Pretty Bird

Salt Lake City has become a gastronomic capital. We sampled RubySnap cookies, Mrs. Cavanaugh’s ice cream and chocolate, an excellent downtown Italian Restaurant called Michelangelos, and far more. However, our first experience in good eating occurred at Pretty Bird Chicken.

Ruth & I first heard about Pretty Bird when its fried chicken sandwich was judged the best in the state of Utah. It took us 2 years to sample it. A local favorite, it is described on websites as both buzzy and absolutely phenomenal. Both are pretty accurate descriptions.

The location we went to was Pretty Bird’s first and rather difficult to access restaurant at 146 Regent Street in deep downtown Salt Lake City. Ruth & I were very lucky. We spotted it before leaving our car in the garage of the City Creek Shopping Center. This center offers 2 hours of free parking because a very popular Macy’s and food court are part of it. We walked to Pretty Bird from there. A woman on the street helped us relocate it. She told us this restaurant’s food was sensational and that she often dined on its fried chicken on special occasions. One reviewer, Scott A. Bernauer, used 3 verys before the word delicious to describe the Pretty Bird chicken sandwich. Another reviewer called it “the best chicken sandwich I’ve ever eaten”.

The chicken sandwich we received was certainly jumbo and only available via curbside pickup and preorder.

The lady who served us took pity on us and helped. She described the sandwich and the sauces available. I ordered the ranch dressing and found it the best of 3. The usual sauce we both found rather spicy, and we had a lot of chicken left over to share with family that confirmed its spiciness. Pretty Bird offers 3 levels of heat in its dressings and spicy, original chicken coatings.

The lady saw our inexperience and recommended we try Pretty Bird’s new Sugar House location. Used to long lines and full tables, Pretty Bird opened a 2nd seller of its deep-golden-colored chicken at 675 East 2100 South in a vacated restaurant space. Its 2nd location opened on Friday, March 12, 2021, in a fine tribute to Pretty Bird’s success. The Pretty Bird lady assured us that the new location offered more dine-in space and far more tables that meant less waiting.

Pretty Bird’s happy owner is Viet Pham, an experienced chef. His sandwich creation, a Nashville-styled hot, fried chicken sandwich that surprised us when we opened the box in the City Creek Food Court. The Box contained several pieces of chicken, a piece of bread, some pickles and the 3 sauces that are delighting foodies in the Salt Lake City area.

It’s hard not to judge this sandwich the best in Utah.


The Very Grand Art Institute of Chicago

Ruth & I used to consider Chicago our 2nd home. When we lived in St. Louis, we visited Chicago often. We had visited this city’s Art Institute many times, so we decided to skip it on our recent trip to the Midwest despite our desire to visit old friends like Edward Hopper’s well-known painting called “Nighthawks” and Grant Wood’s often imitated “American Gothic”, the painting depicting a farmer and his less-than-beautiful daughter. However, nostalgia got the best of us and after visiting 4 or 5 attractions including the excellent, new American Writers Museum just up Michigan Avenue from the Art Institute, we decided to follow the crowd to it after all. It was a blustery, cold November day in the Windy City, and we were disappointed to find that there was no place to leave our coats, gloves, and hats in the Art Institute while we explored this not inexpensive institution that always attracts a large crowd.

Since we had already spent time in Cleveland’s huge art museum on this same trip, Ruth & I decided to organize our priorities. We decided to see what was new in the Art Institute first. We followed an impressive crowd to its currently most popular exhibit called THINKING OF YOU I MEAN ME I MEAN YOU. This exhibit is described in the Visitor Guide as “A career-spanning exhibition devoted to the work of artist Barbara Kruger”. Full of elaborately placed words and one gigantic work that contains constantly shifting puzzle pieces, it’s installed in this museum’s prime temporary exhibition space called Regenstein Hall. The crowd that I must assume was there mostly to see it was reverently attentive. Just opened for a couple of weeks, it will be this museum’s big gun temp until January 24, 2022. Our coats were already becoming burdensome.

We found a page in the Visitor Guide called WHAT TO SEE IN AN HOUR. It contained some familiar names and paintings by Picasso and Van Gogh. One of them was The Grande Jette, that familiar Georges Seurat painting recreated in Steven Sondheim’s “Sunday in the Park with George”. We had seen it several times on previous visits. One of the choices was the Hartwell Memorial Window. Neither Ruth nor I recalled seeing it before. It was in Gallery 200 on the 2nd level. We became determined to see it. Three employees attempted to help us. This Tiffany waterfall in the middle of several panels became a must-find art work. It took my attention away from a well-remembered man in armor on a horse that I also desired to see again.

Ruth wanted to see the museum’s paperweights. I wanted to see something I had not seen before, like John Henry Twachtman’s “Icebound”. We headed for the paperweights only to find that the area was mysteriously closed that day. We could not find the other temporary exhibits that sounded interesting but did locate the often visited Thorne miniature rooms. We had seen these elaborate creations on numerous visits in the past.

We gratefully left the Art Institute of Chicago after a short visit to the expansive gift shop where Ruth looked for Christmas cards but bought nothing. We would have spent some time in the Museum Cafe, but it was not opened that day. We headed instead for Chick-fil-A, which was almost directly across Michigan Avenue from this museum that is generally worth seeing while in Chicago.


Have a Cookie or More

“OK, I surrender! I have spent at least 4 hours since returning home staring at websites touting RubySnap cookies. These tasty treats are sold in what is described as a “retro chic” flagship store at 770 South 300 West Street in Salt Lake City, Utah. I have not begun to exhaust the websites devoted to this masterseller, but the internet has exhausted me. Tami Mowen Steggell is clearly a marketing genius.

