Tuesday, September 1, 2015


Some Shit:

Well this is interesting, isn't it?

Change is on the horizon.

Susie Davidson Powell's reviews - as entertaining as they can be - tend to be just as much about her as they are about wherever she dined 

Steve forgot to mention that the two varieties of oysters on our tower do not include Gold Bands (frozen garbage) or Blue Points (just garbage) - like some of the others mentioned do.

Troy politics are so fucked

Troy parking is so fucked

Daniel, I hate to burst your bubble...but we have served Mac & Cheese. The catch is that it was actually good.

The best tamale I have ever had I bought off of a random guy at a Walmart Parking lot in Bakersfield, CA.

Writing inscriptions on my plates in chocolate will be the reason I leave this industry. 

Its easy to share a statistic. Its not easy to cite the source. 

Any time I cut a corner or don't do something as well as I would like and still go with it, someone I care about or a VIP will come in and try whatever it is. Without fail. 

There is a lot more to food culture than restaurants. I wish I appreciated this sooner.

Susie Davidson Powell reviewed another restaurant that everyone already knows is a joke. What I cant wrap my head around is that she spent $530.83 on 2 salads, 2 apps, 3 entrees, 2 sides, 1 dessert, 5 drinks, 1 sparkling water and 20% gratuity. For $120 more,  J & I dined at Blue Hill at Stone Barns  - and had 5 cocktails, about 35 courses each, and left 20% gratuity. BH@SB is considered one of the best restaurants in North America (Currently #49 in the world) and it was a deeply moving and transformative experience dining there (more so than any other restaurant I have been to in the top 50). 

The Metrolands Best of Food & Drink came out. Best Vegan Bakery but no Best Bakery? What is wrong with this paper?

Chefs having photos taken of their baby in chefs whites is not cute, witty or original. 

Even though he (?) thinks The Shop is serving 'tasty and innovative fare', I sure would like to see more writing from Masticating Monkey 

The tone in Dominic's posts during track season was noticeably different that his non-track season posts.

While it is entirely possible that I am imagining it - I am pretty sure we are attracting the track crowd at the restaurant. I have seen a lot of orders and special requests that remind me of things I would see when I worked in downtown Saratoga. Its difficult to not be annoyed by this (even if its my imagination).

Lack of trust is exhausting.

Ive been buying all of my peaches from Yonder Farms (who I also have a fruit CSA with) - Its been a pleasure getting to know the people at their stand by HVCC.

The puppy started obedience school.

Kevin McCashion is witty, interesting, and often times hilarious - but I cannot follow him on twitter because he tweets way too much. 

I need to plan a trip to Mexico City. 

Rock & Rye Tavern in New Paltz is worth the drive, especially if you like cocktails

Gaskins in Germantown is worth the drive.

John Shields & Karen Urie Shields are opening a restaurant in Chicago later this year (or maybe next year). Town House remains the best restaurant meal of my life - and I have no doubt that this will be the most significant restaurant opening in the US in quite some time. 

I ran into Daniel while his kids were getting some soft serve at the Grocery. He said to me that the 'Word on the street is you guys are making your soft serve'. This is something that I would like to clarify. Currently we do not make our soft serve base from scratch. We purchase a soft serve base that is made by Crowley Dairy and then we flavor it in house. The traditional method here is to use extracts, syrups, emulsions that you can purchase from any number of sources to flavor these soft serve bases. We do not do this. We use real ingredients and flavor it from scratch. For example - most soft serve places would strictly use green tea extract to flavor their green tea soft serve. We used real green tea to flavor ours. We believe that this is giving us a superior product - but we are not making it from scratch. Furthermore - most places that claim to be making their soft serve from scratch are in fact using a pre made base that they flavor with extracts in house. Thats *most* places. You may wonder why we make our ice cream from scratch but not our soft serve - and also now recall you have seen a lot of ice cream places that make their hard pack but not soft serve. The answer is fairly complicated. Basically there are a whole new set of problems that arise because of the way soft serve is frozen, held, and served with its machine. These problems can be stability, whipping properties, flavor dispersion, maintenance of dryness and texture - but the single biggest problem is fat separation from thermal shock and agitation during the (repeated) freezing process. Because of these issues - soft serve is formulated much differently than traditional ice cream (which is typically spun and then held in deep freeze). Learning about this stuff is not easy - information is scarce and hard to find. Misinformation is everywhere. It is an on-going project for me and I hope that at some point we will be making our soft serve from scratch - but this may require me taking CE classes at a Dairy School such as Madison or Penn State. But until then - it will be made with the best stuff we can get our hands on and flavored with real ingredients.

