Salt Lake City

What a week.

My husband and I, along with a few close friends, decided to go to Salt Lake City to have a white Christmas and ski our hearts out, and we were not disappointed.

Not everyone in our group was super keen on skiing so we chose to rent a house downtown through Air BnB (near 9th and 9th) so that the non-skiers would be close to things to do during the day. It ended up being a great decision, each day we could take our pick of the mountains based on the conditions & in the evening we had all of Salt Lake City’s lovely restaurants & bars to choose from (without the hefty on mountain price tags). It also meant that we could have a home cooked meal on Christmas Day.

Skiing
Over the course of the week we skied at Canyons, Solitude and Brighton. We had a mix of snowboarders and skiers so Alta was out of the question. We also had a good spread of skill levels in our group. By far, everyone’s favourite mountain of the trip was Brighton.

Canyons, (which was linked to Park City this year, creating the largest resort in the US), was a a bit of a let down. To begin with, the lift tickets were significantly more expensive when compared with other mountains in the area (a lift ticket for Park City/Canyons costs $129, a lift ticket for Solitude, Brighton, Alta or Snowbird costs $75-90 per day). It wasn’t that it was Canyons was a bad resort, I had a lot of great runs & a lot of fun, it’s just it wasn’t any better than the other mountains in the area & for that price that’s being charged, I’d expect it to be better.

Even though Brighton and Solitude were smaller, quieter resorts we still had heaps fun finding new runs each day. Both mountains had a more friendly local vibe, and I loved that there was no music pumping through loud speakers. I really do love the quieter resorts where the only noise is your skies on the snow. We spent two days at both Brighton & Solitude. I didn’t get tired or bored of the terrain & was always finding new runs or places to explore. In the end we had a little more fun on the runs at Brighton.

Foodwise, Solitude had the best on mountain lunch. I went to the Himalayan Hut near the Powderhorn and Moonbeam lifts for lunch both times I was at Solitude. The meals were warm and comforting and just what i needed to keep me going all afternoon. Add to that the reasonable prices (for on mountain food). I had the curry entree plate for $12, which came with rice, Naan and three types of curry (all delicious). The Shepards pie also looked pretty delicious.

Salt Lake City Food & Coffee
Off the mountain I was pleasantly surprised to find a heap of great coffee shops, restaurants and bars. Each morning I’d normally stop in at a coffee shop on the way to the ski slopes to pick up a coffee & maybe a treat. The coffee at Hub & Spoke Diner & Finca was pretty good but all in all, The Rose Establishment was easily my favourite cafe in Salt Lake City. They made lovely coffee and had a great selection of baked goods and small brunch items on the menu (even an avocado smash!).

Restaurants wise, we ate at both PagoFinca. Pago is more ‘modern American’ cuisine & Finca more Spanish tapas. We enjoyed both & I would happily go back to either.

Through one of the server’s at Finca, we found out about a little restaurant called Pizzeria 712 about 45mins outside of Salt Lake City in a town called Orem. We drove out there on our rest day to check it out for lunch & I’m glad we did. The pizza’s were delicious, thin crusted, fresh, tasty toppings. They even make their own ricotta in house there, which was easily the best ricotta I’ve ever had on a pizza.

My only disappointment was that were weren’t able to eat at Forage. I’d read some pretty good things about then but alas there was 6 of us & they couldn’t take bookings larger than 5. Next time though…

 

New Orleans

Several months back a friend suggested a group of us should make the most of a Delta sale and so we all bought some cheap tickets to New Orleans for state election long weekend. We had no real plans for what we would do there but all of us had always wanted to go.

By the time the trip rolled around I was a little nervous about flying. I’d just found out my foot was broken in 3 places & would need surgery to fix it. I was wearing this giant boot that was uncomfortable at home on the couch, let alone on a plane and I needed a little scooter/rollabout to get everywhere. I decided to suck it up & head down to New Orleans anyway. Thankfully Delta were pretty good about the whole thing, they upgraded my husband & I to premium economy for both the trip down there & the trip back. All free of charge 🙂

We arrived Saturday lunchtime & left Tuesday morning. The time in between disappeared in a sea of good food, boozy cocktails, music and wandering in the autumn sun. A few memories have stuck in my mind though…

Coffee & beignets at Cafe Du Monde
When we arrived on Saturday we dropped off our bags at the hotel & wandered through the French quarter to join the queue at Cafe Du Monde for coffee & beignets. We’d all been on the go since 5am & were in search of a decent coffee. I’d tried & failed to drink the rubbish in the Delta lounge & on the plane, and my friend, swore that their friend had raved about the coffee here so we gave it a go. Thankfully, the queue moved quite quickly and before we knew it we were siting inside. I ordered a cafe au lait along with a plate of beignets. The beignets were piping hot & really hit the spot. As was the cafe au lait. The six of us sat & schemed for the weekend ahead, talked about all the food we wanted to try, places we wanted to see & took in the atmosphere on Decatur Street. A perfect start for a long weekend.
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A word of warning on the beignets though; don’t wear dark clothes! The beignets are covered in icing sugar & we all spent the afternoon wandering around with suspicious white marks all over our dark jeans…

Hurricanes at the Oldest Bar in America (Lafitte’s)
Whilst wandering through the French Quarter on Saturday afternoon we stopped for a cocktail to go at what appeared to be an old shack. There were a couple of old guys sitting out the front watching the world go by next to a small group college students drinking heavily in what appeared to be pyjamas. We went inside and ordered a round of Hurricanes. Another friend of a friend had said that these were the best in New Orleans. I’m not sure of their measure of best, but they were certainly up there with the booziest. We stood outside in the sun on the street corner drinking our boozy Hurricanes, joking around and enjoying doing nothing much in particular.

