms make you feel like you are eating in a personal residence. The walls were painted a soft white with mint greenish paint on the trim. Lace curtains hung on the windows and most of the rooms contained one or more pieces of antique furniture. The far wall in our dining room was stone with a fireplace in the center.

I was a little concerned when Chuck decided to order prime rib. How good could prime rib at a cafeteria be? Quite good as a matter of fact. It hadn’t been sitting on the steam table. Rather, each order was cut in the kitchen and sent out to the diner. His generous cut was nearly an inch thick, was beautifully medium rare, was extremely tender but not soft and mushy, and was as good a piece of prime rib as we have had in many steak houses. I thought that the au jus was a bit salty, but since I am cutting back on my salt consumption, most food now tastes salty to me. With his prime rib, he ordered the mashed potatoes which he described as “just wonderful” and the mixed vegetables (peas, carrots, corn, green beans, and lima beans) over the broccoli as his vegetable.

I decided to order the salmon filet. It too came straight from the kitchen and the top surface had a light coating that seemed to be part sugar or honey or some other form of sweetener and part Cajun or Southwest seasoning. I thought that it was just a bit overcooked – especially around the edges – but was moist and flaky at its thickest point. With this, I chose the broccoli and the rice instead of mashed potatoes. I know. You are going to remind me that I am boycotting rice for a while. But I’ll always choose rice over mashed potatoes.

When you were a kid, did you play the same game at every birthday party? You know the one where about two dozen small objects were placed on a tray and you had about two minutes to memorize all of them and then needed to write down as many as you could remember. I was never good at that game. So I can’t recall all of the dessert choices, except for the cherry pie, carrot cake, brownie, and chocolate and coconut cream pies. I took the coconut and Chuck the chocolate. And it was the desserts that elevated the restaurant’s Addie rating. The crust on both was rich and flaky and Chuck’s had deep chocolate flavor while mine was full of sweet coconut. I especially like the added flavor of toasted coconut that was sprinkled on top.

For a cafeteria, I was impressed and award The Lion House Pantry Restaurant 4.0 Addies.

When we left the restaurant, we passed the Beehive House, the other official residence of Brigham Young. The Beehive House, constructed in 1854, gets its name from the Beehive sculpture atop the house. Young used the beehive to represent industry, an important concept in Mormonism.

In fact, prior to statehood, the territorial government requested that the state be named Deseret, another word for "Honeybee" according to Latter Day Saint belief. Instead, the United States government chose to name the state Utah, after the Ute Indians, though the beehive was later incorporated into the state's official emblem.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Temple Square and the Other Structures

We continued our tour of the memorable buildings on Salt Lake City's Temple Square with a visit to Assembly Hall.

Actually, we made more than one walk around the Square. The Assembly Hall seemed to take on a different character that matched the weather present on two of these stops (left and below).

The Hall was built in a Gothic style from 1877-1882, using mostly granite discarded from the Temple building process.

The stones for the Assembly Hall were not cut as exactingly as the Temple's. This accounts for the building's dark, rough texture and the broader masonry joints between stones.

The Stars of David circumscribed high above each entrance symbolize an LDS perception that they are a re-gathering of Biblical Tribes of Israel.

Comprehensive renovations occurring from 1979 to 1983 included rebuilding the tower and replacing each of the Hall's 24 spires with fiberglass moldings.

Additionally, a new 3,489 pipe organ was installed.

International and local artists perform every weekend and some weekdays.

In 1848, the Mormon pioneers planted crops for their first spring season in Utah. As the crops ripened, crickets descended upon the farms from the foothills east of the valley and consumed entire fields. According to traditional accounts, the harvest was saved by flocks of native seagulls which devoured the crickets. This event, popularly called the "Miracle of the Gulls", is remembered by Latter-day Saints as a miracle.

To celebrate the role seagulls played in the pioneer's first year in Utah, the LDS Church erected Seagull Monument on their Temple Square.

Located to the north of Temple Square is the Conference Center, which was completed in 2000. This building, which seats 21,000, has an organ which has 7,708 pipes.

Daily organ recitals are held in the Tabernacle. On Saturday, there is an additional recital in the Conference Center. We were fortunate to hear Bonnie Goodliffe perform the same selections on a Saturday on both the Tabernacle and the Conference Center organs.

Comparing the two organs, I liked the Tabernacle organ better because it sounded fuller and more intense; Kate liked the Conference Center organ's sound better because it was a crisper sound.

On Thursday evenings the Mormon Tabernacle Choir's rehearsals are open to the public, and we were fortunate enough to be able to spend over an hour with the Choir.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Around Temple Square

Located in the center of Salt Lake City is Temple Square, one of Utah's most visited attractions.

So, like most visitors, we began our visit to the Square with stops at the 6-spired granite Salt Lake Temple and the domed Tabernacle, home of the famous Mormon Tabernacle Choir and the great Tabernacle organ.

Actually, soon after we began our walk around the 10-acre Square we were approached by Sister Kinkini from Hawaii and Sister Wu from Taiwan. On subsequent visits, we met other friendly young adults who were completing their missionary assignment.

Before the mission work began, our new acquain-tances offered to give us a brief tour of the Tabernacle. We arrived about 45 minutes before the daily organ recital and were free to walk around the building.

The organ was the center of our interest, but it was the man standing between the center towers who caught our attention.

We quickly learned that he was part of the team given the responsibility of raising two flags to their positions near these two towers (see photos below).

The Tabernacle is an impressive building. Construc-tion began in 1863 and ended in 1875. The exterior of the completed building is 150 feet wide, 250 feet long, and 80 feet high. This unique Tabernacle was a marvel of its time.

Through the bridge-building technique of Henry Grow, the Tabernacle roof was able to span its 150-foot width without center supports--an amazing achievement in both engineering and acoustics.

Regarding the acoustics, the organist demon-strated the amazing sensitivity of the dome-shaped building by tearing a piece of newspaper and by dropping a pin at the pulpit.

From 170 feet away, the sounds produced by these two actions were clearly audible.

When the recital began, each selection brought a change in the color of the lighting behind the organ pipes, adding a new dimension to the music.

And what powerful music it was.

We heard two noon recitals at the Tabernacle, and when a number of the stops are open, the sound from the magnificent pipe organ with its 11,623 pipes is remarkable.

While tours are available in the Tabernacle, they are not provided for the Temple, so our "tour" of the Temple was limited to viewing the exterior from different angles.

Brigham Young designated where the temple would be built, and on 6 April 1853, he laid the cornerstone of the temple foundation.

Forty years later the Temple was completed and dedicated.

Atop the Temple is a statue of the angel Moroni. the heavenly messenger who first visited the Prophet Joseph Smith in 1823.

Like all temples, once the building is dedicated it is used for sacred Church purposes and not open to the general public.

As we walked around the Temple, I imagined a single floor with columns rising several feet toward the peak of the building.

I was able to compare this image of mine with that shown in an exhibit that opened about a month ago in the South Visitors’ Center on Temple Square.

It featured a 1:32 scaled replica of the Temple, which offered an "open house" experience of the magnificent building. The 88-inch tall, near-identical replica of the temple shows a number of rooms designed for certain functions such as marriages, baptisms and instructional sessions.

The view from the end showed about 10 floors with small rooms that appeared to range from a chapel-like room to rooms filled with informal furnishings.

As we were leaving Temple Square, the setting sun cast a warm glow over the structure.