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Chufi

Chilies In The Desert

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Then we had 2 of those Mexican dinners that you really can´t tell what they are anymore when you look at the picture... you think you don't have to take notes, the picture will remind you what you ate, but you don´t realize that all those rolled up-smothered with sauce-things look pretty much the same! Anyway I think Dennis had a pork & green chile combination platter and I had a beef & red chili combination platter. It was good, satisfying comfortfood. 

Secondly: I was going to ask about the Mexican plates above. They look (disappointingly) a little like standard-issue AmeriMexican...could you taste the chiles? Was the beef ground or not, etc.

Hmmm.. it wasn´t very spicy. But, as you know, living in Amsterdam yourself, there isn´t much AmeriMexican food here, so even that would be exotic and new to us. It was a good dinner, but nothing really special. The beef wasn´t ground, I think (digging real hard and deep into my memories here) it was a chile colorado enchilada I had, and a chile relleno. The beef in the chile colorado was cubed and (I assume) braised.

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A word on 'how much do you like this plate of food?'

My expectations of the food on this trip weren´t very high (with the exeception of a couple of places). All in all we were pleasantly surprised with the quality of the food. As I´m looking at that pic of the trout and fries and steamed vegetables upthread, I realize that in any other circumstance, that would not be a meal I would consider worthy of an eGullet posting. But I think it belongs in this report. Clarke´s was a fun place to be, we had nice conversations with other people waiting, the waitress was sweet, it was fun to people watch, and it was just (to us) an essential 'small town America' experience.

And there´s one other factor contributing to the "how much do you like this" question. We ate cheap. I think on average we spent about 70 dollars a day on food (for the 2 of us). Partly by choice, partly because in many towns, there weren´t more expensive options around. In Amsterdam, that amount of money would get you lunch and a couple of cups of coffee. And yes, that´s how it psychologically works for me: that dinner of trout and fries cost 12 dollars or so, and for that price, it was great value for money. If we had paid 23 dollars, I would have expected more of the food.. and would have been disappointed.

Does this make any sense....

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Day 7 - Tropic -> Torrey

The drive through the mountains from Tropic to Torrey is one of the most beautiful drives you can imagine. You´re high up on the pass, driving slooooowly because there are all these cows roaming the countryside and often wandering onto the road... the aspen had just changed color and was a beautiful almost fluorescent golden yellow. Not only was this a perfect day of driving, it was also a perfect day of eating (and drinking).

I had read about the Kiva Koffeehouse (I don´t remember if it was on eGullet). They´re on scenic Highway 12, just outside of Escalante. As you´re driving, it´s hard to imagine that something as mundane as a coffeehouse will pop up between the rugged rocks and winding curves of the road... but then it does. It´s a beautiful, peaceful, special place. It´s hard to think of a better place to linger over coffee and the newspaper. So that´s what we did.. I think we stayed there for a couple of hours, reading, and just looking at the mountains.

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But, we had big lunch plans so eventually it was time to move on.

I had heard such great things about Hell´s Backbone Grill in Boulder, Utah.. so we arrived with high expectations, around 1pm, to find they were just closing up... due to what Dennis euphemistically called a ' research flaw' I had failed to notice that they´re actually only open for breakfast and dinner! I was so disappointed I could cry! Fortunately Dennis is the much more pragmatic person of the 2 of us, also he had not read all these rave reviews about Hell's Backbone Grill, and it did not matter much to him where we would eat.. so we just went down the road to the Burr Trail Grill.

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Good thing we did, because this is where I had my Best Burger Ever.

Who knows how good the food at the Backbone Grill would have been? Who cares if you´re eating your best burger ever?

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Good burgers make me really, really happy.

They had regular burgers and burgers made with this special meat, which is the ones we had:

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One with blue cheese and bacon

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and mine with roasted poblano's and swiss.

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Oh my.

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. . . for that price, it was great value for money. If we had paid 23 dollars, I would have expected more of the food.. and would have been disappointed.

Does this make any sense....

Makes perfect sense to me. Expectations strongly influence perceived value.

and mine with roasted poblano's and swiss.

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Oh my.

Oh my, indeed. That is exactly the burger that I would have chosen, because roasted poblanos make everything better.

Beautiful photography, wonderful writing, and you look very happy. I can't wait to read more.


Edited by C. sapidus (log)

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This is an absolutely stunnung landscape photo - Bravo! All your photos are very good, but this is extraordinary. I am enjoying your report.

Mark, what's wrong with good Amerimexican? Those dishes looked pretty darn good to me. I've had some very good Amerimexican in Utah. While it may not be quite the same as traditional regional Mexican, it can still be outstanding in its own right.


