Sunday, June 28, 2015

Twins Rocks Cafe is Still Buff in Bluff.

Twin Rocks Cafe and Gift Shop

913 East, Navajo Twins Drive
Bluff, Utah, 84512

Phone: (435) 672-2341


Navajo Twins and the Sunbonnet
Down in Bluff, one of the most popular places for any visitor to stop in at is the Twin Rocks Café and Gift Shop. The lure of the Navajo Twins in the background, and the Sunbonnet taking up residence on the front porch, is difficult to resist. More difficult to resist is the scent wafting out of the kitchen, and the sound of laughter from happy diners. Residents of San Juan County, however, already know this is the place to get a delicious, home cooked meal, and local favorites such as Navajo Taco, Navajo Pizza, Beef Stew, Sheepherder Sandwiches, Fry Bread and Ash Bread.

So, after doing some hoodoo hunting, it was no wonder we ended up at the Café for a much deserved lunch, and a friend joined us.  The menu is still not huge, but the variety listed has something pleasing for any palette.  Absolutely begin with the Buffalo Chicken Wings appetizer; baked, then deep fried to keep the chicken tender, but give that crispy coating that’s craved. The wings don’t sit in a puddle of sauce, but are perfectly coated (medium heat), served with celery and carrot sticks plus ranch dressing for dipping. These Buffalo Wings were so good, we got another order to munch on later.

The main entrees chosen were the BLT, Navajo Taco, and the special of the day, Prime Rib Sandwich.  The BLT was packed with veggies, plus slices of thick cut bacon; no mayonnaise though, so make sure to order some if you want it.  A side of fries is a must, as the ones at Twin Rocks are so good, you almost forget to eat your sandwich; of course they come with that Utah condiment, fry sauce.

How about a puffy round of fry bread topped with homemade chili, tomatoes, lettuce, olives, onions and shredded cheese…oh yes, it’s a Navajo Taco.  The fry bread is house made, and you cannot truly have a Southwestern experience without trying it; plain, as a taco, or even a pizza.

The special the day we were there was the Prime Rib Sandwich; meat so tender it melts in the mouth with sautéed onions and mushrooms.

Dessert was a three way split for us, Peaches de Chelly, a special treat of spiced peaches atop Fry Bread with ice cream, whipped cream and caramel sauce.  Afterwards it was a consensus, "Stick a fork in me, I'm done!!!"

A leisurely walk through the Gift Shop which offers up clothing (hats, t-shirts), books (cooking, local history, natural wonders), local foods (beans, sauces, Real Salt products), and all manner of souvenirs is a shopper's delight. 

The Trading Post next door features paintings, sculptures and more crafts from local artisans.  Twin Rocks Café and Gift shop is not just a place to eat and run, but an experience in itself. Take the time to enjoy!

Mary Cokenour

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Screamin' Sicilian Pizza; it's What Wisconsinites Like.

Screamin' Sicilian Pizza


Distributed by: Palermo Villa, Inc
Location: Milwaukee, Wisconsin, 53208

In 2013, Palermo Villa, Inc., put out in the test market a new crafted pizza line, Screamin' Sicilian, claiming this was "pizza with attitude". With querky names, like Bessie's Revenge, Boss Hog, Spicy Clucker, and boxes that were meant to "blow your mind", the product is still on the market two years later.  Now remember folks, I'm a New Yorker with loads of experience with Italian cuisine, and especially New York style pizza.  In other words, this pizza might be what folks in Wisconsin like, but New Yorkers...yeah, no.

So it came to past that I noticed the pizza box at my local Walmart (good job on that aspect of marketing); a new frozen pizza better than any other out there.  Well I decided to take that challenge, so picked up a Bessie's Revenge which touted, "Thick Robust Sauce" and Wisconsin made cheeses of mozzarella, parmesan, romano and white cheddar.  Since it was frozen, I could not spread the whole mozzarella out, so baked it at the required 425F, checking on it at 13 minutes as instructed.  The artisan crust was browning, the whole mozzarella was still whole; so another 3 minutes went by.  The crust was very brown by then, whole mozzarella still whole, and the other cheeses did not look very melted.  Two more minutes, and out of the oven it came as I didn't want a burnt crust.

After dividing it up into slices, the first taste was, "Meh".  Cheesy, but not an overwhelming "Wow" from the supposedly robust sauce.  The whole mozzarella was difficult to bite through, extremely chewy, and the center was cool.  The artisan crust was flavorful with herbs and garlic, crunchy; basically the best part of the pizza.

Two of us did this taste test, and we both agreed on the evaluation of the product. Maybe the cows in Wisconsin have attitude, but they weren't putting it forward with this pizza.  Of course the manufacturer will probably claim that we "didn't prepare it correctly", or "don't have a good sense of great pizza"; yeah, I've gotten those excuses before.  However, it is what it is; the taste buds of two individuals were not impressed.

Anyway, you might find it in your local supermarket, so try it out for yourselves; you might agree with this review, you might not.  To each his/her own.

Mary Cokenour

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Two Versions of Blue Cornmeal Pancakes.

Even though we (four of us in total) all had an extremely disappointing dinner at the Comb Ridge Espresso Bistro, we were all willing to go back and try the breakfast, especially their "renowned" Blue Corn Pancakes.  However, the owner, Andrea Martin (aka Andrea C. on Yelp), attacked each one of us that wrote up a review on Yelp, Urbanspoon (now Zomato) and Trip Advisor; saying we came "at a bad time", or that it was some sort of conspiracy against them. We are not gluttons for punishment, and being abused by a business owner is definitely not on our to-do list!!!

