The Park City Food and Wine Classic

bari nan and husbandThis summer, Jeff and I were invited to enjoy “The Best of the Best” event during the Park City Food and Wine Classic, held at the Montage Deer Valley. Lucky for us, we got to spend the night, too.

There is something magical about pulling up to the Montage—for me, it means my blood pressure drops to near-sedated levels. I’m in my favorite corner of Deer Valley Resort, Empire Canyon, and I’m just minutes from home, but a world away. This time, it felt even more “away,” because my kids were not with me. And my husband was. To say we were excited about the prospect of an overnight “away,” is a mild understatement.

hotel roomHere’s where I will include traditional disclaimer about how we LOVE our kids, and can’t IMAGINE life without them—it’s all true. Except for the second part. I remember quite clearly the 30 years of my life before them, and they were good years. The years with the kids? Better than good. But a night off from parenting is a key ingredient in recharging one’s parenting batteries. A night off at the Montage is even better, because I could turn off the whirring in my brain—the schedules and bedtime battles and snack requests that serve as so much white noise (and a trusted friend was in charge of the kids and accompanying “noise” for 24 hours).

See, all the thinking is, well, pre-thought for you at Montage. The details of daily living are sorted out for you by the able staff. Even checking in is a treat, as a staff member greets you, room keys and paperwork in hand, to escort you directly to your room, and handle check in procedures there.  Imagine my delight when I found our room equipped with in-wall USB charging ports for the gizmos we brought with us (iPads, phones, kindles), as well as current issues of our favorite magazines. (By the way, I needed none of these items—the view from our twin terraces was breathtaking and all-consuming).

people archeryThe property is beautiful—wandering the grounds makes a person feel like she’s ensconced in a lovely movie about resort life, since the gardens have hidden speakers that makes it seem like the flowerbeds are singing to you. We took in a view of the archery field (lessons offered multiple times a day), and then went to lounge by the pool. Kermut, a helpful staffer, situated us on lounge chairs that he outfitted with comfy toweling covers, and then proffered cocktail and snack menus. We ordered the Park City Mule and For Jonas cocktails—light, refreshing and fun—, and a charcuterie platter, and while we were waiting, a lovely woman arrived to ask if she could give my sunglasses a complimentary polish. Who was I to refuse?

drinkscheese and meatpoolAnd with the clarity of vision returned to my favorite pair of shades, came a moment of clarity: One of the best things about staying at a property where all the details are managed so that your stay is effortless is that your brain has time to relax and explore some of the terrain that usually goes neglected when you’re fussing and fretting over the actual running of your life.  Which meant that Jeff and I had the chance to let our minds wander, do some brainstorming about various creative endeavors we’ve been pondering, and, yes, notice how much the kids would totally enjoy a stay at the Montage, as well. Tons of kid-friendly activities were available at nearly every turn—from the human-sized chess pieces on a walk-on board adjacent to the pool deck, to the aforementioned archery lessons, Paintbox Kids activities, lawn games, and, of course, Daly’s—the sports pub/grill complete with bowling alley and a gaming arcade. A pact was made: We would satisfy our craving for more top-notch service and relaxed unwinding time by returning with the kids in a few weeks. After all, they deserve to see that their parents are more than just schedule keepers, meal-providers and homework-naggers, too!

Before long, it was time to return to our room and prep for the evening ahead—which promised wine and food paired tasting stations featuring inventive dishes from the Montage (everything from fire-roasted wild boar tostadas to DIY s’mores with homemade flavored marshmallows and locally sourced dark chocolate). I didn’t get to any other events at this year’s Park City Food and Wine Classic, but from everything we sampled and tasted over the course of the evening, I have to agree—the Montage presented The Best of the Best.  I don’t think anyone at the property would take credit, but some much-needed rain sprinkled onto the terrace off the lounge, and then…a rainbow.

hotel room bedAn evening of revelry behind us, we retreated to our room—and to the world’s most comfortable bed. (Yes, I did look up the bedding on the hotel’s website, and I may or may not have ordered a feather bed and some new pillowcases by the time you are reading this post.) By morning, we felt refreshed— and ready for alfresco breakfast at Apex. Now, we were well-entertained, well-rested and well-fed, which may well be the trifecta of the mini-break.

By the time we checked out, I had a to-do list for our next visit: Hang out with the hotel’s resident Bernese Mountain Dogs, take archery lessons, dine at Daly’s and hit the Deer Valley trails for a hike—all of the above, with the kids. Plus, a detour to the spa for Mom. Yes, it does sound like the makings of a great family getaway. Stay tuned!

Rafting Down the Weber River

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Cindy giving the thumbs up before we begin our tour.

