Monday, April 18, 2011

Hotel Utah History: "Recipes From The Roof" Cookbook

While I was the food editor at the Deseret News, I would sometimes get calls and letters wanting recipes from the legendary Hotel Utah (now the Joseph Smith Memorial Building). So when I heard that Deseret Book was publishing “Recipes From The Roof” to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Hotel Utah/JSMB, I was excited to think that some of those old recipes would be finally in print. 
But while the new book has a lot of old stories, the recipes are all modern-day dishes from the restaurants that now occupy the building: The Garden, The Roof, the JSMB Bakery and the JSMB Catering Services. 

At a press conference Monday to showcase the book, I asked Deseret Book editor Jana Erickson about it. She said that cooking techniques and tastes have changed so much from the Hotel Utah’s early years that people probably wouldn’t want to eat those old dishes.  I understand the point — today we use a lot more fresh produce, more ethnic seasonings, and this new book has such a wide variety of flavorful recipes. But I still wish that a few of the old recipes had been tracked down and included, just for “old times’ sake.” 
Temple Square Hospitality chefs who contributed to the book demonstrated some of the recipes at yesterday’s press conference. Don Sanchez, Pedro Mauricio and Val Ayrapetov made Tomato & Kalamata Olive Bread Salad, Avocado Gazpacho and Lemon Meringue Pie Parfaits. 
Hotel Utah was built in 1911 as the premier hotel west of the Mississippi River.  When I did research for my own historic book, “Dining Through The Decades,” I found out that President William Howard Taft stayed at the Hotel Utah in October of 1911. The 300-pound Big Bill polished off the following breakfast: Cantaloupe, sliced peaches, broiled sirloin steak, bacon and eggs, potatoes mashed in cream, toast, rolls and coffee.  The cost of this chow-fest was $2.15. 
The top floor restaurant over the years was known as the Roof Gardens, the Starlite Gardens, the Sky Room; and today, it's the Garden Restaurant and the Roof Restaurant. As the Starlite Gardens, it offered dance music and a romantic atmosphere. I imagine there were plenty of marriage proposals that took place.
A few historic tidbits:
-in 1936 the cost for dinner and dancing in the Empire Room was $2.50 per person.
-Will Rogers was once denied entrance to the Empire Room as he lacked acoat and tie. He borrowed them from the front desk in order to be admitted.
-The Crossroads Grill, located on the lower level of the hotel featured a live trout pond that ran down the middle of the table.

After 76 years as a hotel, it closed in 1987 and some floors were renovated into office space for its owner, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Gordon B. Hinckley, in the church's First Presidency at that time, requested that it be renamed the Joseph Smith Memorial Building in remembrance of the church's first prophet, and that it be used as a place for gathaerings and celebrations. The restaurants as well as many of the ballrooms are still used today for those celebrating weddings, anniversaries, birthdays, company parties and so on. In fact, when my oldest son, Jess, went to his first prom, he took his date to The Roof for dinner beforehand. 
Here’s one of the recipes from the book:
Artichoke Spinach Cheese Dip
6 servings

6 ounces cream cheese
1½ cups chopped baby spinach
1 cup drained and chopped canned artichokes
½ cup sour cream
¼ cup mayonnaise
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
¼ teaspoon garlic powder
5–6 slices pita bread, grilled

Heat the cream cheese in microwave for 1 minute or until hot and soft.

Add the rest of the ingredients (except the bread) and mix well.

Cut the grilled pita bread into 8 triangles per slice.

Serve the dip hot with the sliced grilled pita bread.


Jo-Ann Wong said...

Dear Valerie: This is an excellent blog!
We were in high school and loved sneaking away at lunch to sit at the downstairs counter and have the Hotel Utah borscht.

Valerie Phillips said...

Jo-Ann, Interestingly enough, the Hotel Utah borscht was a recipe that several Deseret News readers asked about over the years. One woman spoke lovingly about eating it with her father every week when they came downtown for his job. I think it wasn't just the taste of borscht she wanted, but to recapture the memories with her father. I've never been able to locate the borscht recipe, but if anyone has it, I'd love to post it.

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