Thanks to Blake and Jen for all their awesome work. Also thanks to Sara Ventiera (a new food and travel writer for us to follow!) and her colleagues at National Public Radio (USA) for keeping us connected to such heroics:
Standing between peach and cherry trees on her 6.5-acre Utah farm, Blake Spalding points to the Kaiparowits Plateau. The looming bluff is dotted with thousand-year-old pinyon pine and juniper trees.
“That is one of the areas they’re hoping to mine,” she tells a group of visiting chefs from Salt Lake City. “It’s full of dinosaur fossils and more than 650 documented species of wild bees.”
Nearly 20 years ago, Spalding and her business partner, Jen Castle, founded Hell’s Backbone Grill in Boulder, Utah, on the edge of the then-newly designated Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, about 250 miles south of Salt Lake City. The remote and sustainable restaurant has become a destination for culinary travelers seeking a taste of its terroir-driven fare. It’s an amalgam of Mormon pioneer, Western range cowboy and traditional Southwest flavors, like juniper lamb posole or grilled pork chops with Boulder crabapple barbecue sauce.
But now the monument’s untrammeled wilderness — marked by dreamy red rock arches, twisted riverbed canyons and vast panoramas that span from rainbow-colored buttes to snow-capped peaks — is under threat. So is Spalding and Castle’s acclaimed restaurant.
The same week that the two restaurateurs released their long-anticipated cookbook, This Immeasurable Place, which they call a love letter to the Grand Staircase-Escalante, the Trump administration announced it was reducing the nearly 2 million-acre national monument by more than half.
Lost in the headlines about the proposed changes to Utah’s public lands are small players like Spalding and Castle, who both support and have been supported by the monument, building a culturally significant business in the harsh high desert.
“Jen and I envisioned creating a warm hearth for people going into a genuine wilderness experience, and a place for them when they return from what we hope will be a transformational experience,” says Spalding. “Everything else came out of that.”…
Read the whole story here.