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.

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