Applying to jobs in different countries is exhilarating

Applying to jobs which you are not at all qualified for is exhilarating too

For a while now I have been wanting to write about the over-reliance on convenience products in restaurant kitchens - Ive started new drafts every week since June...but for whatever reason it s not flowing the way I want. Basic idea is almost all restaurants rely far too heavily on convenience products - even ones that say they don't or say they're entirely from scratch.

It can be difficult to categorize a convenience product. More accurately - it can be difficult to say if one is 'ok' or not. Think of it like this - is it okay to use peeled garlic instead of whole bulbs, which you break apart and peel yourself? What about frozen french fries? Frozen Bread? Pre-made sauces? Mayo? Nut-butters? Dried Pastas? Cheeses (or at least ones that are easily made in kitchens)? Sour cream - or any cultured diary products? Ice cream? Pre-cut or pre-fabricated meats? Pre-made sausage? Pickles? Where is the line drawn?  - For me its a balance between being truthful (which, again, most places are not) and being smart. Are you making a pasta recipe that traditionally uses dried pasta? It it logistically possible to mill your own grains? Do you have an ice cream machine? Ultimately - I just think you cant rely on them. If you suddenly were without them, would you still be able to put up your whole menu? Are you just too lazy to make a real aioli?

Pecks is - truthfully - the most 'from scratch' kitchen I have ever worked in. Not just in New York. We have a small handful of convenience products that we use in conjunction with everything else - but nothing takes center stage, nothing is done out of laziness or ineptitude - its all used reasonably and intelligently. All of us work at a fast pace every day to prep our menus from scratch. I will literally make everything on my menu every day I am there. There are much easier ways to do this work - but they all would sacrifice quality.

Peck's is also the only restaurant I have worked at in Upstate New York that refuses to order from Sysco - is willing to spend money on good ingredients - and actually cares about the source and quality of all the ingredients we use.

It always pays to try things back to back, so you can better understand the contrast in quality. Early on at Peck's I had a dessert with an orange sorbet on the menu. I knew that using fresh squeezed orange juice would be better than bottled. I decided to try making the sorbet with bottled juice to see if it was okay - and it was still very good. It wasn't until I made the sorbet again with fresh juice that I was able to compare it to the bottled - which, again, tasted very good with no other point of reference. When I was able to taste it next to the sorbet made from fresh squeezed juice - it tasted bitter, stale - and just awful. I have not used bottled orange juice for anything since. This can be applied to a lot more than just food.


'Vic is in the noodle zone' 

'Why are you moving to Arizona, did you kill someone?' - 'I wish'

'I bet you haven't shit today, I saw how much ricotta you ate'

Monday, July 20, 2015

Pretty Good Bread For (Normal) Restaurant Service

Some shit:

Classic example of the , 'Dentist has too many dinner guests suggest they open a restaurant' : Bread & Honey.

Maria did a wonderful job warning me about people like herself in her response to this AOA article

Not being able to sleep just one night really derails my entire week.

I average about 5 hours of sleep a night and (unfortunately) live on an enormous amount of coffee. This is not sustainable

There is a lot of internal conflict about accepting new projects when I already feel spread thin.

Our house bread today vs. when we opened - there is no comparison. Complacency will kill you in this industry.

I am honing in on a great biscuit recipe. Almost there. 

My garden is a sorry excuse of its former self.

I love my CSA. Thank you Daniel. We haven't tossed a single item yet. Triage, as you put it, is critical. 

I've always wished there was a 'New Pastry Chef Handbook' with all the little things that you need to know or wind up learning along the way. There are books that contain a lot of this information - but they always seem to be written for people who work in these mythical kitchens (hotels, very high end restaurants) that have every piece of equipment you can imagine. The reality is that most places you will work will be built for the hot side (where the majority of food sales come from) and the 'pastry department' will have to make due with whatever is available. Some places are better than others - but the sooner you realize things are not going to be ideal - the better off you will be.