John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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I thought that Bryce pic was fake - that is amazing. But, over the years I've learned that its hard not to get a great pic of the landscape out these ways...its called "backyard" :raz:

I know that Klary and I spoke a bit about it, but I find the intricacies of Mexican food in these parts really fascinating. Those smothered rolled up things are everywhere, except, they all have their slightly different cultural stamp. When she gets to Silver City, you'll see Gilaño style Mexico food, which will essentially be the same, but will look and taste very different. It comes down to which chiles, which corn, which meats were available to the people of the region. Non-tourist restaurants in our area don't roll their smothered foods - you have to special request it to be rolled. I've always wanted Behr to come and dissect the history of our region for me.

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btw I LOVED these! We bought lots more of them during the rest of the trip.

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I'll trade you: next time we come visit, I'll bring you corn nuts, and you tell me where to find those yummy crunchy-coated peanuts that seem to be all over Europe and nowhere on this side of the ocean.

MelissaH


MelissaH

Oswego, NY

Chemist, writer, hired gun

Say this five times fast: "A big blue bucket of blue blueberries."

foodblog1 | kitchen reno | foodblog2

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I'll trade you: next time we come visit, I'll bring you corn nuts, and you tell me where to find those yummy crunchy-coated peanuts that seem to be all over Europe and nowhere on this side of the ocean.

MelissaH

it´s a deal!

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Day 7 - continued

The day of great eating wasn´t over yet. In the evening we headed on over to the famous cafe Diablo in Torrey, Utah.

We were staying in a motel down the road and it was great to be able to walk to the restaurant. We started with cocktails! Cocktails in Utah, hee ha!!

Cafe Diablo is an interesting place to find in the middle of the desert. From the dishes that arrive at the table, it is obvious that there is a very creative, innovative and daring chef at work here. I loved the way he uses local ingredients and flavors and combines them into completely sursprising plates of food. I wanted to order everyting on the menu.. but we were not that hungry! We both had 2 small plates instead of one main dish, so we could try more.

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we had dinner on the patio, with this lovely view:

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With the cocktails we were presented with the house appetizer, a plate of grilled and marinated vegetables and some crumbly cheese.. this was so good I could have made my dinner out of it... we saw other people just barely touching theirs while we were voraciously scooping it up... the vegetables were just so flavorful and cooked exactly right, the marinade was slightly tangy and herby. And the bread was very good too.

My first dish was the rattlesnake cakes with coriander pesto, red cabbage slaw and rosemary aioli. The cakes were nicely seasoned and the aioli was delicious, as was the coriander pesto. I can´t say I now know what snake tastes like though!

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Dennis had a mushroom and spinach salad with tomatillo salsa.

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My second dish was Duck mariachi with jicama, peanut dressing, creamy sweet potatoes:

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The duck was good, the potatoes tasted very strongly of ginger, which I did not like.

Dennis had glazed salmon and avocado with pinenuts and dried cranberries.

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We felt we had room for dessert:

carrot cake and brandied pear frangipane tart and their homemade icecream (I think we had butterscotch ice cream). Their icecream did not impress me much but the pear tart... I really love pear frangipane tarts and will always order it when I see it on a manu.. this was one of the best I ever had:

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we could not finish the cakes though.. so we took them home for the next day.

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Day 8 - Capitol Reef National Park (Torrey, Utah)

The next day we went hiking in Capitol Reef National Park, which was possibly my favorite of the National Parks we visited. It´s very rugged and remote.. not that many tourists.. easy to find a hiking trail that´s not too crowded. Also, it has the additional charm of the little historic district of Fruita, where early Mormon settlers made their living from fruit orchards in the river valley. The Visitor Center has a great film about the lives of these settlers.. interesting and impressive.

After hiking a couple of hours, the leftovers from Cafe Diablo were a very welcome snack..

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and in case you were wondering, I´m not doing all of this by myself.. here´s Dennis, my husband, friend, trusted driver, never complaining and never cranky and always good spirited travel companion...

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On the way back we stopped at one of the historic houses and ofcourse I had to take a picture of the kitchen..

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The Fruita orchards are still maintained, now solely for the benefit of the visitors to the park, who can go into the orchards and pick and eat as many fruit as they like, for free. Only if you take some with you, you have to pay a small fee.

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Mark, what's wrong with good Amerimexican? Those dishes looked pretty darn good to me. I've had some very good Amerimexican in Utah. While it may not be quite the same as traditional regional Mexican, it can still be outstanding in its own right.

Nothing! Usually. But if you're visiting the Southwest, actually physically close to Mexico, and you haven't previously tasted much authentic regional Mexican food...it would be nice to get something that's at least a specifically southwestern version of this Amerimexican concept.

