Monday, September 07, 2015

The Great Southern Utah Road Trip - Preface

A couple of years ago, I received a lovely gift from my friend, Holly Chaffee. She had bought a cookbook, With a Measure of Grace: The Story and Recipes of a Small Town Restaurant, and thought I would enjoy it.

"With a Measure of Grace recounts with sensitivity and wit the tale of a women-owned, Buddhist- based restaurant becoming a community anchor in a small Mormon town. Within the book's 176 beautiful, color-photographed pages, former backcountry caterers and professional river chefs Blake Spalding and Jen Castle share their struggles and successes as the co-owners of Hell's Backbone Grill. Spalding and Castle began with the goal to meld their ideas of place-based, seasonally appropriate cuisine, right livelihood, environmental ethics and social and community responsibility into a restaurant they would operate with compassion, generosity, loving kindness and grace. They were unaware at the time that given the unusual circumstances of their venture, this plan would be the restaurant's only chance of survival. Located in the heart of the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Boulder, Utah, was the last town in the nation to receive year-round mail by automobile. Today it has no stoplight, cell phone service, ATM, grocery store or medical facilities. But it has Zagat-rated Hell's Backbone Grill, which despite all odds, has won the acclaim of national and international media. Sixty five favorite recipes accompany charming anecdotes, old-fashioned rural wisdom and introductions to captivating local characters, making With a Measure of Grace a warm and earthy, unforgettable read." (from the web site)

Not only was I delighted with the book for its wonderful stories and recipes, I was even more delighted to find that a new friend of mine, Dolly Spalding, is the (justifiably very proud) mother of Blake Spalding, one of the authors and a co-owner of the Hell's Backbone Grill. Holly and I agreed that one day we would visit Boulder, Utah and have dinner at the grill.

Early this year, my son David encouraged me to take a vacation. I emailed Holly to suggest that we drive out from Las Vegas, where she lives, to have dinner at Hell's Backbone Grill (HBG).  After all, it's only 332 miles away - surely not too far to drive for a well-reviewed restaurant. Later, I read some more excellent reviews of HBG and Holly declared that we should eat more than one meal there. We made a dinner reservation for 7 pm on August 24 and a room reservation at the Boulder Mountain Lodge for that night. HBG is on the grounds of the lodge.

We made plans to hit the road in late August, 2015. Holly and her husband, Art Wolf, have a time-share in St. George, Utah, about a 2-hour drive from Las Vegas. This would be home base. On August 23, I flew from Tucson, Arizona, to Las Vegas. That afternoon, Holly and I packed Art's red Subaru Forester (thank you, Art!) and headed northeast.


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