Wednesday, July 15, 2009

On the Road Again - Post 3

Today featured a leisurely drive from southern Utah to Montpelier, Idaho, and a world-class BLT.

I feel silly waxing rhapsodic about a sandwich within 24 hours after extolling the geologic splendor of Bryce Canyon, but there you have it.

The Roadfood people note in their rave review of Hire's Big H in Salt Lake City that the BLT is "an unassuming masterpiece." "Deceptively simple" would be a better descriptor than "unassuming," but the sandwich is indeed a masterpiece.

To clarify - and for the benefit of any chefs who decide to embark on the assembly of a truly great bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwich - here are the essential elements:

--First and foremost, the bacon must be cooked to order and only slightly cooled. None of that bendy, glutinous, after-the-fact garbage; the BLT can only reach perfection when the bacon is freshly cooked, crisp and still warm.

--The tomatoes must be ripe, red, cold and sliced about the width of a pinkie finger.

--The lettuce may be leafed (my preference) or torn into bite-sized pieces, but it must be fresh, crisp and cold.

--The mayonnaise must be the real deal - smooth, creamy and white. Nothing ecru or goopy or filled with chemicals. There must be enough for a teardrop or two to squeeze out while you eat, but not so much that the sandwich sobs.

--Finally, and nearly as important as the bacon, is the bread. Nothing multigrain or sourdough or crusty or fancy in any way. The bread must be white bread, but not, I hasten to add, some soft doughy tasteless abomination. It should be white bread like someone's grandmother from the old country makes - substantial and full of natural flavor - and it should be toasted to a lovely nut brown on both sides. Oh, and there should be only 2 slices of it, both slightly thicker than the tomato slices. This is not some starchy monstrosity we're building; it's an exquisite assembly that someone will still be marveling over hours, possibly days, later.

I think I can tear myself away from blissful contemplation of the BLT long enough to describe the beauties of the drive north. Salt Lake City is always a bit of a production to get out of, what with the traffic and the road construction, but we left before serious rush hour began, so it didn't take us too long to find ourselves in the gorgeous green serenity of northern Utah and southeastern Idaho.

This topography is one of rolling hills, except here the hills rise 2500 feet or more from the roadway, which is itself around 6000 feet above sea level. The air is fresh, pure and semi-arid (no humidity and no frizzing of curly hair). The temperature is in the 70s. The mountains are the gentle, angle-of-repose slopes carved by receding glaciers; with their rounded fissures and cracks, they always look to me like the gigantic paws of colossal animals at rest.

The whole landscape, in fact, looks like the purview of titans. The scale is vast. No crowding escarpments here. The mountains hang back, like quietly self-confident hosts who know they need not assert themselves to be noticed.

These mountains are densely blanketed in green, from scrub to shrubs to small rounded trees to sentinel-straight ranks of evergreens. It's amazing how many shades of green there are. A few white or yellow wildflowers and some purple shrubs also stud the carpeted slopes, but the overall effect is of a thousand shades of green, from sage to lime to loden and everything in between.

Just before Utah gives over to Idaho, the road opens onto the breathtaking vista of Bear Lake. Its vast acres of cobalt blue water fringed by dark-green-cloaked mountains are impossible to capture photographically (at least by me), but it leaves a mental imprint that cannot be forgotten.

About 30 miles later, we're in Montpelier. There's nothing much there, but after last year's Death March to Bataan drive from Salt Lake City to Yellowstone, we decided to take it easy on this trip. Our destination is the Grand Tetons (missed last year due to said Death March), but tomorrow is soon enough to get there.

I'm a snob where big city hotels are concerned, but on the road I require nothing more in a place to stay than cleanliness, blackout shades, air conditioning, and the delivery by both the bed and the shower of firm pressure. The Clover Creek Inn offers all this, plus the added luxuries of friendly staff, high-speed internet access, a profusion of pillows, and towels a step above typical motel fare. We reconnect briefly with the outside world, then sleep like babies.

One last thing: It seems important to mention that we ate no potatoes in Idaho, a mistake we intend to rectify the next time through.


kernowtr1 said...

Agree with your 'essential elements' of the BLT.

'On the road again' is definitely mind kind of journey. I have not seen the USA other than Florida. We gave my two boys the treat of Disneyworld in May this year. What a time they (and we) had.

Would love to see the rest of it especially areas that you are describing.

Thanks for sharing.


kimberly salem said...

Just reading through your travel posts now, lovely photos! I really need to do some traveling out west, maybe next year :)

My mom has her own views of the BLT... when ordering, she has to describe the bacon as "mutilated" to get it well done enough for her taste ;) Also, mayo on the side so the bread doesn't get soggy while eating the first half of the sandwich!

Nora Lumiere said...

Lovely travel post..
I like this: "delivery by both the bed and the shower of firm pressure."
What with the water conservation here in SoCal, a shower is like being spat upon by llamas and a hard bed is practically impossible to find, but does wonders for the back.

Kate @ Savour Fare said...

Ah, see, I think a BLT only reaches its zenith on Multigrain toast. White bread is too bland -- doesn't stand up to the flavor. A perfect BLT has crisp but not crunchy bacon, home grown tomatoes, romaine lettuce, real mayonnaise (Trader Joe's is my current brand of choice), salt, pepper and multigrain toast. But there is something even better than a BLT -- a BLAT which adds creamy smooth Hass avocados to the mix. It's bliss on toast. Of course, what with the bacon, mayo and avocados I sometimes call this a "fat sandwich."