The writer, Deer Valley Resort communications coordinator, Katy McEver, has lived in Park City just over a year and a half with her dog Ellie. As a transplanted Southerner, she plans to keep finding new adventures in the mountains and deserts of Utah.

Last summer, I made the mistake of keeping my adventures limited to hiking nearby local trails. This is a tragic mistake and every local and visiting tourist should make the effort to explore! Nearly finishing my second summer here in Utah (and in case you were wondering, I definitely caught the local bug called ‘came for the winter and stayed for the summer!’) I decided this summer to jump feet first into finding adventures located right in my very active backyard.

A month ago, I had the pleasure of experiencing one of the ‘must-do’ summer activities in Utah—rafting! My friend and colleague, Kyle Hooker, owns Park City Tubing and when I asked where he would recommend a novice rafter (I don’t even own a pair of Tevas or Chacos, oh the horror!) to start he quickly pointed me towards the Weber River.  Luckily for me, just down the road in Morgan, Park City Rafting offers guided rafting tours from two hour to full day trips. Its sister company, Barefoot Tubing is also located in Morgan and offers tubing rentals that are a huge hit with locals on the weekends. Both companies put in on the Weber River, a 125-mile long river starting in the Uinta Mountain range and dumping into the Great Salt Lake.

I asked my friend Cindy, a veteran river rafter, to join me. She’s someone who knows a thing or two about rafting and just prior to our tour had gotten back from a eight day trip down the Grand Canyon! While I wasn’t ready for anything that adventurous, I was looking forward to our day trip which last about two hours depending on the water height and the rapids.

IMAG0076We arrived at Park City Rafting and were greeted by Kyle’s son who was manning the post while Kyle tended to the Barefoot Tubing operation and filled out necessary paperwork. We needed to wait just a bit for the groups in front of us to make it back before we could start our tour. While we were waiting I wanted to get to know our fellow rafters. It was a family affair with two families, one local and the other visiting who were just as excited for their rafting adventure.

IMAG0077IMAG0079Our guides (who are all very skilled and certified in First Aid and CPR) met us to drive us the very short distance up the Weber to our drop in point. It’s amazing how short the drive is and yet how fun river miles can be while paddling! Our guide helped us into our boat and off we went –dead-last behind the two other groups!

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Katy posing before hopping in the raft.

IMAG0082Right away we helped him navigate through Rock Alley (a fun obstacle course of rocks that caused our guide to yell out, “all forward!” or “all back” at any given moment while he steered at the rear of the raft).

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Emerging from Rock Alley

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One group down as they hit a snag in Rock Alley

While in between rocks or rapids we talked about the history of Weber Canyon, the river and the areas we passed. Our guide was more than willing to answer my questions about the “Devils’ Slide” an interesting rock formation that looks just like you could slide down the mouth of the rock and about the beautiful willow trees that seemed out of place in the middle of the desert. We also learned that the railroad track that runs along the river is actually the original track laid during the building of the Transcontinental Railroad by Union Pacific! Another fun fact, due to how difficult terrain was in Weber Canyon, the railroad was only able to build two feet of track per day. Learning about my new home in Utah is always fun. I like to test the knowledge of local Utahns with interesting facts I have picked up here and there.

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Taggart Rapids

I mentioned earlier that we started off third (dead last) on our tour, but since there were only three of us in our raft, we made good time (and I believe this is due to our amazing paddling skills). We passed both groups and picked up a bit of water when we splashed through the Taggart Rapids and ended up at the take-out spot. It was refreshing to feel the cool water and enjoy a couple of hours doing an activity less than an hour from Park City.  I plan on floating the Weber in the near future and continue to feel like one of the luckiest people in the world that I can call this area my playground!

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After the trip, posing with our rafting guide.

 

Dinner at the Deer Valley Grocery~Café

dvgc- (3) Park City and Deer Valley Resort have many secrets only known by a select few (generally local folks, a few visitors in the know, or natural explorers). One of them might still be the Deer Valley Grocery~Café located at the Deer Valley Plaza. This restaurant stands as a refreshing oasis of calm, fine food, casual ambiance and relaxation, a stone’s-throw away from the busy commercial heart of Park City.

In fact, barely one mile separates the Grocery~Café from the bustling Historical Main Street. There, visitors will discover a place filled with serenity, framed by nature and offering sensibly priced meals on a deck facing a pond that now welcomes stand-up paddleboarding during the day and entire families of ducks that take over the water front when the sun is ready to set.

dvgc- (20)This pristine location is already known for its wonderful breakfast with delightful croissants and other morning pastries, something I have experienced since the place was taken over by Deer Valley Resort. It has gradually been gaining popularity before becoming the choice breakfast place in Park City. It is also a great spot to take someone to lunch and have a quiet conversation accompanied by good food.

dvgc- (10)What most people still don’t realize is that the Grocery~Café can also be a wonderful location for a casual, yet delightful dinner. This is something I discovered for the first time a few evenings ago and that I am definitely going to repeat.

