Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Eating on the Grand Staircase

Hello, TERP Muffins!  Did you miss me while I was gone?  I hope my last post wasn't too sad.  Life goes on and I had the most wonderful vacation.  I started in St. George, Utah, moved to Bryce National Park, went down to Zion, and then hit the Grand Canyon.

I said I'd blog about the food if the eating was good.  The thing about eating in national parks is that you sometimes are a captive audience.  You don't always have choices.  I think the restaurants aim high, but occasionally miss.  I was reminded of eating on a cruise ship.  You could appreciate the effort put out, but the results could fall flat from time to time.

Our food journey started in St. George, Utah on the day we arrived.  It was a bit past lunchtime and Kevin and I were starving.  The problem was that it was Utah on a Sunday.  There was hardly anything open.  We did manage to find the very popular Bear Paw Cafe.

This place deserves its popularity as a breakfast/brunch spot for more reasons than just it's the only place open on Sunday.  They really do have a yummy breakfast menu.  They also have great drinks.  I started with a raspberry Italian soda.  Normally I think of Italian soda as just seltzer and syrup, but there was also a touch of cream in this one.

I had eaten a fair amount of junk food in the airports, so I wanted some veggies and protein.  I got them in a form of an omelet studded with ham, peppers, mushrooms, cheddar and zucchini.  It was also supposed to have olives, but I asked for them to be left out.

For the evening our entire tour group had dinner at a wonderful restaurant called The Painted Pony.  I was a doodyhead and forgot my camera.  I could have kicked myself because the meal was tasty and beautiful.  Our guides ordered appetizers for the table included almond-stuffed, bacon-wrapped dates, shrimp, and baked brie.  My entree was medallions of duck wrapped in bacon that sat on top of celery root puree.  If you really would like to see a photo of it, just click through to the restaurant link and you will see a photo on the home page slide show.

We were staying at just one night at the Green Gate Village Bed & Breakfast.  We started out our first morning in Utah with a very hearty, typical B&B breakfast.  They served us a tasty baked apple that could have been a meal itself.  Then we had plates of eggs, bacon, and some very tasty French toast.

We were on the road to Bryce that morning.  We stopped for lunch at a very charming restaurant called  The Garden House.  It was in a residential neighborhood and almost didn't look like a restaurant from the outside.

 Inside it was the kind of girly, froufy, kitsch I tend to favor.

 The menu had an extensive selection of salads and sandwiches.  I had something called a Thanksgiving salad that had turkey breast, cranberries, and apples.

For the next two nights we stayed at Bryce Canyon Lodge and ate in the restaurant there.  Meals here were decent, but not extraordinary. 

The first night I had roasted chili-lime chicken with vegetables.  Pretty decent basic roast chicken.  The second night I had lamb shanks that looked more like beef shanks.  Just like my first attempt at beef shanks, the meat was chewy.  It needed more braising for sure.  I guess I didn't like it enough to take a picture.

We had lunch on the road again the day we left Bryce for Zion.  We ate at a restaurant called the Buffalo Grill.
Decor was very charming, but more cowboy than froufy.

The food was awesome.  Much of it was local and it was all homemade.  I went a little crazy and had the fried chicken and biscuits.  There were maple-glazed, deep-fried chicken strips topped with cream gravy and served over biscuits and mashed potato pancakes.  I think I'm still digesting it, but it was worth every calorie!

The best part of the meal though is that the restaurant is part of a small resort, which had a farm, and on that farm there was a miniature horse - with a NINE DAY OLD FOAL. I was able to go out there and befriend him.  They shouldn't have let me do that.  I was trying to find ways to sneak him into my backpack.

For our first night in Zion we ate at the Spotted Dog, the restaurant affiliated with our hotel.  I'm not a meatloaf lover, but I ended up trying a mixed game meatloaf.  It was very good, but I neglected to take my camera with me again.

Our next night in Zion we ate at Parallel 88.  This restaurant had a very spectacular view.  This is what you saw out the windows.
Kevin ordered a seafood bisque.  I had to take a photo of it because the presentation was interesting.  They poured it from a pitcher into this cool soup bowl, but you can see the reflections of the mountains in rim of the bowl.

My appetizer was a salad with spinach, pineapple, apples, and a coconut vinaigrette.  I want to make coconut salad dressing now.

I followed it up with pork tenderloin in a creamy fennel and apple sauce.

I had a dessert that was a tiramisu`-like stack of dulce de leche cream and tapioca.  Fabulous.

It would be hard to say if this or the Painted Pony was the best meal of the week.

We moved on the next day to the Grand Canyon.  The Grand Canyon Lodge is the only game in town on the north rim.  It's the only place to eat or stay within 30 miles.  I liked the food well enough, but it was kind of average.

They do very good prickly pear margaritas.  I had two our first night!

The first night I had prime rib.  It was perfectly cooked for me.  The next night I indulged in some ribs.  They were good, but over-sauced.

For lunch on our second day I had elk chili.  I keep remembering how I never took a picture of my elk chili when I was in Grand Tetons two years ago.  I'm happy to show you a photo now.

Good chili, but it's hard to find chili that I like as much as mine.

I was on this trip for the nature and not the food, but I really did have some good meals here.  I will give a shout out to Natural Habitat Adventures, who gave me one of the best travel experiences of my life.  If you're looking for a wildlife habitat or national parks tour, they are your people.  They will make sure you are taken care of every step of the way.

For more information about my trip, check out my photos or you can read the long, boring story on my other blog.

I was definitely inspired by some of the food I ate on the road, so stay tuned...


Sue said...

I love that many of the restaurants had names of animals that presumably you wouldn't eat (I hope!) Pony, Bear...I guess the poor buffalo isn't in that category. It sounds like a great trip and that it came at a perfect time!

Susan from Food Blogga said...

Thanks for the fun post. My husband and I just returned from Colorado, which we adored, and were saying how we need to explore Utah. We spent a day in SLC last year, which wasn't nearly enough time. We're thinking of visiting Zion in the fall.

The Short (dis)Order Cook said...

Sue - Ha! Yes, I doubt I'll eat a pony any time soon. It was indeed a great trip. Uneven food, but I wasn't there to eat.

SusanFB - Definitely check out Zion and the local fare there. The river walk in Zion is one of my favorite walks in the park. I don't think I'd ever brave Angel's Landing though.

bellini said...

A vacation is made or broken by the food we discover, and of course the people and fantastic scenery.