Anyway, no negativity intended....blog on!

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I want to clarify my point because I think all food of this ilk gets lumped in to one big pot. When I visit the big city, I can choose between Oaxacan, Chihuahuan, Sonoran, etc. The distinctions between southwestern New Mexican versus Santa Fe New Mexican versus Albuquerque New Mexican are vastly different (and don't even talk about that stuff they call Mexican in Arizona - I don't even recognize it). So I think what Klary and Dennis experienced on this trip was totally appropriate for this trip. I suggested a day trip down to Mexico for them when they arrived (but the drive would have been too much at that point in the trip) where they would have experienced more of what you're talking about. So, I understand what you're saying, but I'm glad they got to delve into our regional cuisine as humble as it may be :)


Edited by gfron1 (log)

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Day 8 - continued

That night we had dinner at the restaurant of our motel The Capitol Reef Inn & Cafe, and an excellent dinner it was.

And there was wine! Wine that came with a life lesson:

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An outstanding salad of lots of fresh vegetables, covered with my favorite dressing, blue cheese:

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Chicken with chiles and cheese, and roasted pumpkin:

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Chicken with barbecuesauce, jalapeno beans, fresh corn, and cornbread

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Blueberry pie and huckleberry pie for dessert.


Edited by Chufi (log)

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Mark - I'll reiterate my point because I think all food of this ilk gets lumped in to one big pot.  When I visit the big city, I can choose between Oaxacan, Chihuahuan, Sonoran, etc.  The distinctions between southwestern New Mexican versus Santa Fe New Mexican versus Albuquerque New Mexican are vastly different (and don't even talk about that stuff they call Mexican in Arizona - I don't even recognize it).  So I think what Klary and Dennis experienced on this trip was totally appropriate for this trip.  I suggested a day trip down to Mexico for them when they arrived (but the drive would have been too much at that point in the trip) where they would have experienced more of what you're talking about.  So, I understand what you're saying, but I'm glad they got to delve into our regional cuisine as humble as it may be :)

well, to add more confusion to it, I would definitely say that the food at Escobar´s in Kanab, as pictured above, was very different from the food we had in Santa Fe and/or the food we had in Silver City. The Kanab version was by far the blandest (as in, not spicy) of them all.

It´s a very interesting subject, and I´m afraid the more I read bout it, and hear about it, the less I understand it.

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Day 9 - Torrey -> Moab

We leave Torrey to drive to Moab. Before you know it, you´re in one of the weirdest, most desolate desert landscapes... the kind of landscape that has you freaking out when you see your gas tank is only half full.

Like this:

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When that´s your view from the car, and you suddenly see a little house by the road that has a sign that says Bakery - Coffee, you scream to your husband (who has been looking at nothing but the deserted road) that he has to turn around, because you THINK you saw a bakery, yes you know that sounds inpossible, and maybe it was a fata morgana, but please honey can you turn around so we can make sure?

It really was a bakery, and a coffeehouse, and an organic farm, too.

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Mesa market, Highway 24, at the 102 mile marker. Don´t miss it.

Inside this little building is a friendly guy baking bread.. we chat with him and it turns out that he bakes bread for cafe Diablo.. and delivers vegetables to both Cafe Diablo and the Capitol Reef cafe.. we tell him how much we enjoyed those vegetables and then he makes me a cup of coffee, which is the best coffee I had on this entire trip.. he grinds the beans right in front of me, puts them in a coffee filter which he stands on a mug, then pours on water that has just boiled... I say Wow that´s fresh coffee! and he says, Yeah, no point in doing it any other way...

I ask him, How did you think of starting a bakery right here in the middle of nowhere? And he says, Well, we needed bread, so we started baking it, and before you know it, you´re running a bakery.

Noone else in sight, we sit at the porch drinking coffee and tea and eating one of his cinnamon rolls, not exactly watching the world go by cause there´s nothing passing by... while he, inside, goes on with his bread making, and Stevie Wonder sings on a rusty old radio.

I still feel that we may have dreamt this place, but I have pictures so it must be real...


Edited by Chufi (log)

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Day 9 - continued

On the way from Torrey to Moab we pass through Green River, whic is apparently famous for its melons, they´re for sale in lots of road side stands.. so we buy a couple.

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And then Moab. We loved Moab. The first time I ever heard of Moab was when Flocko, aka as Bill Benge, did his eGullet foodblog in 2006. Bill sadly passed away not long after he blogged. It was strange being in Moab: I knew I was partly there because of an eGullet member, and I also know I would have loved to meet him. We went to a couple of the places he visited during his blog (the bookstore/coffeeshop he went to every morning, the Moab brewery). I could completely understand his love for the town and the area. It´s a great town, where we felt very much at home.

