salt lake city – day 1

we woke friday morning to a sliver of sunlight sneaking in through the curtains.  we were in luck with beautiful weather that weekend, a great thing considering there was snow back home in atlanta.  sorry, folks!

we freshened up in the suite and rode the elevator down to the lobby.  we had some ideas of where to go and what to do, but we swung by the front desk for a little direction.  we ended up chatting with geoff for about twenty minutes as he gave us the inside scoop of salt lake.  he even helped us out with a local city map!

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after taking up plenty of his time, geoff wished us well as we started out into the morning, heading east on 600 south and then hanging a left onto main.  our destination was apple spice cafe and bakery for some sustenance, and after pushing through the revolving doors and riding the escalator to the second floor, there we were.  the restaurant was completely empty, but seeing as how it’s located in the wells fargo business building, i guess that makes sense that time of day.

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we were warmly greeted by the cashier as we browsed the menu.  but, shoot!  we had just missed breakfast by about ten minutes.  whoops!  i guess we’ll be eating an early lunch then!  we stared down the menu a few minutes more, for we’d both been looking forward to a hot plate of eggs and a mug of coffee.  oh well.  part of being spontaneous is about being flexible, so we just rolled with it.

kyle had the soup and sandwich pairing.  the tomato basil soup was fresh and perfectly warmed when it was served.  he gladly dipped into it the half ham sandwich, a pretzel roll topped with cured ham, havarti cheese, greenleaf lettuce, and their signature sauce.  it was a solid meal, not too filling but not too light.

i also went with a combination meal because it’s not often a half sandwich/half salad plate steers me wrong.  per the cashier’s recommendation, i tried the pomegranate salad.  at first it sounded a little too summery, but seeing as how it was nearly 50 degrees and gorgeous outside, it actually seemed quite appropriate.  the half size serving was very generous and very flavorful.  the poppyseed dressing was light and slightly tangy, complementing the pomegranate seeds, roasted turkey, and candied pecans nicely.  i scarfed it down quickly.

pomegranate salad.

pomegranate salad.

next up was the blt santa fe.  i love blt’s, and with sprouts, avocado, and bbq ranch, it looked like it could be a winner.  unfortunately, it didn’t wow me like i thought it would.  i liked each ingredient on there, but altogether it wasn’t my favorite.

blt santa fe.

blt santa fe.

as we munched away our meals, we basked in the bright blue skies and welcoming temperature.  the sun warmed by back as we dined on their patio, a pleasant start to what would be a truly great day.

the kessie girl.

the kessie girl.

after fueling up, we headed towards the uta courthouse stop, for where we needed to go next was certainly not within walking distance.  geoff had told us to grab the red line, so we set off to do just that.  we walked up to the ticket kiosk and each paid for a roundtrip since we’d be coming back eventually.  the system seemed straightforward until we got off the train up at the stadium stop.  we were quite unsure what to do with the tickets, for we didn’t have to present them to anyone or anything before exiting.  they do have little scan stands, but it appears the whole process is based on the honor system.  it’s a cool thing if that is the case; we were just a bit thrown because in a town like atlanta, they’ll tackle you if you try to evade your fare.  regardless, we were at the very edge of the university of utah campus, all in one piece at that!

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through the stadium parking lot we walked to see the torch structure from the 2002 winter olympics.  although it’s not quite as grand as the atlanta torch, it was still a very, very cool thing to see, and against the clear utah sky, it looked majestic in its own right.  i can only imagine how pretty it is when lit at night.

since we were already up there, we figured we’d tour the campus.  why not!  we stuck mainly to the south campus area; utah is very spread out, kind of like athens.  their buildings and winding sidewalks even remind me of the older parts of north campus at uga.  as students brushed past us to hurry to class, i couldn’t help but take a personal trip down memory lane.  i’ve been graduated nearly five years now, and it seems just like yesterday that i was trekking from brumby to bolton for some crispy chicken patties smothered in provolone cheese.  mm, those were the days!

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i was in desperate need of some ute swag, so we popped in the bookstore.  i could easily have purchased an entire university of utah outfit that would cover me head to toe, but i kept it simple with a refrigerator magnet.  cheaper, usable, and less clutter, for the Lord knows my closet is already bursting at the seams.  i think it will look rather nice against the stainless steel, yes?

i was ready to rest my traveling feet for a few, but before we could do that, we spotted the utah “u” statue and just had to snap some pictures.  we just couldn’t resist!  oh, and if we hadn’t looked like tourists already, these moments did us in for it.

we saw the university union straight ahead and figured we’d surely find some place in there to relax.  in fact, we were right on the money.  the union was bustling with students and staff who were taking an afternoon break for lunch.  we found ourselves a table and kicked back, taking in the distant yet familiar goings-on of college life.  most folks were heads-down in their books while others were catching up with classmates, probably avoiding work that needed to be done desperately.  a table of professors was right behind me; they discussed philosophy and the purpose of being over tuna sandwiches and clementines.  oh, how it all takes me back!

after our quick recharge, we took the red line back down into the city, hopping off at courthouse and heading south a couple blocks to arrive at les madeleines patisserie cafe.  we were determined to find a cake bakery while in town in honor of a strange yet hilarious inside story from our uga days, and les madeleines is what kyle had found in his pre-trip research.

