Tempting fall festivals and harvest eats give you reasons to hit the road
Your car is gassed up and you’re itching to head out on the highway. The only question is: where? Where are the farms, ranches and restaurants that are offering what your body craves? Need some ideas? We’ve got you covered in this month’s Devour Dozen. From bison ranches to livestock auctions, cheesemakers to food festivals, there’s a little something fun for every appetite on the following pages.
Wild About Woodland
By DARBY DOYLE
Don’t blink or you’ll miss it. About six miles southeast of Kamas on State Route 35 (also known as the Wolf Creek Road), the picturesque village of Woodland is home to a collection of tidy houses, a church and a historic building formerly housing the country store. Paralleling Utah 35 on the south side of the Provo River, Bench Creek Road makes a wide loop that accesses private ranches, verdant fields and the whiplash-inducing sight of a herd of grazing buffalo. The area is also becoming a destination for sourcing top-notch artisan products. Pro tip: pack a cooler to keep your precious perishables chilled, a paper map or pre-loaded directions (cell coverage can be spotty) and, of course, bring your appetite. Welcome to Woodland.
High Flying Biscuits
The first stop for fueling any adventure should be a hearty breakfast. And you can’t go wrong with a meal at Woodland Biscuit Co. Owner Laurel Bartmess often admired the old Woodland country store building—and when she found out it was available a few years ago, she jumped at the opportunity to start her first restaurant there based around that most comforting of comfort foods: biscuits. WBC’s all-butter flaky bits of fabulousness are made from scratch daily with Lehi Roller Mills Peacock Flour, and they also make a gluten-free version. Often with a line out the door, the small dining room is packed with happy eaters on the three days a week they’re open (hours are 8 a.m.-2 p.m., Friday-Sunday).
While the all-day breakfast options such as loaded biscuit sandwiches are always popular, the lunch menu also sports stacked sandwiches, grilled corn tortilla tacos and a burger. Full breakfast plates come loaded with eggs and a choice of fresh grilled veggies and herbs (some harvested from the garden plot out back) or hashed browns. And a biscuit, of course.
WBC even has a small but mighty bar selection of mimosas, a delightfully spicy bloody mary, local whiskey cocktails, wine and beer.
Woodland Biscuit Co.
2734 E. State Road 35, Woodland
Where the Buffalo Roam
“Raising buffalo isn’t anything like cattle ranching,” Buffalo Run Ranch manager Wade Klingler explained to me when I first visited in 2017 researching an article for Devour’s sister publication, Vamoose Utah. Though surrounded by very tall (and sturdy) fences, the ranch’s bison are still very much wild animals—bison of both sexes have horns and can charge at an alarming speed of up to 40 mph! Their care and feeding needs reflect their ancient free-ranging roots.
Cooking bison is also different from preparing beef: diet and genetic predisposition means that bison meat is lean—lacking the fat marbling of beef—and naturally deep red. According to the Buffalo Run Ranch website, bison meat is a kind of power food. Its proportion of protein, fat, minerals and fatty acids to its caloric value puts it in a league of its own. Plus, it has more iron than many other meat sources. Although the term buffalo is commonly used when referring to American bison, the animal’s correct scientific name is Bison bison. No matter what you call them, the animal’s distinctive silhouette is synonymous with the West’s vast basin and range topography.
A visit to the ranch can supply you with a variety of bison steaks and chops, direct from the source. The ranch store freezer is usually stocked with ground bison, sausages and delicacies such as soup bones, ribs and organ meats. Locals know to call ahead or email the ranch before heading to Woodland to confirm someone will be at the farmstead store and to make sure a specific desired cut or large quantity is available before making the trip.
Don’t forget to pick up a pack of buffalo jerky for the road!
Buffalo Run Ranch, 4611 E. Bench
Creek Road, Woodland, 435-200-9360
Say (Artisan) Cheese!
When Alan and Debbie Gold bought their 130-acre ramshackle Woodland property in 2007, they inherited the soul of a former dairy operation, but little in the way of usable equipment. They decided early on to invest in a new facility and cheese-making equipment but turned to a very traditional source for the milk itself: Brown Swiss cows. Says cheesemaker Fernando Chavez-Sandoval, “Having Brown Swiss cows makes all the difference. Their milk yields aren’t the highest,” compared to most dairy operations, “but the quality and flavor of their milk is outstanding.” A former restaurant and private chef in Park City, Chavez-Sandoval’s culinary background paired well with his curiosity about the science of cheesemaking when he was hired by the Golds in 2009. He developed Gold Creek Farms’ signature artisan cheeses, winning his first gold medal in competition after only one year on the job.
Since then, Chavez-Sandoval has created more than a dozen internationally acclaimed flavors—like pimento-bay cheddar, smoked Romano and truffle cheddar—and he makes Utah’s only commercially available artisan blue cheese. His culinary background and precision palate have made Gold Creek cheeses a favorite with Utah chefs, as they’re exceptional starring on a cheese board or as a supporting player as a dish ingredient. If you’re in Woodland, a side trip to the small Gold Creek Farms cheese shop is a must.
