Winter Menu Tasting

Pre-Season Training

I’ve been doubling up on workouts at the gym—not really to get my ski legs on, because we all know the only real way to do that is to ski. For me, these workouts are insurance—that I can eat lunch with impunity. (And by “impunity” I mean taking a no-holds-barred approach to toppings on my Turkey Chili.) I make no secret of the fact that I ski for lunch—and that I’m ever-grateful that Deer Valley turns ski cuisine into high art. But, friends, I think they have outdone themselves.

A few weeks ago, I had the great good fortune to attend a sneak preview menu tasting for the Deer Valley restaurants. The first surprise (and there were many) was that the restaurant in Snow Park Lodge underwent a significant remodel in the off-season. Most noticeably, the beverage stations—once located at center stage in the middle of the buffet lines—have been relocated to a wall, skier’s left as you enter the buffet area. It’s easy to use during the ski day, and easy to hide behind a curtain when the restaurant is transformed, four evenings a week, to the Seafood Buffet.

At center stage is an expansive Natural Buffet station, which will double as a raw-bar/chef’s station for the Seafood Buffet. Oh, and speaking of bars—there is a beautiful new bar just to the right of the stairs to the second level of dining. By day, it’s a full-service espresso bar, where you can order your caffeine fix in any number of combinations. By night, at Seafood Buffet, it’s there for the graceful service of cocktails. Naturally, I I started my evening here,  with a glass of Reederer Estate, Brut, sparkling wine from Anderson Valley, California, poured by Mariposa manager Scott Myers.

Chefs from each restaurant at Deer Valley, presented the new menu items they’d spent the summer perfecting. (I know, I know, I have a very rough job.) I tried everything—and now I will present your restaurant-by-restaurant guide to the best-bet bites.

Seafood Buffet

If you haven’t tried this restaurant, this is your year. Two standout dishes were added to the menu, one as a “bite,” the other as an entrée.

The bite: Seared Wagyu Beef on a duck-fried Yukon gold potato chip with bacon and caramelized onion jam. Abandon all hope of stopping at just one. There is something about the duck fat in this dish that makes the rest of the ingredients pop.

Garithes me Domato Kai Feta. It would have never occurred to me to prepare shrimp with Feta cheese. Which is why I am not a chef. The broth is light—lemon, chives and fennel. The heirloom cherry tomatoes (from Copper Moose Farm and from farms in Wyoming) are cooked just enough to enhance their natural sweetness. The feta provides a tart measure that plays against the sweetness of the tomatoes and the shrimp.

Royal Street Café

The full-service restaurant in Silver Lake Lodge is one of my favorite stops. From the cocktails to the menu that’s so delightfully varied that it almost demands we order in concert so no dish goes untasted. If you must choose, take a break from your usual edamame appetizer and bite into the Tomatillo and Jalapeno crusted Calamari Frito. I had to try several, as I was trying to decide whether I preferred dipping them in the poblano aioli or the red chili cocktail dipping sauce. Jury’s still out. I’ll have to go to RSC post-haste for further research.

Known for inventive sandwiches, Royal Street won’t disappoint meat lovers—aside from the fact that they have to choose between three new and delicious sandwiches:  the Maple Bacon BBQ Bison Burger (the bacon is cured and smoked in-house, the bison is ground fresh, daily) the House-smoked Pulled-Pork sandwich, and the Bulgogi and Bao Bun. This Korean-seasoned beef cheek is probably my favorite—plenty of heat, with an undertone of sweetness. And you can order it in a lettuce wrap, too.

Deer Valley Grocery Café

Sous Chef Adam has been at the Grocery Café for just a few months, but he’s already upped the ante on the menu, by adding some excellent après ski options. Roasted Pepper Fondito, Salmon Rillette and Smoked Tomato Blue Crab Dip. Here’s a tip—try them all, and ask the team at the café to heat a few take-home entrees for you while you enjoy appetizers on the deck. You won’t be sorry.

Fireside Dining

For a restaurant that cooks all of its food directly from the hearths in the dining rooms, you would not expect fish. But Chef Shane Symes presented a Juniper Berry Crusted Walleye with a house-made thyme ricotta cheese, balsamic pearls and a lemon-whey sauce that I might have happily enjoyed as a dessert if it didn’t pair so nicely with the fish.