A good example: You do not need a proof box for your dough - you just need to find someplace in your building this is warm and hopefully a little moist. For a while I would fire up the oven in the apartment over the wine bar, crack it open, and line up a few chairs in front of it, which I would put my trays of bread on. When the heat was turned off for the season this no longer worked - so I figured out how to rig our dishwasher to have its heating element on with the door open. I would then carefully stack (covered) trays of dough in it and they would proof beautifully. Then we got a new dish machine that turns off whenever the door is open. There was a short period of time where I proofed bread in the oven with just the pilot going - this took forever because I had to pull the proofed bread and then wait for the oven to get up to temperature, and often times the pilot gave off too much heat. Now I proof the bread in a dank little room in the basement that has our walk in condenser in it - so it is always warm and fairly moist. My point here is that there is always a way. Think outside the (proof) box. The better you are at adapting to each situation, the easier your life will be. 

Bread cooling in our garden

Baking bread for a restaurant can be a very daunting task. It requires a lot of intuition that really only comes from experience. Things like adjusting the recipe based on dough conditions. Too wet? Add flour. Too dry? Add water. Too cold? Ferment somewhere else. Its not proofing? Wait longer and maybe move it somewhere warmer. Things of this nature. Its also just a lot of work for something that is nearly always given away for free. When I started at Peck's, we talked a lot about our bread service and what we wanted it to be like. Up until that point, I had only done pop-overs (and at shittier places where I was not in charge, served thaw and serve bread) for bread service - so I had to figure out the systems that would need to be in place and how to get past the fact that we only have two conventional ovens (the same as what you have in your house). 

I was lucky that before 15 Church opened, I was in negotiations with Chef Jason to be their pastry chef - and took it upon myself to go stage at a friends restaurant in Chicago for a week - to learn her bread program. Her restaurant was also brand new and she had to figure everything out on her own. Even though I ultimately declined to work at 15 Church, the knowledge and skill I picked up during my stage proved to be very valuable.

Im still not 100% sure that I have everything down pat with our bread. There are days when I am dumbfounded by how the dough is behaving and what caused it to change. There are also days when I cannot believe how good it is. Ultimately I think I have come up with a bread program that is completely manageable - it adapts to your schedule (to some degree) - it requires very little work - and the product is without a doubt better than a lot of restaurants. Is it the best bread ever? Absolutely not. In fact there are very simple ways that I could improve it - but they all require purchasing new equipment...and the whole idea behind this bread is that it is practical to do at virtually any restaurant - without making any investments. We serve it room temperature - which Im not 100% convinced its good enough to do that - but its close. Its great warmed in the oven or toasted. 

So with that; here is my recipe and all relevant information for my 'House Bread', which we serve just about every day at Pecks. 

Yield: I make 12 loaves and then either play around with whats left, use it as a pate fermentee for the next dough, or portion it and freeze it for pizza dough. Ultimately you can get about 14 x 1# portions.

2903 g Water, Room Temperature (Troy's finest)
3870 g AP (I strictly use King Arthur AP (retail) or King Arthur Sir Galahad (food service) 
10 g Yeast (SAF Instant)
70 g Salt (Diamond Kosher)

Scale all of your ingredients. In a very large container (I use a...big Carlisle container...like what you mount your immersion circulator on) add your water. Follow with your flour, and then yeast. Lightly mix the yeast into the flour. Finally add your salt and begin mixing everything together. I like to use a bench scraper for this, but really anything works. The dough should come together as sort of a raggedy, kind-of-moist mass. All I really care about is that there are no excessively wet spots. Once it is together, wrap the container up and place in a warm spot to ferment for 18 hours.  Once 18 hours have passed, generously flour your workspace and turn the dough out. This is a relatively wet dough...so like I said, be generous with your bench flour.

Begin cutting the dough into roughly 453 g portions. Its ok if it stays within 10 grams in either direction.

Once dough is portioned, pre-shape each piece it into a rough boule by stretching the edges to the center in while rotating the dough:

1 dozen pre-shaped loaves
 Once your loaves are pre-shaped, give them all a final shape. I couldn't photograph this process because it required two hands but its easy to find online. This video is a little different than how I do it, but it gives you a good idea of the process. I typically hold the dough in my hands when I shape, rather than doing it directly on the bench, and I pinch the seam with the (pinky) sides of my palm.

Once the loaves are shaped, I place them on a sheet tray that is lined with two pieces of parchment paper, where the top layer of parchment is sprayed with pan spray. It is important to use two sheets of parchment and to spray the top layer (you'll see why in a second). You can fit 6 x 453 g loaves on a full size sheet tray.