If walking the short distance between Main Street and Deer Valley Plaza is not quite what you had in mind, just hop in your car. If you’re coming from Park City, drive up Deer Valley Drive or descend Royal Street if you are staying up the hill; you’ll always find abundant parking for your car and you’ll be welcome “Deer Valley style” by a staff that never forgets how important their guests are.

Since beautiful weather rules almost constantly in Utah, any day will do. When you get there, just place your order at the counter and pick a table on the deck. Dinner is served from 5 to 8:30 p.m. during the summer and it’s not rare to see diners linger on well into the cool evening. After you’ve ordered at the counter, the servers will bring the order right to your table.

dvgc- (17)Perhaps the best way to prepare for all the delightful options offered by the Grocery~Café extensive menu, is to go online and review its tantalizing array of fares in advance. There are great starters, a large selection of salads, the classic Deer Valley panini sandwiches and wraps, some great soup and gazpacho, plus the usual hot specialties ranging from pizza to quiche. For dinner, the Grocery~Café also offers an extensive list of specials with a good selection of vegan and gluten-free options.

dvgc- (6)The gazpacho was recommended to us, so that’s how we started our dinner. It was the perfect appetizer on such a beautiful summer evening. We continued by sharing a few small plates; the cedar plank salmon that was literally melting in the mouth and received the perfect accompaniment of rhubarb rosemary compote.

We also wanted to sample the duck breast and were not disappointed. It was roasted to perfection and was just delicious. Somehow, we also wanted to try the chicken wrap that was to die for, and dying we almost did from such a feast, but we still managed to conclude the evening with the appropriately named “World famous biscotti” for dessert. What a treat and what a discovery!

A superb evening, a relaxing, casual and beautiful setting, plus a very affordable menu have added the Deer Valley Grocery~Café to our very select list of great dinner spots in Park City. The tranquility of the site, its informality, a staff that goes out of their way to make sure everything is perfect, all these elements bring a piece of magic hard to duplicate anywhere.

Make sure to experience it during these last weeks of summer and I’ll guarantee that you too will become fans. As for us, we’ll soon be back!

Families that Paddle Together…

family pondI expected hilarity to ensue. One of my dear friends, Christina Boyle Cush, a former colleague who runs Sea Glass Communications in Connecticut, brought her family to visit a few weeks ago. We used to work together at a teen magazine. She would drop by my office to read letters from readers about their most embarrassing moments. I would return the favor by dropping by her office to introduce her to actors I was interviewing for the magazine. (Hello, Jerry O’Connell. How ya doin’ Ashton Kutcher?)

Seth Sea glass CommSixteen years later, we found ourselves being taught stand up paddleboard skills by a much-decorated professional SUP athlete Trent Hickman, a celebrity in his own right, and gearing up for what I was sure would be many embarrassing moments. I didn’t flinch when Christina’s 12 year-old daughter took in my outfit (pink baseball hat, pink rash guard, pink-striped surf shorts) and dubbed me “Pinky Pants.” Instead, I owned it, and determined that our two families would be “Team Pinky Pants.”

family learningThis came in handy when Trent asked me to gather everyone around for a quick safety discussion and shore-side lesson. “Team PinkyPants, circle up,” I shouted. Christina’s two girls beamed, while her son and my boys shook their heads in dismay. Then, we all got quiet as Trent explained how to hold the paddles, steer the boards and generally keep ourselves safe (when in doubt, kneel). I fully expected to remain on my knees for the entire lesson. Trent heard Seth express concern that he might not be ready to steer a board of his own, and offered him a ride on the front of his own board. Nothing makes that kid feel more proud than hanging out with professional athletes, so he could not accept the invitation quickly enough.

trent familyBefore long, we were all kneeling on boards, and paddling away from the shore. And in what seemed like a blink, we were all standing. I couldn’t believe how easy it was to maintain my balance while handling the board and paddle. Chrissy and her husband seemed to have the same sense of ease on their boards, and most of the kids had no problem figuring it out. What was remarkable to me was the sense of calm that seemed to pervade the outing. It’s one of the rare sports where I have no unreasonable expectations of myself (I’m not a naturally gifted athlete, but I am hyper-competitive with myself in almost every athletic pursuit. The fact that this is ridiculous, counterintuitive, useless thinking has no bearing on my behavior—but, that’s how I roll.)

kids familyHere, I could see the calming effect of standing on a board in a placid body of water and just…gliding. I noticed that Lance, who often gets frustrated when he can’t get something right on the first try (yes, I know where he gets that from) discovered a heretofore untapped reserve of patience for himself and the learning curve.

