Twin Rocks has Cottonwood Flair
May 2019 was the last time I had written a story about Twin Rocks Café. I was told that Duke Simpson loved that article, and how happy it made him feel. Then, suddenly, the Duke passed on to that great trading post in the sky. While it was a sad event, I was glad, in the knowing, that my story had made him feel so happy; sort of a good deed done without thinking to.
Beginning of July, I received a phone call from Frances van der Stappen, General Manager and Chef, of Twin Rocks Café, and she had a story to tell me. Seems the owners of Cottonwood Steakhouse were hanging up their pots, pans and recipe box to retire, after 27 years, and the restaurant had been sold. Now while Twin Rocks is loved by locals and tourists alike, the same can be said about the Cottonwood, and what would happen to the staff and all those amazing, downhome recipes?
The answer was for Steve Simpson, Duke’s son and current owner, and Frances to solve this while also solving a café issue, understaffing. That is correct, understaffing had also hit many businesses in San Juan County, so the café was not able to be open nightly, for dinner, as often as they used to. They hired the entire team, from Cottonwood Steakhouse, so they could stay together, as a team, earn paychecks, and continue to serve up the food they had prepared and served for many years. One of those employees is Reed Sampson (Evening Manager), and anyone who has dined frequently within the Blanding/Bluff areas knows Reed. Not only has he owned his own restaurant (Fattboyz BBQ) at one time, but when it comes to being part of a wait staff, he is the best of the best!
Frances sums it all up nicely with, “We welcomed the opportunity to build a bigger table and to honor the work of this great group of experienced and valued people.”
Maybe you are new to the area, maybe just passing through and decided to read the local newspaper, but a trip to Bluff, for food and scenery is always a great idea. Twin Rocks Café serves up Four Corners style comfort food, using local, regional food suppliers, as well as Utah Craft Brews on tap, and a select wine list. With the incorporation of Cottonwood’s recipes, the menu has been changed, but you will still see many of the tried-and-true favorites still available.
Fry and Ash breads are freshly made; the tell of freshness is not just the taste, but the steam that floats up as a piece is torn open. These breads are used, not just as sides, but for the café’s famous Navajo Taco and Navajo Burger. Both full of locally sourced meats and vegetables; packed with flavors and textures to make your eyes roll with satisfying delight.
Now, while the café offers pick-up ordering, dining inside, or on the patio veranda, is definitely the best of the choices. The Navajo Twins stand tall beside the trading posts, and when the sunlight hits the bluffs, of Bluff, it is a breathtaking view. No wonder those 1880s pioneers decided to hitch their horses to the river side trees, and call, where their wagons stopped, home.
So, with all the menu and staff changes, Twin Rocks was able to establish firm hours of operation once again:
NEW DINNER HOURS: Friday through Monday: 5-9 PM
As always, the Cafe will be open from 8 to 3 for lunch, brunch and dinner. Closed on Thursday.
Breakfast is served up to 3 pm, so if you are absolutely craving Navajo Blue Corn Pancakes, or one of their two versions of Eggs Benedict, you can!
Roy and I were so lucky to be able and dine there on Saturday, July 10. It was like the Fates had arranged it. I had been so looking forward to trying out a new recipe, on the grill, for barbecued pork tenderloin.
Unlucky me, none available; ah, but not so unlucky after all. That phone call, from Frances, also included a dinner invite, and how could we say no?
First off, our waiter was Reed, and it was so good to see him again. Besides pampering us, we always have good jokes and stories to relate during moments, fleeting moments, of downtime.
He started us off with our favorite appetizer, Buffalo Chicken Bites; tender pieces of boneless, skinless white meat chicken, deep fried and coated in a medium spiced sauce.
Oh, before I forget, dressings, sauces, sides, basically everything is made fresh, in house; and Frances trust her kitchen staff to the umpteenth degree!
Next was the Three Sisters Salad containing spring mix greens with roasted corn, Anasazi beans, tomato, cucumber, red onion and toasted tortilla chips (corn and blue corn).
We chose the Agave-Balsamic vinaigrette which only brought out the flavor of each item. The variety of textures was like a handful of puzzle pieces, that suddenly came all together, to create an amazing photo of taste.
Roy’s main meal was the 16 oz. Rib-Eye Steak (sourced from Hyrum, UT), sides of cole slaw and fries, and a green chili aioli (sorry fry sauce lovers, this aioli is better!)
The moment Reed brought this out, the overwhelming scent of charred meat got the salivary glands working in overtime. The steak was tender, juicy and very little fat, so mainly meat…meat…meat!
My choice was the Pork Tenderloin with Barbecue Butter. See, I was lucky again, as I got my grilled pork tenderloin after all. My choice of sides was Anasazi beans (heart healthy) and potato salad.
While the pork had char on the outside, the meat itself cut like butter, so tender and tasty. The barbecue butter gave an interesting experience.
As the piece of meat, smeared with the butter, went into the mouth, a sudden “twang” hit the back of the throat. Chewing, the flavors of the two items mixed and it gave a satisfying comfort to the mouth feel.
We were smart to save half of our main meals for home, as dessert had to be tried.
We have enjoyed the café’s Peaches de Chelly, but now was time to try Strawberry de Chelly. Whipped cream, vanilla ice cream, sliced strawberries sitting on freshly made Navajo frybread.
Roy is not a huge dessert eater, but even he was fighting me for the last bite of this heavenly creation.
What’s in store for the future? The old crowded gift shop is gone; only local items such as Blue Bird Flour, Adobe Milling, Utah’s own Real Salt, and dried Anasazi Beans are for sale, for now.
Eventually a coffee/kitchen gift shop will be in the works, hopefully offering up freshly, and locally, made canned goods.
Anyone can buy a t-shirt anywhere, but Twin Rocks Café is all about the food; and they are great at doing that.
Twin Rocks Café: 913 Navajo Twins Drive, Bluff, UT, 84512, (435) 672-2341, www.facebook.com/twinrockscafe/