I then cater wrap the tray, spraying the inside of the plastic wrap with pan spary - this prevents the plastic wrap from sticking to the loaves.

Look closely and you can see the pan spray
Once the loaves are wrapped, I put them in the cooler for 24 hours. This will slow down the fermentation and develop an enormous amount of flavor and - as far as I can tell it improves the texture of both the crust and crumb.

After 24 hours the bread is ready to bake. I pull them from the cooler and place them somewhere warm to proof. While they are proofing, I set up the oven. First thing is to put a cast iron skillet on the floor of the oven, which you will throw ice cubes in to create steam when you are baking the bread. I am not 100% convinced it is necessary when baking in this type of oven.. because the heat transfer is so crappy (so you don't get much spring...so no need to delay crust formation) - but...I do it anyway.

Next I take two sheet trays, flip them upside down, and put them onto the rack in the oven. This will be the 'hearth' that I bake on.

Once the oven has the skillet and sheet trays in it, I turn the heat to 500 F and let everything get nice and hot while the bread finishes proofing. It typically takes about 1 hour for the loaves to proof - but its important to know that there are a lot of factors that can change that and you just need to be able to recognize properly proofed bread. Sometimes it takes 1.5 hours to proof - I remember a day where I couldn't find a warm spot and I waited 3 hours for them to proof  and they still could have gone longer. This seems to be the number one problem people have - they adhere to the suggested time frame for proofing and wind up baking grossly under-proofed bread - and then they wonder why their bread is so dense. 

Once the bread is done proofing, I get some ice and get ready to slide the loaves onto the 'hearth'. To do this successfully you have to pull the 'hearth' out of the oven, set it down next to the proofed bread - grab both pieces of parchment in the corners and slide it right over the edge onto the 'hearth'. If you only use one sheet of parchment, sometimes it absorbs too much moisture and winds up ripping apart when you pull on it. Good luck getting the bread onto the 'hearth' if that happens. The pan spray is used to prevent the paper from sticking to the loaves, which seems to happen about 30% of the time if you do not use the pan spray.  

Set up and ready to slide over
Bread is now on the 'hearth'. 
 Now quickly put the hearth back into the oven, throw some ice into the cast iron skillet (it will hiss and steam) and shut the door. I bake the loaves for 30 minutes, undisturbed, at which point I pull the 'hearth' and paper out, leaving the loaves directly on the rack. This helps the bottoms of the loaf to crisp up a little. 

After 30 minutes
'Hearth' and parchment removed, loaves rotated.
 I then continue to bake them until they are properly colored - which usually takes between 5 and 15 additional minutes. Once they are done I cool them on a resting rack and they are ready to go! 

Notice the micro blistering. There was no dutch oven. No stone. No real hearth. Just shit that is on hand in every restaurant

I don't bother scoring the bread because there is not enough oven spring with these sheet trays that it will open up attractively. I also don't spend a lot of time shaping them perfectly because
 1 - There is no time and 
2 - We serve slices, which will look good no matter how 'ugly' the loaf looks. 

What is important to me is that I have achieved a good crumb and a decent amount of flavor by using such a long fermentation and rise. The bread only requires a small amount of active work (maybe an hour total) that is spread out across 42 hours. Its also very forgiving. I can walk in the door and start proofing the bread immediately or I can do some other work and get to the bread whenever I feel like it - The same goes for the shaping at the 18 hour mark. 12 hours is fine. 20 hours is fine. Do it when it works for your schedule. Your still doing a very long fermentation. You can proof and bake them immediately after shaping if you want. They will not be nearly as good, but they will still be totally fine. 

Some especially nice looking loaves, using this recipe and method. 
Earlier I mentioned that there are some pretty easy ways to improve this recipe - but they require spending some money. This is a good example - I followed the recipe and method exactly, but baked this bread in a covered & preheated dutch oven. The big difference is you get more oven spring, so ultimately a lighter, more bulbous loaf, and a significantly improved crust. 