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Moab´s Main Street in the setting sun.

We had dinner at the Moab Brewery, where they have excellent beer and good food.

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the beer menu

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(sorry - blurry! the oatmeal stout was my favorite)

the decor

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Sausages with sauerkraut

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More beer (hey, we´re in Utah. Who knows WHEN we´ll see good beer again?)

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Burger with bacon and barbecue sauce.

We´re full now.

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Day 2 - Prescott -> Flagstaff

Fortified, we drove to the tiny and utterly charming town of Jerome where we had coffee and cookies at the Sage Post coffeehouse, an interesting combo of coffeehouse, lunchspot, bookstore, and giftshop.

Glad you made it to Jerome.

I lived in the US Southwest for years, including Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, etc., and find that many of the best stops take a little gettin' to. If you know what I mean.

Did you manage to stop at any of the ruins? Montezuma's Castle, say, or Chaco Canyon, Mesa Verde or Aztec? How about Canyon de Chelly?

Or perhaps I should just stay tuned and wait and see....


I don't understand why rappers have to hunch over while they stomp around the stage hollering.  It hurts my back to watch them. On the other hand, I've been thinking that perhaps I should start a rap group here at the Old Folks' Home.  Most of us already walk like that.

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Day 10 - Moab, Arches National Park

For breakfast we had one of those melons from Green River, an incredibly juicy sweet cantaloupe:

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and then went to Arches National Park. It was a hot day, and I think we were a bit park´d out at this point. The National Parks have their own dynamics and it takes some effort to make them your own. In Arches especially, it felt like we were visiting a museum - where everybody gets out of the car at the exact same view point, oohs and aahs, takes a picture, drives on again. It was too hot for us to go on a long hike and escape the crowds. So after a couple of the obligatory stops, we went to the picnic area and had lunch:

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Bread, goats cheese, hummus and tomatoes from Moab´s Citimarket, watermelon from Green River.

Don´t get me wrong.. this is some gorgeous scenery.

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It´s just that you don´t really feel you can really experience it or appreciate it from behind a little fence. Or maybe I´d been reading too much Edward Abbey at this point...


Edited by Chufi (log)

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Day 10 - continued

The evening brought us back to the brewpub. I´m sure there are plenty of other good restaurants in Moab.. but when you´re travelling, and getting so many new impressions everyday, its sometimes really nice to go back to a place where you´ve been before.

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Blackened chicken sandwich with roasted green chiles and cheese, blackened catfish with coleslaw.

And cheesecake for dessert:

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Edited by Chufi (log)

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My husband and I just did this trip in the spring, and went to many of the same parks and towns. I wish we had gotten to Cafe Diablo though. Sorry, to hear that you didn't get to Hell's Backbone Grill, but it sounds like it turned out to be a great meal with that burger. Since we went in the spring, we weren't able to pick anything from the orchards at Capitol Reef. That park was one of my favorites for the same reason - very few crowds. I've also wanted to go because my in-laws went many, many years ago and when I first met my husband, he had a t-shirt from there. I can't explain why a t-shirt with a stick figure animal on it would make me want to go somewhere, but it did.

It was a welcome stop between the crowds in Moab and Bryce/Zion.

I agree that Flocko's blog was one of the reasons why I was turned onto Moab. I sat in the Moab Diner looking at the waitresses and wanted to ask them if they knew him. They looked like they had worked there awhile. It was also nice to eat at the Desert Bistro knowing that he had enjoyed many meals there.

I'm looking forward to hearing about the rest of the trip since that will be areas we haven't been to yet.

Thank you for sharing.


I like cows, too. I hold buns against them. -- Bucky Cat.

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Day 10 - Moab, Arches National Park

and then went to Arches National Park. It was a hot day, and I think we were a bit park´d out at this point. The National Parks have their own dynamics and it takes some effort to make them your own.  In Arches especially, it felt like we were visiting a museum - where everybody gets out of the car at the exact same view point, oohs and aahs, takes a picture, drives on again. It was too hot for us to go on a long hike and escape the crowds.

Don´t get me wrong.. this is some gorgeous scenery.

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It´s just that you don´t really feel you can really experience it or appreciate it from behind a little fence. Or maybe I´d been reading too much Edward Abbey at this point...

I agree. We did the trip in the opposite direction than you two...Moab, Capitol Reef, Bryce and Zion (and saw all the same beauty and desolate areas in between), so by the time we got to Zion, I was done. No more rocks please. "Yes, it is pretty, but please don't make me take another hike."


I like cows, too. I hold buns against them. -- Bucky Cat.

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