Day Four: Salt Lake City to Idaho Falls

Today was quite a relaxed day, after the masses of driving we had in the previous days. We started by going back to Temple Square and looking through the several visitor centres, as well as having a second look around the  various buildings. I was particularly impressed with a beautiful model of the inside of the Temple. As non-Mormans we were obviously unable to see the actual temple, so this model was a lovely way to understand a little more of what went on inside. The painted walls in particular were absolutely stunning!

We then went on to explore the rest of the city, including the Utah Museum of Contemporary Art which confirmed that we are not arty people! With the exception of one exhibit about immigration from Mexico, the remainder just seemed a little random!

Far more appealing was the city library which aside from being very modern and arty, also had a great rooftop view of the city! We also stopped here for a quick cup of seafood chowder for lunch.

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In the afternoon we then headed out to Idaho Falls for our next stop, in preparation for Yellowstone tomorrow. The journey was good and we had a lovely hotel, which we had a little time to settle into before supper. We also took the time to have a walk beside the eponymous falls, which were very impressive.

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We then headed for supper at Makers Bar and Grill, which was a great meal. I chooses the Chicken Parmesan with a side of greens, which was delicious! It came with a complimentary salad or soup, which left you very full and satisfied! I chose the pear and pecan salad with raspberry vinaigrette and the starter plate was the size of a main! Brilliant value and very tasty!

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Day 3: Bryce Canyon and Salt Lake City

Today was a day we were slightly concerned about in terms of length, as it was almost 400 miles in total distance. However, it proved totally worth it. Our first stop was Bryce Canyon, which I knew very little about except that it had ‘Hoodoos’, which also happened to be the name of a beer (other examples shown below)

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Anyway back to the canyon. Another park and ride job, which is a brilliant system that the national parks have got down to a T. It made getting around so much easier! We had a short walk through some woods before we came out onto a small viewing area where we saw this.

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Oh. My. Goodness. I don’t really feel the pictures do it justice, it was so beautiful. The brilliant this was that you could see it from two places – above and below! We started at the high viewing point, but then hiked down to the bottom of the canyon, where you could look up to find most of the sky obscured. Truly amazing.

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However we then had to walk back up. This was not so fun. I think I walked into about three peoples photographs, as I thought ‘If I stop now, I won’t start again!’ Luckily we got back just in time to evade the thunderstorm that was boiling up in the park (a big threat in the area!)

We then headed to Salt Lake City, a drive we were not looking forward to until we realised the speed limit was 80! This made it much more bearable! We stopped off briefly in Provo, but were not impressed – to be honest it looked like a bit of a wreck! There also seem to be a lot of people who hate buses, as lots of trees had black ribbons with anti-bus service messages posted on them.

When we got to Salt Lake City, we went immediately to Temple Square, to see the beautiful buildings. Our first stop was the Tabernacle, where a lovely missionary from California, Sister Howard told us a little about the buildings history and use. I have such a lot of respect for these young girls and men. They give up 18 months/2 years doing missionary work for the church in an unfamiliar place and they can only call home twice a year (at Christmas and Easter) – all other contact is limited to one letter a week. I don’t think I could do that.

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Sister Howard also pointed us in the direction of the highlight of my evening – a chance to listen to the Mormon Tabernacle Choir live in the Conference Centre! They allow the general public to listen to their rehearsals and being given this opportunity to listen to one of the best choirs in the world free was a dream come true! From a musicians perspective it was also really interesting to see the rehearsal process and understand how the music comes together.

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By this point I was starving, and am not really existing well on the breakfast and muesli bar option. We had marked out some restaurant options, but they weren’t in our area so we had to go to Plan 2: the Squatters Pub. This is a brewery, pub and restaurant not far from our hotel, which also serves a wide and varied menu. I chose the Carnitas – slow cooked pork with Southern rice, refried beans with queso fresno, salad, salsa and guacamole, stuffed into tortilla wraps. The pork was so tender it fell apart, whilst the rice and beans were so tasty I couldn’t stop eating them, even when stuffed otherwise! Other dishes sampled were the meatloaf which looked (and tasted!) delicious, and the pulled pork sandwich which was so full of meat the bun couldn’t hold it all!