Mariposa

I’ll find any excuse to dine at Mariposa—but I’ve often found it hard to choose between dishes, then over-ordering and then feeling that I’ve overindulged by meal’s end. In fact, once, we took our friends Florida Keys Girl and Guy to dinner there, and Keys Girl found herself so stuffed that she retreated to an empty booth to lie down. Well, I’m happy to report that we can sample the menu with impunity, as Executive Chef Clark Norris and Sous Chef Tim Carpenter have transformed the entire menu into small-plate style—you can still order entrée-sized portions, if you wish, but choosing a variety of bites is encouraged. Don’t miss the Niman Ranch Beef Short Rib with Pontack Sauce and chevre mashed potatoes. The hidden gem of the dish was the fried smoked shallot—which had been smoked on oak from Chef Norris’s property. And since you asked, I’ll tell you about Pontack sauce: It’s an English elderberry sauce with a slightly sharp sweetness that plays beautifully against the beef. Executive Chef Norris harvests the berries off the slopes of Deer Valley. I defy you to find a more local dish.

At this point the meal, having enjoyed more than a bite of everything—plus some lovely paired wines—I learned a delightful new phrase: Cheese Course Slider. Seriously.

Executive Pastry Chef Letty Flatt, and Snow Park Pastry Chef Debby Swenerton  did not disappoint, serving up the Brown Butter Pineapple Upside Down Cake with coconut-lime mascarpone cream. You’ll find this dessert at Seafood Buffet—and you’ll taste the influence of Swenerton’s Hawaiian vacations.

Believe it or not, we had more dessert: Chai gianduja ice cream, hibiscus sorbet and carmelized pear ice cream from Pastry Chef Steve Harty at The Mariposa.

I left the tasting confident in two things: I won’t have any shortage of amazing dining options this winter—and I’m going to have to ski harder for lunch.  Bon Appetit!

Fireside Dining at Empire Lodge: Not Your Typical Dining Experience

My image of fireside dining used to be a cozy table for two warmed by a gas lit fireplace, a tasty meal, and a glass of red wine – sounds wonderful but pretty typical.  Fireside dining at the Empire Lodge is definitely not typical.  When my husband and I walked in, we knew we were in store for something special.  A roaring wood burning fire in the huge stone fireplace greeted us.  The fireplace housed three pots of steaming chocolate and a pan of berry cobbler!  I immediately made a note to self – save room for dessert.

Fireside dining at Empire Lodge is distinct in that you are certainly warmed by the fire but the food is also. Inside the fireplaces, you’ll see wrought iron stands holding melting cheeses, steaming stews and potatoes, and racks of lamb.  The atmosphere of warmth with the aroma of the wood fires and the juices dripping relaxes everyone immediately.

We were seated by the fireplace with two huge blocks of cheese melting onto individual plates.  My husband had the view of the snow and mountain with the tall dark pine trees paired with aspen trees.  Every twenty minutes or so, a horse drawn sleigh slowly passed by and I’d turn to watch the sight.  I chose to sit so I could watch not just the fire and those mesmerizing blocks of cheese melting, but also the other guests and their reaction to this unusual sight.

To me, the guests seemed to fall into two distinct categories:  eager or curious.  The eager folks took the direct approach.  They stepped right up snapping photos and proceeded directly to the middle of the fireplace and didn’t even wait for the attendant to hand them a plate.  They grabbed one straight out and the host placed the hot melted cheese plate on top (using tongs!) They took the same approach with the accoutrement table.  They topped the melted cheese with potatoes, meats and mustards with wild abandon appearing that they wanted to try absolutely everything. (I fell into this camp.)

The curious guests seemed like they were almost thinking, “For me?” They approached from the side allowing the host to serve them.  They stood back and took in the accoutrement table first scanning the options and delicacies before making their choices.  I observed many pairing up different meats, mustards and chutneys selectively as if they were choosing wine pairings with courses.  This group was probably thinking to themselves, “I better pace myself so I am going to make the perfect combination.” (My husband fell into this camp.)

I don’t know which I enjoyed more – my meal or observing others enjoying the experience.  The duck, the veal and mushroom stew, roasted potatoes and the roast lamb with apple basil jelly were amazing but both my husband and I kept that dessert table in the back of our minds as we took our time and enjoyed the meal, wine and relaxation.

When we did make it to the dessert fireplace, I noticed the other diners had changed camps.  Well, it is probably better said that they joined camps – everyone was eager.  There was no apprehension or hesitation at this accoutrement table.  I heard someone say, “This is great. They have the largest plates for dessert.”

Everyone filled their plates with combinations of strawberries, bananas, pineapples, cookies, dried fruit, and nuts then chose their personal cup of steaming hot fondue.   Of course, my husband and I both chose all three—dark chocolate, caramel, and white chocolate with Grand Marnier!  Our favorites ended up being: dark chocolate for pineapple and bananas, caramel with the sugar cookies and white chocolate with the strawberries.  With the ski lodge, the horse drawn sleigh, the roaring wood fires, hearty flavorful stews and meats and the playful desserts – can’t think of a more extraordinary dinner no matter what camp you fall in.