Thrillingly, I had found a sport that involves standing on a board that my entire family can enjoy together. [See also: my kids love to skateboard, and their parents do not.]

Bari Nan familyMeanwhile, I gained so much confidence in a short amount of time that when Trent had to help other guests, and Seth still wasn’t ready to go it alone, I offered him a seat on my board. I should add that Trent had observed Seth paddling on the front of his own board and felt confident that he could handle himself–and told him as much before going ashore. Seth, however, felt differently, and when Trent returned, he made a point of telling him, plainly and respectfully, that he didn’t agree, and that he didn’t like that he was left alone. Trent is naturally gifted with kids–he didn’t belittle the feelings of a six year-old, but rather thanked Seth for telling him how he felt, and explaining that he knew, even if Seth didn’t, that the kid was capable of handling a board, solo. I loved how he both showed Seth respect and instilled confidence in him at the same time.

We paddled a while longer, with most of the kid members of Team Pinky Pants finding excuses to “fall” into the water (read: jump gleefully off their boards) only to climb aboard again and find another excuse a minute later. When our hour was up, we dried off, thanked Trent and relented to the deck of the Deer Valley Grocery Cafe for cookies.

family funAs we sat there, the kids feeling the bond of having shared a cool experience together, I felt pretty confident that no one on Team Pinky Pants would feel compelled to write a letter to a teen magazine about their experiences.

Tour of Utah Final Stage on Main Street in Park City

race startMain Street is the place to be when the cyclists take off and return for the final stage of the Tour of Utah. Even though many of us have never cycled in a race, we all can relate to the difficult sport.  I can’t even imagine five days of leg burning capped off with a sprint up Guardsman’s Pass in the last 5 kilometers of the race then racing at 50 miles an hour down the steep Empire Pass.  That’s brutal!

cyclistsI love the buzz on Main Street in Park City on race day. I attended last year and was shocked at how we were able to get such a great view of the finish line at this world-class race.  This year my focus was on the start.  My husband and I came early and set up on lower Park Ave so we could watch the riders from the beginning before all the breakaways.

support carsI found myself cheering for the support car from my favorite sponsors as they followed the riders on the course ready with a spare bike and tire.  It seemed a little odd to be cheering for a car in a bike race.  Then again, NASCAR fans across the nation cheer for their favorite cars (sans the drivers) as the support team drives across the country to the next race.  So I figure I am in good company.

subaru boothMain Street was packed with bike enthusiasts discussing the latest equipment and technology with vendors.  The BackCountry and Subaru booths were jammed with fans watching the race on the big screen TVs inside.

We picked up our swag from the vendors including our cowbell that we plan to send to our 3-year-old granddaughter (which she’ll love but just might drive her parents a bit crazy.)  We stocked up on Chapstick, hats, and sunscreen offered by the vendors.  We put our names in to win multiple bike jerseys – we’ll let you know if our names are drawn!  You never know.

backcountry stickMostly we walked away with an appreciation of the teamwork involved in cycling. At first glance it appears cycling is an individual sport. It’s not.  I really had no idea how the Lead-out man, the Peloton, and Domestiques on the team work together to produce a win.  Living in Park City, we have so many opportunities to learn about world-class sports up close and personal that we might not have the chance to see elsewhere.

backcountry tvThis may sound silly but I am looking forward to riding my bike on the trails in Park City using my “Competitive Cyclist” water bottle.  It will be a reminder for me to push myself, take one more hill and pick up my speed due to some inspiration I got on Main Street at the final stage of the Tour of Utah in 2013.

Interview with Chef Chris Gibson, Royal Street Cafe

Chef Chris Gibson has been part of Deer Valley Resort’s culinary team since 2003; first working part-time, seasonally, and now as the sous chef at Royal Street Café. His philosophy of finding fresh, local ingredients to craft into house-made specialties has translated into a dining experience that is as inspiring (and ever-changing) as the spectacular views off the deck at the Silver Lake Lodge Restaurant. Deer Valley Blogger, Bari Nan Cohen, caught up with Chef Gibson just as the summer season picked up, to get the latest on the menu, and the inside track on why the Asian Chicken Salad is different now.

The Asian Chicken Salad was a Royal Street Cafe signature item. Why change it?