Gold Creek Farms Cheese,
6297 E. Bench Creek Road Woodland,
The Call of Kamas
By ANNA KASER
Dubbed by some as the place where ski bums go to retire, Kamas is a town of 2,000 that serves as the gateway to Utah’s Uinta Mountains. It’s lately surged in popularity while managing to retain its small-town charm. One of most notable additions is the DeJoria Center, which opened in March 2016. The event center has become a staple for weddings and concerts, boasting beautifully kept grounds, a huge lawn, horseback riding adventures with 20 miles of trails, a planned housing development and an eatery that’s a destination in itself: State Road.
Scamper for Scampi
State Road Tavern and Restaurant is located inside Kamas’ DeJoria Center on the High Star Ranch, offering stunning views of the Uinta foothills. Utilizing a custom-built smoker, the establishment serves freshly smoked Angus beef, pork and organic chicken. The carefully crafted food, prepared by head chef Ernesto Rocha, runs the gamut from steak to delicate seafood and features a full bar. Rocha, who moved to Utah in 1991 from Mexico City, has worked his way from washing dishes in some of Park City’s poshest hotels and restaurants to now running his own kitchen. His expertly plated shrimp scampi ($18) includes fresh housemade linguini tossed in a butter sauce with red onion, capers, fresh tomato, pine nuts, parsley and sautéed shrimp. “We cook everything separately so that the fish and the vegetables have their own cooking time,” he says. Doing so, he continues, “brings out all of the textures in the dish.”
State Road Tavern and Restaurant,
970 N. State Road 32, Kamas,
The Cookie to Stop For
Kamas is one of Utah’s gems, home to an inviting small-town cafe: Michelle’s Cutting Board. Owned by Michelle Christensen for a little more than four years, the eatery’s known for its hot and cold sandwiches, wraps, soups and coffee, as well as a breakfast menu perfect for carb-loading in advance of a big day on Mirror Lake. But the Cutting Board’s thick chewy cookies ($2.50) are a big hit with the regulars. “We sell these things like hot cakes,” says Cutting Board employee Matthew Anderson, adding that the restaurant probably goes through 40 to 50 cookies a day, quite a few considering the size of the town and the size of the cookies. Two types are offered—a classic perfected chocolate chip and a hardy peanut butter oatmeal. I sprang for both and wasn’t disappointed.
Michelle’s Cutting Board,
54 N. Main St., Kamas,
Some say the Samak Smoke House is a trip back in time (After all, Samak is Kamas spelled backward). Open seven days a week, this roadside country store is on the scenic Mirror Lake Highway just 2 1/2 miles east of Kamas. Stop here for house-smoked jerky and trout prepared in a USDA-inspected facility. Plus, they can even smoke your own trout, wild salmon and cheese! In addition, they sell complete provisions for any mountain excursion, including firewood, box lunches, fishing licenses, recreation passes and free maps. They can even help you rent canoes or snowshoes. (Jerre Wroble)
Samak Smoke House & Country Store,
1937 Mirror Lake Highway, Kamas
Brigham City Bound
By CAROLYN CAMPBELL
Depending on where you embark on Highway 89, Utah’s Famous Fruit Way either begins or ends at the Brigham City Farmers Market. Located on the Bill of Rights Plaza in the heart of historic downtown, this year’s market operates on Saturdays through Sept. 28, from 4 to 8 p.m., with music and food until 9 p.m. If the market isn’t reason enough to travel north, consider making the journey for the juicy succulence of Peach Days.
Since 1904, on the weekend following Labor Day, Brigham City celebrates Peach Days as time off from the harvest. It also commemorates “an abundance of the best peaches in Utah,” says Monica Holdaway, executive director of the Box Elder Chamber of Commerce. This citywide event is the longest continually celebrated harvest festival in Utah and reportedly the second-oldest nationwide. Peach Days began as a way to honor a new breed of peach, the Early Elberta, that still grows in the area.
Held Sept. 6 to 7, the traditional celebration will feature more than 200 vendors, 35 of which offer every peach dish imaginable. The fruited fare ranges from peach salsa to peach-filled churros to peach smoothies to fresh peach pie and Dutch oven peach cobbler. Peaches and cream and peach donuts are also among the delicious offerings. Peach hand pies are similar to empanadas, Holdaway explains. She adds that deep-fried peaches are created by dipping peach slices in funnel cake dough and frying them.
Most Brigham City ice cream stores serve peach shakes while peach taffy is available in the Box Elder Chamber of Commerce office. Along with peach delicacies, visitors can enjoy a carnival complete with rides.