Shane Symes’ Deer Valley

With 34 days left in the season there is still a chance to experience some of Deer Valley’s unique dining options. To help make the most of your Deer Valley experience we caught up with another employee for their expert opinion:

Meet Shane Symes, Sous Chef at Fireside Dining.

When did you come to Deer Valley?
Shane: I came to Deer Valley the winter of 1984-85. This is my 27th year.

What does a perfect ski day mean to you?
Shane: A perfect day skiing is a deep powder day off of Lady Morgan Express chairlift. I love that mountain and rarely come off it on a powder day. But on a REALLY good powder day I would actually prefer to snowboard at one of the other awesome resorts in Park City!

What is your favorite thing on the menu at Fireside?
Shane: This is one of our new dishes this year. We do a seared beef or venison medallion on top of a bacon pancake served with a homemade huckleberry jelly. We also serve this dish with a little fried quail egg and a little lemon butter.

Try the bacon pancake out for yourself!

2 Cups AP Flour
2 1/2 Cups Buttermilk
2 Eggs
1 T. + 1 t. Olive Oil
1T. + 1 t. Sugar
2 t. Baking Powder
1 t. Vanilla
1 t. Salt
1/8 cup Water
3-4 Bacon Slices
Slice the bacon up into small pieces and fry it over medium/high heat until it is the crispiness that you desire. When finished drain on a paper towel.
While the bacon is cooking mix the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt into a bowl.
In a separate bowl mix the dairy, egg, oil and vanilla.
Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and stir just until incorporated.
Over medium heat, pour the pancake batter onto the pan.
Immediately after you pour the batter, sprinkle a hand full of bacon bits onto the pancake. You could mix the bacon directly into the batter, but I have found that you get better distribution if you sprinkle it on this way.
Once you see bubbles forming and bursting on the top of the pancake it is time to flip. Only flip pancakes once.
Another minute or two later the pancake is cooked. Remove onto a plate and either eat, or place the plate in the oven on warm to keep the pancakes hot until you are finished cooking all of them.

Who is your favorite person to ski with?
Shane: My favorite person to ski with is by myself, I really enjoy the solitude. I also enjoy skiing with my staff as we have fun together and ski everywhere.

Your must have treat at Deer Valley?
Shane: The must have treat at Deer Valley is anything that Debbie Swenerton (Snow Park Bakery Chef) makes. Mostly the peanut butter truffles and white chocolate rice krispy treats.

What run is a must for every ski day?
Shane: There are two “must” runs, Magnet and Hidden Treasure.

 

Valentine’s Dinner at The Mariposa

I’m no romance expert, but I’m sure people gaze adoringly into each other’s’ eyes at Fireside Dining at Empire or Seafood Buffet. But to my mind, the sure bet for a romantic night is The Mariposa. Consider it the Valentine’s Day dinner destination of romantic skier-types (and non-skier-types) alike.

It’s one of the few restaurants in Park City with underground parking—so, ladies, you can safely bust out the cute shoes for a night out.

Plus, every time I eat dinner at Mariposa, it feels like Valentine’s Day, or my anniversary.  I’m not the only one who thinks of the warm candle-lit room with the crackling fireplace as Romance Central. I’ve witnessed a marriage proposal in that room.

And, frankly, you can check your brain at the door when you go to Mariposa—it’s impossible to make a bad choice on the menu. But the best part is, you don’t have to make a choice. There are two tasting menus—one vegetarian and one that’s decidedly carnivore-friendly—complete with flawless wine pairings. I have it on good authority that the restaurant manager and the sommelier have personally taken (more than) one for the team and opened bottle after bottle to make sure the pairings are just right.

Interview with Jodie Rogers Executive Chef of Snow Park and Empire Canyon Lodges

JF: First Jodie, remind us what’s your philosophy at Deer Valley Resort?

JR: The biggest thing we’ve done in the past two year was to turn to three fundamental principles: Local, sustainable and fresh ingredients. Fresh ingredients have always been a big concern for us. This year I was lucky enough to be invited on a couple ranch tours, in Bear Lake and in South Dakota. We work with Niman Ranch where traceability is available and easy to check. They work very closely with us and make the effort to understand our needs. For instance, all of our lamb, in all in our menus, comes from Bear Lake. Our beef comes from many of the Niman associate farms. We’re staying away from unnecessary antibiotic, steroids or things like that. Freshness is paramount with us.

 

JF: Do you treat seafood the same way?

JR: Absolutely! Heather, our seafood chef at the Seafood Buffet, has been leading that way for many years already. She follows the “Seafood Watch” at the Monterey Bay Aquarium daily and purchases accordingly. For instance, we can trace back all of our oysters to their origin and to the actual fishermen. Now, our guest have come to expect this kind of quality from us! Not only are we doing the right things, but our guest expect us to keep that lead.

JF: So tell me, what’s new this winter at Deer Valley?