It’s funny–people have asked us that a lot, but we’re noticing that they are ordering it just as much as before. (Check) We used to serve it with teriyaki orange glazed chicken strips and fried wontons–and it was kind of hard to manage with chopsticks. So we made it more of a chopped salad, changed out the wonton chips for puffed rice, and then looked at how we could make the favors different. We brought in more of the umami flavor–there is fermented black bean, broccoli stems, mushrooms and fermented fish sauce in the dressing. We are getting a lot of feedback–and since the salad was made the other way for 20 years, that’s not surprising.

What are some of the other special touches we might see?

We don’t make many drastic changes, but we do like to evolve the way we make things. For instance, our BLT used to be made with deli-turkey that we bought from a supplier. Now we buy turkey, smoke it ourselves, and then slice it, so you’re biting into a sandwich that has that home-roasted turkey feel.

We also buy a case of habanero peppers and smoke it for three days so that we can send it to our cheese maker (Gold Creek Farms in Kamas, Utah) and he can mix it right in with the curd to make our smoked habanero cheddar that we use on the bison burger.

178 Royal Street Cafe_Deer Valley ResortWhat are some of the other items that are created in-house?

The ketchup for the frites (fries) is house-made. The bison burger is ground in-house from whole chucks, we make our own bacon, our own smoked habanero aioli, we carmelize the onions and we make the barbecue sauce, too.

I’m intrigued by the charcuterie–there seem to be a lot of house-made meats. How did you get into that?

It started because we couldn’t find an andouille sausage that we liked well enough to put in our gumbo. So I buy pork from Niman Ranch, and I use a lot of green onions with it, because the green onion has naturally occurring bacteria that ferments the pork into a cured sausage.

IMG_9783What is your favorite item on the menu–what do you tend to order for lunch?

I usually taste every menu item in the kitchen each day, which means, that’s lunch. But when I do order, I go for the tuna tacos–it’s fresh, relatively healthy, and I enjoy the richness of the flavors in that dish.

What is your favorite way to spend a day off?

I just bought a new downhill mountain bike–it doesn’t hurt that I work at the base of a chairlift and world-class trails, so I tend to get out on my bike a lot. If you are looking for a good “run-slash-hike,” go to the Silver Lake Trail–you will get a workout.

232 Biking_Deer Valley ResortHow do you like to spend your weekends?

My wife and I have two young daughters, ages seven and five, so we go camping, hiking and biking with them. I’m an avid runner, and I competed in the Ragnar relay, earlier this summer.

What are your go-to family meals at home?

Well, if we let our girls choose, they would eat a whole bunch of stuff dipped in ranch dressing at every meal, but we’ve found that curries are always a hit. I’m also a big gardener, so I will make up batches of chili verde and freeze them in meal-sized bags, so we have those on hand all winter. I can hundreds of tomatoes and make lots of fresh sauce to freeze so we have that all year for pasta. But in the summer, we grill a lot. There’s something about kebabs–some veggies, well-seasoned meat, Greek yogurt, it’s delicious and kid-friendly without being kid food.

Closer to Fine: Five Lessons from Girls’ Night out with the Indigo Girls and the Utah Symphony

IMG_0388There is so much good music to choose from at Deer Valley Resort in the summer that I managed to bookend a week with concerts by performers who had provided the soundtrack to my college years.  With Bruce Hornsby on a Monday, then, The Indigo Girls with the Utah Symphony Orchestra on Saturday, I was set up for a great week of music. Add that to the fact that I hadn’t yet been to a Deer Valley Music Festival performance of the Utah Symphony this summer, and that I consider having a world-class symphony to be one of the great perks of living near Salt Lake City (we take in several performances each season at Abravanel Hall), and it seemed impossible that the week could be any better.

After all, I’d already scored a parenting lesson from Bruce Hornsby, so things were off to a good start. I knew the Indigo Girls’ soaring harmonies would sound fantastic live—and would only be enhanced by the awesome sounds of the Utah Symphony. Little did I know that the Indigo Girls with the Utah Symphony would present me with a whole bunch of fun facts and lessons.  Of course, there are the practical lessons (which I’m not counting in the tally) that I take with me to every Deer Valley Concert. For instance:

Make sure your chairs meet the published seat-height requirement (9- inches). When you arrive, use the ski valet area to drop off one or more members of your party, plus the gear, while one member of the party parks the car. Wear a hat (yes, I know, not everyone can have a hat as cool as my gold cowboy hat, but that should not deter you from having sun protection), pack extra blankets to wrap around you if you get chilled, and even if it’s 90 degrees in the shade all day, dress in jeans and a short-sleeved top, because the minute the sun goes down, you’ll regret wearing shorts. Pack a sweatshirt. Unless you have a rolling-cart style bag (like I do), don’t stuff your extra layers and blankets and picnic all in one bag—it’s easier to distribute the load among your group if you have several smaller bags. Plus, those bags can hold down the corners of your blanket, quite nicely.