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we walked on in, and the place was as cute as could be.  the space was roomy and simple without sacrificing character.  i was instantly in like with it and couldn’t wait to find a treat to impress me even more.

we approached the bakery case, and after taking a couple looks over the selection, i wasn’t really thrilled.  i know, a little unexpected.  i was wanting cakes and cupcakes, but the focus here at les madeleines clearly is more on tarts and danishes and small sweets.  nothing was really catching my eye, but we couldn’t leave without ordering something, so we decided on a small cafe and ro’eo for me and then a medium coffee and ro’eo for kyle.  i paid the cashier, grabbed our bags and cups, and claimed a table.

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despite the fact that i wasn’t having cake as i had hoped, i still enjoyed my les madeleines visit.  first of all, my latte was, i recall commenting, damn good.  i added the tiniest bit of sugar to this perfectly frothy and silky drink.  after guzzling down the last drop, i immediately wish i had ordered a large.

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we then gave the ro’eo a try, two dark chocolate wafers filled with dulce de leche creme.  kyle had his first, taking each bite to exactly describe it to me.  it was a classic blogging moment, and i loved every second of it!  the chocolate cookie crumbled perfectly, he said.  you didn’t have to use your strong molars to really get a good bite.  the dulce de leche filling was rich and distinct but not too sweet in between the wafers, and the cookie to filling ratio was just perfect.  to quote kyle, “if you put ten of them right in front of me, i’d probably eat them all.  they ‘fo ‘sho were worth the dollar and half we paid.”

after a review like that, i couldn’t wait to bite into mine.  although i liked the cookie altogether, i wasn’t nearly as over the moon about it as kyle was.  the dulce de leche filling is probably what saved it for me, for i felt the wafer was slightly bitter in flavor and a bit chalky in texture.  all in all, if i ever come back to les madeleines, i’ll try a new treat alongside my delectable cafe latte.  yes, i think that’s exactly what would happen.

next on the itinerary was a visit to the public library.  i know, it might sound a little bland, but geoff insisted we go, assuring us we wouldn’t be disappointed.  since he hadn’t let us down yet, we stuck with his suggestion.

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before heading upstairs to the recommended attraction, we were gladly distracted by the where the wild things are exhibit.  this year celebrates 52 years for maurice sendak’s unconventional child’s tale, and the salt lake city library was excited to be a part of it.  down on the lower level were original illustrations from the book on display.  king max and his creative companions nearly come to life before you as you take in these whimsical works.  kyle has always loved where the wild things are, so it was a very special chance to see them up close.

after a couple rounds of the exhibit, we rode the elevators up to the fifth floor.  we needed roof access, and that’s where we would get it.  we pushed through the doors and into the open air, in awe of the mountain skyline waiting right there for us.  i’ve never really been around true mountains, and the ones that surround this valley city are just breathtaking.  it’s funny how they look just within arm’s reach, isn’t it?

we pulled out our phones to grab photos of this beautiful scenery.  i laughed when i thought to myself how they almost looked like a backdrop, perfectly draped right behind the most easternly homes.  i couldn’t get over how gorgeous the landscape was and how cool a thing it must be to see this every day as a local.  mm, it makes me smile just writing about it all.

we took the grand staircase back to ground level and began walking west.  we’d eaten lunch a tad early, and even though two o’clock might not be a normal vegging hour, we were ready for some more local eating.  kyle led us to r&r bbq off of 600 south and 300 west, and, to cut all the suspense now, it was an excellent find.

r&r claimed the top spot as utah’s best competition bbq team and with that, they opened their restaurant.  their food is cooked slowly and takes time, but that’s what makes it so damn delicious, and that’s why people have helped make them a greater success than they probably could have imagined.  they are known all over the city and state for their ribs and brisket, receiving rave reviews from local foodies and festivals alike.  they have a loyal following that just might make you a believer in bbq outside of the south.

well, with a story like that, aren’t you ready to find out how it was?  that’s what i thought.  kyle saw that the friday special was brunswick stew, and he knew his decision had been made.  kyle is a brunswick stew fanatic, so whenever he can order it, he will.  he paired his mid-afternoon meal with a golden spike hefeweizen from the local uinta brewing company.  besides looking adorable in its chubby little bottle, it was a clean and straight forward brew.  good, hefe!