Just look at that crust
 Some other bread I have been playing around with at the restaurant:
Pain Au Lait
Rye Pain Au Lait
Wheat Tortillas
As I said before, sometimes we like to make pizza with any extra dough

Some desserts I've run in the past few weeks. All gluten free, of course: 

Strawberry Shortcake - Caramelized biscuit, Strawberry Coulis, Whipped Cream, Vanilla Ice Cream, Strawberries. 
Morita Ice Cream. Masa & Chocolate Cake. Honeycomb. Strawberry. Lime
Neapolitan - Vanilla Panna Cotta, Chocolate Cake, Gianduja Mousse, Marcona, Red Jacket Cherry Sorbet 
Vegan Massaman Curry 'Ice Cream', Herb Salad.
Mocha Sundae - Blue Bottle Cold Brew Ice Cream, Vanilla Ice Cream, Brownies, Espresso Caramel, Hot Fudge, Caramelized Chocolate Marcona Almond, Whipped Cream....Who knows what else. 

 Some other fun;

About two weeks ago I started fermenting some pineapples and spices to make some Tepache
Which we all drank, mixed with some Modelo, after service this past Saturday.

 Oh and J & I adopted our first puppy:

Monday, June 22, 2015

The Road Trip, Part 10: Salt Lake City & Craters of the Moon

*Just a quick note - as the formatting on this blog keeps some of the photographs pretty small. You can click on any of the pictures to enter a slide show, which will allow you to see larger format photographs*

Previous Entries: 

Day 42:
Jackson Hole, WY to Idaho Falls, ID. 88.4 Miles, 1 Hour 44 Minutes.

We left Jackson heading to Salt Lake City - planning a stop in Idaho Falls for the night to break up the drive and buy us one more day before arriving at J's aunts house - who just returned from a trip herself only a day before. We ate some tacos and slept at a Walmart.

Day 43:
Idaho Falls, ID to Salt Lake City, UT. 214 Miles, 2 Hours 55 Minutes.

We arrived at J's aunt's ( we'll call her: C ) house in the late afternoon, unpacked and acclimated ourselves. We chatted for a while and then decided to go out for a bit while J's aunt went and got some stuff for dinner. We went down to Trolley Square, a kind-of-dumpy shopping mall, to check out Tabula Rasa - a stationery story J enjoyed on previous visits. We swung through Whole Foods and made our way back to C's house. We spent the remainder of the evening preparing a nice dinner and relaxing. Towards the end of dinner, C's husband (E) came home. They gave J a birthday card and brought out a cake that C made the night before as soon as she got home from the airport. 

Day 44: 

J was still feeling under the weather but sleeping in a real bed seemed to help. We got a pretty late start to the day - something that seemed to be a theme for us in Salt Lake City. Our first stop was the Utah Museum of Contemporary Art. They were in the process of installing a new exhibit so there was really only one gallery open to view. It was over and done with in a matter of minutes. We made our way through downtown a bit to the Joseph Smith building where we went up to the observation deck - or really just the top floor which has some nice views of the city. 

The somewhat lackluster view of the city
We ventured a little further to the Lion House Bakery - where we tried their famous rolls (free if you ask) - which we ate in a beautiful garden behind the bakery. The rolls were indeed good - but the overwhelming creepy (religious) vibe that this area of the city has was a pretty big turn off. 

It was good
Keeping up with the creepy religious theme we went to a sculpture garden - something we both enjoy doing. This one was called the Gilgal Sculpture Garden and...well...it was mostly creepy religious things. Cool birdhouse though!

Reminds me of the Stanley Hotel in Estes Park!
After the sculpture garden and general weirdness of our activities we decided to get a little bit outside of the city and go look for the Old Saltair Ruins. What this is supposed to be is the very last bits of the burnt remains of a 'Coney Island of the West' - mostly broken dishes and burnt timber. We did not find anything that was conclusively the ruins... as the directions we found online were very vague - but as far as we can tell we were there or pretty close, and the views were nice. 

After we were done on our little excursion we retuned met C&E for dinner at a place called Avenues Proper - one of their favorite places. It was a nice, intimate brew-pub type place with good beer and a nicely executed menu. 

Day 45:

A shot of the farmers market, which does nothing to show how great it was.
We started the day by checking out the Downtown Farmers Market. This was one of the nicest I have seen outside of the Capital District. It ran the perimeter of a Pioneer Park with farmers and produce vendors on one half, and crafts/other goods on the remaining sides. There were also food vendors on a path through the center. Everything looked beautiful. We really enjoyed it. Ive said it before - but Ive been routinely disappointed by farmers markets most places we visit (there are obvious exceptions) - as the ones we have become accustomed to in this area are really some of the best I've seen. 