But the first real lesson of the evening happened before the evening began. Jeff had to leave town for a conference that morning, so I had booked a sitter and rallied a group of girlfriends for an evening out. Over breakfast that morning, the kids had asked if Jeff would have attended the concert with me had he been in town, since concerts—and, in particular, symphony performances, generally account for better than 50 percent of our date nights.

“You know, I probably would have—I know it’s one of Mommy’s favorite groups, so it would have been fun to see the Indigo Girls with her,” he said. “But now that it worked out like this, I think it’s better that Mom is going with her friends. She doesn’t get to do that as often, and I think this is the way it should have been whether I was here or not.”

IMG_0387(Lesson 1: It should not fall to my husband to remind me to get together with my girlfriends, but it’s pretty awesome that he does.)

Unlike the Bruce Hornsby and the Noisemakers concert, for which we had reserved seats, my friends and I planned to enjoy the music of the Indigo Girls with the Utah Symphony from the lawn, with a potluck picnic of appetizers and cocktails.

In the days leading up to our big night out, at least one friend (and, yes, I’m looking at you, Kathy) admonished me not to pack a six-course meal—“I know you, and you tend to go overboard. We don’t need a million choices of pie,” she chided. (Yes, she’s been at my house for Thanksgiving, and yes, I tend to over-order pie from the Deer Valley Bakery, and No, I don’t see a thing wrong with that practice. But I digress.)

As if to continue the friendtervention trend, yet another pal sought to save me from myself. I had in mind that we’d get there the moment the gates opened, so as to procure primo real estate on the lawn. If you are getting the sense that I can be a bit of an over-planner, your powers of inference are astute. If you are also getting the sense that my friends know me better than I know myself, well, then, you get bonus “astute points.” Ana, whose laid-back spirit I admire yet fail to emulate, suggested that three hours of baking in the pre-show sun was probably in no one’s best interest.

(Lesson 2: Friendterventions are a good thing.)

Of course, when we arrived, Ana began to fret that I’d be upset that we had to hike to the top of the lawn section to spread our blanket and set up our picnic and chairs. The fact that Ana had the foresight to bring chairs would have absolved her of any guilt, had there been any guilt to assign. (Here’s the thing about me: once I make a decision to go with the flow, I do exactly that. What’s that: Lesson 3: I can be laid-back?) And, once Kathy arrived, she brought (count them) three varieties of hummus with her, to share. I will point out that not one of us was disappointed by this turn of events—they were delicious. But I found it ironic and funny nevertheless. I had to smile as I unveiled three varieties of crackers.

Mel produced some grilled salmon filets (thank you Whole Foods deli counter) and Ana unveiled bacon-wrapped figs, plus a fun, new way to hydrate. “It’s like a non-sweet non-alcoholic mojito,” she explained. “I know, it doesn’t sound like fun.” Oh, but it is fun. See, she’s right (Lesson 4), hydrating with plain water gets boring. So, her mocktail of fresh lime juice and fresh mint cut with sparkling water was just the ticket. (That, and the fact that we were pouring it alongside Prosecco…). Our friend Lisa and her sister Aimee, who was visiting from Ohio, joined us a short while later, happily plunking down among us and sharing in our bounty.

Also, my golden cowboy hat (for which I received some flak via Facebook on Monday) came in handy as I needed something to wave from the top of the hill so that each friend could find us as they arrived.

During the concert, I remembered the wise words of Claire, a young friend of mine who is one of the kids’ favorite babysitters. “Sitting on the lawn is the best—you can just get up and dance whenever you want.” Claire, as usual, was absolutely right. Lisa and I spent a lot of time on our feet (dancing off the snacks, presumably), singing at the top of our lungs and swapping stories about where we’d been when we listened to these songs 20 years earlier. (Lesson 5: Deer Valley concerts rock, no matter where you sit, so don’t start freaking out about getting there at noon to be first in line when the gates open.).

We ate, we drank, we sang, we danced, and, perhaps most importantly, we laughed. And as we re-loaded our gear into the car, we vowed to do it again, soon.

Making Noise with Bruce Hornsby

sky1Clouds gathered, lightning flashed, and a cool drizzle settled over the crowd as Teri Orr, exclaimed, “We live in the mountains! What’s a little rain?” Orr, who is the executive director of the Park City Arts Foundation has overseen a few damp concerts in her many years at the helm of the non-profit organization that rallies sponsors to bring headliners to Park City for the St. Regis Big Stars, Bright Nights concert series. On this mid-July Monday, Bruce Hornsby and the Noisemakers would perform—rain or shine.