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Cruising around the bayou on a swamp tour
On the Monday we jumped on a bus & headed out to Cajun country for a swamp tour. It was as touristy as you can imagine and still enormous fun. We cruised around the swamp in a pontoon boat & listened to our cajun guide talk. I couldn’t quite work out if the guide was for real or not, but I didn’t care. My mind drifted & I watched the guide feed marshmallows to the alligators & racoons. I fiddled with the settings on my camera in between watching herons & admiring the sun shining through the Spanish moss. Part way through the tour, the guide pulled a small alligator out of the esky & passed it around to everyone. I was amazed at how soft the alligator’s skin was, it was delicate & felt almost fragile.

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Waiting in line at Willie Mae’s
Sure the fried chicken inside is incredible. It’s perfectly juicy & crispy, with a little bit of spice. You feel like every bite you take brings you one step closer to a coronary bypass. It was everything fried chicken should be & more, but it was the wait outside that I remember. Standing in the sun. Meeting locals & other travelers in the line. Sending a runner down to the corner store for beer so that we could be drinking beer whilst standing in the sun. If only every Monday afternoon could be this enjoyable.

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A late night seafood platter at the hotel restaurant
Monday night, Greg & I were wrecked, we’d had a late lunch which while delicious at the time had sat on our stomachs a little too long. It probably wasn’t helped by an afternoon nap immediately after. By the time we got dressed & ready to head out for our evening drinks it was almost 7. We met up with a couple of friends at Carousel Bar & discussed what we would do for dinner & entertainment that night over cocktails & spiced nuts. Before we knew it, it was 9pm and our friends were no longer hungry & were ready for bed. They went back to the hotel & Greg & I were going to do the same, but as we were walking through the entrance of the hotel we spied people in the adjoining restaurant eating some pretty tasty looking seafood platters. We found a table, ordered a bottle of pinot grigio, a seafood platter & a green salad. A perfect supper to end a wonderful long weekend of eating, drinking & wandering.

There were also a few cafes & restaurants I visited that are definitely worth the mention;

Cochon
Without a doubt, the best pulled pork I’d ever had. I would come back to New Orleans just for this restaurant.

Satsuma Cafe (Dauphine St)
Fresh sandwiches & brunches in a funky cafe next to a couple of old school junk shops. Perfect Sunday lunch spot.

Merchant
Every morning at 7am we’d cross Canal Street, braving the smells of the night before to get our morning coffee fix at Merchant. Not once did it disappoint.

Gin and Tonic

When I’m on holidays I love to take a break at about 5 or 6pm & stop at a nice bar somewhere for a drink, which more often than not, is a gin & tonic.

I’m a bit energetic when I travel & try to cram as much as possible into each day, so for me, it’s a nice way of relaxing & thinking about everything that I’ve seen or done that day.

Which brings me to Gin & Tonics in Barcelona…

I never in my life expected to enjoy my evening holiday ritual as much as I have in Barcelona.

First off, there’s the ordering. Some of the restaurants/bars I’ve been to this week have a gin & tonic menu. You select the gin you want & sometimes the type of tonic water too. I guess you can pick the gin you want back home, but it’s not formalised in a specialised gin & tonic menu so it’s just not as nice, as it is here in Barcelona.

Then they bring a glass (the bar staff will pick the appropriate garnish for you – cucumber with Hendricks, lemon with Bombay, citrus & mint with Tanqueray 10) to your table, along with the bottle of gin & bottle of tonic. They (generously) pour the gin & tonic in front of you at your table & then leave you to enjoy your drink.

It may seem strange that I’m so excited by something so relatively simple but it’s so nice that some of the bars here seem to have a similar sense of ritual that I do about this drink.

Tiramisu

At the end of 2008 I travelled to Germany to visit some friends of mine, Per & Carol. Per & Carol showed me around in Germany & we travelled to Vienna & Paris. We saw so many beautiful places & yet one of my most vivid memories is of a friend’s Tiramisu.

One day we went on a day trip to the castles of the Black Forest, with a couple of Per & Carol’s friends, Massimo & Stefania. The sky was clear & the sun was out but it was bitterly cold. We spent most of the day getting lost in the hills looking for the castles, in the end I think we only visited two. We ended up back at Massimo & Stefania’s apartment for dinner. Dinner was nice, a walnut pasta I think, but what I really remember is the dessert. Massimo had made two full trays of Tiramisu for us to eat. We ate maybe half of one tray for dessert & we were full. Massimo insisted we take the other tray home with us for later, we tried to argue that we had to catch the train to Paris the next morning. He insisted we take it anyway, telling us it would make for the best breakfast we’d ever had.

He was right. I still remember standing next to Per & Carol’s fridge at 6am scofffing Tiramisu, before heading off to catch the train to Paris.

To this day that was the best Tiramisu I’d ever had. The sponge was moist, but not soggy. There was a clear coffee flavour, but it wasn’t overpowering. This was helped by the fact that it was alcohol free. The marscapone was soft & light & fluffy. I’ve been searching for a recipie that comes close ever since.

This Gourmet Traveller recipe for Tiramisu did come close. It does use a small amount of booze, (Marsala), which I halved. That worked quite well, you still had the flavour from the Marsala but without the sting of the alcohol. I used store bought sponge fingers instead of the ‘make-your-own’ variety, but that’s mostly because I was lazy.

I may never find a recipe that produces the same Tiramisu & if I did I’d probably be disappointed because the moment would be lost. But this one came pretty close.