Off the Record

"With the sports spotlight cast on Sydney, Australia the past two weeks, the 2002 Winter Olympics seem far away. But not for the folks of Salt Lake City, Utah, who have been trying to lure the Winter Games to town since 1966. Although they lost their bid in 1998 to Nagano, Japan they proceeded to get the nod for 2002...but not without scandal and controversy. Salt Lake City is not only the largest metropolitan area in the Beehive State, it's the state capitol. And although I spent some time there a dozen years ago, I only recall a few things. Like when my husband dropped his wallet in our hotel and somebody turned it in. That's something you'd expect in a town founded by Brigham Young and his entourage of Mormon pioneers back in 1847. I recently re-visited Salt Lake City and found it to be an interesting place. It may not hold the allure and glamour of Sydney, but it's got a lot to offer. Not only that, it takes less than two hours to fly there, and the mountains and ski resorts are a quick drive away once you touch down. First things first Folks in Salt Lake chuckle as they brag about their number one consumption of two things: Jell-O and ice cream. Blame it on too many potlucks and long, hot summers. But one thing's for sure: In my brief stay, I never sucked any green slimy stuff or scooped a bowl of Ben & Jerry's. But I did devour some mighty fine food. From the New American cuisine at Hotel Monaco's Bambara Restaurant to Baci Trattoria, a classy Italian joint housed in the old Salt Lake High School building, this city by the huge salty lake doesn't suffer when it comes to vittles. My favorite turned out to be Utah's oldest. Lamb's Restaurant opened in 1919 in Logan, Utah and 20 years later moved to the historic Herald building on Main Street in Salt Lake City. It's a throwback to places where we would dine with our grandparents or favorite aunt, and they serve up a hearty breakfast, lunch and dinner. Not only do the waitresses still wear retro white uniforms and matching shoes, along with people-friendly name badges (Katherine), Lamb's has the same booths, tables and light fixtures since 1939. Known for its heavy meals at a fair price, expect a full dinner with a well-crafted cocktail for under $20. Weekends they feature a vintage piano player, and you can show up either glitzy for the Utah Symphony or comfy in polar fleece.Back to accommodations. I was pleasantly surprised that Salt Lake has a Hotel Monaco, part of the small Kimpton Group of boutique hotels that has properties in Chicago, Denver, San Francisco and Seattle among others. The decor is early Deco/French inspired and it's pet friendly. Why else would they provide guests with a personal goldfish?Another unique inn, located a quick walk from the Utah State Capitol, is Wolfe Krest. Proprietor Kay Malone runs the former Wolfe Mansion as an upscale B&B. Her husband, Utah Jazz basketball star Karl Malone, bought the 1905 mansion for his wife, and the 13 elegantly designed rooms offer some of the best views of the Great Salt Lake and beyond.So, can you get a drink in Salt Lake? Yup, but it's kind of goofy. I walked into a hotel bar and ordered a glass of red wine, and the bartender asked, Do you belong to the club? Yikes. My endless years of Catholic Catechism and collection of saints' medals weren't gonna cut the holy water here. What club? I replied. The bartender explained. Utah has funny liquor laws, but they're better than they were. At restaurants and in hotels, alcohol is served with the purchase of food. Taverns and micro-brew pubs are open to the public, but if you go into a bar, that's when you need to belong to the club. Simply explained, you buy a temporary membership for up to six people ($5 total), and it's good for two weeks. Think of it as a cover charge. Usually somebody at the bar will sponsor you, and that was my good fortune. On to religion. Salt Lake City is to the Mormons what Rome is to Catholics. The only difference is, you can't get into the Temple. I tried. Unknowingly, I walked into the employees' entrance at Temple Square and a very elderly gentleman garbed in a white suit intercepted me. May I help you? he asked. I quickly replied, Yes, I thought I'd take a look around the Temple. His face fell ever so slightly as he droned, The Temple is for members only, and those with invitations. This wasn't going to be as easy as a glass of merlot. Oh, I thought it was like the Vatican, I mumbled. I made a quick sign of the cross as I hurriedly escaped.Salt Lake City ain't such a bad fact, it's kinda cool. Who knows, I may return for the Winter Olympics in 2002. Maybe by then the Temple will have a reciprocal deal with us Vatican kids knocking at the door. Sue Frause can be reached via e-mail at "

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