I grabbed a wet towelette and wiped the red dirt off my face and neck from hiking through Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument area. This was my shower in a pinch, because we were on our way to dinner at Hell’s Backbone Grill in Boulder, Utah Hell’s Backbone Grill in Boulder, Utah. IIt was the beginning of summer, and the weather was hot and dry. Despite the heat, I was giddy with excitement and anticipation, because Hell’s Backbone Grill has been on my bucket list for years. The restaurant is “farm to table” to its core. The restaurant owners’ mission is to use fresh, seasonal ingredients that are sustainably produced from their own farm. In addition, they have received many awards for their exceptional cuisine.
Eight close friends joined me for this epic meal. When we arrived, the sun was setting, casting a golden glow on the yurt-shaped restaurant that is nestled between a large, open-grass field and the Boulder Mountain Lodge. As I opened the screen door to the restaurant, a friendly hostess and Blake Spalding, one of the two owners, greeted all of us. I professed to Blake my admiration for their farm-to-table mission and my enthusiasm for our upcoming meal. To my utter delight, Blake responded by offering to take us on a tour of her farm the next day. (Read about our trip, Farming at Hell’s Backbone.) It was a great treat to eat fresh food and to see the food from the farm to the table. There was effort and love put into the food.
We were seated at a long, welcoming wood table. The décor was simple but eclectic with old colanders used as shades for the lights. We began our meal with a few small plates, which included Zuni sweet potato skillet cakes and steamed and spiced whole artichoke. My friends and I ordered all different entrées, which were passed around the table to share. I had the grilled pork tenderloin with local stonefruit barbecue sauce, organic vegetables, and lemony mashed potatoes. The pork was tender and juicy; the barbecue sauce was tangy and spicy with hints of vinegar and chili, and the lemony mashed potatoes complemented it all.
Each dish that we passed around the table was flavorful and fresh. The recipes were a unique a twist on a traditional meals, like meat loaf, mac and cheese, chicken, steak. The dinner jenchilada, named after the other owner, Jennifer Castel, was a highlight of the entrées, because it had everything you want in a bite of food. It was served with either organic chicken or farm-fresh pumpkin that is rolled with blue corn tortillas. The dish was baked with organic vegetables and pueblo brown rice pilaf, and it was served with a spicy, sweet corn habanero cream sauce. The enchilada was sweet, salty, and spicy—a perfect flavor combo. We ended with dessert that included chile cream pot, which was chocolate custard with Chimayo chile, and strawberry short cake, which was topped with fresh whipped cream.
My friends and I discussed the food flavors, our beautiful surroundings, and life, over a bottle of wine late into the night. It was a perfect meal, which ended a perfect day. The entire experience validated my love for both food and Utah.