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We were told on the way into the pub that it was a locals favourite, and we can see why, both of us saying that if we’d stayed here longer we would have come back several times. The atmosphere was relaxed and fun, the food and beer great and the service impeccable – another win!

Day 2: Zion National Park and The Grand Canyon

Today we had two places on the agenda, both of which were in completely different directions to each other, thus necessitating a lot of driving around! We started by going to Zion National Park in Utah. This was an odd drive, as it was not very long before we entered the park itself, but then it took us about 45 minutes of driving through the park to get to the main bit! Parking was also very busy, so we actually ended up driving out the other side to find a space, and then catching the shuttle bus back into the park!

Once inside we took another bus through the beautiful gorges and canyons to the temple of Sirawaya, deep in the park. I was amazed by the height of the rock walls – when in the midst of the canyon you had to look almost straight up to see the top! It also made me think of the Lion King, a thought reinforced by looking at the pictures – does anyone else think this, or am I just odd?
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There were also a lot of posing squirrels, who obviously are used to humans wanting to take their picture, as they have developed almost model-like characteristics!

We then moved on to a long drive back through Kanab and into Arizona again to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon which was an amazing experience. Now Max has been to the South Rim and we have both seen the West Rim (and done the Skywalk) previously, but we both felt that neither was a patch on the North Rim! It was so green and beautiful, but whilst still providing you with the awe-inspiring grandeur that the canyon is famous for. We walked out to some viewing points above the canyon, and whilst getting there was terrifying at points, it was worth it for the experience!
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On return to Kanab in the evening, we went to Rocking V’s Cafe again, as we enjoyed it so much last night, and it was again brilliant! We had the same server, Terry who remembered us and was very friendly and helpful, along with the Maître De, and the rest of the staff. Tonight I stuck with the southwestern theme, but went vegetarian, enjoying Corncakes made with polenta and black beans, served with a green chile relish and tomato salsa (along with salad and asparagus). I really wanted a picture to show you, but I was so hungry I didn’t check the shot and so it came out like this.
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It’s the eternal food blogger issue – you want a good picture, but more than that – you want to eat the food!

We couldn’t resist the puddings again, and this time decided to divide and conquer. Mum and I enjoyed the chocolate mousse – dairy free and oh so thick and delicious! I could eat it all day! Max went for creme brûlée, whilst Dad (who has never before ordered dessert in a restaurant!) could not resist the bread pudding with whiskey sauce! After tasting it I can’t blame him – it was phenomenal! Definitely a must try!
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Overall, for a small border town, Kanab has a culinary jewel in the Rocking V Cafe. I can’t recommend it highly enough, and hope it continues to flourish!

The Great American Road Trip: Phoenix to Kanab

So today was the first day of the road trip, which for those of you not in the know will take us from Phoenix to Vancouver, via many national parks and cities in the process. For the next 10 days I will be (hopefully) trying to blog both a little about the trip itself, but also about the food and other scrummy things that we sample en route!

Today we started by getting the car which is huge, as you can see below – I have a whole three seats to myself! It’s also well stocked with water and a mini tuck shop put together by Chloe (including the adorable sticker decorations!)

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We started up the country by heading to Sedona, land of the red rocks, as you can see below. Now after a while of being in Utah, you get a bit more used to seeing red rocks, but for me the first time it was amazing, more like a painting than an actual place.

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Next we headed to the Meteor Crater, by Wilmsow (via Oak Creek Canyon) Now having a space fanatic in the car made this a must-see, but all of use were slightly amazed at the size of it! My camera can’t get all of it in, and there is a 6 foot spaceman at the bottom who is invisible to the naked eye!
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Next we got back in the car for the long stretch of drive for the day, taking us up to Kanab on the Utah-Arizona border. However before we got their we planned to stop at Horseshoe bend. However, this was easier said than done as we initially took the wrong turn. Not good. However, when we finally got their (and trekked a mile across soft dry sand – my nightmare terrain!) the view was completely worth it, and probably the best thing I saw all day! For some reason no-one but Max and I were standing at the best viewpoint, which I can’t understand, but it did give us a pretty much uninterrupted view!