JR: First at the Grocery~Café, we are working very closely with Copper Moose Farm for our field greens, beets, herbs and other vegetables that can be grown in our harsh environment. As far as the Seafood Buffet is concerned, Heather having  her crew go back to the roots of some classic dishes. As an example, this season Heather had the idea of serving Pazole with the DV twist. Instead of buying ready-made cans of Hominy, she’s taking the dried corn and making it from scratch. The seafood Buffet chefs will continue to follow what’s sustainable and we’ll advise the chefs be creative within that parameter. The Day Lodges will continue with Niman burgers and homemade bratwursts. We’ll keep everyone focused on these goals so that our chefs understand our local sourcing, make sure it remains a priority and use it as creatively as possible.

Fireside Dining is opening an extra night, Saturday, and that will go from three to four nights. All the lamb will be sourced locally, from Bear Lake. We’ve also gone local with some of Salt Lake’s Creminelli cured meat instead of importing them; Creminelli is really good, they source Berkshire pork and other high quality ingredients as local as possible… The Mariposa is going to offer a great southwest sturgeon dish this winter to continue our quest in trying to stay sustainable. Royal Street Café is focusing on using lots of local cheeses, like Beehive, Rock Hill Creamery and Gold Creek. Our Day Restaurants will incorporate all of these into our other menus as well. Royal Street Café will also still serve their fabulous homemade meatballs, that by the way are also sold at the Deer Valley Grocery~Café…

Our big focus as far as management is to see even more consistency out of our three Days Lodges. Now that we’re Number One for the fifth year in a row, it behooves us to maintain our lead, ahead of the competition by continuing to strive for culinary perfection.

We’ve had a lot of construction going on this summer and some of it involved rebuilding the whole employee dining area at the Snow Park Lodge as we had outgrown it. Since it caters to our own staff, it also gave us the opportunity to offer an extended menu along with faster service, and this is not small stuff as, if we’re able to make our own people happy, we can be sure that they will make our guests even happier. That may sound like “back of the house” but it will have a huge impact on the “front of the house” and their interaction with our guests!

On the cocktail front, the Park City Area Restaurant Association had upped the ante by organizing a cocktail contest twice a year and we’re participating along with the other Main Street establishments. We’ll be featuring the winner of the last contest, the Easy Street Cocktail, that will be on all our menus. We will also feature more seasonal drinks and cocktail and we’ve also upgraded our wine and liquor list. Finally, we’ll be offering more live entertainment in the afternoon at the EBS Lounge, during weekends, with some of our best local musicians…

 

JF: Sounds wonderful! Where do you get all that inspiration?

JR: Our guests drive us to become better, especially when they do vote us continually Number One in Food and Beverage, on-mountain dining, specially. The good comments we get from our guests make us want to be better. Our chefs are also a very creative team that is always on the lookout for new things and are key in keeping our lead. I want to give them every opportunity to try something new and wow our guests.

 

JF: How do you gather that feedback?

JR: Our guests are pretty verbal, and we get lots of comments, phone calls and emails, helping us to steer our offerings in the right direction. We’re are labeling our menus to indicate all the gluten-free, vegan and vegetarian items as we get these questions all the time, and it’s sometimes hard for waiters to keep up with all these details even though we keep on educating them as well on all these issues.

We have an eight-day rotating menu for our kids ski school, and while we’ve always cater to Kosher, this year our menus will also display the gluten-free options. Further, our ski school menus are all nut-free and we take all the necessary care in the kitchens to avoid cross-contamination so kids can eat with total peace of mind. The bottom line is that if anyone has some special needs, we’ll take care of them!

 

JF: Is the improving level of the Park City, Main Street restaurant benefiting Deer Valley?

JR: We all help each other. The more demand we place on certain ingredients, the more choice we get from suppliers and the more that quality improves. That’s a huge help from all of us. When I first came to Deer Valley I couldn’t get coconut milk; you know, I come from Australia and I couldn’t get any of it and I got so frustrated! Because we have such a diverse and talented pool of chefs between Main Street and Deer Valley, there’s a friendly and highly productive emulation that elevates the quality of the food served and benefits everyone. Our guests too are very diverse and come to us with pretty sophisticated tastes and a fine palate that push us all to become better!

 

JF: You’ve wet my appetite; when can guest samples all that wonderful food?

JR: Very soon! While our Grocery~Café is always serving food, Royal Street Café will open the last weekend of November and then the weekend of December 3, all Day Lodges will welcome the skiing public. Then on Friday, December 9, our Seafood Buffet will be available to diners, followed by Fireside, the last one to open, on Wednesday, December 14. Mark your calendar and come sample our wonderful food!

Check out this blog post on Park City Magazine by the lovely Kristen Case sharing her experience at the Deer Valley Winter Menu Tasting.