As far as Jeff and I were concerned, the evening was perfect—first, we had a babysitter for the kids. Second, since we’d seen Bruce Hornsby and his band a decade ago, we knew we were in for a treat—if the previous experience was any indication, there may or may not be a set list, and there would be tons of improvisation, riffing and otherwise killer jamming onstage. And, third, the droplets of rain were a refreshing change from the heat of the previous few weeks.

bruce on stageWe planned the evening so that we’d be there with enough time to enjoy the views, soak up the atmosphere, and dine alfresco, so by the time the show started we were well-fed, relaxed and ready to enjoy the music. Upon arrival at Deer Valley, we’d found our seats in the ninth row of the reserved section, and then collected our delicious Deer Valley Gourmet Picnic Basket. We took a leisurely approach to our concert dining—starting with the antipasto, then meandering our way to the main course (perfectly-cooked beef tenderloin), nibbling on other delicacies in the basket, followed by some lemon pound cake and then the cheese course (brie, baguettes, grapes). We sipped wine, we chatted with the couple in the seats next to ours and we visited with friends seated nearby. It felt, not surprisingly, like a vacation.

We weren’t familiar with Railroad Earth, the evening’s opening act, but plenty of concertgoers seemed to have come with the express purpose of hearing them play—and they may or may not have realized that they’d get to hear the band’s musicians throughout the headlining set. Bruce Hornsby invited them to join in on song after song. As if his band, the Noisemakers weren’t already stacked to the rafters with skilled musicians, the guys from Railroad Earth wowed the crowd with their own brand of excellence. Over the course of the evening, as Hornsby introduced various members of his band, he’d mention their tenure playing together. One had been in Hornsby’s band for 22 years, another for 18. I marveled at how much time they must spend together—probably more hours than most married couples spend together—and what a bond they must have.

bari nan and husbandThroughout the evening, I marveled at the unique experience of sitting in (surprisingly comfortable) lawn chairs on a ski run, watching a summer storm pass through, (and yes, there was a heavier rain during the opening act, but umbrellas came out, jackets were donned, and the evening marched on, unhampered), chatting with old friends and new alike, dining on a gourmet picnic all in the framework of seeing world class entertainment. It’s tempting to take it for granted, but I try not to do that. Interestingly, my Facebook friends keep me honest in that regard. As soon as I posted this photo of Jeff and myself in pre-concert mode, my far-flung pals began commenting on the setting, the exciting location, and the thrill of seeing Hornsby. (There were also a few comments about how relaxed we looked, which only added to the vacation-feel. And, for some reason, a couple of pals found it necessary to call us out for wearing hats. Um, hello? Sun protection anyone? It stays sunny until nearly 9 p.m. in July!)

By intermission, my smart, thoughtful husband had the good sense to pop over to the concession stand and surprise me with a hot pretzel, accompanied by fig mustard. (You should eat this. It’s very, very good.) I was chatting with some friends when he came back, holding his-and-her pretzels. Our friends began to tease us about not sharing—one couple, midlife newlyweds, explained how they’d had to sort out their food sharing policy early in their courtship—and I felt compelled to explain our modus operandi regarding Deer Valley concert snacks.

“When I am here with my kids, I can’t so much as look at a cookie without the boys laying claim on it,” I said. “So when we are here without them, Jeff knows that I—who possess otherwise stellar sharing skills—Will. Not. Share. So, if any of you would like some of my pretzel, I will happily buy you one of your own.”

Laughing, we returned to our seats for the second half of the show. Bruce and the guys spent time sharing new songs and old favorites, including “Mandolin Rain,” which he says most people tell them is their “make-out song.” All in all, the show had the feel of being asked to sit in on an all-night jam session. Even the old favorites had new arrangements.

bruceAs the show drew to a close the audience was begging for an encore. Bruce Hornsby came to the front of the stage and explained, almost plaintively, “We have a hard curfew at this venue, and we played right up to the last minute of it. Thank you for coming out to hear us.”

Who knew that Bruce Hornsby is an imparter of parental wisdom—I vowed to use that very same tone when discussing bedtime with my children the following night. After all, if it could placate a huge crowd at a concert, surely it could achieve a similar effect with a couple of grade-schoolers.

Thanks, Bruce.

piano

 

Swapping the Supermarket for the Deer Valley~Grocery Cafe

girls night outSummer may be a vacation for my kids, but I’m still on duty. For instance, the people must be fed, and I find myself at the supermarket with alarming frequency. So, it was a double treat to let my family dine without me, and head out to a “grocery” of a different kind, for a Girls’ Night Out.