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the brunswick stew came out quickly and, sweet Jesus, you would think he’d ordered the family size.  it looked to be nearly a quart of stew!  r&r’s version of this classic was hearty, full of vegetables, and piping hot.  he may have not finished it all there at the restaurant, but kyle did not hesitate in asking for a to-go-container.  cannot let a good thing to to waste!

everything on the menu is mouthwatering, but after asking one of the chefs for his opinion, i ended up with the single meat plate, a heap of brisket with mac’n’cheese and hushpuppies on the side.  that little plastic basket had some weight to it, and as i carried it to the table, i hoped it would taste as great as it smelled.

brisket plate with mac'n'cheese & hushpuppies.

brisket plate with mac’n’cheese & hushpuppies.

i started with the hushpuppies, excited for a traditional southern treat.  the first bite was a bit dry and bland, so i tried the next bite with a little bbq sauce.  for me, unfortunately, nothing could save this side dish from its average calling.  kyle liked it much more than me, but next time i’d probably opt to try something else.  maybe the fried okra?  mm, now that sounds right.

the mac’n’cheese was my next target, and i’ll simply say it was outstanding.  it was all kinds of gooey in that homemade sauce.  thank goodness i have a little self respect; otherwise, i would have ordered a pan of it to eat later at the hotel.

okay, i know the anticipation is killing you.  we have come to the portion of this blog post where i tell you all about the brisket that changed our lives forever.  i speared a forkful, very aware of the tender fat and crunchy, chewy, outer layer.  you cannot see it so well in this photo, but the smoke ring is evident as well.  the brisket melted in my mouth, its simple flavors showcasing how exquisitely cooked the meat was.  i demanded kyle try it also (there was plenty to share), and with his first taste, it looked like he was having an out-of-body experience.  he proclaimed, “this is how brisket should be done,” that it was “slap your grandmama good.”  although i may not have described it with those exact words, i couldn’t agree more.  r&r bbq is a place that would, without doubt, regularly have my patronage.  well done!

BRISKET.

BRISKET.

we sidled out of r&r ready for a little downtime.  back to the hotel, up to the ninth floor, and into our room we went.  i had just enough time for a quick power nap and then began getting ready.  getting ready?  getting ready for what, kelsey?  the bleachers concert, that’s what!  they are one of my favorite bands right now, and considering they don’t appear to be touring in atlanta, i figured a destination concert to a new city would be hella fun.  this concert is what prompted the trip in the first place, and i was thrilled it was finally here.

i hustled downstairs and was pleasantly surprised to see that a couple was also taking the courtesy shuttle over to the venue.  i introduced myself and promptly asked them if i could hang out with them during the show.  kyle isn’t a bleachers fan, but i didn’t want that to stop me from seeing them in concert.  randi and conner (whose names i am probably spelling incorrectly – sorry, you two!) gladly took me under their wing for the rest of the night.

when we were dropped off at in the venue, i was suddenly very glad i was with them.  although it didn’t look totally unsafe, the area didn’t look completely safe either.  we emptied our pockets, showed our bags, and got through the front doors without too much trouble.  phew!  we had just a few minutes before the first opening act came on, so we flashed our ids and made our way to the bar.  my $6.50 7&7 wasn’t really strong at all, but it was the perfect taste i was wanting to get the night started.  i closed my tab and followed randi and conner upstairs to the balcony.  we didn’t want to be a part of the mosh scene that night, so we figured an upper seat might be alright.  it turns out the balcony was the perfect place to be.  we could see the crowd going wild as the band rocked out on stage, having the time of their lives.  they opened with “wild heart” and closed with the energetic “i wanna get better.”  they even threw “like a river runs” in at the beginning, and i was in music bliss.  there’s something about the beat of a drum that just gets my heart going, and i could not have had a better time.

and if you need a little bleachers fix, check out their latest radio single here in “rollercoaster.”

the night was still a bit young, so randi, conner, and i set out to meet up with kyle, billy, and hope.  billy and hope had gotten in town while i was at the concert.  i could hardly wait to see them, so we took a short mile walk over to btg wine bar.  none of them were surprised i had made new friends while at the show, and we all got along swimmingly once there.

the other three had already eaten at a restaurant next door, so the rest of us grabbed some small bites to tide us over for the evening.  i had the shrimp scampi with a couple glasses of vietti, 2012.  the wine was an excellent recommendation from the waiter, and i easily could have eaten a bowl two or three times the size of the one served for the shrimp.  we waned into the late hours of the night and finally strolled home to the hotel.  salt lake was a great hostess for day 1, and you can bet we were looking forward to day 2.

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