As we were leaving the market we stopped to grab some subs at Caputo's - a market very similar to Cardona's or Roma's. They also had a nice fish market attached to them, accessible from both indoors and outdoors. We enjoyed our sandwiches. After lunch we drove over to check out a chocolate shop - Hatch Family Chocolates. According to C, they are one of the best in the city - and one of the owners studied in Chicago. On our way from the chocolate shop we stopped at a sidewalk sale that was pretty much a dream come true because of my obsession with Reverware. I agonized over buying the lot and shipping it back to New York - but opted out as we were trying to be frugal. 

All of the Revere Wares!
After J pulled me away from the side walk sale, we headed to the Utah Museum of Fine Art. The museum is located on the University of Utah Campus. It has a nice, well curated collection from around the globe. I was particularly taken by the Pacific Islander exhibit - and its display of ritual and war time costumes.
Just look at that mask!
For dinner, we went to Red Iguana with C&E. Red Iguana is a very popular Mexican Restaurant in Salt Lake City - known especially for its selection of moles. There was quite a line, which wrapped around the building, but it moved pretty quickly. When we sat, our server brought us a platter with some chips and a little bit of every mole they offered so we could compare and contrast - this was a great experience. I wound up with the Mole Coloradito - with pine nuts, almonds, peanuts, sesame seeds, ancho, guajillo, and poblano chiles, and mexican chocolate. The mole was served with grilled pork loin. I really enjoyed our meal here - sitting down for a Mexican meal like this, authentic or not,  is not something I do often - as we frequent taquerias more than anything - so it was a nice change of pace. There was a Mariachi band playing in the dining room, something I also havent seen in a while. The whole thing reminded me of drinking pitchers of blended margaritas at La Rondalla in the Mission in San Francisco when I was a teenager.

Killer Neon!
Day 46:
We slept in a bit, so when we got going the only activity we had planned for the day was to visit Antelope Island - an Island and State Park, accessible just north of the city. You drive over a causeway to get to the Island and then you just explore. Its an unusually beautiful place - with large rocky formations, grassland, an enormous amount of wildlife (especially buffalo), and plenty of sweeping vistas. We really enjoyed our time here.
Views like this were the norm on Antelope Island

Im thinking J is annoyed with me about something here

 For dinner we met C&E and a couple of their friends from Rochester, NY at BTG Wine Bar. We all really enjoyed the food (Italian fare like gnocchi, polenta, etc..) and the wine (I think we were drinking Duckhorn). 

Day 47:
We originally were going to leave today but J's mother and another one of her aunts were arriving to visit C&E in the evening so we decided to fart around a bit and stay one more night. We spent most of the day looking for some new clothing (to stay warm in the car). We did make a stop at the Natural History Museum, which seemed like a great museum, and a really cool building - but it was their free day - and Columbus Day - so it was PACKED with screaming children. We were in & out in short order. We got back to the house and chatted with everyone into the evening, talking mostly about our trip up to this point. 

A look into the center of the Natural History Museum

Day 48:

Salt Lake City, UT to Craters of the Moon, ID. 263 Miles, 3 Hours 48 Minutes

We tried our best to have an early start to the day because we wanted to check out Craters of the Moon National Monument in Idaho, on our way to Boise.  This was a bit of a shot in the dark for us, as we couldn't really find a ton of information about the park - and our Parks of the West book only had one photograph. The detour added a hundred miles to the trip, be we felt like gambling and we had been really enjoying our time spent in parks so far. 

While its pretty hard to compare the different parks in the US Parks System because they are all really very unique - when it comes down to it - I think this was my favorite I have been to. Theres really no way to describe how random and bizarre it is. It is truly like you are on another planet. 

From wikipedia: 
The Monument and Preserve encompass three major lava fields and about 400 square miles (1,000 km2) of sagebrush steppe grasslands to cover a total area of 1,117 square miles (2,893 km2). All three lava fields lie along the Great Rift of Idaho, with some of the best examples of open rift cracks in the world, including the deepest known on Earth at 800 feet (240 m). There are excellent examples of almost every variety of basaltic lava as well as tree molds (cavities left by lava-incinerated trees), lava tubes (a type of cave), and many other volcanic features.