I should have known I was in danger as I approached this flagship store. We entered it with a woman from California who was about to have her umpteenth encounter with the RubySnap world. She told us that she makes special trips to Salt Lake City to satisfy her sudden cookie urges.

Tami Steggell has a degree in Architectural Design from Brigham Young University, but her real skill is clearly selling cookies. Originally from Arizona, Tami has put down deep and lasting roots in Salt Lake City. Her cookie creations are available in this flagship store and in several other locations. When a customer such as I protests yet another sample or questions this store’s cookie output, he or she is reminded that they never stop making cookies here. The trays I stared at were almost all full of tempting-looking cookies.

Many visitors to this shop call it their favorite. The many cookie sellers on the other side of the trays spend their time both selling cookies and handing out free samples. They are especially generous with product and easily recognize serious cookie weaknesses. Websites are full of avid testimonials. Becky S, for example, says she was in Salt Lake City on a work trip when she was told about RubySnap. She went and got 12 cookies to take home to California and has, like the other woman from California whom we talked to, become a repeat customer.

Every RubySnap cookie has a girl’s name on it. There’s are best-selling cookies named Margo, Lola, and Betty. Someone told me that each cookie is named for someone the owner of RubySnap actually knows. I don’t doubt this but have not yet found proof.

Tami sells bake-at-home cookie doughs and promotes them by reminding purchasers that “your house is going to smell soooo good”. Each month a new cookie is featured. This is marketing savvy if I every encountered it. Walking into the flagship store near Salt Lake City’s downtown is like walking into a 1950s ice cream parlor someone said. This is so true!

Have a cookie without thinking about calories. All of the photos above are from a RubySnap website. I will feature my own photos later.


Salt Lake City Area

Ruth & I just spent the Thanksgiving holiday in Salt Lake City with family. We went to Ogden, Park City, Lehi, Sundance, several canyons for winter hiking, and the Great Salt Lake. Salt Lake City was our base and where we mostly stayed.

This city goes all out for holidays. I suppose it’s the Mormon influence and family-centered-attitude that has kept this area so focused on old-fashioned holiday parades and traditional seasonal activities. It still celebrates the major winter holidays with much pomp and circumstance.

The first stop on our itinerary was the Grand America Hotel across the street from Little America in downtown Salt Lake City. This 5 star hotel celebrates the Thanksgiving/Christmas season with consistently elaborate decorations. Its star attraction is a spectacular gingerbread house. Its 2021 house contains 2,000 eggs, 1,700 pounds of flour, 800 pounds of Royal Icing, and 500 candy canes among its ingredients.

The Grand America Hotel has 775 rooms. It opened in 2001 to welcome and celebrate the Olympic Games that were held in Utah. The 2002 Winter Olympics occurred in and around Salt Lake City and especially in Park City between February 8 to 24 of that year. The Grand America is a very European hotel with art works, Italian glass, and stunning chandeliers. Its toy store/gift shop is called Jou Jou, and it’s a sight to behold. The Grand America is one of 8 hotels created by Robert Holding, founder and owner of Sinclair Oil Corporation. In the 1950s he built the 1st Little America near Rock Springs, Wyoming, and he died in Salt Lake City in 2013.

Holding’s hotels and resorts are known for luxury. They can be found in Sun Valley, San Diego, Flagstaff, and Cheyenne. The Grand America, the gingerbread house, and this hotel’s holiday decor are worth a trip to Salt Lake City to see.


Presidential Births

While in Ohio, I recalled that this state has the 2nd most Presidents born in it. It has produced 7 Presidents. Actually 8 if you consider William Henry Harrison an Ohioan. Why has Ohio been home to so many Presidents? It has to do with Ohio’s importance as a state with a large population in the past compared to others. Four presidents have lived in the Cincinnati area.

The only state that has produced more Presidents than Ohio is Virginia. It has produced 8 Presidents: George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, James Monroe, John Tyler, Woodrow Wilson, Zachary Taylor, and William Henry Harrison. However, William Henry Harrison, the 9th President and the last one to be born a British subject, emigrated to Ohio and spent most of his time there before becoming the first President to die in office and a man who was President for only about one month. He died on the 32nd day of his Presidency.

When I remembered that Ohio had produced so many Presidents, I asked Ruth which state had produced the most and she guessed Iowa. However, that Midwest state has produced only one, Herbert Hoover. Then I asked her for the #2 state, and she guessed Massachusetts. This New England state has been the birth state for 4 Presidents, John Adams, his son John Quincy Adams, John F. Kennedy, and George H. W. Bush, which is fairly impressive; but 29 states, including my own Washington, have produced no presidents. And many states like Hawaii and New Jersey have been responsible for only one. Hawaii had not produced a President until Barak Obama came along, and New Jersey’s only presidential birth was Grover Cleveland’s. Only 22 states have actually birthed Presidents.

It’s assumed that Presidents dominate our currency with their likenesses, but that is only partially true. Alexander Hamilton is on the $10 bill, and the largest denomination ever produced for public use, the $10,000 bill, had the visage of Abraham Lincoln’s Treasury Secretary Salmon P. Chase, on it.

The longest serving President was Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

The Presidents born in Ohio were U. S. Grant, William Howard Taft, Warren G. Harding, Rutherford B. Hayes, James Garfield, William McKinley, and Benjamin Harrison.