Since I am interested in the cultural cuisines of the Southwest, it's no wonder that I own cookbooks on Southwestern, Mexican and Native American recipes.  In fact, I just purchased four new cookbooks; one on Arizona, two on Native American, one on Utah Pioneers; my friend Amy also gave me a cookbook on Utah, so five total new books!

Not going for those pancakes at that overly pretentious restaurant, so the only other course was to get out the Native cookbooks and make my own from scratch.  Blue corn, now this is something I’ve not seen before.  Oh yes, in the fall putting up dried cornstalks and ears of multicolored Indian corn was a tradition, but blue corn?  Thumbing through my cookbooks, not only did I find several recipes, but knowledge on the grinding process itself.  No, this isn’t something I’m going to try; that’s what Blue Mountain Meats here in Monticello is for, to provide me with my needs, like blue corn flour.  Doesn’t mean I won’t be sharing the information with you though. 

The first book I used for my experimenting was “Hopi Cookery” by Juanita Tiger Kavena; “Blue Cornmeal Hotcakes”, page 19.  She explains there are two methods of drying corn in the Hopi culture; one is simply stacking the ears on shelves, in a dry area, occasionally turning them until all the moisture is drawn out from the kernels.  The kernels are removed and processed using traditional grinding stones.  The second method is to bake the corn on the cobs in a mud enclosed ground oven which keeps the steam inside, producing sweeter corn.  The steamed cobs are hung to dry; the kernels eventually ground whether as flour, or coarser texture for various recipes.

Blue Cornmeal Hotcakes

1 cup blue cornmeal
1 Tbsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1 Tbsp. sugar
3 Tbsp. melted shortening
2 eggs, beaten
1 cup milk (or ¼ cup powdered plus 1+1/4 cups water)


In a large mixing bowl, combine dry ingredients (including powdered milk if using it); stir.


Add shortening, eggs (water if using); mix well.

Drop by spoonful on lightly greased griddle; turning once as cakes brown.

Makes 12 three inch pancakes.

A look inside.

The batter is thin and runny, much like a crepe batter; I was worried I’d not followed the directions or ingredient amounts correctly.  However, my husband and I devoured these pancakes; thin, light, crispy edges with a slight chewiness; minimal grainy texture, and they melted in the mouth.  The corn flavor was not strong, definitely delicious with the added flavors of butter, maple syrup or wild huckleberry syrup.  Oh, these pancakes didn't make us feel blue at all; the opposite, very happy!

My next trial recipe came from “Healthy Traditions: Recipes of Our Ancestors” by Janice Goodwin and Judy Hall; it included the use of all-purpose white flour and comes from the Navajo Nation.  Now my friend down in Monument Valley related to me that “ashes” may be mixed in with the blue corn flour and is related to the time of the “Long Walks”.


Pancake/Griddle Cake


2 ½ cups blue cornmeal
1 tsp. salt
½ cup white enriched flour
1 cup water
1+½ cup canned milk
1 tsp. baking powder



Mix the blue cornmeal, salt, baking powder together in a large bowl.


Mix water and milk together. Add the liquid ingredients to the dry ingredients; mix together but don’t over mix.


Grease a large skillet and heat. Pour batter on skillet to make a very thin pancake; cook until brown on both sides.


Makes 10 pancakes


This batter is thicker than the Hopi recipe, much like any traditional pancake recipe; the pancakes were thicker, dense, took longer to brown on both sides.  The taste of the white flour was strong and we simply missed the light flavor of the blue corn.  Comparing the two styles, we could definitely say that the Hopi won this round of the recipe challenge., so will be using that recipe whenever I make blue corn pancakes. 

Variety, experimenting with recipes and food items from other cultures; this is what makes cooking an adventure! 

Mary Cokenour   


Saturday, June 6, 2015

Olde Bridge Grille at the San Juan Inn.

The Olde Bridge Grille at the San Juan Inn

Highway 163 and The San Juan River
Mexican Hat, Utah,  84531

Phone: (435) 683-2322


If you happen to watch the Food Network show, “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives”, Olde Bridge Grille (formerly Old Bridge Grill Café and renamed in 2007) would proudly be rated “Dive”.  Bar, pool hall and restaurant with delicious “you are definitely in Southeastern Utah” food…sandwiches and tacos made from authentic Navajo Fry Bread; Mexican specialties; deep fried foods that satisfy carb cravings without being greasy; half pound burgers, and sandwiches stuffed with meat to bring a tear to the eye of any meat lover.

This is the perfect place to sit with friends, family or even on your lonesome; look out at the easy going San Juan River and enjoy a great, casual meal.  


The portions you receive are generous, reasonably priced, served with a smile, and you are not rushed out! 

Cheeseburger and Handcut Fried

Navajo Cowboy Beef Sandwich (on Fry Bread)

Onion Rings Appetizer

The Mad Hatter
Afterwards take a stroll along the property paralleling the river; check out the Hydraulic Measurement Station established in 1914; Trading Post with assortment of local handicrafts; the modern day “petroglyphs” painted on the red rock by a local artisan.

Cactus Outside the Trading Post

The Olde Bridge Grille is simply the perfect place for a laid back meal; enjoy the restful atmosphere and the food!

Mary Cokenour
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