Ill just let the pictures do the talking from here out:
Fish eye of the lava field, at a pull off just east of the park. It goes to the horizon.
The first thing we did was get a cave permit - our first - so we could check out some of the caves in the park.
Views from the North Crater View Trail
More views from the North Crater View Trail
We loved the stark black, volcanic soil

The truly amazing hike up to Inferno Cone Overlook

This is a video I took at the top of Inferno Cone Overlook, its fuzzy and choppy, but it should give you a good idea of just how 'in-the-middle-of-nowhere' this park is.

The paved path through the lava filed, heading towards the caves

J, on the descent into the cave.

A photo, from her perspective
J, for perspective, next to a pile of rubble from a roof collapse.

Another roof collapse. This particular cave did not require headlamps because of multiple roof collapses.

We considered camping for the evening, as we did want to spend more time exploring in the park, but since we were just getting back on the road after a stay in a city, we were short on supply (food) - so we took in as much as we could and then pushed through to Boise.

 From our book:

  • Downtown Farmers Market - Pioneer Park – Sat 8-2, Tue 4-dusk.
    o 350 S 300 W/Salt Lake City UT/84101
  • Curry Friend Chicken – Mon-Wed 11-3 & 5-9:30, Thu-Sat 11-930. Cheap fried
    chicken w curry spices.
    o 660 S State St/Salt Lake City UT/84111
  • Bourbon House – pub, has juicy lucys. 11a-2a o 19 E 200 S/Salt Lake City UT/84111
Free to do:
  • Neighborhood: Sugar House
  • Liberty Park – SLC’s ‘Central Park’
    o 600 W 900 S/Salt Lake City UT/84105
  • Lindsay Gardens – Park in the city’s first neighborhood, next to a cemetery,
    spectacular views of the valley.
    o 417 M St/Salt Lake City UT/84103
  • Utah Museum of Contemporary Art – Tue-Thu 11-6, Fri 11-9, Sat 11-6. $5 suggested.
    o 20 South West Temple/Salt Lake City UT/84101
  • Gilgal Sculpture Garden – 8-8
    o 749 E 500 S/Salt Lake City UT/84102
  • Old Saltair Ruins – 2 miles east of where Saltair is today, just of 180 & sr202.
    Take exit to go to where Saltair is today, on the frontage rd, turn east. Go 2 miles. You will see an old train car w rubble and an old building. Illegal to take artifacts.
  • Chase Home Museum of Utah Folk Arts = free (Mon-Sat 10-3; Fri-Sat 3-6). 1853 Greek revival house; Utahn’s baskets, cradleboards, jewelry, origami, rugs, furniture & spurs
    o 1150 S Constitution Dr/Salt Lake City UT/84105
  • Garden Tour = free (tours Mon-Fri @ 11; Wed @ 7; Sun @ 10:30 / rooftop
    tours Mon-Fri @ 10) 16,500 beddings; pool& fountain; 4 acre prairie rooftop garden with native trees & drought resistant plants
    o 50 W North Temple/Salt Lake City UT/84150 Other:
  • UU Natural History Museum
    o 301 Wakara Way/Salt Lake City UT/84108
  • The Leonardo Contemporary Museum for Science & Culture – Sun-Wed 10-5, Thu-Sat 10-10. $8Students
    o 209 E 500 S/Salt Lake City UT/84111
  • Clark Planetarium – Free exhibits, imax cost $. 10:30-last movie time. - Take a
    trip through the universe; lunar hemisphere; rotating relief globe o 110 S 400 W/Salt Lake City UT/84101
  • Tracy Aviary – 9-5, $6/students
    o 589 E 1300 S/Salt Lake City UT/84105
  • Natural History Museum of Utah – 10-5, wed til 9. $13 adult. o 301 Wakara Way/Salt Lake City UT/84108
  • Utah Museum of Fine Art – Tue-Fri 10-5, wed til 8, sat-sun 11-5. $7/Student o 410 Campus Center Dr/Salt Lake City UT/84112
  • Loveland Living Planet Aquarium – 10-6, $12.95/student o 12033 S Lone Peak Pkwy/Draper UT/84020
  • Hogle Zoo – 9-5, $14.95
    o 2600 E Sunnyside Ave/Salt Lake City UT/84108
  • Wheeler Historic Farm = free / cow milking = $1 (daily dusk-dawn; milking Mon-Sat@ 5; tour Mon-Sat @ 3). 1898 Victorian house; farm animals o 6351 S 900 E/Salt Lake City UT/84121 
  •  Antelope Island – 6a-10p, $10/car. o 4528 W 1700 S/Syracuse UT/84075