Hello Salt Lake City!
Here is my July 2012 story in The Improper Bostonian
Desert Flower: Salt Lake City is an oasis of culture and cuisine.
BY VICTORIA ABBOTT RICCARDI
Thanks to an influx of energetic, forward-thinking hipsters, Utah’s Salt Lake City—famous for hosting the 2002 Winter Olympics and headquartering the Mormon religion—has become a magnet for visitors looking for outdoor fun in a stunning natural setting. Funky neighborhoods, fine dining and charming watering holes liven up the scene, which in the warmer months hums with a different, but equally vibrant, excitement than during ski season.
A convenient base is the Grand America Hotel, a Five Diamond retreat only 10 minutes from Salt Lake City International Airport yet within easy walking distance to many of the big attractions. Reminiscent of an inflated Italian villa, the hotel sports landscaped parterre gardens, a secluded outdoor pool, fitness center and plush rooms with English wool carpets, Italian marble bathrooms and views overlooking the Wasatch and Oquirrh mountain ranges. On premise are several outstanding shops, including an enchanting toy store and a Parisian pastry shop filled with scrumptious fruit tarts, macarons and tortes.
To jump start your relaxation, begin your escape in the hotel’s Grand Spa for a hot stone massage, or find liquid relief in the Lobby Lounge with a taste of local High West whiskey (yes, there are distilleries in Mormon country). You can savor an elegant dinner at the hotel’s Garden Café, but options abound.
Like many cities, Utah’s capital has hopped on the locavore bandwagon, now exhibited in spots like Pago, Forage Restaurant and the Farm at Canyons. Executive chef Nathan Powers, a culinary transplant from Bambara Restaurant & Bar in Cambridge, now runs Bambara Restaurant in Salt Lake City, an edgy, modern American bistro awash in black and white and housed in the former lobby of the 1924 Continental Bank. In addition to an inspired corn bisque with Jonah crab, he prepares full-throttle meat dishes, like bacon-wrapped pork tenderloin and balsamic-glazed pork ribs with seared escarole, cheddar chili grits and garlic chimichurri. Another happening place is the downtown Squatters Pubs & Beers, where you’ll find more varieties of house-crafted ales, lagers and stouts than you can safely guzzle. Order a tasting flight to get a feel for your favorites, then round it out with refined pub fare like an ahi tuna spring roll salad.
For those looking to add more cerebral stops to their itinerary, visit the new Natural History Museum of Utah, a sleek, copper-clad building whose golden-red shimmer melts into the backdrop of the nearby hills. Highlights of the collection include the native nations of Utah exhibit and a jaw-dropping collection of dinosaurs reconstructed from real bones. Also worth visiting is the Leonardo in Library Square, a science, tech and art museum filled with exhibits on subjects like the cultural, spiritual significance of water and a show that examines creative texts to explore the fabricated history of the 20th century.