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Will visitors like taste of Utah?

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It's always interesting to see how out-of-town writers perceive your hometown. I am not overly worried about our "image." I've visited enough spots around the globe to know that Utah is certainly not the weirdest place on the planet. We have a range of restaurant cuisine to fit all wallets.

Many major newspapers and magazines are doing Olympic stories on Utah's culinary scene. I've gotten e-mails from several food writers around the country asking for restaurant recommendations and for information on traditional Utah foods. So I've enjoyed comparing some of the resulting articles.

OK, it's not quite the cover of Rolling Stone, as the old song goes, but those who were featured should be proud.

In its January 2002 issue, Gourmet Magazine says that Salt Lake City's "splendid isolation" has "produced a food culture as idiosyncratic as any in America." It also declares that "sugar has come to reign as the stimulant of choice," since the Mormon population discourages caffeine, alcohol and tobacco.

The sugar-filled pastry and ice cream eateries featured include Snelgrove Ice Cream Parlor, the coffee-shop counter at Little America, Scandia Kaffe House, Mrs. Backer's Pastry Shop, the Iceberg Drive-Inn and Hires Big H. No, they didn't get into the Jell-O thing, but they did mention that Hires Big H onion rings are "served with another local wrinkle: 'fry sauce,' an amalgam of mayonnaise, ketchup and who-knows-what secret ingredients."

The author, Alison Cook, goes on to mention some of the city's "holes-in-the-wall, venerable standards and out-of-the-way spots," such as Lamb's Grill Cafe, where "time seems suspended." She also notes that Salt Lake City has a vibrant ethnic dining scene and talks about "an unpromising-looking Chinese place with the poetic name of Little World." Granato's Deli "constructs unusually fine sandwiches," and "the funky little Red Iguana" dishes out "the perfect antidotes to cold weather." Casa Sanchez is lauded for its "stout breakfasts." Her favorite, she said, is Navajo Hogan's Navajo taco, which, she writes, is the progenitor of Mormon scones.

Hometown Cooking, a magazine published by the Meredith Corp., bypassed restaurants and did a spread on Dutch-oven cooking, featuring the International Dutch Oven Society's 2002 Winter Games Cookbook. (I know you're going to ask — it's available at retail outlets for Lodge Dutch ovens.) Kent Mayberry, Gerry Duffin, Rosa Sanchez and Ruth Kendrick are some of the local cooks featured, along with Dutch oven recipes for Chili Verde and French Pot Roast.

Bryan Miller's article in the Jan. 6 New York Times says that Salt Lake City "is surpassed in quality and variety" by the restaurants of Park City. Those that he featured were Glitretind at Stein Eriksen Lodge, Zoom, Riverhorse Cafe, Wasatch Brew Pub, Chimayo, Grappa, The Stew Pot and Lakota. (I know, I know, he was eating on an expense account. . . . )

A separate, smaller article (in the newspaper business we call it a "sidebar") featured positive reviews of six Salt Lake City restaurants: Metropolitan, Fresco Italian Cafe, Red Iguana, Market Street Grill, Log Haven Restaurant and W.H. Brumby's.

Tom Sietsema, the food critic for the Washington Post, wrote that "the U.S. city with the highest consumption of Jell-O per capita and something of a fetish for ketchup isn't known for its memorable menus." He did, however, give favorable reviews to The Globe By Moonlight, Metropolitan and Third West Bistro.

Each of the writers saw us differently, and I'm sure we'll see more "Utah cuisine" stories in the next little while. It will be fun to see how we're perceived.


E-MAIL: vphillips@desnews.com