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From there were drove the final 2 hours to Kanab, where we stopped for the night. Our body clocks were totally out of sync, as we’d forgotten that Arizona and Utah run on different time zones – that’ll be fun tomorrow! However, it was time for food, and as I’d existed for the day on a muesli bar and a few Starburst I was hungry! We planned to go to a small restaurant called the Rocking V Cafe, which was just down the road from our hotel, and despite having to wait a little (we’d arrived at a busy point with no reservation!) it was well worth it! I enjoyed a starter of tomato and basil soup with bread and the most random balsamic vinaigrette – it looked more like mayonnaise! However, it did taste like its namesake, so we can’t complain! This was then followed by a plate of Cajun salmon with wild rice and grains, served with creole-style salad and asparagus, and was totally delicious.

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After this, despite the sizeable meal, when the server asked if we had room for pudding, I couldn’t turn down a piece of Key Lime Pie, it being on my American desserts list and all! I’ve never had this before (only the flavouring in cheesecake form) and was excited to try a real slice! I was initially surprised to realise that the white stuff on the top was whipped cream not meringue, but this was in no way a disadvantage, and actually I quite enjoyed it. It was tart, sweet and smooth and the perfect end to a long day.
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Overall we were really pleased with the Rocking V Cafe, and plan to go back there tomorrow as well. So if you are ever in Kanab, Utah it’s definitely the place to eat!

The Great American Food Trip: Scottsdale, Phoenix

So today was our last day in Scottsdale before heading out into the great unknown, so today we took the time to show my parents a little of the Scottsdale area (having left for Prescott almost straight away they hadn’t seen the city in the day!) We started by visiting the Sanctuary resort, where we had an amazing view of both Camelback mountain (and the Praying Monk) and an overall view of the city. We then dropped into the Phoenician Hotel as it was close by, and the swimming pools are just amazing!

We were then in need of a drink so stopped at Jamba Juice for a smoothie or juice. I had a tropical greens juice, which featured kale, apple, pineapple and chia, which despite dad saying that it looked like a blitzed frog (unsurprisingly!), tasted delicious.

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For lunch we hit one of our favourite spots, the Wildflower Bread Company. This was high on our list from last year and it did not disappoint! We shared a Thai chicken salad, alongside a blackberry orange lemonade, and for someone fed up with boring salads, this was a truly delicious lunch. If all salads were like this, I would eat them constantly! We also enjoyed the free samples of Red, White and Blue Bread (white bread full of blueberries and cranberries – also delicious!)

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After lunch we visited the Musical Instrument Museum (MIM), which is a must see, undoubtedly the best museum I have ever been to. I have so far been twice and I still don’t feel like I’ve seen everything it has to offer. I could happily spend an entire day there and it is an essential place for anyone with the slightest interest in music.

During the afternoon, Chloe and I made chocolate chip cookies, though after realising halfway through that we had no eggs, had to make an impromptu substitution of apple sauce. This worked extremely well in the cookies and is one I would use again. If you want to try it the basic measurement is 1/3 cup of apple sauce for every egg used, mixed in at the same time as the eggs would be. I haven’t tried it in cakes but the result in biscuits is good!

For supper we hit The Cheesecake Factory. Containing my urge to order a barbeque bacon cheeseburger with bacon, cheese and barbeque sauce on the side (Big Bang Theory geeks, you know who you are!), we enjoyed the Louisiana chicken pasta, a spicy pasta with peppers and mushrooms, topped with spicy crusted chicken. As usual delicious and big portions! I also sampled one of Chloe’s chicken potstickers, which were amazing and reminded me of how much I wish to make them again. No pictures unfortunately – it was so dark they did not come out at all, as the following shot of my Oreo Milkshake shows.

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That is the best I could get so I admit, I gave up. However the milkshake was amazing. So creamy and tasty, basically a dessert in a glass! As a consequence of this, we were in no fit state to eat cheesecake, so instead we bought a piece of Tiramisu Cheesecake to go, which is currently residing in the freezer to be eaten when we get back.

