Eat: Hells Backbone Grill
Play: Two meals in a row!
Ramble on: Hwy 12
Ramblin’: Why do we have to call chef’s “Chef” ?
If there was ever a town with two faces, Boulder would certainly top the list. Not that Boulder; I’m referring to the one in Utah. With a population under 250, there are barely enough souls to claim a single identity, never mind suffer from multiple personalities.
Standing in glaring contrast to the deep rock chasms of the Escalante River, climbing up a narrow hogsback of a highway beginning near red rock country near Bryce Canyon is Boulder, a hamlet of farmlands and alpine peaks with aspen and pine trees. Perched at a sharp 90 degree turn in the road is a the Hells Backbone Grill.
On the grounds of the Boulder Mountain Inn, an idyllic retreat with sprawling lawns, ponds and stately accommodations, sits the Grill that can be best described as a destination dining. Hells Backbone, aptly named for a hardy mail route of the turn of the century serves as the namesake for this heavenly retreat. Are you picking up on the rule of opposites here?
Amidst 100 degree heat, we chose to sit on the pond-side patio aspen leaves framing the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument. The tall glass of ice water with fresh picked mint springs, topped with Bachelor Button pedals was a cool way to start our meal. Boulder sits at over 6,500 ft, however, and we soon needed sweaters – and a bottle of red wine. There’s that contrast again.
On to the food:
I’d call the warm goat cheese and fondue a signature dish, but after talking to several friends who have dined here and reading their cookbook, the whole menu should qualify as a signature dish. Accompanied with fresh strawberries, homemade bread and apples the warm goat cheese fondue is a heavy starter, but worth every bite. The basket of warm muffins provided a few extra dips into the last bits of cheese browning from the candle underneath.
The house salad was a lighter choice to bridge our meal from fondue to entrée. Featuring local and fresh vegetables and lettuce, plus a crisp vinaigrette, our taste buds really jumped with this course. The desert soil and extreme temperatures can make for really difficult growing conditions, but the Grill strives to source their food locally – typically on-site. Nearly every item on the menu can from either the grounds we were on or local farms and ranches.
For entrees we chose the Spicy Cowgirl Chipotle Meatloaf and the Braised Local Beef. We really, I mean REALLY, wanted to go for the Hopi Style Lamb, but they were out of the sauce that accompanies the dish and well, you know how chefs are. We have to call them “chef” as one may call a doctor by title and they aren’t exactly open to suggestion: so that was off the menu for the night. It’s not like your second choice on this menu is going to be a miss, though. Your tenth choice would be a win here. In fact, I’d sign up in a heartbeat to do a chef’s tasting menu if one was offered. I’d even call the chef, “Chef.”
A southwestern flair can be seen on most dishes on the menu, and these two entrees are screaming examples of that. The smoky chipotle flavor worked with the moist meatloaf, while the lemony mashed potatoes and polenta accompanied perfectly. Snap peas and other organic veggies provided color and texture to the dish.
The braised beef is what Mom wishes her stew was. It’s almost an insult to even call this a stew. Falling apart with just a touch of the fork, full of flavor, juices mingling with polenta. Wow. Just wow.
If there was room left for dessert, which there always is, the Panna Cotta, topped with more flower petals picked just off the patio should have been enough for us. But, alas, this is a destination dining and we did not know when we would return. So, we found room for those last few bites and the nearest flat ground to pitch a tent so we could return for breakfast the following morning.