I rallied some friends to try the small plates menu offered each evening by the Deer Valley Grocery Cafe. We hit it at the perfect time–just as the soft light of early evening was dappling the pond. (Purple prose notwithstanding, that’s EXACTLY how it looked). A couple of families were enjoying dinner after stand up paddle boarding. We, on the other hand, were enjoying a bottle of Liberty School Cabernet Sauvignon.

We ordered liberally–after all, it was our first visit, so it was incumbent upon us to sample as many of the menu offerings as possible. Nothing disappointed. Among our favorites: the charcuterie platter, the cedar planked salmon with strawberry rhubarb compote and the beef tenderloin.

My personal favorite (I couldn’t stop myself from making joyful exclamations after each bite) is an item that will be on the menu at various points this summer: Fried Heber Valley Halloumi, a Greek style cheese served with honey, Marcona almonds, a sherry reduction, arugula and baguette. The dish hits all the right tart/sweet/savory notes, and feels completely indulgent.

photo (7)Sitting on the patio, we noticed that the evening only got prettier as it wore on. There is a joke in there somewhere about people in bars, but I promise I had only one glass of wine, and the changing light and achievement of the perfect temperature by 7:30 p.m. did all the work for us. That, and the fact that the staff made us feel as though we were honored guests.

By the time we had worked our way through all of the delicious dishes, it was clear that there was no room for dessert. This fact, however, was lost on Meg, the service team leader at the cafe. “You have to have the ice cream sandwiches,” she insisted. “There are three in the order…and three of you.” My dining partners attempted to demur. I know Meg to be a wise woman, so I overruled them:

ice cream sandwich“They don’t know what they are talking about,” I said. “Ignore them–they only THINK they don’t have room.” And what do you know? I was right.

Revitalize Mind, Body and Spirit at the Remède Spa at the St Regis

StRegisLobbyI have a theory as to why you feel so revitalized after a massage.  A massage can be much more than simply relaxing and having a trained massage therapist knead away the tension in your muscles.  Certainly, the body feels great after a massage but the mind and spirit can be rejuvenated, too.

My theory has to do with “what’s behind the knot”; something caused you to tense up and create a knot in the first place.  Granted, sometimes you may have tension in your lower back because of the way you sit at your desk or you may have tightness in your calves because you are a runner.  Most knots, I believe, are due to some tense event that caused you to tighten up, possibly without even realizing it.  There is a reason people call someone or something a “pain in the neck.” The problem you had may be long solved or the person long removed from your life but the knot is still there.

As your massage therapist works on the knot, you often think about that tense event.  When you let it go in your mind as you let it go in your body, the whole thing revives your spirit.  When I booked a couple’s massage for my husband Jay and me at the Remède Spa at the St. Regis, I’d forgotten all about my theory.  We’d never had side-by-side massages before and the anticipation of the experience was all I was thinking about.

RemedeCouplesSpaSuiteOnce the massage started, I remembered.  You see, I told my massage therapist, that I really didn’t have any knots in my back so she didn’t need to spend much time there.  But when she started working between my shoulder blades, she found a couple of knots hiding there.  These knots gently reminded me of some unfinished business, some residual tension that I still needed to let go.  With her help, I did.

Jay OutsideAfter the massage, Jay and I relaxed together on our serene private patio listening to the sounds of the waterfall from the massive rock sculpture in front of us. As we took in the breathtaking views of the mountains, he mentioned a few things he was thinking about during the massage.  Turns out, he’d had the same experience with some knots he didn’t even realize he had and some unfinished business he had a chance to let go of too.

I have another theory.  The reason it was so easy to let go of the tension and revitalize the mind, body and spirit was the sanctuary at the Remède Spa.  The treatment room was more like a retreat than a room so we felt peaceful.  We had our own private space to relax before the massage with a Jacuzzi tub, private shower and our own outdoor patio so we felt at home.

StRegisFireGarden_SummerThe therapists spoiled us.  We were treated to a warm oil foot massage and paraffin wax treatment for starters.  During the massage, there were no distractions by feeling too warm or too cold or the pressure being too strong or too soft. The state- of-the-art massage tables bent gently at our knees and raised our heads slightly adding to our comfort. Our needs were met before we had to ask so we were able to relax.

Since our massages were side-by-side and we happened to choose the same type, we had a shared experience like none other.  Some people might come to the Remède Spa to let their mind and body escape reality, but in our case, I think the peacefulness of the experience helped us each to let go of an old reality and embrace a new one together.