Eat all the food.
That’s my motto: Eat all the food. So, when I was invited to this year’s Deer Valley Winter Menu Tasting, I realized it was the perfect antidote to my late-autumn blues—in which my impatience for winter rears its head. I had, that morning, said to a friend, “I’m trying to overcome my grumpiness about the beautiful weather.” Because, as we locals know, the mid-Novemeber weather is a tease—a few inches of white stuff, followed by fifty degree sunny days. Gloriously sunny. It’s enough to knock the wind out of a desperate-to-ski person’s sails. Or something.
So, dining a la Deer Valley, and mentally planning my evenings out for the winter, banished all grumpiness. Which may or may not have been followed by some freshies in the next three days. I dare not take credit.
Regardless, there were so many exciting developments revealed at the menu tasting, I couldn’t help but feel excited and hopeful about the coming season.
Perhaps the best news, at least to a woman who enjoys a “cheese course” nearly every evening—even if that translates, roughly, to breaking off a bite or two of aged Gouda pulled from my stash in the fridge and warmed from a rest at room temperature for a few minutes—is this: Deer Valley now makes artisan cheese. Yes, there is a cheese making operation at 8100 feet, in Silver Lake Lodge, utilizing dairy from the Heber Valley.
You can enjoy this cheese at every restaurant at Deer Valley, but perhaps the best news is that you can purchase it to enjoy at home (or in your vacation lodging, or on the plane ride home, or in the taxi on the way to the airport), at the Deer Valley Grocery Café.
Belgian-born cheese maker Corrine Cornet-Coniglio knows her stuff. She walked me through tasting all four cheeses: Blue Belle, Moon Shadow, Meadow Lark, and The Provence Kid. Each one delighted my palate in a different, cheese-obsessed way. (Yes, I’m planning to devote another post entirely to Corrine and the cheeses.) For now, I’ll tell you that the Blue Belle is a ripened blue cow’s milk cheese, Moon Shadow is an ash-ripened goat cheese with a white rind and a firm texture that made me wonder why other cheese makers bother, Meadowlark is a double-cream soft-ripened cow’s milk cheese and The Provence Kid is a marinated goat cheese with Herbes de Provence. I was lucky enough to take a couple of these cheeses home, and served them the following night to guests. My friends conferred near-rock-star status on me, just for having introduced them to the cheese.
Dinner brought still more fun surprises, many of which were inspired by Chef Jodie Rogers and Clark Norris’ trip to Iowa over the summer, for a farmer’s appreciation dinner. Here’s a restaurant-by-restaurant guide to the new menu items:
Lemon-Black Garlic Bluenose Bass, The Seafood Buffet
Prepared in an oolong tea and wild mushroom broth, and served with fresh basil chiffonade, this dish boasts a sustainable New Zealand blue-nose bass. It’s light, but satisfying, and the flavors are complex and rich, without being overpowering.
Porchetta – Royal Street Café
Chefs Clark Norris and Chris Gibson prepare this Niman Ranch Pork Belly in an immersion circulator at 145 degrees for a whole day. Then, they pair it with creamy Brussels sprouts (who knew?) and whole grain mustard. It’s so rich, they decided it needed to be served only in appetizer portions, but I could make a meal out of it, with a salad, easily.
Pancetta Wrapped Monkfish- Mariposa
This dish was a favorite on the specials menu last winter—and it was so popular, that Chef Norris and Chef Tim Gibson decided to make it a staple of the regular menu this season. With its mustard pickle burre blanc, pan-roasted frisee and chevre mashed Yukon gold potatoes, it’s a superstar of a dish. Chef Norris even shared his secret to pan-roasting the frisee—he sears an entire head of the greens in a cast-iron skillet, then places a second skillet on top of the greens, themselves, creating a crispiness through the entire bunch.
Rose-Hip Glazed Niman Ranch Pork Tenderloin—Fireside Dining
Chef Shane Symes uses rose hips foraged from the mountain to create the glaze. Accompanied by parsnips, which are boiled in 2% milk, strained, then pureed with the retained liquid in a smoothie blender. The parsnips almost take center stage—they’re that good.
Buckwheat Crepe and Deer Valley Brie Roulade—Mariposa
You’d think this is so rich that you need to share it. But, to my mind, it’s so rich, I need to keep it all to myself. You have my permission to do the same. Pastry Chef Stephen Harty pairs it with champagne huckleberry sorbet, lacquered walnuts and huckleberry crunch. Seriously, you will need to swat away your dining partners’ wandering forks.
Salted Carmel Panna Cotta—Seafood Buffet
Snow Park Pastry Chef Debbie Swenerton said she was “inspired by Cracker Jack,” when she created this dessert. The milk chocolate cremoso, caramel corn cream with a cone of cashew caramel corn is going to be a runaway hit with certain members of my family, when we visit the Buffet this winter. The ski lodge version of the ballpark snack is, forgive my expression, a grand slam home run.