No new snow overnight – bummer.
We decide to venture out during the daylight hours. Our destination today: Utah Olympic Park.
Olympic park is home of the ski jump, luge and bobsled tracks. We opt for the guided tour and it turns out to be a great decision. Our guide is a vivacious man who starts our tour by showing us the most dangerous conveyance: the luge. These sleds go about 90 mph and any mistake is quite significant – riders get burned by the ice (yep, at 90 mph, that's what happens))
Our first stop is the tippy top of the 120 m ski jump. You can see the jumps from the main highway but when you arrive at the facility, you are awed at the magnitude. However, nothing prepares you for the view from the starting gate. These guys MUST be crazy.
Our guide gives a detailed description of the how the track works: there are actually “slots” for the skis carved into the run. And there is a layer of plastic grass-like material (think of a fake hula skirt) that the snow sits on. The start gate is actually adjusted up or down the run based on the weather conditions. They use guinea pigs (14 year-old jumpers) to take the first runs and determine the necessary adjustment.
Our next stop is the luge track. This is one of those sports that looks so very easy. You lie on your back with your ankles on the front part of the blades. It is the most dangerous of Olympic sports. We are arrive in time to watch a slider about to take a training run on the luge track. His gloves have little grippy spikes on them – used to push off from the start gate. He looks cold in his skin tight suit. He's breathing deeply and going through the turns in his head - they have no time to "think" out there, it's all programmed into their heads and muscles.
Our guide takes us to one of the turns in the luge track and we are able to catch a fleeting glimpse of a couple women on the track. Their coach is watching and we find it uncanny that he can provide guidance to them (relax, drive your shoulder down to get into the turn). They flashed by so quickly, we couldn't even tell you what colors they were wearing.
From this point, we see the tourist start of the bobsled – for $200 you and two others can ride in a bobsled with a professional driver. You'll experience 4 Gs in the turns and 80+ mph of pure icy speed. The gold medalist in Nagano Japan won with 70+ mph time. This is the fastest track in existence. However, we are going to miss the opportunity – they don't open for tourist thrills until Dec 18!
The facility boasts a museum dedicated to the 2002 Olympics. It's small but packs in a lot of memorabilia from the event in the area. And did you know that Paul was one of the cauldron lighters? – here is a photo as proof. Oops, is that the hardwood floor of the museum at the base of this picture! Otherwise, it looks pretty convincing. NOT!
We take a friend's the suggestion to dine at Chez Betty tonight, located in the Cooperbottom Inn. It's pretty quiet, there are only three other tables occupied. After review of the menu, Annette orders the Tasting Menu with the wine pairings. Paul orders from the main menu: Shrimp and Lemongrass Dumplings and Grilled Hanger Steak. The 4 course tasting menu starts with Apple Walnut Risotto - a yummy, creamy, rich offering. The chablis accompaniment is perfect.
The Goat Cheese Ravioli is served in a puddle of Roast Shallot Broth, Sweet Onion Jam and Sun-Dried Tomatoes. It's a tiny little puff of a serving - I could have eaten a few more. For Paul, the flavors don't quite come together, but it doesn't stop him from cleaning the bowl. The entree, Pork Medallions, is exquisite. It's moist and flavorful - difficult to find in today's pork market. The dessert is beautifully presented and Annette finds the frozen banana nougat much more interesting than the chocolate cake (what's up with that?) The presentation highlight of the meal is the port - it's served in a small crystal bowl, with a sipping straw that comes from the bottom. It's delicate and terribly cute. And Annette actually slurps - not realizing she was near the bottom of the portion, she manages a noisy slurp of greed.
Paul's selections are wonderful as well. The dumplings are complex and have a hint of spice in the sauce. The hanger steak is rare, the way it should be. The brie and mushroom bruschetta is wonderful, but we are slightly confused by the toast on top of a small lump of mashed potatoes. Maybe the potatoes are to keep everything "attached" to the plate.
Our waiter, Ben, is wonderful and asks how we like each course and I do believe he may actually take our comments back to the chef.
A truly wonderful meal and evening.