Tomorrow we set off on the road trip, so for the next two nights we’ll be sampling the culinary delights of Kanab, Utah!

The Great American Food Trip: Prescott, Az.

Now whilst our family (my husband’s uncle) live in Phoenix, as it is HOT there at the moment, we had decided that we would acclimatise to the heat by visiting some friends in their cabin in Prescott. Now this turned out to be a very good idea, particularly as the flight over was not a pleasant experience! After having to wait two and a half hours on the Tarmac at Heathrow (which isn’t so cold itself!) we finally completed the 10.5 hour flight.

Except that’s not what happened.

After a half hour hold over Alberquerque, we then were told that there was a massive dust storm over Phoenix so we could not land. Fair enough – we have seen a video of the storm to know that we also did not want to land there. However, due to a lack of fuel we had to divert to Las Vegas, at which point we had to wait for another two hours, in scorching heat with no air conditioning or water. We finally got into Phoenix 7 hours after the expected time, having been up for over twenty four hours with only about an hours sleep. Now some of you may be fine, me – I need my 8 hours!

But anyway, the next day we woke up and drove to Prescott, stopping first in the town centre which seemed to be cowboy Central, from the shooting range to the people in traditional dress wandering the streets.

For lunch we stopped at the lovely Raven Cafe, an organic cafe in the centre of the town. Knowing about the provenance of food is a brilliant aspect of the new foodie scene in my opinion, and this restaurant included a big blackboard telling you exactly where all the produce has come from – a big plus point! The food was its major selling point though (as it should be). I chose the special of Cajun Fish Tacos, along with sweet potato fries and an iced chai.

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Fish Tacos with Dill Cream

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Sweet Potato Fries

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Iced Chai

The tacos were truly delicious. I tried to eat them in the traditional way which resulted in a lot of mess, but really it was worth it. There were big chunks of subtly flavoured fish, beautifully moist topped with crispy cabbage and a dill yoghurt which added a light but creamy texture to the whole dish. The sweet potato fries were everything they should be – thin, crispy and incredibly more-ish, whilst the iced chai provided a wonderful cinnamon-y accompaniment to the whole meal. Definitely a hit for me, and one to look out for!

For supper we had a barbecue on the deck of the cabin we were staying in, which was just perfection. Now I did not realise that Arizona had forests, but the whole landscape was picture perfect, so peaceful and a wonderful place to escape to. After enjoying our burgers, corn, homemade kale chips and potato salad, we planned to enjoy the next great American Classic – the s’more! However, this got moved inside after we started getting attacked by bugs. Pathetic I know, but when a 2 inch flying beatle starts to attack you, you want to go somewhere where it isn’t! As a result the S’mores and other associated goodies were moved inside. No pictures I’m afraid – I have great admiration for the willpower of anyone who is presented with a hot s’more and waits to take a picture…

The next day, we went for brunch at the Iron Springs Cafe, just down the road from the cabins. Whenever I go to the states, I always find portion sizes hard to gauge, as they are often so much bigger that we are accustomed to, and so we try to sample as many things but without wastage – when the food’s as good as it is, I don’t want to leave any of it on my plate! So between us, Max and I decided on a small gumbo and a plate of Pork Green Chile and associated sides. Both were delicious – the gumbo hot and spicy and filled with chicken and andouille sausage, whilst the pork was falling apart and so flavoursome! I particularly enjoyed the black beans as a side dish, one thing I always miss when I’m in England! Add to that a Mexican iced chocolate, spiked with cinnamon and I was happy!

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Gumbo with Chicken and Andouille Sausage

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Pork Green Chile with rice and black beans

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Mexican Iced Chocolate

Well, that’s about it for the first two days. I leave you with the results of our blind tasting of Malteasters and Malt Balls – Malt balls have more chocolate but everyone (except Max and I) seem to prefer them! However, that doesn’t stop me eating them every time I near the candy bar that cousin Chloe created!

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Happy summer all!