There’s also a free 900-vehicle car show, a 10K race and the Peach Queen pageant. One of two parades—the Saturday version—is the second largest in Utah. Gentri, three Utah tenors whose group name is short for Gentlemen Trio, will present a free concert on Saturday night. For parking, Holdaway suggests that visitors park at the Utah State University Brigham City campus at 989 S. Main St. and use the free UTA shuttle buses to get to and from Peach Days activities. Along with the festival, visitors can travel on Highway 89, between Willard to Brigham City, home of the famous Fruit Way, dotted with fruit stands. More details are available on the website.
c/o Box Elder Chamber of Commerce, 6 N. Main St., Brigham City
Make a Mad Dash
Two miles from Brigham City, Maddox Ranch House is an iconic steak and seafood restaurant that will celebrate its 70th anniversary one month before Peach Days. A local family furnishes the fresh peaches for Maddox’s own brand of peach pie, in which glazed peaches are topped with a big scoop of housemade whipped cream. This family-friendly eatery features comfort food including thick, flavorful steaks, fried chicken, and breaded turkey steak.
Ground shrimp and turkey are combined to create Maddox’s unique shrimp steak. Two chefs prepare the hand-pinched melt-in-your mouth rolls that, along with the corn pones, can be topped with honey or Maddox’s signature raspberry butter. “The rolls are fresh every day, all day long,” says Julie Reeves, Maddox’s public relations director. She adds that nearly everything at Maddox is housemade—from the salad dressing to the ice cream to the cake of the day.
Maddox Ranch House,
1900 S. Highway 89, Perry
Fat of the Land
By JARED BLACKLEY
With its long, upwardly pointing snout and body covered in coarse and curly wool, the Mangalitsa pig looks the unintended consequence of a romantic weekend between a sheep and a pig.
When Julie Clifford, partner in Clifford Family Farm in Provo, first saw a picture of these pigs, she thought, “Wow, those are cool. I need to get some.” She immediately began researching the pig’s traits and meat quality and was impressed by what she found.
With its dark red, beef-like meat and creamy marbling of fat, the Mangalitsa is often referred to as the “Kobe beef of pork.” As such, it can be found on the menus of numerous Michelin-starred restaurants in Europe, but remains relatively obscure in the United States, though its popularity is beginning to grow here, too.
Intent on finding a good breeding stock, Julie and her husband, Richard, set off for California to learn more about the breed and meet with breeders. Four years later, there are now between 15 and 20 Mangalitsa pigs rooting around on several acres of their farm. “Julie is a doer,” Richard says. “She is a woman of action. If she wants something, she figures out a way to make it happen.”
The Mangalitsa first appeared in the 1830s in the Austro-Hungarian Empire, after Archduke Joseph Anton Johann received some Sumadija pigs from a Serbian prince and bred them with Bakony and Szalonta pigs, which had been raised for lard. The result soon became the most sought-after swine in Eastern Europe. As one of the fattiest pigs in the world, its body weight is about 65% to 70% fat.
Mangalitsas, Richard says, “take about twice as long as a Berkshire pig to mature. And then they are only half the size. And they have less meat, because they have so much fat. And their litters are smaller.”
These very traits caused the Mangalitsa breed to fall on hard times in the 20th century. Vegetable oil and shortening overtook lard as the main lipids used in both restaurants and homes. Animal fat itself became taboo, blamed for high cholesterol and heart disease. And, let’s face it, there are fewer pigs with more fat than the Mangalitsas. Add to that the rise of industrial farming that focuses on food as a commodity and that utilizes the most cost-efficient means to bring commercially viable meat to the table.
By 1990, fewer than 200 Mangalitsas remained. It is only due to the zeal of Hungarian geneticist Peter Toth that the Mangalitsa survives today. There are now an estimated 65,000 of these curious pigs on the planet; approximately 10,000 of them are in the United States. Because of their high production cost, small family farms, where animal are humanely raised and cared for, make a natural home.
Clifford Family Farms fits that profile. The farm began as way for Julie Clifford to feed her nine children nutritiously. The idea for their farm, Richard says, was “to know where our food came from. We’d feed the family first and then we could sell whatever was left over.”
When they first started raising chickens, they started with 40. The farm quickly grew a reputation for its high-quality eggs. Chefs and locavores came knocking, and the business grew. They currently have approximately 3,000 free-range chickens on two properties. Their eggs can be found on the menus of restaurants such as Pago, Communal and Trio. Eggs remain their biggest seller at the SLC Farmers Market, too.
The Mangalitsa has yet to become a regular item on any menu along the Wasatch Front, but it’s gaining popularity at the SLC Farmers Market and also at the Winter Market. If you want a certain cut, or even a half or whole hog, contact Clifford Family Farm directly. The meat can also be found at Beltex Meats.
“All of our business, even to restaurants and chefs,” said Julie, “is direct to customer.” The person you buy the farm produce from, whether it be pork or eggs or vegetables, is the person who raised it.
“For us, most of what we’ve been doing [with the Mangalitsa] has been an educational focus,” Julie says. “It’s been a big learning process. I mean, we’re still learning to cut off the right amount of fat and what not to trim, but slowly and surely, we’re building a group of people who really love what we’re doing and what the Mangalitsa has to offer.”
Clifford Family Farm
1461 N. 2100 West, Provo